WASHINGTON (Mar. 22)
President Carter and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin parted today with words of personal and binational friendship. But they spoke in an atmosphere of cold formality with no indication that they have come closer to their positions on how to proceed for a Middle East peace settlement.
Their mood as they spoke on the White House lawn at the conclusion of their third and last meeting was somber and even grim. The solemnity was in contrast to their meeting in December and strikingly different to the warm embraces that the President exchanged with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who had urged Carter to induce Israel to withdraw behind its pre-1967 lines.
A reporter later asked Zbigniew Brzezinski, the President’s National Security Advisor, whether “things are as grim as they look” between Israel and the U.S. “The appearances are not misleading,” Brzezinski replied. This situation was confirmed by what Secretary of State Cyrus Vance said after meeting with Begin for lunch at the State Department. “I can’t say that we’ve reduced the differences at this point,” he told reporters. Carter, himself, described his talks with Begin as “frank and detailed.”
Begin carefully avoided a direct confrontation, at least publicly, with Carter in all his comments during his stay here. He concluded his response to the President by saying that Israel is a small country and the United States is a mighty power. But “the bonds that tie us together”–love of liberty, religious tradition and democracy–mean “we are not only friends, we are partners and allies.”
CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY
In his closing remarks, Carter reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel’s security but he again said Israel was stronger militarily than ever before. He also said the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 must apply on “all fronts” if peace negotiations are to succeed. This was an allusion to Begin’s view that Israel has sovereignty over Judaea and Samaria. Begin did not speak of 242 in his response but he emphasized Israel’s security requirements.
Carter said that Israel has a “challenge and an opportunity” despite the atrocity of the March II terrorist raid toward achieving a peace settlement. He said the challenge is to Israel’s security and the opportunity is the chance to negotiate peace with the Arabs. “Despite terrorists and other danger,” Carter said, “this opportunity must not be allowed to slip into the cycle of haired and violence.”
Alluding to the “challenge and opportunity,” Begin pointed out that Israel has already made major contributions toward achieving a settlement. He spoke of Israel agreeing to Egyptian sovereignty in the Sinai, self-rule for the Arabs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and Israel’s draft of principles to govern further peace negotiations.
CARTER PUSHES FOR PLANES SALE TO ARABS
Meanwhile, Carter met late today with the House International Relations Committee and scheduled a meeting for tomorrow morning with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advance rapidly his proposal to provide warplanes to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a single package.
Although customarily, the Administration would not take public action on so controversial an issue when the leader of one of the countries concerned is in Washington, in the case of Begin, the President is apparently more concerned with pressure from Saudi Arabia to deliver the 60 F-15 jets he has promised it.