Begin Refuses Carter Request for a Meeting

From Reuters

Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin today turned down a request by former President Jimmy Carter to meet in Jerusalem on Thursday, the eighth anniversary of their signing the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, Begin's spokesman said.

Spokesman Yechiel Kadishai said Carter asked for a meeting during his current Middle East tour.

"Mr. Begin asked me to tell the people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he can't see him, that's all. He didn't give any reason," Kadishai said.

In March, 1983, Begin met Carter during his last visit to Israel but let it be known the former President had hurt him with unflattering remarks in a newspaper interview and in Carter's autobiography, "Keeping Faith."

Asked if Begin harbored a dislike for Carter, Kadishai said, "He didn't say a word about dislike."

Begin, 73, resigned in August, 1983, and withdrew from public life. Israelis speculate he was depressed over his wife's death and by rising Israeli casualties in the Lebanon war.

He has greeted other visitors to Israel at his home in Jerusalem. "He is meeting people, not many, but he meets people whom he wants to meet," Kadishai said.

Begin, Carter and the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed Israel's first and only peace treaty with an Arab country in a White House ceremony on March 26, 1979.

During Carter's last visit to Israel, officials expressed annoyance over news that he met representatives in Egypt of the Palestine Liberation Organization, regarded by Israel as an enemy bent on its destruction.

At the time, Begin was Carter's host at a state banquet but canceled their dinner speeches, apparently to avoid being drawn into a public debate.

Carter, who is to arrive from Jordan on Wednesday, will meet Israeli leaders and Palestinian representatives from Israeli-occupied territories.

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