MIDDLE EAST: Getting Ready To Face Carter

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What the Israelis really Intend to tell Carter is to cool it. They are now convinced that the President's aim to reconvene a Geneva Conference is a wasted effort, since the two sides are so far apart. Thus they will try to persuade Carter and Vance that there are more urgent items to be taken up, such as the Palestinian refugees and the continued fighting in southern Lebanon. Dayan, however, will get some hard questions in Washington about the new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. In his farewell to Argentina's President Jorge Rafael Videla last week, Carter said again that the settlements pose "additional problems" for the peace process.

TIME learned last week that despite official denials Israel has started, in addition to the three officially declared new settlements, another three new settlements in the past month, and a fourth is in the process of being manned. Moreover, the controversial plan of Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon to settle 2 million Jews in occupied lands has the official support of Premier Menachem Begin's government. "We will continue to settle, and settling is a long process which must be carried out," said Sharon in an interview last week with Jerusalem Bureau Chief Donald Neff and Correspondent David Halevy. "Anyone who thinks that this government is going to withdraw from the West Bank is suffering delusions."

Even though Carter says he has private assurances from all of the leaders that they will be more flexible than their public stance, hopes for a renewed Geneva are dimmer than ever. In an Interview with Syndicated Columnist Trude B. Feldman that appears in a number of Jewish publications around the country this week, the President seemed sobered by the procedural difficulties in bringing the two sides together. "Dozens of other foreign policy matters have suffered to some degree because I've expended so much time on this issue," he said. "If our efforts fail this year, it'll be difficult for us to continue to devote that much time and energy to the Mideast."

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