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Mann Declares U.S. Jews Believe Settlements ‘legal’ and ‘necessary’

“The total consensus in the American Jewish community is that settlements in Judaea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan are legal,” Theodore R. Mann, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said tonight following a two-hour meeting with Premier Menachem Begin.

Mann and six other members of the Presidents Conference called on Begin for the second time in two day. Between their meeting with him yesterday morning and tonight they had met separately with several senior ministers and with Labor leader Shimon Peres. They also toured settlement sites in Samaria–including the controversial new site of Alon Moreh with Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon as their guide. At Alon Moreh they met with the settlers, and Mann said he was impressed by their sincerity But Mann withheld any public comment on Alon Moreh itself. There have been reports here that he and the other Jewish leaders had expressed to Begin their reservations over the timing and location of this settlement on privately-owned land just outside Nablus on the eye of the autonomy talks with Egypt.

HOPES CARTER WILL BE PERSUADED

Regarding his assertion on the legality of settlements, Mann said it “makes no difference how often my good friend President Carter says they are illegal.” As a lawyer, Mann continued, he could not accept the contention of illegality. The settlements, moreover, said Mann, were “without the slightest doubt necessary as a security measure in order to protect against terrorism and threats to security.” Mann said he was optimistic on the prospect that President Carter would in time be persuaded that settlements were not an obstacle to peace.

Regarding Alon Moreh, Mann said he and his group would report back to the full Presidents Conference. The leading daily Haaretz reported today that Mann and his colleagues “sharply criticized” Alon Moreh in their conversations with Israeli leaders. According to Haaretz, the U.S. leaders wondered how it could be claimed that Alon Moreh was vital for security when several key ministers, including Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman and Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, appeared not to think so. Informed sources said Mann and his group stressed to Begin the problems of defending publicly the Alon Moreh decision.

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