TEL AVIV (Aug. 19)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir finally got his long-awaited invitation from President Hosni Mubarak, though it was less than formal and not extended directly by the Egyptian leader.
It was offered instead by Egypt’s deputy prime minister, Yussuf Wali, while entertaining a delegation of nine Likud “young guard” members for dinner Sunday night at his home in Cairo.
The younger-generation Likud politicians are on a five-day visit to Egypt as guests of that country’s ruling party.
Gil Samsonov, who heads the group, was told by Wali that Shamir would be welcome to visit Cairo “any time he likes.” The Egyptian official also told the Israelis there has been a “dramatic change” in Mubarak’s attitude toward Shamir in the past 10 days.
The Egyptian leader has been cold to Shamir since the Likud leader took office and has blamed him for the impasse in the peace process.
Shamir is the only Israeli prime minister not invited to Cairo since Israel and Egypt signed their peace treaty in 1979. The omission has chilled relations between the two countries, although Foreign Minister David Levy, a Likud moderate, was warmly received in Cairo last month and had a lengthy talk with Mubarak.
The Likud delegation met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, who said Egypt would accept an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders with slight changes. It need not be a total evacuation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said.
But Moussa irritated his guests by describing East Jerusalem as occupied Arab territory and insisting its future status must be negotiated.
He did not endear himself to the young Likudniks by likening Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait a year ago.
But the Israeli visitors were equally outspoken. Samsonov accused the Egyptians of “waiting for another party to take over (in Israel), a party that will compromise much more.”
He stressed that “the party that can make peace, that can convince the Israeli people to make peace with other Arab countries, is Likud.”