Israeli Premier Menachem Begin will not be coming to Washington next week for “personal reasons,” the White House announced this morning.
Deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said Begin informed President Reagan of his change of plans in a five-minute telephone conversation. He said the Premier did not explain what he meant by “personal reasons” nor did Reagan ask him. The two had been scheduled to meet at the White House on July 27.
Speakes said both Reagan and Begin agreed that they would try to reschedule the meeting “sometime later this year.”
When Reagan was questioned about Begin’s cancellation of his visit–after he bid farewell to Amin Sheikh Isa bin Sulman Al-Khalisa, the Emir of Bahrain — the President would say only that he was told it was for personal reasons. Begin and Reagan last met in June, 1982 and were to have met again last November when the Premier was visiting the U.S. But Begin cut his visit short because of the death of his wife, Aliza.
POSSIBLE REASONS CITED
In Jerusalem, Begin’s aides would not explair what “personal reasons” prompted the Premier’s decision not to go to Washington at this time. They denied vehemently that he was ill or physically incapable of making the trip. But they did let it be known that Begin was less than enthusiastic about it and believed that nothing could be gained from a meeting with Reagan at this time.
Some observers suggested that he wanted to avoid a face-to-face quarrel with Reagan over U.S. objections to Israel’s plans to redeploy its forces in Lebanon to shorter, more defensible lines. Others cited Begin’s dour and doleful mood of late, as reflected in his limited and uncharacteristically low key public appearances. The Premier was said to be still deeply depressed by the death of his wife.
While the cancellation of his trip to Washington was unexpected, it had been rumored for several weeks that it might be put off. Those rumors were constantly denied by Begin’s spokesmen. Only this morning, aides announced that Begin would fly to Washington next Monday, hold two days of talks with Reagan and top Administration officials, receive a delegation of national Jewish leaders in Washington, and fly home to Israel Friday morning.