Jerusalem (Jan. 21)
– Premier Menachem Begin declared today he was ready to meet with President Reagan or attend a tripartite summit with Reagan and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt despite the Israeli election campaign. In what some observers saw as a deliberate signal to Reagan, Begin said, “To me the elections won’t be any obstacle.”
Both the Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir in separate appearances before a visiting group of Egyptian parliamentarians, stressed Israel’s readiness to resume the autonomy negotiations at any moment. The talks have been long dormant, continuing only at the level of “experts” with the ministerial sessions in abeyance.
Begin told the Egyptians he “did not want to go into the reasons for” the past frequent interruptions of the talks, and Shamir said he was confident a “compromise” agreement could be reached before the end of 1981. Both Israeli leaders said the upcoming elections need not in any way interfere with progress in the talks. “The elections are irrelevant,” Shamir said.
Israeli officials were plainly pleased at the warm, though frank, atmosphere that prevailed at the Egyptians’ sessions with Begin and Shamir. There was a free-flowing give-and-take, series of sessions, with the guests adopting what Israeli officials felt was a moderate tone in their criticism of Israel’s position on the autonomy talks.