NEW YORK (Dec. 11)
Premier Menachem Begin of Israel disclosed that he has invited the leaders of Syria and Jordan to join with Israel and Egypt in seeking an overall Middle East settlement.
In a recorded telephone message to some 1500 American Jewish community leaders at the closing banquet session last night of the United Jewish Appeal’s annual national conference held at the Hilton Hotel, Begin also declared that “we shall conduct negotiations face-to-face with the Egyptian delegation in Cairo.” There will, he added, be “other meetings on various levels, with one aim, to bring an end to all the wars between us and the Arabs.”
The Premier said Israel had started the negotiating process with Egypt because “for the time being,” Egypt was the only Arab neighboring country willing to join in such talks. He stated that he hoped the rulers of Syria and Jordan would come to Jerusalem, adding, “If they should invite me to any other place I surely will be ready to do so.” He expressed hope that the current peace efforts would lead to an era of cooperation between Egypt and Israel in solving the economic and social problems of the two peoples.
Begin charged the Soviet Union with being behind the “rejectionist” Arab states opposing President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, “denying any possibility of making peace with Israel, of recognizing Israel.”
Focusing on Israel’s social problems, Begin said the persistence of sub-standard housing conditions for 45,000 families required an additional fund-raising effort by the UJA through community campaigns. In an apparent reference to Israel’s Sephardi Jews, the Premier said that nearly 300,000 people live “in the most abject conditions of housing, sometimes…up to seven souls in one room.”
$700 MILLION UJA 1978 GOAL
Leonard R. Strelitz, UJA general chairman, who presided at the banquet session, said the UJA 1978 campaign goal of $700 million represented a substantial increase over the pledge totals of previous campaigns. The campaign is currently running ahead of last year’s drive, he reported, and would continue to be responsive to the social needs described by Begin.
The keynote address at the banquet was delivered by Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D.NY) who hailed Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem as a breakthrough. He said Sadat took “the great gamble” of seeking peace on his own because he had seen that U.S. policy in seeking the Soviet Union’s cooperation in the peacemaking process made his own position untenable.
Moynihan denounced the U.S.-Soviet joint declaration of Oct. I as a “document clearly drafted by the Soviets” and “we were informed, in effect, that they were being asked by us to return to the Middle East, to act in effect as a partner in bringing about or endorcing a settlement there.”
The banquet session climaxed three days of workshops, seminars and study sessions reviewing a full range of issues confronting Jews in the world today and exploring problems and progress in humanitarian programs in Israel, the United States and throughout the world funded through UJA/community campaigns.
EBAN: ISRAEL, EGYPT NOT SUBSERVIENT TO PAST
Among the highlights was the fifth annual Louis A. Pincus Memorial Lecture, delivered yesterday afternoon by Abba S. Eban, former Foreign Minister of Israel. In a broad review of the significance of current peace initiatives, Eban said:
“In recent weeks both our peoples have proved that they are not subservient to the past. The leader of the largest Arab state has made the rhetoric and literature of negation obsolete overnight. By coming to our capital and our Parliament–and by his subsequent invitation to Cairo–he has created a new dimension of international communication.” Direct encounter between Israel and Egypt, Eban continued, “does not entirely eliminate the need for American mediation, but mediation without any direct encounter has never been successful in the history of conflict. The availability of both options together gives greater hope.”
On the Israeli side, he noted, “the old defensive, distrustful attitudes engendered by Arab antagonism have yielded to a more open spirit… It will soon be our duty to emerge out of generalities into precision. This is not something that we should do in order to reward Sadat for his act of ‘risk.’ A personal risk by an individual does not require the risk of a nation’s security. We owe a reaction not to Sadat’s risk but to our own central interests.”
SHARON: NEITHER OVER-OPTIMISM NOR IMPATIENCE
The conference began on Thursday with the UJA annual inaugural dinner, a major fundraising meeting at which a total of $13.9 million in pledges were made for the 1978 campaign. This represents a 25 percent increase over pledges from the same contributors last year. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s Minister of Agriculture, told participants: “If peace comes, we will need the continuing support of the American Jewish community to help make Israel a special place, a model state in the world.”
Sharon, the general who led the crossing of the Suez Canal which ended the Yom Kippur War, cautioned against either over-optimism or impatience with the development of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. “We will be flexible in making political decisions leading to peace,” he said, “but we will be firm in protecting our security.”