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Berman: Egypt Wants to Improve Its Relations with Israel but Also Wants to Return to the Arab World

Egypt, in the long run, is interested in improving its relations with Israel but its short term priority is to return to the Arab fold, according to Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Berman held a press conference here today to report on his talk with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Cairo yesterday. He said that despite the “cold peace” between Egypt and Israel there are ongoing contacts between the two countries.

He noted as an example that Mubarak will send a message this week to Premier Yitzhak Shamir on Egyptian-Israeli relations. Egypt has also agreed to allow the resumption of the search for the bodies of fallen Israeli soldiers in Sinai, Berman said, but Mubarak sees that as “humanitarian” and not a political gesture.

Mubarak asked Berman to reassure the Israelis of his good intentions toward Israel. But Berman pointed today to “Egypt’s escalating conditions” for the return of its Ambassador to Tel Aviv. Those conditions are Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, movement in the autonomy talks and a resolution of Egyptian-Israeli border dispute in the Taba region. Egypt recalled its Ambassador when Israel invaded Lebanon in June, 1982.

Berman said there was no doubt that Egypt does not want war with Israel. He said Mubarak denied reports that he had told King Hassan of Morocco last year that he considered the Camp David accords “dead.” On the other hand, the Egyptian President did not appear overly perturbed by the fact that Hassan circulated that story, Berman reported.

SAYS U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS AT THEIR HIGHEST

The American Jewish leader visited Cairo after leading a 70-member delegation representing the constituent organizations of the Presidents Conference in a series of meetings with Israeli leaders here last week. He was accompanied by Yehuda Hellman, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference.

Before leaving for the Egyptian capital Sunday, Berman told reporters here that relations between the U.S. and Israel are “probably at the highest they have been for quite a few years” and the American decision to pull the marines out of Beirut will not affect them.

He said the U.S.-Israel relationship is now predicated on the agreements for military and economic cooperation worked out during Shamir’s visit to Washington last November. “What was critical about the November agreements was the new position of this (Reagan) Administration, not only to have a close and firm alliance with Israel … but to do it in open daylight,” Berman said.

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