JERUSALEM (Dec. 3)
United States Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia urged Israel last night to resume peace negotiations with Egypt and called on Israel for greater flexibility in the negotiations and restraint in its public statements. The Senator, who was speaking here at a dinner in his honor given by Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, stated, “I would hope that we measure what we say lest we make the negotiations more difficult.”
Byrd, who met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Cairo last week and left Israel today to meet with Jordan’s King Hussein before returning to Washington to report to President Carter, visited the Middle East as Carter’s “special envoy.”
In his speech, Byrd said that Carter was determined to conclude a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and to reach accords with its neighboring countries as well. He said Carter had the full support of the American people on this point, and the “absolute, total and complete” support of himself as well.
In a lighter moment, Byrd serenaded the assembled guests with a Scottish highland ballad played on a violin Yadin had provided for him. “I am the Isaac Stern of the U.S. Senate,” Byrd quipped.
SAYS PALESTINIANS CAN RELY ON U.S. SUPPORT
Earlier over the weekend, the Senator met with a number of West Bank dignitaries in an attempt to convince them to accept the autonomy plan. The Arab notables, however, voiced their fervent opposition to Camp David and reaffirmed their opposition to the autonomy plan. Byrd was quoted as saying that “despite some vague phrases,” the Camp David agreement “constitutes a good basis for a Middle East peace settlement.”
He reportedly “assured” the notables that once negotiations begin, “the Palestinians can rely on American support.” He also reportedly told the dignitaries that the present U.S. Administration “takes a more even-handed” approach to the Israel-Arab conflict than previous Administrations. In his opinion, “the U.S. public is less pro-Israel than in the past,” and it was thus worth the notables’ efforts to enter negotiations on the autonomy in the region.
Speaking with reporters at Ben Gurion Airport this afternoon, Byrd again said, as he did after meeting with Begin last Thursday, that he is firmly convinced Begin is resolved to achieve peace and to fulfill the agreement he and Sadat signed at Camp David. During his visit to Israel, the Senator visited Yad Vashem and was apparently deeply moved by what he saw there. He remarked afterwards that he could now better understand the feeling of Israelis and the spirit of dedication and love for their homeland.