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State Department Raps Israel for Building New West Bank Settlements

The State Department charged today that Israel’s announcement that it will build five new settlements on the West Bank “raises questions about Israel’s willingness to abide by the promise of (United Nations Security Council) Resolution 242 that territory will be exchanged for true peace.”

The strongly worded statement, read by Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg in reply to a question about the announcement by Israel yesterday, also implied that Israel was seeking to hamper U.S. efforts to bring other Arab countries into the Middle East peace process, a major element of President Reagan’s “fresh start” for the Middle East announced last September I.

Reagan, who in his peace initiative urged Israel to freeze settlements, is expected to make this point strongly when he meets Premier Menachem Begin at the White House November 19. Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Moshe Arens, was to meet Secretary of State George Shultz late this afternoon at Arens’ request.

Romberg noted that Reagan, in his nationally televised address September I, and other U.S. officials in public and private, have made clear the “strength of the feeling” in the Administration of the “unhelpfulness of settlement activity to the peace process.”

This latest clash between the U.S. and Israel over settlements followed the announcement by Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levy last night that five new settlements will be built on the West Bank. Levy spoke at the dedication of another new settlement near the Arab town of Ramallah. He said the five new settlements would be built with their own infrastructure and that 2,000 more housing units were presently under construction for Jewish settlers in the occupied territory.

STATE DEPARTMENT STATEMENT

The statement read by Romberg today said: “The United States regrets this latest announcement of Israel’s intention to begin work an additional settlements as most unwelcome. As we previously stated, we cannot understand why, at a time when we are actively seeking to broaden participation in the preace process. Israel persists in a pattern of activity which erodes the confidence of all and most particularly the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza in the possibilities for a just and fairly negotiated outcome to the peace process. Settlement activity raises questions about Israel’s willingness to abide by the promise of Resolution 242 that territory will be exchanged for true peace.”

The Reagan-Begin meeting was announced yesterday by the White House. Four days later, on November 23, Reagan will also meet with President Yitzhak Navon of Israel. Administration officials said a main issue in Reagan’s talks with both Begin and Navon would be his Middle East peace proposals: The talks will also deal with the diplomatic efforts to secure the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

Before meeting with Reagan, Begin will be in Los Angeles to address the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations on the night of November 13. On the following night, also in Los Angeles, he will address an Israel Bond dinner.

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