JERUSALEM (Dec. 17)
Vice Premier Shimon Peres will begin his planned visit to the Soviet Union on Jan. 2, the Labor Party newspaper Davar reported Sunday.
Peres, who is also finance minister, will be the highest-ranking Israeli leader ever to visit the Soviet Union.
According to Davar, he will be accompanied, in addition to his ministerial entourage, by a group of internationally renowned Jewish business leaders and industrialists from several countries, who may have some advice on perestroika.
Davar named Armand Hammer of the United States, who heads Occidental Petroleum; British media tycoon Robert Maxwell; Israeli Far East trader Saul Eisenberg; and Nessim Gaon of Geneva, who, in addition to having wide-ranging business interests, heads the World Sephardi Federation.
All have been described as billionaires by the news media.
Peres’ political adviser, Dr. Nimrod Novik, and his spokesman, Avi Gil, left for Moscow on Sunday to make advance arrangements for the visit.
The scheduling had been in doubt because of Peres’ recent illness. He was hospitalized for a week in October with an acute infection of the urinary tract.
He then collapsed, reportedly of fatigue, on the final day of a historic visit to Poland late last month.
Another factor has been the state of flux of Soviet politics.
Peres is expected to meet with President Mikhail Gorbachev and other top Soviet policymakers, although no official schedule has been announced yet.
NEW COMMERCIAL TIES SOUGHT
Israeli sources hope for major progress in bilateral commercial links.
A step was made in that direction by Israel’s minister of agriculture, Avraham Katz-Oz, who returned from a visit to Moscow on Dec. 3 with a series of agreements, including one for the export of Israeli agricultural produce to the Soviet Union.
Katz-Oz was the first Israeli Cabinet minister to visit the Soviet Union since the Kremlin severed diplomatic relations with Israel at the time of the Six-Day War in 1967.
Because of the absence of relations, his invitation came from the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Israeli officials also hope Peres’ trip will hasten the opening of direct flights between Moscow and Tel Aviv.
Agreements have been reached by the two national carriers, El Al and Aeroflot, but they must still be ratified by their respective governments.
Israelis expect the flow of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union to increase appreciably once there are direct air links between the two countries.