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    In the West Bank, the first families have moved into a new Israeli settlement. Israel's?

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    In the West Bank, the first families have moved into a new Israeli settlement. Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank, Sinai Desert, Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip and the establishment of Jewish settlements in these areas, has been a major obstacle in the search for a Middle East peace settlement. Israel occupied the territories after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the present Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, has said they must be retained to ensure Israel's security. During the recent peace initiative launched by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the issue of the Jewish settlements led to the breakdown of talks between Egypt and Israel. The latest settlement was opened just a week before the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Kamel was due to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and United States Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in London for talks on the latest peace proposals.

    SYNOPSIS: Ma'ale Efraim lies in the heart of the occupied West Bank, 30 kilometres from Jericho. It is intended to act as the central city for all Israeli settlements in the River Jordan valley.

    The settlement has been established under the scheme known as the Allon Plan, after the former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon. This project involved the founding of a string of settlements in the West Bank as defence outposts. There are now over 40 West Bank settlements but after the fall of Mr. Allon's Labour Party from power and the election of Mr. Begin, the principle behind the settlements changed. Mr. Allon had not envisaged the occupied land remaining permanently under Israeli control. Mr. Begin has said withdrawal from the area is not negotiable.

    The first 15 families have moved into Ma'ale Efraim, which will eventually house more than two thousand people. Between seven and eight thousand Israelis out of a total population of three million now live in the 95 settlements that have been established in occupied territories.

    Prime Minister Begin has said Jews have a God-given right to settle in any area that was part of the Biblical land of Israel. The West Bank, he said falls within this category. The Labour Party says there should be an eventual withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip leaving only defence outposts to ensure Israeli security. There are one million, one hundred thousand Arabs living in these areas and the Labour Party says that continued occupation would either mean denying the Arabs a democratic vote or absorbing a large hostile population within the Israeli electorate.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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