OSLO (Dec. 7)
Israeli Premier Menachem Begin is due in Oslo tomorrow to attend the Nobel Peace Prize presentation Sunday afternoon. The ceremony will take place as scheduled, in the presence of the King and most members of the Norwegian government, in spite of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s decision not to attend.
During their three-day stay in Norway, the Israeli Premier and Mrs. Aliza Begin will live at the Royal Palace as the personal guests of King Olav V and Queen Marghuerita. The invitation was originally extended to both Begin and Sadat with the King reportedly hoping that their proximity under the same roof might help break the current deadlock in the Egyptian-Israeli peace talks.
Many Norwegians had, at one point, hoped that the actual peace treaty between Israel and Egypt might be signed in Oslo. Later, as the talks ran into difficulties, they had hoped that the two leaders’ presence in Oslo might help them find a solution. The Nobel Committee’s citation for the award said it hoped the prize would encourage peace efforts.
ISRAELI PREMIER WELCOMED
Sadat’s decision to boycott the presentation ceremony has provoked certain Norwegian circles to criticize the award itself. The ruling Labor Party’s newspaper, Arbeiderbladet, wrote this week: “A ceremony with only Begin present would seem absurd to most people.” As if to atone for these voices, the Norwegian government, which formally is not connected with either the award or the presentation ceremony, has gone out of its way to welcome the Israeli Premier. Norwegian Prime Minister Odvar Nordli and Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund will call on Begin Monday morning before his return to Israel.
The Norwegian police have banned all outdoor hostile demonstrations. A pro-PLO group, the Palestine Committee, intends nonetheless to demonstrate Sunday afternoon outside Akershus Castle while the presentation is being made.
Police officials have said they will disperse the demonstrators should they break the injunction. Another pro-PLO group, the Palestine Front, has been barred from holding a demonstration in the Oslo University auditorium where the presentation is traditionally made. This year the ceremony was moved to Akershus for security reasons.
RED CARPET TREATMENT
Begin, who is due to arrive here at mid-day, will be welcomed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Protocol and the members of the Nobel Committee. He will drive straight to the Palace where he will be personally welcomed by the King. Then, he and Mrs. Begin, their daughter Hassia and her husband, Begin’s sister, Rachel Halperin, and the Israeli Ambassador to Norway, Hava Harelli, will be guests of the King and Queen at lunch. In the evening, the Begins will dine with the royal couple alone.
The Israeli Premier intends to spend Saturday in his suite at the Royal Palace pondering over his address. He will make final touches to it in the evening and then attend a reception in his honor given by Oslo’s Jewish community. On Sunday, the Premier and his suite will drive to Akershus Castle on the outskirts of Oslo, for the presentation of the award, the Peace Prize Diploma and the 360,000 Crown (approximately $160,000) check.
The actual ceremony will start shortly before I p.m. local time as a flourish of trumpets greets the King, Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja. The Israeli Premier intends to explain in his speech the major role played by Israel and the entire Jewish people in the peace process and to explain the age-old Jewish hunger for peace. It is this Jewish involvement which explains why Begin has invited several prominent Jews to Oslo to attend the presentation ceremony.
SOME OF THE INVITED GUESTS
Among those due to attend the presentation as Begin’s guests are Leon Dulzin, Jewish Agency Executive chairman; Max Fisher, chairman, Jewish Agency Board of Governors; Mrs. Charlotte Jacobson, chairman, World Zionist Organization-American Section; Rabbi Joseph Stemstein, chairman, American Zionist Federation; Theodore Mann, chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Frank Lautenberg, president, United Jewish Appeal; and Sam Rothberg, general chairman, Israel Bond Organization.
Other guests will include Baron Alain de Rothschild, from France; Mr. and Mrs. Nissim Gaon, from Geneva;and from Israel, former Israeli President Ephraim Katzir; former Minister of Religion Zerach Warhaftig; and former Soviet activist Silva Zalmanson.
Sunday evening, a celebration dinner will take place in the Akershus Castle’s Olav Hall, a huge room with rafted ceiling and an open fire-place. Begin’s Jewish guests have also been invited to the dinner. The Israeli leader will visit, between the two ceremonies, the Norwegian resistance museum which describes the country’s fight against the Nazi occupiers. Monday, before leaving for home, Begin will address a press conference and will later meet with the Norwegian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
Norwegian public opinion takes a keen and sometimes passionate interest in Middle East affairs. This is partially due to the presence of Norwegian soldiers with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) contingent. Norwegian journalists regularly visit the troops and generally use the opportunity to report on local and Palestinian affairs. Norway is one of the world’s countries with the most extensive Middle East coverage. Some segments of Norwegian public opinion have often in the past sympathized with the PLO and other Palestinian organizations. The peace prize award has probably done much to improve Israel’s prestige and popularity throughout Scandinavia.