Begin Starts Tenure As Premier with Conciliatory Speech Aimed at Israel’s Friends and Foes

Premier Menachem Begin introduced his government to the Knesset today with a speech that was generally conciliatory in tone. He urged the United States to strengthen its ties with Israel, called for renewed friendship with France and invited the Soviet Union to initiate moves to re-establish diplomatic ties with Israel. He also called on King Hussein of Jordan, President Hafez Assad of Syria and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt to meet with him for honest and serious discussions of peace between Israel and its neighbors.

With respect to France, Begin recalled the good relations that existed with Israel until 1967 when, he said, France adopted the Arab point of view. He said that France had too many good friends in Israel and Israel too many good friends in France for the nations to remain apart.

Begin said that it was the Soviet Union that broke diplomatic ties with Israel and therefore it was up to Moscow to take the initiative to renew them. He said, however, that if and when the Soviets approach Israel, Israel will demand that any Jew desiring to leave the USSR be allowed to do so and that all Jewish prisoners of conscience be freed.

The Likud leader urged “yordim”–emigres from Israel–to “come home,” especially those living in the U.S. and other Western countries. He said the government would assist them to return.

DEADLINE FOR DMC

On the domestic scene, he appeared to lay down a deadline for the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) to reverse its recent decision not to join his coalition. Begin noted that three ministries have been left open in his Cabinet for the DMC–Justice, Welfare and Transportation and Communications. But he warned that they will remain vacant “not longer than four or five weeks.”

He read to the Knesset his new government’s guidelines, including the statement that “the government announces its readiness to take part in the Geneva conference at such time as it shall be invited to do so by the United States and the USSR on the basis of the Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.”

Prior to his appearance at the Knesset, Begin visited President Ephraim Katzir at the Presidential Residence this morning to inform him officially that he has succeeded in the task of forming a government, assigned to him by the President two weeks ago. He met with Katzir for about 15 minutes and presented him with a letter containing a list of his Cabinet members.

Both made brief statements to reporters after-words. Katzir expressed the hope that the Begin government will be able to cope with the problems that face the country. Begin read reporters the letter he had presented to the President which stated that he had successfully carried out his mission.

NEXT STORY