Of all of his old adversaries that Anwar Sadat met during his whirlwind visit here, he seemed to hit it off with Gold Meir better than with anyone else.
The Egyptian president sought for out at various points, and he asked that the former Israeli prime minister be specially invited to his meeting today with the parliamentary members of the Labor Party even though she no longer holds a seat in the Knesset.
When the Sadat visit was announced, she was in the United States.An El Al jetliner was held up for three hours in Paris on Friday so that she could make it back to Israel in time.
Sadat stressed more than once that the first peace efforts were started under Mrs. Meir's rule. Beyond politics, there was an apparently genuine spark between the two, who greeted each other with kisses on the cheek.
At the Knesset today, she jokingly reproved Sadat, "You always called me an old lady, didn't you."
Sadat burst out laughing, turned to the opposition leader Shimon Peres and said, "I am responsible. I did call her that, frequently."
Meir concluded her brief extemporaneous speech to him, widely regarded as the best by any Israeli leader, saying, "And, Mr. President, as a grandmother to a grandfather, may I give you a little present for your granddaughter and thank you for the present you have given me." Sadat became a grandfather only yesterday.
Manahem Begin, 64, and Sadat, 59, also seemed to have hit it off well personally. They have much in common. Both fought British rule in their respective countries. Both are masters of personal public relations and seem to delight in relating to crowds. The resemblances are personal, too. In their first, getting-to-know-you session Saturday evening, they compared notes on each other's heart attacks.
Seeing the Israeli chief of staff, Gen. Mordechai Gur for the first time upon his arrival Saturday, Sadat said, "I fooled you." Gur had warned the government against being taken in by Sadat's saying he wanted to visit Israel. Gur said the Egyptian army was deployed menacingly, just as it was on the eve of the 1973 war and that Sadat's kind words could be a smokescreen.
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman officially reprimanded Gur for speaking out of turn. On his way home from chewing Gur out. Weizman was involved in an automobile accident. He had to leave his hospital bed to attend various Sadat functions leaning heavily on a cane.
Israel has blossomed with souvenir vendors selling mementoes of the Sadat visit - posters, Egyptian flags, photographs. One company rushed out a spec ial T-shirt with "All You Need is Love" imprinted below a cartoon of the smiling Egytian leader handing a red Valentine to an equally toothy Israeli prime minister.
Most Israelis who were not out in the streets for a glimpse of Sadat in the flesh seemed to have been camping in front of their television sets through most of the visit. The Israeli Electric Corp. announced that a new record for power consumption was set Saturday night while Israelis were watching Sadat's arrival.
There was the opposite effect yesterday at noon, when power consumption suddenly went down. The Electric Co. said it apparently came as power tools were shut off in factories so that the workers could watch television.
As Sadat was departing, Israel today, the president of the Israeli Parliament tried to bring the legislature back to routine with a debate on the value-added tax. Trying to muster a quorum, he sent the ushers out with instructions to shut off the television sets in the Parliament building.
They had little success in tearing the members away from the televised departure scene at Ben Gurion Airport.
Just three of the 120 members showed up for the session, and the president postponed it after 17 minutes. The frustrated Parliament president is apparently not a union man. Histraudt, the giant Israeli labor federation, had announced that workers could stay home during the Sadat vist and consider it a day of vacation.
This was a media event to beat all media events, friendship . . . Both interviewers were pleased.
Lven some of the key diplomacy has taken place in the media. The Israelis say they only took Sadat's bid to visit Israel seriously when he told Walter Cronkite of CBS a week ago that he would go to Israel without preconditions.
Begin described how he and Sadat have learned to negotiate together this way: "He accepted my suggestion to grant the joint interview to Barbara Walters, as a result of which I agreed, at his request, to grant a joint interview to Cronkite.
"So that in the United States there will be two interviews without precedent, with the president of Egypt and myself sitting on one sofa conversing, exchanging views, with understanding, with smiles, in friendship . . . Both interviewers were very pleased, first of all because the two of them had had interviews and there is no more competition between them - and, truly, an atmosphere was created such as has never before existed between any Arab state and Israel."
Unanswered was the obvious question. If CBS's Cronkite and ABC's Walters are now the accredited masters of ceremony for Arab-Israeli diplomacy, where did that leave NBC's John Chancellor? He was in Jerusalem this week too, but absent from the first Begin-Sadat sofa talk. Chancellor finally got his joint interview today, a day later than his competitors.
The Israeli government went out of its way to ease things for the press. With about 48 hours' notice, officials took over the Jerusalem Theater and provided banks of telephones in the lobby, typewriters in the mezzanine and telexes in the dressing rooms.
Dozens of ranking Foreign Ministry officials were pressed into service as press officers. Simultaneous translations were provided over individual transistorized earphones in English, French, German and Spanish.;
The only hitch in the arrangements was the some of the 2,000 or more journalists who did not have any deadlines to worry about were using the free international phone service the first day to call friends and relatives back home.
The Israelies tried to clamp down on that the second day by making the journalists fill out forms with the names and numbers of the people they were calling, but somebody's Aunt Sadic probably still got a free call from Jerusalem.
Begin himself made a bid for a piece of the media action during the visit. It was announced that a deal had been made to turn the prime minister's autobiography. "The Revolt" - the story of his activities as head of the Irgun underground organization against the British in Palestine - into a movie and television extravaganza. The rights were sold to Sandy Frank of New York for a sum that Begin did not disclose.
Preparations for the visit were undtertaken with such little advance notice that there were people working down to the last minute to do things in style. Almost literally within minutes of Sadat's arrival, there was a man still cleaning the red carpet at the airport with an old-fashioned carpet sweeper.
The military band and the honor guard were still rehearsing in front of hundreds of journalists at the airport less than an hour before the Egyptian president landed, but it came off without a hitch. The smartness and sharp dress of the Israeli troops involved was in sharp contrast to the relaxed, not ot say sloppy demcanor of the regular troops deployed by the thousands to protest Sadat.