Thatcher was told to hide pro-Israel sympathies [p.7]

British Foreign Office officials were so concerned about Margaret Thatcher's pro-Israeli sympathies when she became Tory leader they wanted her to break off links with local Jewish groups and even swap her constituency, according to newly-released official papers published in the British media on Thursday. Files released to the National Archives in Kew under the 30-year rule reveal that diplomats feared she would be seen by Arab countries as a "prisoner of the Zionists," the Evening Standard reported. One official quoted in another newspaper suggested she give up her Finchley parliamentary seat in north London - which is home to a large Jewish community - for somewhere more palatable to Arab opinion. The issue of Thatcher's membership of groups, such as the Anglo-Israel Friendship League of Finchley and Conservative Friends of Israel, was raised during a visit by shadow foreign secretary Lord Carrington to Jordan in 1975. "He asked the ambassador's advice on this and was assured that such a connection, which would inevitably do much harm in the Arab world, should if at all practicable be severed," said Michael Tait, an official in the British embassy. "Carrington agreed that Mrs. Thatcher might most painlessly and with some justification get herself off the hook by resigning from all constituency obligations of this sort on the grounds of the rather wider obligations she has now to assume. "Such a stratagem might resolve the problem in Finchley but if Mrs. Thatcher is indeed a prime mover in a wider parliamentary grouping of pro-Israeli MPs then the difficulty would be trickier to bypass. "While we as government and not opposition officials may have no particular brief on Thatcher's behalf, it is presumably in the national interest to do what we can to counter Arab fears and suspicions that the opposition leader is already a prisoner of the Zionists." The Foreign Office was sympathetic, noting that the Conservative Central Office was "well aware of the problems which these links might pose." One official added, however: "We do not think there is anything we can, or should do about Thatcher's membership of pro-Israeli organizations." In fact, the French news agency AFP noted, he was right. Thatcher was president of the Anglo-Friendship League of Finchley in 1983, and was still president of Finchley Friends of Israel in 1990.