Why Sadat, Begin plan summit
The main purpose of next week's Sadat-Begin summit is to "prevent any misunderstanding" between the two leaders over the Lebanese missile crisis. This is the interpretation that Israeli sources here place on the just-announced meeting between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The encounter is scheduled for June 4 in the Israeli-built town of Ophira on the tip of the Sinai peninsula.Skip to next paragraph
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President Sadat has indicated that Egypt would remain neutral if a Syrian-Israeli war broke out over the antiaircraft missiles installed by Syria in Lebanon in late April. He has stated that "whatever may happen between Syria and Israeli," the Israel-Egypt peace treaty is a "firm reality."
But Begin is anxious to ensure that Israel's quarrel with Syria does not affect its relations with Egypt, the only Arab country to recognize Israel. The prime minister told an election rally that "if we did not have the peace treaty with Egypt today, we would already have mobilized the reserves . . . because of the dispute with Syria."
By meeting President Sadat directly, Mr. Begin hopes to avoid future misunderstandings, not only if Israel should take military action against Syria, but also if "we don't do anything, so Sadat will understand that this is not due to weakness," Israeli officials explain. Thursday's Israeli raid on SAM-9 missiles in western Lebanon manned (say the Israelis) by Libyans appears to be a Begin warning that he is also prepared to use force to remove the Syrian missiles on the other side of Lebanon if current negotiations fail.
Mr. Begin will also stress to President Sadat their common interest in opposing greater Soviet influence in the area. "We lokk at it as a meeting between allies," says one informed source.
Mr. Begin's summit, of course, will also boost his statesmanlike image shortly before the Israeli elections -- though an aide calls any implied connection "unfair."
The two leaders will also discuss the ongoing negotiations -- which include Egypt, Israel, and the United States -- for establishment of a multinational peace-keeping force to oversee the Sinai after Israel completes its withdrawal next April. It is hoped here that direct diplomacy may overcome some remaining obstacles.