JERUSALEM (Sep. 7)
A controversy erupted in the political community here Wednesday over President Reagan’s plan, reported here Wednesday, to host Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismat Abdel Meguid for a dialogue in the United States later this month.
The meeting reportedly is to take place in New York, where Peres, Meguid and Secretary of State George Shultz will be attending the United Nations General Assembly.
In Washington, spokespersons for both the White House and the State Department said they could not confirm that such a meeting would take place. But Israeli sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the meeting is to take place Sept. 26 and that Reagan himself will be present.
With the general elections only 50 days away, Likud Housing Minister David Levy, who holds the rank of deputy premier, termed the plan “political irresponsibility” and spoke of a “gimmick,” implying that Peres and Reagan had some how arranged the session to help Labor’s election chances. Peres is the Labor Party leader.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, more circumspect in his style, also made it clear that he disapproved of the proposed meeting, saying: “It should be remembered that the election is at hand.”
Levy charged that Peres had set up the meeting “behind the premier’s back” and had not even informed Shamir. Some unnamed aides to Shamir were quoted as saying that Peres had actually initiated the meeting in order to boost his party’s prospects.
Spokespersons for the Labor Party rejected the Likud criticism out of hand and lambasted Likud’s “cynicism.” Peres himself was quoted as saying that nothing, not even the imminence of elections, ought to be allowed to interfere with the peace process or with efforts to pursue it.
Peres’ aides, speaking not for attribution, said the meeting was an American initiative that had, “as usual when a peace effort is launched, elicited hysterical reactions from the Likud.”
These Labor aides also noted that their party had not carped at Shamir’s planned private working visit to Hungary later this month — though that too could have been criticized as electioneering.