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Levy Letter Implies Israeli Pledge Not to Settle Olim in East Jerusalem

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy appears to have implicitly promised Washington that none of the $400 million in loans to be guaranteed by the United States will be used to house Soviet Jews in East Jerusalem.

But neither the State Department nor Israeli officials would confirm this interpretation Wednesday after the department released the letter outlining the agreement that Levy reached with Secretary of State James Baker on Oct. 2.

“Read the letter,” a State Department official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. An Israeli official responded similarly.

The letter says use of “the housing loan guarantees will be restricted to the geographic areas which were subject to the government of Israel’s administration prior to June 5, 1967.”

East Jerusalem, like the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. The area was later annexed by Israel and has been part of Israel’s unified capital ever since. Israel does not consider East Jerusalem to be part of the administered territories, even though it lies beyond the 1967 Green Line marking Israel’s former borders.

East Jerusalem is “deliberately not mentioned” in the letter, an Israeli official stressed.

The letter was the result of several days of negotiations between Levy and Baker while they were in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.

Though Congress had approved the $400 million in loan guarantees for Soviet Jews last spring, the administration had held up release of the guarantees until it had written assurances from the Israeli government that the money would not be used to settle Soviet Jews in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

‘NO SPECIAL INCENTIVES’

State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said that Baker and Levy had figured the letter would be made public, probably through “leaks.”

Baker said he would release the letter himself when he was asked Monday about reports that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir had announced plans for a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

But Shamir made no such announcement, the Israeli official said. The prime minister, who was dedicating a new yeshiva, merely expressed his “own vision” that the school would eventually be surrounded by Jewish homes. There was no specific plan mentioned, the official said.

In his letter, Levy also tells Baker that “no special incentives exist to encourage Soviet Jewish immigrants to settle beyond the Green Line, nor are we planning to provide such incentives in the future.”

Levy also points out that Israel’s official policy on absorbing Soviet Jews was stated by Housing Minister Ariel Sharon on June 25 and repeated by Shamir in a letter to Bush on June 27.

This was that “the government of Israel’s policy is not to direct or settle Soviet Jews beyond the Green Line,” Levy said.

The administration had considered these assurances inadequate until the Baker and Levy meeting in New York.

In the letter, Levy says he is “prepared to agree that we will provide you periodically with the government’s building plans for housing for immigrants, including special financial incentives.

“I will also use my best efforts to provide annually as complete information as possible on the government of Israel’s financial support for settlement activity and periodically as well to inform you of any government settlement activity.”

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