In a move certain to drive a deeper wedge between American Jews and blacks, Prime Minister Menachem Begin has decided to snub the Rev. Jesse Jackson when he arrives here Monday for a three-day visit to Israel.
Sources close to the prime minister said he had told his key advisers that he would refuse to meet Jackson, president of People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) because of the black leader's public comments following Andrew Young's resignation as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Jackson, who has scheduled a meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat in Beirut later next week, also is trying to meet with the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Jordan on his fact-finding mission to the Middle East.
Begin made his decision following a stormy meeting with key advisers at which Jackson's visit was debated. It appeared also to implicitly rule out a meeting with the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who is currently touring the Middle East and who incurred Begin's wrath by meeting with PLO representative to the United Nations, Zehdi Labib Terzi.
D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy, who is traveling with Lowery, presumably would be snubbed as well.
Asked about Fauntroy tonight, a Begin aide said he "assumed" that the prime minister would refuse to see Fauntroy but added, "Let's wait and see what happens tomorrow on that."
Speaking about Jackson, the aide said that "We've got all the declarations that Jackson made before in the United States. He said he wouldn't be convinced by anything he heard or saw here, and that's enough for us."
The sources said the snub also will extend to the logistical assistance normally extended to visiting public figures, including transportation and scheduling assistance, although it was stressed that the prime minister might soften his rebuff in the several days before Jackson arrives.
However, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, in open defiance of Begin's stance toward the Jackson visit, today cabeled the black leader that he would be welcomed in the Holy City despite Jackson's "offensive remarks regarding the state of Israel and our position."
Kollek said Jackson "will have the opportunity to see for youself the infastructure of peace and tolerance on which life is based in Jerusalem, our capital and a city sacred to millions throughout the world."
"I'm sure I need not tell you I don't share your assessment of the role the PLO ought to play in our area," Kollek said, adding that "Arab lip service" to the PLO has resulted in terrorism within Israel.
Begin's adamant stand on Jackson's visit came as something of a surprise to even some of his closest advisers, since the government stated position previously had been that anyone is welcome to visit Israel but not as a would-be mediator between the Jewish state and Arafat.
Recently, Begin offered an audience to a key adviser to Romanian President Nicolai Ceausescu, but he refused to listen to the envoy's report of a meeting Ceausescu held with Arafat.
Begin is known to have been upset with Jackson's support of the controversial meeting Young held with the PLO representative to the U.N., and with statements Jackson made following Young's forced resignation after that meeting.
Jackson declared publicly that "when there wasn't much decency in society," Jews were willing to share decency in the black cause, but that "the conflict began when we started out quest for power. Jews were willing to share decency, but not power." He has also been critical of Israel's military might against the PLO and Israel's close relationship with South Africa.
"Those who make all the noise get all the headlines, but I don't think they will see the prime minister," said a close Begin aide tonight.
When asked whether he expected the rebuff to spark a controversy, the aide said, "Nobody here (in Israel) will be impressed with the necessity of the prime minister to see Mr. Jackson."
He added, "I've been with him (Begin) when he has met black leaders many, many times. It doesn't mean he must see a man who is white, black, yellow or green who has said the things that Jackson has said."
In terms of Begin's standing in Israel as a result of the intended snub of Jackson, the prime minister would appear to be on firmer ground as a result of today's bomb blast in a pedestrian mall in downtown Jerusalem, which killed one person and injured 34 others.
The PLO headquarters in Beirut claimed responsibility for the explosion, which was the first major terrorist act inside Israel in more than two months.
However, another aide to the prime minister, noting that Begin today met with American actress Elizabeth Taylor in a much publicized session, predicted the rebuff of Jackson would be "an unmitigated disaster."
"The whole thing has turned out to be tragic. There has been a complete misunderstanding of Jackson's intentions, and Jackson will never understand Begin's intentions," the aide said.
Sources close to the prime minister predicted that Jackson could reap a public relations windfall by being welcomed by West Bank Palestinians, while placing a spotlight on his rebuff by the government.
Philip Glaser, an American Jewish journalist who is planning to accompany Jackson on his Middle East tour, was quoted as saying the Chicago black leader expects to meet with Israeli officials.
"Rev. Jackson has committed himself to meeting with Yassar Arafat and try to ease the tension he has created in the Jewish community of America between himself and American Jewry. He has offered to go to Israel, where he has never been to before, to better acquaint himself with Israel's version of the situation," Glaser said.