JERUSALEM (Jul. 12)
Premier Menachem Begin returned from a two-day visit to Alexandria today to announce that Israel’s future oil supplies from Egypt have been secured, that President Anwar Sadat has ordered Egyptian authorities to grant entry visas to all Israelis who have applied for them, and that after more than 30 years railroad connections may soon be reestablished between Israel and Egypt.
Obviously well pleased by his latest rounds of talks with Sadat and other ranking Egyptian officials, Begin told reporters at Atarot Airport near Jerusalem that relations between Israel and Egypt “are actually beginning to pass from the stage of peace to the stage of friendship, mutual understanding and cooperation.” (See related analysis P. 3.)
He disclosed that after Nov. 26, the day Israel is to return the last of the Sinai oilfields it holds to the Egyptians, Israel will be able to acquire oil from those fields at “world market rates.” He said Sadat issued orders to grant entry visas after it was brought to his attention that only 20 visas have been issued so far although hundreds of Israelis have applied for them since the normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt was decreed at EI Arish last May 28. Sadat also promised to grant exit visas to Egyptian Jews who want to visit their families in Israel, Begin said.
Begin reported that the Egyptians are surveying the possibility of reopening the old railroad line between Cairo and Lod in Israel which was an important rail junction before 1948. “We raised this issue on the first day of our visit,” Begin said. He said “we have two proposals,” one by a leading Israeli industrialist and the other by Canadian Pacific, a global giant involved in all forms of transportation, “to undertake this work. Within the next few days we will invite representatives of both for initial consultation on the project …. We have hope that this railroad will be operated and there is no doubt that it will be another contribution to the reality of peace,” he said.
EGYPTIAN JEWS ARRIVE IN ISRAEL
The Israeli press plane that followed Begin’s plane from Alexandria carried the first Egyptian Jews to benefit from Sadat’s promise of exit visas. They were Robert Dassa, a 46-year-old television reporter who served 14 years in an Egyptian prison for membership in an Israeli spy ring that attempted various acts of sabotage in Egypt in 1954 and now lives in Alexandria; his sister Awda and her three daughters.
They were received by Begin in Alexandria and accepted his invitation to come to Israel to visit other members of their family. “The President (Sadat) told me that any Egyptian willing to visit his family in Israel could do so with no hindrance,” Begin had told them.
On leaving Alexandria Airport this morning, Begin was escorted by Vice President Hasni Mubarak who said the talks were going in the right direction.” We hope that with these meetings and contacts we shall make progress,” he said.
Begin’s departure was accompanied by full military honors and a warm send-off by the Egyptians. His visit was somewhat less dramatic than his previous visits to Egypt but appeared no less important in terms of developing relations between the two countries. Begin achieved a reconciliation with Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil who hosted a dinner for him last night. Relations between the two had soured ever since Begin refused to fly to Washington earlier this year to meet him and President Carter in the absence of Sadat.