JERUSALEM (Jul. 11)
Premier Menachem Begin’s visit to Washington at the end of this month is on, despite rumors to the contrary here and in Washington. Officials close to Begin said this weekend that the July 27 meeting with President Reagan at the White House will take place as scheduled.
They said Begin’s visit was likely to comprise mainly political talks, and few if any public appearances before Jewish or other groups. They said the visit would last four days — the extent of the official sojourn in Washington.
Reports from Washington at the end of last week, citing American sources, said Begin wanted to defer the trip for health reasons. This was denied by sources close to the Premier here. But some of the sources do not hide Begin’s lack of enthusiasm over the visit at the present time.
They indicate that the Premier feels the visit may not contribute positively to the relationship between the two countries if he is required to enter into a direct argument with Reagan over Israel’s plan — to which the U.S. objects — for a partial redeployment of the Israel Defense Force in Lebanon.
UNLIKELY TO MEET WITH JEWISH GROUPS
Despite the insistence by sources close to Begin that his physical condition is not a problem in connection with the imminent trip, observers cannot help noting that unlike on previous occasions, Begin this time apparently plans to forego public appearances before Jewish groups.
If this turns out to be the case, it will dovetail into the pattern of few and brief public appearances that the Premier has established here at home over the past several months. The conventional wisdom among political and media pundits to explain this behavior is that Begin is still depressed by the death of his wife, Aliza, last November and depressed, too, by the complicated and unsatisfactory outcome of the Lebanon war.
At a long-deferred meeting of the Herut Central Committee that finally convened in Tel Aviv last Thursday night, Begin made one of the briefest addresses he has ever made to his party. This inevitably added to the speculation that he is not at the peak of his form at this time.