Prime Minister Menachen Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat will meet next week in the Red Sea port of Ophira to discuss the Syrian missile crisis and other Middle East issues, the Israeli leader said today.
Begin said the meeting, to be held on Thursday, was arranged in a telephone conversation with Sadat today after Israeli Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon proposed it to him during a visit to Egypt last week.
Begin said he and the Egyptian leader plan to spend one day discussing the deployment of Syrian missiles in Lebanon, the growing Soviet influence in the Middle East, the proposed multinational peacekeeping force for the Sinai peninsula and the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel based on the 1979 peace treaty.
"The time is now right to sort things out and make decisions. If decisions are made I will be very happy. But the fact that we will talk will be a gain," Begin said tonight in an interview broadcast on Israel's Army radio.
Begin bristled when it was suggested that the summit meeting might be connected to his June 30 reelection bid. "I ignore it completely. Whoever thinks such an important meeting can be confused with the election issue is either a fool or a villain, or both," the prime minister said.
The opposition Labor Party, in statement from its election headquarters, said Begin had arranged the summit to gain campaign publicity and divert attention from inflation and other domestic issues.
Begin said he and Sadat will not discuss the stalled negotiations on proposed autonomy for Arab inhabitants of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, because Sadat had previously made it clear that issue should not be raised until after the elections.
The meeting in Ophira, the Israeli named town at Sharm el-Sheik Bay near the Straits of Tiran in southeastern Sinai, will be the first between Sadat and Begin in more than a year. Ophira is in the last third of the Sinai peninsula that is scheduled to be returned to Egypt next April. The Israeli Army occupied the Sinai during the 1967 six-day war.
Begin said he had received a "long letter" from Sadat about the Syrian missile crisis, and had replied with a three-page letter. "But how much can you say in a letter? So, I felt it was a good idea to talk to him face-to-face."
The director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, David Kimche, was in Cairo today negotiating details of the proposed multinational force with Egyptian and U.S. officials. The United States agreed, as part of the peace treaty, to organize a multinational force when it became apparent that the Soviet Union would cast a veto in the U.N. Security Council against a U.N. Sanai force.
Israeli resident of Ophira tonight demanded a meeting with Begin while he is in the Sinai town to discuss the withdrawal procedure and compensation. They also said they wanted to meet with Sadat to draw from him an explanation of why they cannot remain there once Egypt regains control.