JERUSALEM (May. 17)
Premier Menachem Begin and his two senior ministers are claiming credit for the decision by Zaire to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel which it broke at the time of the Yom Kippur War. The announcement here by a special envoy of President Sese Seko Muboto yesterday that formal ties would be resumed and that Zaire would open its embassy in Jerusalem, was hailed as a major diplomatic triumph for Israel.
Associates of Begin claimed that his policies had proven right. They said that despite warnings by the opposition Labor Party that such acts as the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor last June, the annexations of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights would further isolate Israel, the fact is that Zaire will be the first Black African nation to renew relations with Israel and Costa Rica has decided to return its embassy to Jerusalem.
This proves, they said, that Begin is correct in following a bold policy that takes only Israel’s interests into account rather than worrying too much about the interests of other countries.
Sources at the Defense Ministry, however, are stressing the role of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon in preparing the groundwork for renewed ties with the African states. They noted that Sharon’s secret trip to Africa last November, during which he met with Muboto, was the essential factor that made Zaire’s declaration possible.
The Foreign Ministry for its part, insists that Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir played the pivotal role. Ministry sources noted that David Kimche, Director General of the Ministry, made several secret visits to African countries over the past two years in connection with Shamir’s goal, stated before he joined the Cabinet in February, 1980, to re-establish diplomatic relations with Black Africa.
Officials here, elated by the breakthrough with Zaire, predicted that Gabon would be the next African state to resume diplomatic ties with Israel. Gabon was one of the countries visited by Sharon last year. The announcement by the Zaire envoy did not say how soon diplomatic ties would be resumed or when a Zaire embassy would be opened in Jerusalem.