Controversy over Begin’s Trip to Oslo

A sharp controversy has broken out over Premier Menachem Begin’s trip to Oslo to accept the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize that he shares with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt next Sunday. The propriety of the trip is being questioned because the peace talks with Egypt remain stalled and Sadat has announced that he will not attend the ceremonies but send a representative. There is also criticism of the size of Begin’s personal entourage which will be accompanied by some 40 Israeli journalists on a special flight to Oslo Friday.

A majority of the Cabinet approved the trip yesterday. The most vocal opponent was Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, co-chairman of the Israeli peace negotiating team. "It is not clear what is going to happen with peace so why go get the prize?" Weizman asked at the Cabinet meeting.

But Interior Minister Yosef Burg said, "What if Sadat changes his mind and goes to Oslo after all, shall we then meet again and reverse our decision?" Begin took the same line of argument. "If he, Sadat, does not come, does that mean I should not come?" he asked. "Each of us should make up his own mind. One sends a representative and the other shows up personally."

One of the major arguments in favor of Begin’s trip is that Sadat may change his mind at the 11th hour and show up in Oslo. In that case, a summit meeting between the two leaders could break the logjam in negotiations, sources here said.

Meanwhile, Begin’s media advisor Dan Pattir, Begin’s military adjutant Gen. Ephraim Poran and other aides left for Oslo this morning to prepare for Begin’s arrival there Friday and his stay in the Norwegian capital which is expected to include meetings with the King and Prime Minister.

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