TEL AVIV (Nov. 28)
Israeli doves, in limbo since Likud’s election victory last May, have been propelled to the forefront of political debate as a result of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit last week and his invitation to Israel and the Arab states to meet in Cairo beginning next Saturday to prepare for reconvening the Geneva conference.
The doves are not confined to the left-leaning fringe factions or the left-of-center elements of the Labor Alignment. They have surfaced within the Likud-led coalition, not only among members of the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) but in the National Religious Party (NRP). Their position is that the government must respond quickly to Sadat’s initiatives with bold concessions on the crucial issue of territorial compromise and the Palestinian question or miss what may be the last opportunity for a Mideast peace settlement.
PROPOSED MEETING SPARKS ALARM
Two members of the NRP, Avraham Melamed and David Glass, have been rallying coalition doves to put pressure on Premier Menachem Begin’s government to soften its position as a gesture to Sadat. A meeting of doveish elements is scheduled for tomorrow to map strategy. This has alarmed leaders of the various coalition factions. Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich, a leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, begged his colleagues last night to exercise restraint and not exaggerate the substantive results of Sadat’s visit.
With all due respect to the Egyptian President Ehrlich said, so far the peace plan he has presented is identical to that of Rakah, Israel’s Moscow-oriented Communist Party which is pro-PLO. The Likud government, he said, has shown itself to be dynamic, innovative and resourceful. So why make one-sided concessions and why announce in advance of negotiations what it is prepared to give up, Ehrlich asked.
He observed that peace negotiations, once started, will be conducted in stages over many months. He said that while he is convinced of Sadat’s desire for peace, utmost vigilance must be exercised as long as peace has not been achieved. MK Zalman Shoval of Likud’s small, hawkish La’am faction, urged the government to stick to its hard line in dealing with the Egyptians.
DMC DOVES ARE BITTER
DMC doves are bitter against Likud leaders who criticized the statement they made after Sadat’s visit stressing that there was cause to modify Israel’s position on territorial concessions. MK Mordechai Virshuvsky said today that the DMC must express its independent views because silence would be taken as an endorsement of the Likud line. One DMC leader, Amnon Rubinstein, agreed to attend tomorrow’s meeting of coalition doves on condition that all coalition factions are represented. But other DMC leaders feel the government’s response to Sadat has been satisfactory so far and the meeting is not necessary.
Outside the coalition, Naftali Feder of Mapam told that faction’s political committee today that he welcomed the government’s readiness to go to Cairo. But he said the government has still made no reply on the two key points raised by Sadat in Jerusalem–territorial concessions on all fronts and the Palestinian problem. He warned that unless the government changes its hard line, the threat of war could loom again over the region.
The Lashiloov group in the Labor Party also urged the government to reconsider its past policies and Labor’s Young Guard has called for a moratorium on Jewish settlements in the occupied Arab territories as long as negotiations are in progress.
The Labor Party’s official leadership has expressed satisfaction with the government’s decision to go to Cairo but has called for a more flexible stand on the West Bank and the Palestinian question. Eliyahu Speiser, secretary of the Labor Party’s Tel Aviv branch called for formation of a Labor-Likud coordinating body to advise the government on peace moves.
Ironically, Rakah is the only faction that has taken a determined anti-Sadat line. One of its MKs, Toufik Toubi, warned that the proposed Cairo conference was a danger to peace. Through all this, one fact is indisputable: Begin’s decision that Israel participate in the Cairo conference has the widest support in the country.