Israeli Cabinet ministers today expressed dissatisfaction with President Carter's assertion that American support of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for dismantling Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip stemmed from a misunderstanding.
After listening to Prime Minister Menachem Begin read a cable from Carter explaining the apparent error in instructing U.S. Ambassador Donald McHenry how to vote, Deputy Prime Minister Simcha Ehrlich told reporters he put more stock in the United States' vote Saturday before the Security Council than in its later explanations.
In the face of the U.N. resolution condemming Jewish civilian settlement in the occupied territories, the Israeli Cabinet today sidestepped for the third consecutive week a decision on whether to permit Jewish settlement in the exclusively Arab city of Hebron.
Instead, the Cabinet rejected "unequivocally" the Security Council vote and United States support for it, and reiterated what it termed Israel's "inalienable right" to settle anywhere in the occupied territories.
In a communique, the Cabinet said settlements remain "an integral factor of our national security," and that the U.S. vote on the U.N. resolution "gives rise to deep resentment and sharp protests among the people of Israel." "
Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir indicated that Carter's backtracking fell short of relieving the Cabinet's concern.
"There is still a deep feeling of anxiety and dissatisfaction toward this strange and far-reaching attitude of the United States," Tamir said after the Cabinet session. "The U.S. administration would be wise to reconsider its recent decision, which didn't do anybody any good."
Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin said, "This touched the very consensus of the country. Our reaction should be in keeping with the outcry here and abroad," apparently referring to the U.S. Jewish community.
The prevalent view among Isreali officials today was that Carter may have been surprised at the intensity of reaction by official Israel and American Jewry, and that Carter Concluded that the U.N. resolution went too far.
They noted that Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ephraim Evron, complained forcefully yesterday in meetings with Vice President Mondale and U.S. special envoy Sol Linowitz and that Israeli Interor Minister Yosef Burg, head of the negotiating team, also expressed "shock" in a message to the U.S. officials.
Coupled with the condemnation by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) of the U.S. position, and its potentially damaging effect in the midst of primary elections, according to the Israeli view, the reaction must have persuaded Carter to retreat from a resolution with which he must have been familiar before Saturday's vote.
The two aspects of the U.N. resolution that rankled Israeli officials most were the inclusion of East Jerusalem, and the accompanying implication that costly Israeli-built housing projects there would have to be surrendered, and the inclusion of the notion that existing settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be dimantled.
Foreign Ministry officials noted that the United States previously had abstained on several Arab-sponsored antisettlement resolutions that were milder in their condemnation of Israel's settlement policy.
Israeli officials were particularly incensed that the resolution referred to the "Arab and Palestinian occupied territory including Jerusalem."
Isreal annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Six-Day War, and the government has said that a redivision of the capital is out of the question.
The Israeli government is expected to bring up the question of settlements -- and specifically the Security Council vote -- for debate in Parliament Thursday. Begin, according to sources close to him, will ask for a vote supporting the Cabinet's position.
Israel also announced that ministers will bring "practical proposals" for Jewish settlement in Hebron before the Cabinet next week. The Cabinet has twice deferred making a ruling on Hebron, although it started in principle Isreal's right to settle there. The government has been under intense pressure by the ultranationalist Gush Emunim settlement movement to carry out this decision.
Proposals expected to be advanced next week range from Commerce Minister Gideon Patt's suggestion to establish a token Jewish presence in Hebron, such as a museum or a yeshiva (religious school), to Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon's demand for rehabiliation of many houses that were owned by Jews before the 1929 Arab Riots there.