JERUSALEM (Apr. 8)
The Knesset today overwhelmingly approved the Cabinet’s rejection of plans by Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, to meet with President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in Cairo. The vote was 65-5 to endorse Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s Knesset statement yesterday explaining why the Cabinet acted as it did. The Knesset also defeated two motions of no confidence in the Government on the issue. Mr. Eban stated that Israel was prepared to meet with any Arab state including Egypt at any time but insisted on its right to select its own representative. He said Dr. Goldmann did not qualify as an emissary because his views on how peace can be achieved are in sharp variance with official Government policy. All factions in the coalition government plus the Poalei Agudat Israel and the State List, headed by former Premier David Ben Gurion, voted to endorse Mr. Eban’s statement. The two Communist factions and Haolam Hazeh cast negative votes and the Free Center faction abstained.
Dr. Goldmann said today, that for him “the Nasser meeting episode is finished. I did not initiate it, I did not ask to be made an official representative and I will not respond to an invitation even if I get one.” Dr. Goldmann spoke at a press conference he called at Beth Sokolow in Tel Aviv. Observers said it drew a bigger crowd of newsmen than any other press conference in the city since the June, 1967 Six-Day War. Dr. Goldmann said he welcomed Premier Golda Meir’s statement that the matter was closed for her and that it would not affect her personal friendly relations with him. But the veteran Zionist leader took Mrs. Meir to task for having brought the matter up officially in the Cabinet. He also expressed “regret” that she and Foreign Minister Abba Eban disclosed the content of their private talks with him without consulting him. Dr. Goldmann said, “I told them both the matter should not be made public and warned them not to bring it to the Government.” He said he never asked to make an Ambassador Extraordinary and that he did not ask Mrs. Meir for Government approval of his mission, only that the Government be aware of it. “Of course, if I got approval of her Government I become her representative,” he said.
Dr. Goldmann stressed that his planned visit to Cairo, reportedly “suggested” to him by Egyptian representatives in Paris, had nothing whatever to do with the World Jewish Congress or his position as its president. He said it was his own personal matter and he found it unnecessary to report the matter to the WJC. He said he had no intention whatsoever of heading a campaign in Israel for his views. Dr. Goldmann stated, “As a Jew, as an Israeli living in a democratic state” he has the right to express his views “even if I don’t see eye to eye with the attitude of official Israel.” Dr. Goldmann said he would leave Israel at the beginning of May and would return later in the year. (The Paris newspaper Le Monde sharply criticized the Israel Government today for dismissing the Goldmann mission. The paper said in a front page editorial that Israel can no longer assert that “because of its own public opinion it must refuse to explore possible ways leading to peace.” The editorial cited a recent public opinion poll in the newspaper Haaretz which it said showed that an overwhelming majority of Israelis favored Dr. Goldmann’s projected mission. “For the first time Israeli public opinion does not seem to follow the Government’s leadership,” Le Monde said, adding that the Goldmann affair gave the first hint that there were other roads besides war leading to a solution of the Mideast problem.)