JERUSALEM (Apr. 2)
The Cabinet expressed regret today that Egypt has rejected Israel’s proposal to resume the work of the joint political and military committees suspended last January and hoped that Cairo would reconsider. But Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor, briefing newsmen after the session, refused to say that Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s meetings with President Anwar Sadat Thursday had been a failure.
It appears that Weizman will return to Cairo this week, at Sadat’s invitation, to resume their talks at the near-summit level. According to an interview published in the Egyptian weekly October today, Sadat said “Direct talks between us will always continue…..Peace is difficult but it is not impossible.” He told the magazine that Weizman’s trip to Cairo “was not a picnic to come here for a cup of tea. He came to break the stalemate.”
SADAT APPEALS TO ISRAELI PEOPLE
However, Sadat added the gap between the Israeli and the Egyptian views “must be narrowed to achieve peace. This will not lead to despair. We have achieved a lot and more will be achieved.” In his interview, Sadat appeared to be appealing to the Israeli people over the head of Premier Menachem Begin whom he described as “an old fashioned politician.” He said “It is up to the Israeli people to find what is better for them to achieve the peace desired by all of us.” He said that Begin had not responded to his peace bid by removing the psychological barrier between Israel and the Arabs.
The Cabinet met for three hours this morning as a ministerial security committee which means that its deliberations were classified. Weizman briefed his colleagues on his talks in Cairo. Naor told newsmen that the government continues to believe that the political and military committee talks agreed to by Sadat and Premier Begin at their Christmas Day meeting in Ismailia are still the most effective way to achieve progress.
The committees allowed the parties to deal with specific issues whereas summit level meetings were by their nature limited to much broader matters. The Cabinet’s position, relayed by Naor, seemed to be that Israel is ready to “talk business” and was aimed at countering the impression abroad that Israel is dragging its feet.
The Egyptians apparently believe that the reasons which caused them to break off the committee talks in January still hold. They are waiting for more substantial commitments from Israel before resuming those talks. It is in that light that the invitation to Weizman to return to Cairo this week should be viewed, sources here said.
WEIZMAN SOUNDS OPTIMISTIC NOTE
Weizman sounded an optimistic note when he addressed Herut’s young guard at Kfar Hamaccabiah Friday night, shortly after his return from Egypt. “My visit to Cairo was not the last one. There will be more meetings, I assure you that,” he said.
He said that in his conversations with Sadat and with Egyptian War Minister Mohammed Gamassy he did not deviate in the slightest way from the government’s guidelines. He stressed, however, that “much patience is needed because the process is a long one.” But he assured his audience that Israel would stand by its demands that are vital for its security and survival.
Weizman dismissed rumors of a rift between himself and Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, the leading “hawk” in the Cabinet. Sharon, who also spoke at the Herut meeting, agreed. He said he was on good terms with Weizman. “We talk at least six times a day. There are other ministers with whom I spoke not one ward for many months,” he said.
Sharon insisted that development work would continue at Israeli settlements in Sinai, which he claimed were vital to their security. He said the work must go on at this time because the security of the settlements had been neglected for 10 years.