JERUSALEM (Jul. 20)
Official sources seemed satisfied today that the Israeli-Egyptian Foreign Ministers meeting in England produced an agreement to continue negotiations between the two countries. El Arish, in northern Sinai, is considered the likely site for the next Israeli-Egyptian talks. The results of the two days of conferences at Leeds Castle will be discussed at the regular Cabinet session this Sunday.
Although there was no narrowing of the gap between the Israeli and Egyptian positions, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who chaired the meeting between Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and his Egyptian counterpart, Mohammed Kaamel, said there was sufficient progress to warrant further contacts.
Meanwhile, political circles here seemed to be favorably inclined toward making certain gestures to the Egyptians, such as returning El Arish, the capital of Sinai, to Egyptian civil administration. Another conciliatory move would be the construction of a three-faith house of worship at the Santa Katherina monastery near Mt. Sinai. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt originally proposed the project earlier this year and Premier Menachem Begin has said he would go along with the idea.
GOVERNMENT, ALIGNMENT CLASHES CONTINUE
Vituperative exchanges, meanwhile, continued between the government and the Labor Alignment opposition. They reached a crescenda during yesterday’s angry Knesset debate between Begin and Labor Alignment chairman Shimon Peres. Labor expressed outrage over the disclosure, by Begin himself, that he had vetoed a meeting between Peres and King Hussein of Jordan while both were in London a week ago.
Begin reportedly made the revelation in a private chat with Likud colleagues in the Knesset lobby last night. According to some sources, the Premier deliberately spoke loud so that others might hear. Peres and other Laborites accused him of revealing a state secret that could harm Israel’s image abroad.
One version has it that Peres was approached by an unidentified former king in London who offered to arrange a meeting with Hussein. Peres immediately telephoned Begin who forbade him to see the Jordanian ruler. Peres then informed the go-between that the meeting could not be held. He and Begin reportedly thrashed out the matter in the Knesset dining room last night after the debate. Their “private” talk was overheard by MKs at nearby tables, or so it was said today by sources here who went so far as to reconstruct the conversation.
Begin was quoted as telling Peres: “I heard the Egyptians invited both you and (former Foreign Minister Yigal) Allon and (former Premier Yitzhak) Rabin to Egypt. You will not receive passports. There is only one government that governs. Shimon, I heard you intended to meet Hussein. Can you imagine that Ben Gurion would have let me see even the shoulder of Hussein? With Ben Gurion I would not have seen even the tip of Morocco Shmorocco….” The latter was a reference to unconfirmed reports that Peres visited King Hassan of Morocco during his two week sojourn abroad. Begin officially denied today that he used the phrase “Morocco Shmorocco.”
Peres issued a statement today saying, “I am shocked by the words of the Premier. It shows he cannot hold his tongue. He does not know how to be discreet and therefore there is no point in consulting with him. No other Premier has ever used such a tone, such a lack of manners, such threats. This damages Israel and strengthens the many complaints overseas that he is an impossible partner for negotiations.”
Asked whether he would refrain from future trips abroad to meet foreign statesmen, Peres said “We are not a closed country and the Premier does not issue exit visas.” The Labor Alignment is expected to submit a no-confidence motion to the Knesset next week because of the Premier’s “light regard for matters of confidence.”
SADAT INSISTS ON NEW ELEMENTS
Meanwhile, Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency quoted Sadat today as saying that “Israel must introduce new elements before any future talks” can be held. “I have given my Foreign Minister instructions to this effect,” he said on returning from a visit to the Sudan. Sadat added, however, that he would meet again with Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, with whom he conferred for five hours in Salzburg, Austria two weeks ago. “This meeting has been agreed upon in Salzburg. I don’t know if the Israeli Cabinet will permit him to attend or not,” Sadat said.
The Egyptian leader also said he was waiting for Vance to determine the next moves in the Middle East peace process. “The efforts of Mr. Vance are very essential at this moment,” he observed. Sadat said he could not judge whether the Foreign Ministers meeting was a failure until he conferred with Kaamel.