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Israel Rejects U.S. Criticism of Israel’s Settlement Actions

February 13, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir flatly rejected Reagan Administration objections to Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He told a student audience at Bar Han University today that Israel would not have signed the peace treaty with Egypt or the Camp David accords if they had mentioned any halt to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

Shamir’s statement was seen as a response to the Reagan Administration’s sharp criticism yesterday of Israel’s West Bank settlement actions following reports that Israeli authorities are seizing or closing off large tracts of land on the West Bank for settlement purposes. Israel’s Military Government on the West Bank announced. Tuesday that some 4000 acres of unregistered land near Nablus is considered to be “state land.”

Shamir said repeated mention had been made during the Camp David talks for the need for a free, strong and defensible Israel, and this was impossible if Israel were forced to return to the 1967 borders. “Our security calls for an Israeli presence in the whole of the Land of Israel, and this includes Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, “he said.

Shamir said that at his very first meeting with American officials during his visit to Washington next week he would lay great stress on Israel’s need to ensure the country’s security and ability to defend itself under any and all conditions.

The Foreign Minister said there might be room for debate on the timing of the sitting of individual settlements, but not the need for defensive positions, which included civilian settlements. “Israel never agreed to halt settlements. There is no mention of it in the peace treaty. Quite the opposite… Israel would never have agreed to sign the peace treaty if we had not been sure of our right to settle Jews anywhere in the historic land of Israel.”


Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said the Administration’s statement was an “unpleasant surprise.” But Israel, he added, should not be too hasty in drawing conclusions. He noted President Reagan’s statements before, during and after the elections to the effect that West Bank settlements were not illegal. “We are now hearing a different tune, but it is not yet certain whether there is a different policy, “he told a radio interviewer,” if so, that would be serious and unpleasant.”

As a proponent of massive Jewish settlement on the West Bank, Arens said: “For myself, saying settlements are an obstacle to peace is like saying Israel itself is an obstacle to peace.” He said that though former President Carter had been against settlements, he was fully aware of Israel’s strong views in their favor and still went ahead with the Camp David process. “Israel needs defense and security on the West Bank, and that is impossible without civilian settlements,” Arens maintained.

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