Jerusalem (Oct. 7)
Israel is resolved to continue its part in the peace process with Egypt, despite the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, provided there is no change in Egypt’s attitude.
That position emerged at a special meeting of the Cabinet this morning, 24 hours after the Egyptian leader was gunned down by a group of men in military uniform as he watched a military parade commemorating the Yom Kippur War. At least II other people were killed and between 27 and 35 people wounded, according to various reports.
The Israeli position was made clear in the messages Premier Menachem Begin sent today, with Cabinet approval, to Vice President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Dr. Sufi Abu Taleb, Speaker of the National Assembly who is acting President of Egypt pending the election of a successor to Sadat.
A SACRED TRUST TO FULFILL
The message to Mubarak, which expressed the condolences of the people and government of Israel to the people and government of Egypt, stated, in part: “We are confident that the legacy of peace of President Sadat will live on. He said, ‘No more war,’ Let us have peace forever. This is the sacred trust we all have to fulfill … I hope you will overcome all the difficulties on the path toward enduring the future.”
To Abu Taleb Begin said, “We believe that the peace-loving people of Egypt will continue the efforts to strengthen the friendship and cooperation between our nations and to achieve peace in our region.” The Premier also sent a personal message of condolence to Jihan Sadat, widow of the slain Egyptian President, on behalf of his wife Aliza and himself.
According to Egyptian law, the National Assembly — Parliament — has 60 days to elect a President. It then submits its choice to a popular referendum. The executive committee of the ruling National Democratic Party, the party headed by Sadat, announced in Cairo this morning that it would nominate Mubarak to be the next President of Egypt. Inasmuch as the party controls all but a handful of seats in the National Assembly, his election seems assured.
Mubarak is said to have been groomed by Sadat to be his successor. He was a participant in Sadat’s negotiations with Israel and the United States and was in Washington only last week, as Sadat’s emissary to discuss various matters with Administration officials.
While he is well known personally in the U.S. and Israel, the 53-year-old former commander of the Egyptian Air Force functioned in the shadow of the charismatic Sadat. Observers here and abroad agree that his ability to fill the political vacuum left by Sadat remains to be seen.
Therefore, Israeli government analysts will be watching developments in Cairo very closely in the days and weeks ahead for evidence that Mubarak is firmly in control and that he is firmly committed to the peace process with Israel.
To many Israeli observers, including former Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, the role of the U.S. is now more crucial than ever in saving the peace process. “They must do everything possible to help,” Dayan said in a television interview last night. The consensus here is that the U.S. must quickly and unequivocally indicate its support for Sadat’s successors and for the peace process.
BEGIN TO ATTEND SADAT’S FUNERAL
Meanwhile, the Cabinet announced this morning that Begin “will represent the State of Israel” at Sadat’s funeral. The funeral will be held Saturday. Government sources said Begin decided last night to attend in person and will be quartered within walking distance so as not to violate the Sabbath.
They noted, however, that the Egyptian authorities have not yet indicated whether heads of government or any foreign dignitaries will be invited because of the security situation. The Egyptian government declared an emergency to be in effect for one year, which includes a ban on all public gatherings and parades.