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U.S. Condemns Israel’s Decision on Land Purchases in West Bank, Gaza

The Carter Administration today condemned the Israel Cabinet’s decision to allow Jews to buy land from Arabs in the administered territories, saying “it runs contrary to the spirit of the peace process itself.” Faced with questions on the Arabs prohibiting Jews from buying property in their 22 countries, the Administration backtracked to acknowledge that it was not assuming that a settlement over the West Bank would not prohibit Jews from buying property there.

Al though the Israeli decision was made Sunday, the Administration did not emerge with a statement until today when a question was asked at the State Department.

Reading a prepared statement, Department spokesman Hodding Carter said, “While there is some question about the legal implications of this action and its practical effect, it appears to be contrary to the spirit and the intent of the peace process.” He said that “what we regret in general” about the purchase decision and “other steps” are actions that make the “negotiations in the peace process more difficult.”

Carter said “no” when asked whether he based his statement on the assumption that a West Bank settlement would prohibit Jews from buying property there. He was then asked how he knows now that the Israeli decision is inimical to the peace process. Carter responded that “we don’t know” what a settlement would provide on Arabs and Jews buying land but that ” I am talking of the spirit” of the peace process. “I can’t tell what the long-range practical effect will be.” He said that the decisions “might best be reserved for the process in which we are now engaged.”

But while Carter said that he was “not trying to make a legal tie whatever” about the decision and the peace process, he said that the U.S. position on the new Jewish settlements and on the land purchase decision is “not greatly dissimilar.”

Meanwhile, a Jordan Embassy spokesman here confirmed that Jordan demands the death penalty for Arabs who sell West Bank land to Israelis, adding that such sales amount to “high treason.”

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