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Levy off to Portugal, then China, Amid Diplomatic Hints from India

Foreign Minister David Levy is at the center of new diplomatic activity this week.

He flew to Lisbon on Sunday for a two-day official visit to Portugal, which assumed the rotating chairmanship of the European Community’s Council of Ministers on Jan. 1.

His next stop may be China. Word just came from Beijing confirming its invitation to Levy to visit at the end of the month.

Israeli officials expect China to establish diplomatic relations with Israel shortly, if only to ensure an invitation to the international conference on Middle East regional issues, scheduled to open in Moscow on Jan. 28.

Israel has stipulated that participating nations from outside the region must have diplomatic relations with it.

The United States, Canada, Japan and the European Community will join Israel and the Arab states at the conference. China is known to be anxious to join them.

Now India has approached the United States with a request to participate. It cited the fact that 1 million Indian nationals work in the region.

India’s interest is gratifying to Israeli diplomats. Relations with New Delhi traditionally have been frigid, verging on hostile. Israel maintains a low-profile consul in Bombay. There is no Indian diplomatic representative in Israel.

Officials here said Israel would seek and expect an undertaking from India to establish proper diplomatic relations as a necessary condition for its participation in the peace process.

LITTLE HOPE OF FULL TIES

The United States has made the same point, according to indications from Washington. It cited the recent example of Turkey, which has upgraded its diplomatic ties with Israel and with the Palestine Liberation Organization to qualify to host a regional conference on water resources.

Informed sources here concede, however, that there is small chance India will agree to full-fledged ambassadorial-level relations with Israel in the near future.

Levy, meanwhile, will probably miss a crucial Knesset vote on an electoral reform measure, scheduled for its final reading this week.

But Israel’s ambassador to Portugal, Collette Avital, considered it urgent that the foreign minister pay respects to the current E.C. leader in the city that might succeed Washington as the site of the Arab-Israeli bilateral peace talks.

Avital arranged with Haim Ramon, chairman of the Labor Party’s Knesset faction, that Labor would not reap advantage from Levy’s absence during the Knesset vote on electoral reform, which is expected to be very close.

Ramon agreed to relinquish one Labor vote to balance the unavoidable absence of Levy from the Likud side of the chamber.

Labor favors the reform bill. The Likud Knesset faction is under party discipline to oppose it.

Because of the Martin Luther King Day holiday in the United States, the JTA Daily News Bulletin will not be published on Monday, Jan. 20.

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