Carter and Israeli ‘defiance’

President Carter was asked by a reporter Friday whether Israeli settlements on the West Bank constituted “defiance” of U.S. policy and the President replied, “You tend to analyze it very well.”

Shortly afterwards, however, the State Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, sought to minimize the statement, saying he was not “prepared to interpret it” and that the Israeli government has given assurances there are no new settlements.

Carter was escorting Argentine President Jorge Rafael Videla, who was departing from a White House visit when a reporter asked Carter what he thought about more Israeli settlements to be built in the occupied territories. His question was in reference to Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon’s statement that more settlements have been established on the West Bank.

“Obviously this creates additional problems,” Carter said. He pointed out he planned to discuss the matter with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan when Dayan is in Washington for talks Sept. 19 and 20.

At the State Department, spokesman Hodding Carter said “we have been assured by the Israeli government there are no settlements in occupied territories beyond those previously announced. Beyond that assertion, which we take with some confidence, ask the Israeli government what the situation may be.”

When a reporter spoke of the President having said Israel was in “defiance,” the spokesman admonished him “not to play games with what the President said,” but he later withdrew that remark when the criticized reporter protested that characterization. The spokesman then added the President was “still referring to the general notion of settlements on the West Bank” and “not referring” to the Sharon report of settlements that “in any case we are told do not exist.”

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