TEL AVIV (Dec. 20)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s flight to Egypt today for a meeting with Egyptian War Minister and Deputy Premier Mohammed Gamassy was the latest event in the swiftly accelerating pace of Middle East developments that have taken Israel and the entire world by surprise. It has given rise to a new flood of speculation, coming only five days before Premier Menachem Begin’s meeting with President Anwar Sadat at Ismailia Sunday.
Weizman’s trip was first announced in Egypt. It was learned later that the Defense Minister left Ben Gurion Airport before noon in an American civilian aircraft and landed at the Egyptian Air Force base at Jiankalis, 14 miles south of Alexandria, where he met with Gamassy. Kol Israel radio reported today that Weizman met with Sadat at his Ismailia retreat before going to Alexandria. There was no confirmation of that report from any other source.
There were reliable–but unconfirmed–reports that two senior army officers accompanied Weizman. This seemed strange, inasmuch as the chief strategist of the army, Gen. Avraham Tamir, head of the planning branch at General Headquarters, is a member of the Israeli delegation to the Cairo conference. The delegation had another day off today occupied in part with a visit to Sadat’s home village in the Nile delta. The Israeli spokesman in Cairo had no comment on Weizman’s visit to Alexandria.
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The main topic of speculation is what Weizman and Gamassy talked about. The consensus here is that the Israeli defense chief mode his visit because Sadat has accepted in principle at feast part of Begin’s peace proposals and security issues between Israel and Egypt are therefore now open for discussion.
According to some sources, Weizman and Gamassy discussed security arrangements both in Sinai and on the West Bank. The sources said that in Sinai the subjects would include demilitarization of all or part of the peninsula, the installation of early warning systems and the possibility of manning them by Israelis. West Bank questions would include Israel’s demand for a continued military presence along the Jordan River or on the mountain range paralleling the river.
The Egyptian announcement stressed that Weizman had requested the meeting with Gamassy. But there are strong indications that it was planned well in advance, possibly even during Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem last month. Observers recall that, apart from Begin, Weizman was the only Cabinet member with whom Sadat met privately.
During his visit, Sadat conceded that Israel had legitimate security problems but refused to link them to the question of total withdrawal from the occupied territories. But two weeks later, Gamassy admitted, in an interview with Israeli Journalists in Cairo, that Israel has security problems with respect to the Kalkilya-Tulkarem region where the West Bank bulges perilously close to Israel’s coastal city of Netanya. In short, there is a feeling here that the Egyptians have an understanding of Israel’s security needs and some of these matters may have been threshed out at Weizman’s meeting with Gamassy.
According to one report, Weizman will stay in Egypt for 1-2 days, spending the nights at Ismailia. His talks with the Egyptian War Minister are expected to have a serious bearing on the upcoming Begin-Sadat discussions. It was rumored that Weizman may accompany Begin at his meeting with Sadat. Earlier, it was reported that Begin would be accompanied by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan. Sources here said today that the possibility that both ministers would accompany Begin could not be excluded.