WASHINGTON (Jan. 5)
Israeli President Yitzhak Navon met for two hours with President Reagan at the White House today, including a 45-minute lunch, but apparently only dealt with generalities rather than the hard issues dividing Israel and the United States.
“Your presence here as President of Israel symbolizes the close ties that have always linked our two nations,” Reagan said in a departure statement, standing under an owning that shielded them from the rain that fell on the White House south lawn in front of them.
“Ours is a friendship that has deepened over time,” Reagan continued. “It is daily expressed in our unswerving commitment to the security and well-being of the State of Israel.” While Reagan did not directly mention his September I peace initiative, which has been rejected by Premier Menachem Begin, he noted that “the security of Israel is inescapably connected with peace in the Middle East.”
Navon, in his reply, stressed that whether Israelis accept “the American view” as the “basis” for Mideast peace negotiations or find it “impossible to accept” these views, “none of them have any doubt” as to the “dedication” and “sincerity” of the American commitment to peace and the security of Israel. He said Israelis were grateful both to Reagan personally and to the American people for what they have done for Israel.
NAVON STRESSES CONSENSUS VIEWS
Later, a senior Administration official, calling the meeting “very friendly,” said that Reagan had stressed his commitment to seeking an early withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon and to continue support for his September 1 peace initiative.
The official said Navon had stressed issues on which there was a “consensus” in Israel such as that Jerusalem remain undivided and that there be no Palestinian state. Other consensus views mentioned by Navon were the desire for close relations with the United States and the belief that Israel is a strong pro-Western power in the Middle East.
The Administration official rejected claims that Navon’s visit was an effort by the Administration to build up the Israeli President, a former Labor MK, as a possible opponent to Begin. He noted that Navon’s visit had been postponed several times since November and was a strictly “routine” visit.
Navon’s wife, Ofira, was with him when he first arrived at the White House to meet Reagan but she did not attend any of the meetings. However, it was announced later that Nancy Reagan is hosting a tea at the White House for Mrs. Navon Friday morning before the Navons leave Washington to Boston and New York.
During a picture-taking session, Navon told Reagan he was last in the White House in 1960 when he met President Eisenhower. At that time, Navon was Premier David Ben-Gurion’s personal secretary.