JERUSALEM (Jul. 19)
Two Sephardic leaders from Israel met Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had invited them to Egypt to discuss the peace process.
Interior Minister Arye Deri, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, and Ovadia Yosef, the former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, met with Mubarak near the port city of Alexandria.
Deri presented the Egyptian leader with a letter of good will from Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The letter is understood to have contained a general reaffirmation of Israel’s commitment to the peace process.
Yosef stated that all parties must be prepared to take risks and make sacrifices for the sake of peace.
Mubarak is said to have affirmed Egypt’s commitment. But he expressed dismay over the hard-line constraints on Shamir’s plan recently adopted by his Likud party.
The Israelis, who met with several other Egyptian officials, have been trying to convince their skeptical hosts that Shamir is sincere in his peace offers to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Deri reportedly urged all of the Egyptian leaders he met with to exercise their influence with Palestinian moderates to give the Israeli plan a chance.
In addition to Mubarak, the Israeli interior minister had unsheduled meetings Tuesday in Cairo with two ranking Egyptian policy-makers, presidential aide Osama el-Baz and Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid.
PERES HELPED ARRANGE TRIP
Israeli journalists accompanying him said Deri tried, during his two-hour session with Baz to distinguish between Likud hard-liners who are trying to destroy the peace plan and the majority of Likud ministers who support it.
But Baz reportedly took a very dim view of the hard-line group’s success in pushing through their tough new conditions at the July 5 Likud Central Committee meeting.
Meguid told Israeli reporters after meeting with Deri that while he thinks Shamir’s peace plan has merit, the premier’s assurances that it remains unchanged and unaffected by Likud’s resolutions are not sufficient to allay fears to the contrary.
Informed sources in Israel said the trip to Egypt by Yosef and Deri was arranged through the good offices of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party.