TEL AVIV (Feb. 24)
The first Arab envoy to Israel and the first Israeli envoy to an Arab nation met briefly at Ben Gurion Airport this afternoon and wished each other well on their respective missions. Ambassador Sood Mortoda, of Egypt, arrived in a private jet to be greeted by Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar who took off for Cairo shortly afterward.
The formal exchange of Ambassadors between Israel and Egypt will take place Tuesday. Ben-Elissar will present his credentials to President Anwar Sadat and Mortoda will present his to President Yitzhak Navon, the Israeli head of State. Today, the two men shook hands as representatives of the news media watched and spoke of their mutual task to further peace between their mutual task to further peace between their countries. They also referred to issues over which Israel and Egypt are in sharp disagreement — Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and the Palestinian problem.
CALLS SETTLEMENTS A HANDLE
Mortoda said he was happy to be the emissary of peace from the Egyptian nation to Israel. “We are closing the page of suffering and struggle and opening a new page of peace,” he said. However; he foresaw difficulties. He said the settlements on the West Bank are one hurdle. He also said he has come here to start solving the Palestinian issue which, he called the core of the Middle Eastern crisis. Mortoda said he would not initiate meetings with West Bank Arabs but would gladly see them if they asked to meet with him.
Ben-Elissar said he was bringing the message of peace to the Egyptian people. “If is a great day for Israel and Egypt, a great contribution to the tranquilization of the region and to universal peace, when the first Egyptian Ambassador comes to Israel and when the first Israeli Ambassador leaves for the Arab Republic of Egypt,” he said. Ben-Elissar added, “I do believe that more Arab countries, neighbors of Israel, will join the peace. Peace in the Middle East is inevitable. Peace with Egypt is the first and there will be more to follow.”
Ben-Elissar said the settlements are very important to Israel but they should not be regarded as hurdles or a difficulty on the road to a final settlement. “We are divided on this issue and we shall talk about it,” he said.
The Egyptian Embassy will occupy the 12th floor of the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel until more suitable quarters are found. The Israeli Embassy in Cairo, which was opened formally last week, is also located in temporary quarters in the fashionable Doki district. An Israeli team is looking for permanent premises.