JERUSALEM (Feb. 28)
The Cabinet today unanimously approved Premier Menachem Begin’s forthcoming trip to the U.S. at a special session convened following President Carter’s personal invitation yesterday to the Israeli Premier. The government, however, ruled out any discussions between Begin and the Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil.
“I will leave tomorrow for the U.S.,” Begin said, “in order to better clarify Israel’s stand to President Carter and his staff. I have no intention of meeting with Premier Khalil, in the event that he is also in Washington. At this point, such a meeting would be detrimental to the negotiating process. He added that Israel would reject any American attempt to pressure it into changing its stand.
Begin said that the Egyptian stand as presented at Camp David ministerial level meetings last week constituted “a serious radicalization of posture, which contradicted both the Camp David agreements and the significance of a peace treaty. The latter, the Premier noted, could easily become a “war treaty and in war, one does not need treaties, only cannons.”
Three issues apparently form the basis of Egypt’s hardened stand. They include the idea of linkage–Cairo is apparently now demanding that autonomy on the West Bank become an integral part of the peace agreement with Egypt; exchange of ambassadors–Cairo is again unwilling to commit itself in writing to the exchange of ambassadors with Israel, status of the treaty–Cairo is not willing to grant the treaty preference over those previously signed between Egypt and other Arab countries.
SAYS PEACE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN PRESTIGE
Not all Cabinet members, however, were in agreement over the hardening of the Egyptian stand: Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, who along with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, voted against the majority yesterday, said today that the differences of opinion between Israel and Egypt were not great and that no hardening had taken place. Weizman cautioned that time was working against Israel, and that “we must struggle over peace, not over prestige.”
Dayan, for his part, expressed satisfaction that Begin was going to the U.S. “I am happy that the Premier is going to the U.S. and hope that this will bring forth a continuation of the negotiating process, not only with Carter but with Sadat as well, “he said. The foreign Minister added that he did not see any implications as to the future of his role in the government due to yesterday’s Cabinet decision. He also noted that he would not be accompanying the Prime Minister to Washington.
Speaking for the opposition, Labor Party Secretary Haim Barlev criticized yesterday’s decision by the Cabinet. He contended that as long as Khalil was authorized by the government of Egypt Israel should take up the challenge to meet with him. “It is not a hardening of the Egyptian stand which prompted the Israeli refusal, “he said today on Israel Radio.” Rather, it was considerations of prestige. We’re forgetting that diplomacy should not be conducted as if it were within the framework of interpersonal relationships.”
Begin plans to spend time in New York conferring with American Jewish leaders there and to attempt to clarify the Israeli stand to the American public through the mass media.