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Israel Denies Several West Bank Settlements Established in ‘secret’

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Israel has assured the United States that there was no substance to a report that Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon said several settlements were established on the West Bank recently in “secret.”

The report, which appeared in Maariv Friday, quoted Sharon as saying that settlements were set up in the past month “without publicity” in the Judaea and Samaria regions. The U.S. has criticized Israel’s policy of settling Jews on the West Bank. When a reporter asked President Carter Friday whether Israeli settlements on the West Bank constituted “defiance” of U.S. policy, the President replied, “You tend to analyze it very well.” (See separate story P. 3.)

Political sources here expressed “surprise” that Sharon did not immediately deny the remark attributed to him which might have spared Israel the latest criticism from Washington. Several of the minister’s Likud colleagues were quoted as saying “privately” that it was time for Premier Menachem Begin to crack down on Sharon.

SHARON CLAIMS MISUNDERSTANDING

The outspoken Yom Kippur War hero claimed last night that he was misunderstood by Maariv. The newspaper said it published his remarks verbatim. Sharon said it was ridiculous to interpret his remarks to mean that Israel had established settlements in secrecy. He insisted that Israel had the full right to establish settlement “throughout the land of Israel” and did so openly and would continue to do so openly. “Settlement is a continuous process and Israeli governments do not necessarily announce the establishment of this or that settlement,” Sharon said.

He said announcements of new settlements were made by the media on their own initiative. “There were names (of settlements) that were published before the Maariv interview and names that were not published,” Sharon said.

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