Two leading Israeli political figures who became as intimate with Anwar Sadat as anybody else during the heady and sometimes turbulent days of peacemaking -- former defense minister Ezer Weizman and former foreign minister Moshe Dayan -- said today that the slain Egyptian leader's greatest legacy was his serene belief in the continuity of peace even after his own time.
Weizman, who became closer to Sadat than any other Israeli and who was known to him as "my friend, Ezra," urged the Israeli government to recognize that legacy by issuing a formal "vote of full confidence" in Sadat's designated successor, Vice President Hosni Mubarak.
"One of the most important things about Sadat's greatness," Weizman said in a telephone interview from his home in Caesarea, "is that while he was still alive, he destined Mubarak to be his heir and he told everybody that when he was gone, Mubarak would take over so that his peace policies would continue. We owe it to Sadat to voice our complete confidence, officially, in his successor."
"If you show the slightest lack of confidence, even a hint of it, you let the skeptics say that this was a one-man show," Weizman added. "And with this terrible tragedy, anyone who is a skeptic about Mubarak is a skeptic about the whole peace thing."
Dayan, in a separate telephone interview, said that while Israelis should be concerned that Mubarak can maintain internal stability in Egypt and still pursue peace with Israel, they should realize that Sadat left his successor with little choice but to continue the peace process begun at Camp David in 1978.
"It's one thing for Sadat to initiate peace and go to Jerusalem and all that. It's quite another thing for the Arab hard-liners to compel Mubarak to abandon the peace agreement. He can say to them, and Sadat assured that he can say, 'Look here, it is there. What do you expect me to do, call it off just like that?' " Dayan said. He added, "I just don't think that is going to happen."
Weizman said Sadat, intentionally or otherwise, had left both Mubarak and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin no choice but to continue the peace process.
"Begin will have great difficulty swinging away from Israel's commitments and Mubarak will have great difficulty swinging away from Egypt's," Weizman said. "He would be playing right into the hands of the people who are glad that Sadat was killed. Sadat has them in a catch, a positive catch, I think."
Weizman said he spent many hours with Mubarak -- like himself a former air force pilot -- and that he was impressed with his "guts and ability."
"Look, the man is a different character with a different personality. He is 11 years younger than Sadat, but he is taking over the leadership of Egypt at the same age Sadat took over" from Gamal Abdel Nasser.
"He's a different character," Weizman said. "I don't think he is as philosophical as Sadat. Sadat could sit for hours and talk about the world. There was a lot of wisdom there. But Mubarak is already showing his strength. Things are going smoothly. There is an orderly transition and Egypt is operating relatively normally. That's a credit to Mubarak and we should take it into account when we judge him."
Weizman said that in his many meetings with Sadat and Mubarak, he was impressed with the closeness of the two Egyptian leaders.
Mubarak "was familiar with most of Sadat's thoughts, I think. I heard Sadat say many times, 'Hosni will take over from me.' If I were in the government, I would say in a loud voice, 'We express our vote of confidence in Mubarak and the new leadership, because President Sadat had confidence in him,' " Weizman said. "First, he is the president of the future, and secondly, he is Sadat's pupil, his declared heir. We should express that confidence more than we are doing and then be cautious as we continue to negotiate."
Of his own relationship with Sadat, Weizman said, "It could be I saw in him things other people didn't see, because of his openness, because we found we were sincere and candid with each other. . . . A certain feeling of believing developed."
Sadat's wisdom and foresight, Weizman said, has been proven by the fact that it is now obvious that "the peace process was not a temporary one and not a one-man show, but a basic necessity for two countries after so many years of animosity."
Dayan said that while he also has confidence in Sadat's successor, Israel should proceed cautiously in the peace process.
"We should honor our commitments and go ahead with the implementation of the agreements, but we should expect others to do the same thing," Dayan said. "We should expect Egypt and the United States, with regard to the Sinai Peninsula multinational force and normalization and so forth to fulfill their commitments. We have to ask, 'Are you going to go ahead and do these things?' "
He added, "I don't think we should wait. We should make sure right now."