Israel Will Continue to Build New Settlements on the West Bank

Premier Menachem Begin made it clear yesterday that his government will continue to plant new settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip regardless of objections from Washington and warnings by the opposition at home that such policy could jeopardize prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Begin addressed the issue at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting in response to the sharp reaction by the State Department last week to Deputy Premier David Levy’s announcement that five new settlements are to be built on the West Bank. Begin said there was nothing new in the announcement since his government is committed to establishing new settlements and he failed to understand why the U.S. saw fit to react as it did.

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir agreed with Begin but several other ministers argued that settlement work should continue quietly without public statements about future plans. Levy, who is also Minister of Housing, explained yesterday that his statements were in line with earlier Cabinet decisions concerning settlements and that he saw nothing wrong in making them.

PLANS FOR THE GAZA STRIP

Meanwhile, details were released today of plans by the World Zionist Organization’s settlement department to settle some 10,000 more Jews in the Gaza Strip over the next five years. Slightly over 1,000 Jews presently live in the Gaza Strip which has an Arab population of 500,000. The WZO hopes to offset the Arab majority by establishing new settlements.

Matityahu Drobless, chairman of the settlements department, is presently in the U.S. trying to recruit American Jews to form the nucleus of the new Gaza Strip settlements. The WZO will present its plans to the Cabinet for approval as soon as Drobless returns.

The Labor Party issued a warning today that continued settlement activity in areas densely populated by Arabs may jeopardize prospects for peace and worsen Israel’s position abroad. The States Department charged last week that Levy’s announcement of new settlement plans “raises questions about Israel’s willingness to abide” by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the basis of the Camp David accords.

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