WASHINGTON (Jun. 28)
White House officials said today that Vice President Walter Mondale’s three-day visit to Israel beginning Friday was intended primarily to reaffirm U.S. relations with Israel and America’s commitment to Israel’s security and well-being. They said, at a briefing for reporters this afternoon, that it was important to stress that the U.S. government and people are determined to see that Israel remains secure and prospers and that they hoped Mondale would help contribute in allaying concern in Israel as the Jewish State faces difficult decisions in moving toward peace.
The officials said that the second purpose of the visit is to provide the Vice President with an opportunity to confer with Israeli leaders in depth on the Middle East situation and where it is headed They emphasized, however, that Mondale is not carrying proposals on negotiations. The briefing was given in the midst of as yet unresolved differences between Israeli officials and the Vice President’s advance party in Israel over Mondale’s itinerary. The major issue is Israel’s insistence that Mondale visit East Jerusalem in his official capacity notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty there. In that connection, Mondale issued a statement today saying: “My family and I intend to make a personal visit to the Western Wall, that most holy shrine of the Jewish people. My friend, Mayor Teddy Kollek (of Jerusalem) is welcome to accompany me. This is not a political visit, of course, but my return to the Wall is a matter of great personal importance to me and my family.”
Kollek, angered over the Vice President’s decision not to visit East Jerusalem in an official capacity, said yesterday that he would boycott public functions with Mondale. He did the same when Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal visited East Jerusalem last October without an official escort.