Haig Praises Begin for His Dedication to the Security and Interests of Israel and Free World

Former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig met with Premier Menachem Begin today and told reporters afterwards that they had a fruitful discussion on the Middle East. He praised the Premier for his dedication “to the security and interests of the State of Israel and the free world.”

Haig, on a private trip to Israel, was the first official visitor received by Begin after completion of the seven-day (shiva) mourning period for his wife Aliza, who died September 14. Begin had been in seclusion since then and was consulted by aides only on the most urgent matters. He resumed his full duties today. Haig said he found the Premier “thoughtful and clearheaded, as always.”

The former Secretary of State also told reporters that the situation in Lebanon has improved and there is “a unique opportunity” for positive developments there. Haig was guest of honor yesterday at ceremonies in Sde Boker marking the ninth anniversary of the death of former Premier David Ben Gurion. He received an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba.

ENEMIES OF PEACE BADLY BEATEN

In a short speech at the ceremonies, Haig said recent events in Lebanon proved that the enemies of peace in the region have been badly beaten. “Once again the Soviets’ inability to suggest real solutions to the crises for which they were responsible has been demonstrated in the open,” he said. As a result, it is clear now to peaceful countries that there is no alternative to good relations with the U.S., Haig said.

He said relations between the U.S. and Israel were strong and were based on strategic cooperation and mutual support of the Camp David accords Those relations cannot be affected by passing “storms”, Haig observed. He said the basic goals of U.S. policy to force restrain upon the Soviet Union and to overcome international terrorism.

Haig resigned as Secretary of State last June, shortly after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He explained at the time that he quit because the Reagan Administration had deviated from its original foreign policy positions, but he never specified what those deviations were. Some observers have speculated that Haig was at odds with Reagan for, among other things, taking a tougher stand toward Israel.

CEREMONIES IN SDE BOKER

At yesterday’s ceremonies, President Yitzhak Navon unveiled a plaque bearing the name of the new Ben Gurion Park in Sde Boker. The ceremonies at Ben Gurion’s grave site were attended by Knesset Speaker Menachem Savidor and a delegation of Cabinet ministers led by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. Also present were Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan, other senior military officers, members of the diplomatic corps and Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren.

Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Party, the party once headed by Ben Gurion, delivered a brief eulogy. The late Premier’s son, Amos Ben Gurion, recited the kaddish.

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