JERUSALEM — U.S. oil magnate Armand Hammer met reclusive former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin today and pledged to use his close contacts with the Soviet leadership to try to help increase Jewish emigration.
Hammer, the 88-year-old head of Occidental Petroleum Corp., has been a behind-the-scenes mediator between the West and the Soviet Union since his first business dealings with Soviet leaders in the 1920s.
The meeting was one of the few times that Begin, 73, has agreed to see a foreign visitor since he began a life of seclusion after resigning in 1983. Begin has turned down many other requests for meetings.
"He's in fine shape; he looks well," Hammer told reporters after the 45-minute meeting with Begin.
Hammer said the talk with Begin, on old friend, also dealt with prospects for a superpower summit.
"We think it's good there should be better relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. I think if relations are better between the two countries it will help the Jewish emigration too," Hammer said.