JERUSALEM (Apr. 10)
Minister-Without-Portfolio Ezer Weizman plans to go to Cairo next Monday to meet with Egyptian leaders. The Cabinet must first approve his trip, although Foreign Ministry sources stressed that it would be “private.”
Weizman, whose Yahad faction won three Knesset seats in last July’s election and joined in alignment with the Labor Party, is one of the closest ministers to Premier Shimon Peres. He met yesterday with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir for what was described as a preparatory discussion in connection with his trip. Shamir in the past has vociferously opposed Weizman’s involvement in foreign policy matters, especially those concerning Israeli-Egyptian relations.
That involvement has discomfitted the rightwing of the political spectrum. The Tehiya Party urged Shamir yesterday to oppose Weizman’s trip to Egypt in order to show that he (Shamir), not Weizman, is running Israel’s foreign policy.
But the trip apparently will take place. Weizman has not publicly defined its purpose. He hopes to meet with President Hosni Mubarak, Prime Minister Kamel Hassan Ali and Foreign Minister Abdel Ismet Meguid. He is said to feel that he can contribute to furthering the peace process with Egypt by helping resolve the current disputes between the two countries, notably over the Taba region near the Sinai border which Israel and Egypt each claims.
WEIZMAN AT ODDS WITH SHAMIR ON TABA ISSUE
Weizman’s views on a resolution of that dispute are known to differ sharply from Shamir’s. The former Air Force commander has always been a political maverick. A leader of Herut, credited with organizing its successful election campaign of 1977, Weizman served as Defense Minister in the first Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin. The late Moshe Dayan was Foreign Minister.
Both men played pivotal roles in achieving the Camp David accords of 1978 and the Israel-Egypt peace treaty a year later. But shortly afterwards, Weizman resigned over what he felt was the Likud government’s foot-dragging in the peace process with Egypt. He was promptly drummed out of Herut and remained in political obscurity until he formed Yahad to run in the 1984 elections.
He is now once again at odds with Herut whose ranking representative in the unity government is Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Shamir. Their differences at the moment center on Taba where the Egyptians are insisting the dispute be submitted to arbitration. This is strongly apposed by Shamir who seeks broad negotiations with Cairo encompassing all unsettled issues between the two countries, including Taba.
Weizman, however, has hinted privately that he would readily agree to international arbitration over Taba. He believes such a concession by Israel would open the way to a general improvement of relations with the Egyptians.