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4 Mks Going to Moscow

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A delegation of four Knesset members, three of them non-Communist, will leave for Moscow Sunday for a 10-day visit in the Soviet Union as guests of the Soviet authorities. The invitation, extended by the Soviet Peace Committee, is the first of its kind from any Soviet body since the Kremlin severed diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967.

The delegation consists of Yossi Sarid, of the Labor Alignment, Naftali Feder of Mapam, Avraham Melamed of the National Religious Party and Toufik Toubi, an Arab member of the Rakah Communist Party. According to Yediot Achronot, the invitation was sent several months ago but the Israel government requested that the trip be postponed because of the sensitive political situation. It was renewed recently, a step regarded in political circles as “not coincidental” and possibly linked to the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations and the cooling of relations between Moscow and Washington.

The invitation, received by each MK individually, said “The Soviet Peace Committee believes that this visit will promote greater understanding between the Soviet and Israeli publics toward achieving peace in the Middle East and the entire world.” The Soviet Peace Committee, though nominally an independent organization, acts in accordance with Soviet government and Communist Party policy. Neither the government nor the party could have extended the invitation in the absence of formal diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Israeli group plans to visit the main Soviet cities and to meet with various personalities in the USSR. According to one MK, “Such a visit is a step to improving relations between Israel and the Soviet Union and moving them toward normalization.” Sarid stressed that they were going to Russia “as individuals” not as representatives of their respective parties. He cautioned, however, that expectations should be restrained.

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