Begin Associates Elated by Warmth of Letter from Carter

Close associates of Premier Menachem Begin appeared elated today over the “very warm” tone of President Carter’s letter to Begin congratulating him on his ascendance to the Premiership and inviting him to Washington for talks next month. They described the message, conveyed to Begin shortly after he was sworn into office yesterday, as “beyond our expectations.” Begin drafted a reply to the President yesterday afternoon.

Observers noted certain reassuring phrases in the President’s letter such as his reiteration of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel and his emphasis on “partnership” in solving the Middle East conflict. According to these sources, one of the major questions that will have to be resolved when Carter and Begin meet is the search for a common ground on which to proceed with Middle East peace efforts.

The two leaders are said to be in firm agreement that the step-by-step approach–the Kissinger diplomacy–should be replaced by a bid for an overall settlement that would be implemented in stages over a period of years. Circles here assume that Carter will press Begin to mute his political declarations during an interim period until the mood of the Arab countries in light of the Likud victory can be assessed. Carter is expected to urge Begin to declare a moratorium on new settlements in the administered territories during this period.

TEXT OF LETTER

Carter’s letter said: “Please accept my warmest congratulations on your accession as Prime Minister and the best wishes of the American people for the success of your government.

“The process of democratic choice which has brought you to this office and this responsibility demonstrates the attachment of Israel to the principles of democracy and individual liberty which we share and which is the hallmark of all free societies. We are linked as well with your great nation in our commitment to the moral precepts of democracy, its humanitarian values of peace, justice and individual dignity. These common and fundamental democratic precepts, shared between us, are the foundation of our special relationship and the commitment to Israel’s security which the United States has historically maintained.

“As you know, I am deeply committed to helping Israel and its neighbors seek a lasting peaceful resolution to the conflict between them. I am sure that this is an objective I share with you, and I would welcome your ideas on how progress toward peace can best be achieved. Given the depth and range of our mutual interests, I believe it important that we meet at an early date to establish a personal relationship and exchange of views on the negotiation of a peace settlement and on other matters of mutual concern.

“I would like, therefore, to invite you to visit the United States during the week of July 18, and to join with you in a partnership of principle leading to a just and peaceful settlement of the dispute between Israel and its neighbors. We both are blessed with the historic opportunity to give substance to the religious meaning of our societies.

“With best wishes, sincerely, Jimmy Carter.”

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