JERUSALEM (Mar. 13)
The latest U.S. rebuke to Israel over the expropriation of land in East Jerusalem drew no official comment from government sources today but was challenged by Mayor Teddy Kollek. He said statements such as that issued by the State Department yesterday only aggravated tensions in the city and made life more difficult.
Kollek took strong exception to the statement yesterday by the State Department’s chief spokesman Hodding Carter that the U.S. “deplores the decision” to expropriate some 1000 acres of land “in occupied territories.”
He noted that the expropriation was within the city limits, was within the law and was intended to prevent individuals from illegally taking possession of the land. The State Department’s reaction was “grave, impulsive and one-sided,” Kollek said. He maintained in a radio interview that it was Israel’s right and duty to utilize the land for housing projects which, Kollek claimed, would benefit “Arabs and Jews alike.”
The Ministerial Expropriations Committee, headed by Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz, signed the expropriation order Tuesday night. The action followed a proposal by Housing Minister David Levy that 1000 acres be seized for the purpose of constructing 10,000 housing units for Jews. The projects would link two Jewish neighborhoods, French Hill and Neve Yaacov which are now separated by mostly unused land, the bulk of which is owned by Arabs. Levy warned that unless the land was expropriated, Arabs would build on it.
Ironically, Kollek was the only Israeli official to publicly object to the project, not in principle but on grounds that it was ill-timed and provocative and because the resources did not presently exist for any massive construction projects. Even while condemning the State Department’s view, Kollek chided the government for poor planning and execution. “One should have made sure from the start that people would have the clear impression of the benefits derived by both Jews and Arabs from the project,” he said. “Otherwise, the project is open to misinterpretation.”
(Meanwhile, Egypt today strongly condemned the expropriation of land in East Jerusalem. A government spokesman in Cairo expressed “utmost dismay” over the action and said Egypt considers it “null and void.” However, the statement said that Egypt would not allow the Israeli move to undermine its determination to achieve a permanent and just peace settlement in the Middle East.)