Special Interview Haifa Mayor Sold on Sadat

Only a week ago, before the arrival of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for his summit meeting with Premier Menachem Begin in Haifa, Arye Gur-El, the mayor of the city, had doubts whether the Egyptian leader’s new policy of peace with Israel was sincere. But today he is not only convinced that Sadat wants peace, he also is deeply impressed with the Egyptian “Rais” (President) and trusts his intentions.

“The truth is that after I spent a few hours hosting Sadat and his wife, I sincerely believe now that he wants peace,” Gur-El told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview here before leaving for Columbus, Ohio to attend a meeting of the International Union of Local Authorities.

“Sadat is sincere,” Gur-El continued, relaying his impressions. “He wants a genuine peace. He has a few problems, of course, with the other Arabs and with the Palestinians, but that he wants peace there is no doubt in my mind. This is my unequivocal impression of the man.” And, as if to bolster his own impression, he added “My wife, Miriam, was also deeply impressed with the sincerity of Jihan, Sadat’s wife.”

According to Gur-El, both Sadat and his wife are very emotional people. Sadat was so touched by the reception tendered him by Haifa residents, Gur-El recalled, that he could not conceal the tears in his eyes once he returned to the car from which he stepped out to shake hands with the crowd. “My wife told me that Jihan literally cried, with tears streaming down her cheeks,” Gur-El said. The Mayor was with sadat and Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin in one car, while his wife, Jihan, and the Sadat’s daughter, Maha, were in another.

HAIFA AND ALEXANDRIA AS SISTER CITIES

Sadat was so enthusiastic over the reception accorded him that, still riding in the car, he agreed instantly that Alexandria and Haifa be declared twin cities, Gur-El-said. He quoted Sadat as saying: “There are no barriers between us any more. We are friends. You want to forge a pact between Alexandria and Haifa — you have it.” Sadat also suggested that Gur-El extend an invitation to the Governor of Alexandria to visit the Mount Carmel city. In addition, according to Gur-El, Sadat invited him to visit Egypt.

Gur-El said that Sadat’s visit to Haifa focussed international attention on his city, with pictures and articles all over the world, “This attention under lined Haifa’s assets as a tourist attraction and the fact that the city is an important scientific and industrial center, with good prospects for investment,” he said.

In addition, he continued, “Jewish and Arab residents of Haifa have been living for many years in harmony and co-existence. The Haifa model of co-existence can serve as a paragon for future relations between Israel and the Arab states.”

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