German Official Explains Deadlock on Reparations Talks with Israel

Israel will receive a concrete reparations offer from the West German Government “not later than June 20.” Dr. Franz Boehm, head of the German delegation to the German-Jewish compensation talks at The Hague, declared at a press conference here today.

The present deadlock in the talks, he said, was “understandable.” in view of the possibility that the $750,000,000 reparations payment to Israel recommended by the German delegation might be further reduced. Germany, Prof. Boehm pointed out, was only able to meet Israel’s demands within the framework of her total obligations.

At the same time, Prof. Boehm declared that there was no reason for Jewish fears that Israel would receive only the “leftovers” from the London conference on Germany’s external debts. He stressed that West Germany was the only country prepared to fulfill Jewish claims and pointed out that neither Eastern Germany nor Austria had made any move in this direction. Austria, he said, considered that it was “not concerned” in the matter.

The German official maintained that Israel’s claim was not based on any existing law and was not an obvious international obligation although Germany must take full responsibility for the absorption of Jewish refugees in Israel. He said that where the Germans and Israelis differed was in their estimate of the costs involved in absorbing these refugees. Germany considered the costs, as presented by Israel, too high, he said.

GERMAN PRESS DIVIDED ON ISRAEL’S CLAIM FOR PRIORITY

Comment in the German press on the Israel-German conference is varied, a survey of the German newspapers indicated today. The South German independent newspaper, Die Schwaebische Landeszeitung, said: “It is understandable that the Jews demand unrestricted priority for their claims, but it is not up to the West German Federal Government to decide whether the settlement of foreign debts should come after the payments that are to be made to the State of Israel and the Jewish organizations.

“Naturally, the amount of the reparations to the Jews must be fixed in accordance with the total obligations.” the paper continued. “The government cannot afford to make promises that it cannot fulfill. It seems unnecessary to point to the heavy burdens of the German refugees, war damages and occupation costs. There is limit to German capacity to pay which cannot be surpassed, but within this limit, everything should be done according to the will of the German government and the people’s representatives to help atone for the horrible guilt that the National Socialist regime bequeathed to the German people.”

The Rheinische Post, a Christian Democratic organ published in Dusseldorf, warns against condemning the Israelis for turning down the German offer of $750,000,000 and adds that Prime Minister David Ben Gurion has many “internal difficulties.” Mr. Ben Gurion’s “decision on the German offer.” the paper says, “will to some extent be governed by the wish not to provoke his adversaries unduly.”

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, an independent Munich paper, declares: “Israel’s refusal to accept the German offer has aroused considerable attention in Bonn. since it may unfavorably influence Germany’s negotiations with the Western powers for a general treaty. On the other hand, the government is not willing to conclude any treaties for the sole purpose of making a good impression, while secretly expecting that they will be reviewed as soon as the ink has dried.

“When refusing exaggerated claims, the Federal Government cannot but always point to the priority of our debts to the western powers.” the paper says. “Although the claims of the State of Israel may have a moral priority and claim, they come only next to the other legal and formal claims. This awkward situation, for which Germany cannot be blamed, naturally calls for double care when negotiating with the Jews.”

The Dusseldorfer Nachrichten says: “It is evidently overlooked by the Jews that the German offer constitutes an acknowledgment in principle of Israel’s claims. When the Bundestag acknowledged the principle of reparations last year, this did not mean that it acknowledged particular reparations to the State of Israel.” If the Israel delegation “fears” a sound discussion with the Germans on the amount would provoke new difficulties within Israel, “this is a matter that should be settled with the people of Israel alone,” the newspaper said. It added that if “the Israel delegation wants to break off the negotiations at this point because of the tension within their country, they should not make the German offer responsible for this break.”

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