JERUSALEM (Feb. 18)
Premier Shimon Peres’ brief visits to Italy and Rumania, on which he left today, have generated more than routine political interest. Italian Premier Bettino Craxi said on a Voice of Israel Radio interview last night that he has received a message from Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat and would inform Peres of its contents when he reaches Rome.
Craxi said Arafat’s message arrived following the announcement in Amman last week that he and King Hussein of Jordan had agreed on a framework for negotiating a Middle East settlement. The Italian leader called the agreement a serious development.
His comment raised concern among Israeli hawks who were also alarmed by reports that Peres would receive a letter from Arafat while in Rumania, after his visit to Rome. He is scheduled to meet in Bucharest with President Nicolae Ceausescu who played a role some eight years ago in paving the way for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic journey to Jerusalem.
Rumania is the only Communist bloc nation which maintains diplomatic relations with Israel and is considered a likely go-between in arranging contacts between Israel and its Arab foes.
PERES, WEIZMAN WARMLY GREETED IN ROME
(Peres, accompanied by Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman, arrived at Rome’s Campiano Airport this afternoon where he was warmly greeted by Craxi and reviewed a guard of honor. He and Craxi are personal friends of long standing, both having served as vice presidents of the Socialist International.
(In addition to their talks, Peres will meet with Pope John Paul II, the first Israeli Prime Minister to meet with a Pope since Golda Meir was granted a Papal audience in 1973. He will also confer with President Sandro Pertini of Italy and with Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti before leaving for Bucharest.)
KNESSET UNIT DISCUSSES ISRAELIS-PLO CONTACTS
Meanwhile, the Knesset House Committee today discussed the issue of contacts between Israelis and representatives of the PLO. The matter at hand is the demand by five Likud MKs to waive the immunity of MKs Matityahu Peled and Mohammad Miari of the Progressive List for Peace to open the way for possible legal action over their meeting with Arafat in Tunis a week ago.
Attomey General Yitzhak Zamir has asked the police to determine whether the meeting compromised Israel’s security. The police investigation is still in progress.