JERUSALEM (Dec. 27)
The Cabinet met in special session for four hours today to hear reports from Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman on the Ismailia summit meeting with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. It was learned that there were no objections or disagreements that no new decisions were taken and that Begin was authorized to make a statement in the Knesset tomorrow on the peacemaking process.
It was not the Cabinet meeting but the conspicuous absence from it of Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan that commanded the news media’s attention today. The failure of Dayan, a participant in the Ismailia talks, to attend the session and brief his colleagues, raised a new flood of rumors and speculation.
Cabinet Secretary Arieh Naor told reporters after the meeting that the reasons for Dayan’s absence were “technical.” That was repeated by Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir who added, “We are all busy with our ministries.”
MYSTERY OF DAYAN’S WHEREABOUTS
It was learned, however, that the Cabinet ministers were given the reason why Dayan did not attend and that Begin himself knew yesterday that the Foreign Minister would not be present. Reporters spent most of the day in a vain effort to substantiate various unconfirmed rumors. One was that there were serious differences between Dayan and Begin over the latter’s peace plan. But veteran observers said it was unlikely that the Foreign Minister would protest by boycotting a Cabinet meeting.
Another rumor was that Dayan was meeting somewhere with king Hussein of Jordan today for talks linked to Hussein’s upcoming meeting with President Carter in Iran. But there was no confirmation. Israel Radio quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Naftali Lavi, as saying that Dayan was “busy.” Asked if he was in Israel or abroad, Lavi replied, “I don’t know.”
Reporters were unable to find out whether Dayan was at his office or elsewhere while the Cabinet met. But according to Israel Radio, Dayan will attend a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee tonight at which Begin and Weizman will be present.
Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin did not refer to Dayan’s absence when he met reporters after the Cabinet session. Referring to the peace process, however, he said it was difficult to estimate how long negotiations will last but predicted they will take a long time and that there would be some difficulties and problems. He said it was wrong to expect a rapid conclusion of negotiations with a peace treaty.
Meanwhile, Israelis are awaiting tomorrow’s Knesset session which will take up Begin’s peace plan. Likud and the National Religious Party (NRP) have given their members freedom to vote as they choose. But the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) said that its members opposed to the plan would be allowed only to abstain. At least one DMC member, Meir Zorez, is expected to abstain.