Jerusalem (Nov. 4)
The spokesman for the four African presidents visiting Israel on a fact-finding mission for Middle East peace suggested last night that the group prepare immediately practical proposals for a dialogue between Israel and Egypt. President Leopold Senghor of Senegal said on a special radio interview that he may return to Israel for a second visit after he and his colleagues visit Cairo. They leave for the Egyptian capital today ending a three-day visit to Israel.
Senghor said that he personally has always felt an affinity for Israel because of the spiritual parallels between her ideas of freedom and those of the African nation. He compared Zionism to the African liberation movements.
Presidents Yakubu Gowan of Nigeria, Ahmadou Ahidjo of Cameroon, and Joseph Mobutu of Zaire (formerly Congo Kinshasa), and Senghor represent the Organization of African Unity, a group that has consistently gone on record in favor of resolutions supporting Egypt and calling for Israel’s withdrawal. They were selected out of the OAU’s Committee of Ten Presidents to make the fact-finding journey to Jerusalem and Cairo and will report back to the full committee at a meeting in Dakar Nov. 10. It was Egypt, a member state of the OAU, that first asked that body to do something about the Middle East conflict.
WANT TO AID SETTLEMENT
Nevertheless, Senghor’s remarks last night, and his assurances when the group arrived in Israel on Tuesday that they were open-minded, indicated that the African heads of state seriously want to help a Mideast settlement. Although the Egyptians, by virtue of their position as an African nation have been more active in presenting their case than Israel, the Israeli position has been stated at length in personal letters sent by Premier Golda Meir to the Committee of Ten.
Israel relies further on its generous record of assistance to African nations. Since 1960 an annual average of 300 Israeli experts have been going to various African countries on a wide variety of economic and development projects to which Israeli know-how can be applied. Thousands of Africans have come to Israel for training. Mobutu, who holds the rank of general, earned his paratrooper wings at an Israeli Army base several years ago.
Gowan has not forgotten Israel’s expression of sympathy for the former breakaway province of Biafra in the recent civil war and was reminded of it last night in a telegram sent him by the Knesset’s Free Center faction protesting Nigerian “genocide.” But Israeli officials do not believe this will affect his attitude. They are more concerned that the Egyptians, who will have the “last word” on this visit, may prove a more tempting suitor both politically and in the splendor of lavish Arab hospitality in Cairo.
Observers here said Israel would be satisfied if the four presidents recommend that Egypt and Israel get together to discuss how to implement the Security Council’s Resolution 242 in all of its parts. President Senghor’s remarks last night indicated that this would probably be the outcome of their mission.