JERUSALEM (Jan. 24)
Premier Menachem Begin won Knesset endorsement last night of his policies by a comfortable 59-9 margin, with 19 abstentions, after raising the possibility that the suspended Israeli-Egyptian military talks in Cairo could be resumed early next week. Begin conditioned that on the ending of what he termed anti-Semitic diatribes in the Egyptian press.
The hopeful mood engendered by Begin’s generally conciliatory Knesset speech was increased by an official announcement late last night that Defense Minister Ezer Weizman has postponed his visit to Washington that had been scheduled for this week. Weizman heads the Israeli negotiating team at the Cairo military talks that opened last week.
Officials here explained that he wanted to be on hand in the expectation of a Cabinet decision to renew the Cairo talks. The Cabinet decided on Sunday to postpone the return of the Israeli negotiators to Cairo but left a skeleton staff of officers there to maintain contacts with their Egyptian counterparts.
Weizman met last night with Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Alfred L. Atherton and U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, whom he informed of his decision not to go to Washington this week. Atherton remained in the region after Secretary of State Cyrus Vance returned to the U.S. to continue efforts to get Israeli-Egyptian negotiations started again.
Weizman, however, will go to Washington about the middle of next week, even if the Cairo talks are resumed earlier, it was learned today. A growing feeling of urgency over U.S. arms supplies is behind his visit. If the joint military committee reconvenes next Sunday–provided that Israel concludes that the atmosphere is suitable–the Defense Minister will go to Cairo for 2-3 days and then return to Israel and leave for Washington Feb.2.
WARNS EGYPT ON INSULTS
Begin’s closing remarks after the Knesset debate were tougher than the speech he delivered. He warned that there would be no more talks if “statements insulting Jewish honor” continued to be published in the Cairo press. He also threatened that if Sadat continues to insist on total withdrawal it would mean that he sought “not peace with Israel but peace without Israel” and he would not get it.
The 19 abstentions in the vote on Begin’s statement came chiefly from the Labor Alignment. The nine negative votes were cost by the Communists, Sheli and two Mapam MKs. Three members of Begin’s coalition who abstained were diehard hawks Moshe Shamir and Geula Cohen of Likud and the dovish Mordechai Wirshubski of the Democratic Movement for Change. A Communist-sponsored motion of no confidence was swamped by 90 votes against it.
Earlier yesterday, Atherton and Lewis conferred with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan on details of a “declaration of principles” which, it is hoped, can still be agreed on by Israel and Egypt. Atherton is expected to fly to Cairo later this week to convey Israel’s position on the wording of the key Palestinian clauses to the Egyptians.
Diplomatic sources said the U.S. wants to use an agreement on the “statement of principles” as the basis for resuming emoticons, especially the political committee talks that were cut off by President Anwar Sadat last Wednesday.