JERUSALEM (Apr. 4)
Premier Menachem Begin met with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis here last night, resuming the American-Israeli dialogue for the first time since Begin’s strained encounter with President Carter in Washington last month. Although circles here still define relations with the U.S. as “unpleasant,” it is conceded that the American role is indispensable in the continuing negotiations with Egypt.
The negotiations are expected to follow two courses: direct contacts in the style of Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s talks with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt last week and indirect exchange through the good offices of the U.S. Official sources maintain strict silence over Weizman’s visit to Sadat.
Their only comment is to note that the Egyptian leader invited Weizman to return, which means that there is “something to talk about.” The outcome of his next visit to Cairo will depend on the Cabinet’s appraisal of his last visit and its consensus. The Cabinet deliberated for six hours Sunday as a ministerial security committee whose proceedings are classified.
But differences are known to have arisen in the assessment of Weizman’s trip. The Defense Minister himself appears convinced that the continuation of direct contacts with the Egyptian leadership is justified because that made of negotiations allows for the revival of mutual trust, severly damaged since the Sadat-Begin Christmas Day meeting at Ismailia.
DIFFERING VIEWS OF SADAT’S AIM
Sources close to Weizman have indicated that Sadat’s readiness to continue these contacts is sign that he genuinely seeks a settlement with Israel and, perhaps, even a tendency to soften his positions.
Foreign Ministry sources, on the other hand, reportedly believe that all Sadat wants at this time is to further deepen the differences between Israel and the U.S. and that the main purpose of his invitations to Weizman is public relations. Begin is said to believe in Sadat’s personal sincerity but has doubts that Weizman’s visits will persuade him to ease his position.
According to Western and Egyptian sources, Sadat has said that once Israel accepted the principle of withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he would see to it that Palestinian representatives joined him in negotiating a transitional settlement with Israel based on an amended version of Begin’s self-rule offer in the occupied territories. Sadat apparently is making Israeli acceptance a condition for resuming the suspended political and military committee talks. However, this would demand a major departure from the Likud government’s present policy.
Meanwhile no date has been announced for Weizman’s return visit to Cairo. There are still reports that Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan would go to Washington. But there has been no invitation yet from the U.S. Before he left on an official visit to Rumania Sunday night, Dayan said he had no plans to visit the U.S. in the near future.