TEL AVIV (Jan. 21)
Premier Menachem Begin will meet with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis in Jerusalem tonight, at the envoy’s request, to discuss the Olympic Games in Moscow next summer. The U.S. is apparently trying to persuade Israel to join its boycott of the Games. President Carter announced yesterday that he had informed the U.S. Olympic Committee that he would not support sending the American team to Moscow unless the Soviets pull their forces out of Afghanistan in one month.
The situation has created a dilemma for Israel and opinion here is sharply divided between those who would boycott the Games and matter of principle and others who warn that such a move could leave Israel isolated and out of the Games should a world-wide boycott fail to materialize.
The Knesset’s Sports Committee will take up the issue tomorrow, beginning what is expected to be a long and bitter debate. Two members of the committee have already taken diametrically opposing views. Roni Milo of Likud wants Israel to proclaim its boycott forthwith. He maintained that it is inconceivable that Israeli sportsmen will participate in the Moscow events while Jews are imprisoned and persecuted in the Soviet Union, not to mention the Soviets’ disregard of international law and international covenants.
But Yossi Sarid of the Labor Alignment cautioned Israel to take a careful approach lest it be she only country left out of the 1980 Olympics Sports officials here also seem to favor caution and insist that there must be a distinct dividing line between sports and politics.
WORLD REACTION AWAITED
Yitzhak Ofek, chairman of the Israel Olympic Committee, said it would see how the U.S. Olympic Committee acts before making a decision. Ofek said that only sports institutions can decide. Technically, the decision whether or not to boycott the Games rests with the Olympic Committees in the various countries, not with governments. The Prime Minister’s Office indicated today that Israel’s decision would have to await world reaction to Carter’s call for a boycott.
Some sections of the media are demanding that Israel pull out of the Games immediately. They recalled the Berlin Olympics in 1936 when sports officials drew a line between politics and the Games. The result was that while the killing and persecution of Jews went on in Germany, the Nazis scored what was probably their greatest world-wide propaganda coup. One newspaper stated that holding the Olympics in Moscow was unacceptable after the Soviet Union violated the independence of a small country, Afghanistan. In this case, the paper said, “the show must not go on.”