JERUSALEM (Nov. 22)
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has confirmed Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s statement that Israel did nothing to block a possible meeting between American Jewish leaders and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Schindler said in an interview published in the Jerusalem Post that the possibility of such a visit had been raised 4-5 months ago “but it never reached a substantive stage.”
Nevertheless he said, “throughout these conversations, Mr. Rabin was most encouraging and eager to pursue any and every avenue which could conceivably advance the cause of peace.”
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, expressed dismay that Rabin made a public disclosure of attempts to arrange a meeting with Sadat. In a telephone interview from Geneva with the Army Broadcasting Service, Goldmann acknowledged that he had informed Rabin of the plans “off the record” and that the revelation of them could only harm the possibility of contacts.
The WJC leader said contacts were still being made but in the future he would refrain from reporting such matters to Rabin. “Nobody knows what may have come out of it. Rabin knows only too well that whatever would have come out would have been done with his consent. We would not have done anything on our own accord.” Goldmann said.
SUGGESTIONS FOR MEETING WERE VAGUE
Rabin discussed the incident last Wednesday after Maariv published a report accusing him and the Israeli government of blocking a meeting between Jewish leaders and Sadat after initially agreeing to such an attempt. The arrangements were reportedly initiated by Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, after learning that Sadat was interested in a meeting. Goldmann was said to have been informed by President Nicolae Ceausescu of Rumania and relayed the information to Rabin.
According to the version by Schindler, who reportedly was to have been a member of the Jewish group visiting Cairo, the “suggestions came from secondary and tertiary sources and were entirely too vague to be taken as a serious invitation.” Schindler said that after being informed of Rabin’s positive response, the “other side” suddenly changed the conditions and presented them “in a way which made them both undignified and counter-productive.”
Meanwhile, news media here and abroad reported an angry exchange between Rabin and Kreisky. The latter reportedly accused the Israeli leader of jeopardizing Jewish contacts with Sadat. Rabin reportedly retorted that “European leaders should not interfere in other countries’ business if they feel their own countries are too small for them.” Kreisky denied that he made the remark attributed to him and deplored Rabin’s response.
Rabin’s press advisor, Dan Pattir, said here over the weekend that the Premier has no interest in a conflict with Kreisky. The two leaders are due to meet at the Socialist International Convention in Geneva this week. Israel’s Ambassador to Austria was quoted by the radio here as saying that he had smoothed out the conflict in a telephone conversation with the Austrian Ambassador in Tel Aviv. He said there was room for “careful optimism” that it would be resolved when Kreisky and Rabin meet.