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Labor, Likud Trade Angry Charges over Peres Meetings with Arabs

March 23, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Party, apparently had meetings last week with King Hassan of Morocco in that country and with Prince Mohammad, brother of King Hussein of Jordan, in London. But the nature of those contacts and their implications, if any, for broadening the Middle East peace process remained obscure as Labor and the Likud government traded angry charges and counter-charges over the propriety of Peres’ alleged meetings.

Peres, who refused to confirm the reports of his meetings but would not deny them, accused Begin’s office of “leaking” the story and having the State-owned television broadcast a “completely baseless and fabricated” account “for local consumption during the election campaign.”

Begin hotly denied Peres’ charges at today’s Cabinet meeting and accused the opposition leader of “libel.” Other Cabinet ministers joined in the attack on Peres today and last Friday. Justice Minister Moshe Nissim assailed Peres for trying to undercut the government by meeting a foreign chief of state (King Hassan) without the government’s knowledge or approval. Peres defended his right to meet Arab leaders abroad and denounced Nissim for sounding off about something he knew nothing about.

Sources close to Peres insisted that the Prime Minister’s Office was aware of Peres’ scheduled meetings and noted that the Labor leader was accompanied by a security agent which would not have been the case if the government were in the dark. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed later that Begin and his military aide, Gen. Ephraim Poran, knew of the meeting with Hassan but not of the meeting with Prince Mohammad, believed to have been arranged by Western circles.

While Likud charged treacherous conduct on Peres’ part, Labor Party circles hailed the contacts as a great achievement in the search for a wider peace.


When Peres arrived home Friday, he said he had no meetings with Arab leaders in Europe. Observers noted that Morocco is not in Europe. Yesterday, Peres admitted indirectly to the meetings when he charged Begin’s office with leaking the story. Morocco issued an official denial last week that the meetings took place. Peres would say only that the denial “stood by itself.”

Later, at a press conference, he said, “I have met openly and secretly with Arab leaders. On the occasions where the meetings were secret I respect the promise to keep them secret and I am not ready to refer to them. About the supposed meeting with King Hassan of Morocco, the (Rabat) Palace denied this meeting and I have nothing to add to this denial.”

He went on to say, “As the person heading the (Labor) Alignment, the largest political movement in Israel, it is my duty to seriously check what can be done and what cannot be done, with whom one can speak on what, what is real and what is possible, what is serious and what is true, and without fear of anybody come to the people and say: ‘This is possible and this is impossible. This has prospect and this does not,’ in order to present to the people perspectives for the future of the State which encompass both realism and vision.”

Peres insisted that whenever he has met with Arab leaders “I explain to them the position of the Labor Party which negates a separate Palestinian state, which is against negotiation with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is for a united Jerusalem and which is for defensible borders.”

Without referring to any meeting with a Jordanian principal, Peres said he thought the Labor Party’s “Jordanian option” was still valid and that King Hussein would be prepared to come to the negotiating table with sufficient preparation and with a government prepared to come forward with a plan he could ultimately accept.

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