As California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. wound up his hard-hitting endorsement of Israel's negotiating posture and warmly embraced Prime Minister Menachem Begin before 11,200 local Jews Monday night, the master of ceremonies quipped, "I don't know if you had a political future (here), but there will always be a place for you in the Knesset."
The jest by television personality Monte Hall, best known as the host of "Let's Make a Deal," captured the flavor of the Begin-Brown connection, a notable feature of the Israeli leader's overnight California stop on his current national tour.
Brown met Begin at the airport Monday night, and has appeared with him repeatedly at Jewish events and before television cameras. After a talks with Begin in a hotel suite and just before a Joint appearance yesterday at a civic luncheon, the governor announced a "California-Israeli solar-energy project."
"Jerry is not making a new commitment to Israel, but reaffirming an old commitment," said Gary Davis, Brown's former chief of staff, who is now campaign manager for the governor's reelection effort. Davis and campaign finance chairman Richard Trugman sat in on the meetings with Begin, with supposedly centered on solar energy.
Brown, who has been sagging lately in public-opinion polls, has started an extensive and expensive television advertising campaign in preparation for a serious challenge from a Republican in the November gubernational election. Political observers and Jewish leaders alike express the view that Brown's diligent attentiveness to Begin is a bid for political and financial support by the state's 680,000 Jews, two-thirds of whom reside in the Los Angeles area.
In view of Brown's national political interests, the scheduled visit here Thursday by President Carter and Carter's current low standing with the Jewish community, the Begin visit has also offered Brown a convenient way to contrast his views and sympathies with those of the president.
At Begin's side at the rally Monday night, Brown declared through prolonged and heavy applause that, "We are here to send a clear message that peace will not come from making concessions before you've even sat down to the negotiating table."
This has been the principal Israeli response to U.S. calls for concessions and flexibility from the Jewish state in the Middle East negotiations.
"There is an Israeli offer on the table), let it be responded to - that is what the people of the state want," Brown said to cheers.
For his part Begin took a tough line in a rally speech and other appearances here. He said greater Israel belongs to Jewish people as a matter of right as written in the Bible but heavily stressed security as the reason for refusing to give up the West Bank of the Jordan. A surrounded Israel will never go back to the 1967 borders, he said.
According to the participants in several closed meetings between Begin and Jewish community leaders, there was no sign at all of dissent from the Israeli leader's negotiating positions. Begin explained his peace proposals and "if there was any question at all it was answered" to the satisfication of the leaders, according to former Democrat National Chairwoman Carmen Warschaw.
Warschaw and others said Carter - rather than Begin - is the object of dismay and disappointment in the Jewish community here because of his stand on the Middle East negotiations, the proposed sale of warplanes to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and other actions.
Theodor I. Sadler, a Los Angeles publicist and civil figure, said "the ears pick up and the applause begins" among Jewish audiences here whenever he speaks critically of Carter.
Sadler said Brown's attentions to the Jewish community are a sometimes thing, usually in election years. Nonetheless, Brown's love feast with Begin - and his implied attack on Carter's policies - may be politically helpful to him at several levels.