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U.S. Raps Israel for Its West Bank Settlement Policy, Equalization Plan

The United States delivered today a double-barreled salvo at the Israeli government’s move to establish three more civilian settlements on the West Bank and on its policy of equalization of services for Arabs living on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Undersecretary of State Philip Habib read two statements this morning to Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz and informed him that they would be presented to the Israeli government later today.

With regard to the settlements, the U.S. statement said: “Our position on the issue of settlements is clear. We reaffirm what we have said many times before that these unilateral illegal acts in territories presently under Israeli occupation create obstacles to constructive negotiations.” With regard to the equalization action, the statement said that “the full impact” of the legal implications and details of the “implementation to be worked out in the coming weeks are not yet clear.”

The statement then added: “The Israeli government has emphasized the potential benefit to the population in occupied territories as the humanitarian aims of this decision. At the same time, however, the action creates an impression of permanence of Israeli occupation of lands that came under Israeli control as a result of the June 1967 war, which is not helpful. In this connection, we have noted with regret the statement of the Cabinet Secretary (Arye Naor) when announcing the decision, that Israel cannot annex the land of Israel for the people of Israel since it already belongs to them.”

SAYS STATEMENTS OKAYED BY WHITE HOUSE

The statements were announced by State Department spokesman Hodding Carter to a crowded pressroom at the State Department. Some newsmen had been notified in advance that a tough position would be taken against Israel and television and radio equipment were set up to record the statements.

Carter said that the statements were both approved in the White House but he could not say whether President Carter had cleared them. Responding to questions, spokesman Carter said Israel’s establishment of the settlements and the legalization are “illegal.” He said that “both are obstacles to peace,” and “contravenes our understanding” of international law.

RESTATEMENT, NOT NEW FORMULATION

Carter conceded that there are “conflicting legal opinions on both sides on the status of the West Bank.” He made this statement when it was pointed out that while the United States speaks of the West Bank as being “occupied,” the Israelis refer to it as having been “liberated.”

When it was noted that President Carter used the term “obstacles to peace” with regard to the first three new settlements last month, where as today’s statement spoke of them as “obstacles to constructive negotiations,” spokesman Carter said this did not represent any significant differences. He said “our position has not varied from three weeks ago. It is a restatement of our policy. It is intended to be an explicit statement, not a new formulation.”

The question was raised that President Carter himself did not use the term “illegal” in reference to the settlements, and the spokesman was asked, therefore, whether the State Department was not going beyond the President’s position. The spokesman retained the view that they are illegal. In regard to an observation that the previous Labor government had set the policy on new settlements, spokesman Carter said “no matter whose policy it is, it is being implemented by this government.”

Carter said that he could not respond immediately as to whether the U.S. has any assurances from Israel that no other settlements will be built or what would happen if the Israel government continued to establish them.

With regard to the equalization matter, the spokesman said “the full implication” of it is “not clear” and that he would not go beyond the statement he had made. Spokesman Carter also could not say whether Secretary of State Cyrus Vance made the two statements known to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin in their almost two-hour discussion today about Vance’s recent Mideast trip.

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