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Reports on Germany’s Sale of Israeli Arms to Portugal Denied in Knesset

Press reports–now definitely denied by both the West German and Israeli Governments–that “Uzzi” submachine guns purchased here by the Bonn authorities had been resold to Portugal for use against the independence movements in Angola, Africa, brought a flare-up and sharp anti-government criticisms in the Knesset (Parliament) here today.

When all the shouting and recriminations were done, however, the Knesset approved unanimously a statement by Finance Minister Levi Eshkol, Acting Prime Minister, who said the Cabinet will report to Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security about plans to insert into future arms sales contracts, a clause forbidding a purchaser to resell such Israeli weapons to a third party.

(The West German Defense Ministry in Bonn denied emphatically today reports that Israeli-made arms, previously purchased by Germany, had been diverted to Portugal. Colonel George Schmueckle, the Ministry’s information chief, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here this morning that such “rumors are without any foundation whatsoever.”)

Five parties had moved resolutions in the Knesset for full-scale debate of the arms sale issue. Leaders of Ahdut Avodah, Herut, the Communist Party, the new Liberal Party and Mapam used the reports about Bonn’s alleged resale of the “Uzzis” to Portugal as whips with which to lash the Government again on the over-all issue of selling arms to Germany.

Israel Bar-Yehudah, of Ahdut Avodah, told the Knesset the current Adolf Eichmann trial had “proved” that all Germans over the age of 40 had had a hand in persecuting Jews during the Nazi regime. Some of these very Germans now, he declared, “are generals and high officials in West Germany.”

Speaking for Herut, Dr. Arie Ben-Eliezer said “every Uzzi submachine gun given to Germany now is an injection for the revival of the sleeping Satan.” Dr. Moshe Sneh, leader of the Communist Party, charged Israel had been accused in the past of selling arms to the Dominican Republic and to the anti-French rebels in Algeria. “The trouble,” he said, “is that these reports are believed in the world.” On behalf of the Liberals, Dr. Elimelech Rimalt warned the Government that “arms are not goods comparable to ordinary trade, but are politically sensitive goods.”

Dr. Hanan Rubin, of Mapam, argued for better controls of the sale of Israeli arms, to prevent their being resold to a third party. In the course of his argument, Dr. Rubin strongly attacked the West German Government. Members of Mapai then asked him from the floor whether East Germany had been denazified. Mapam and Mapai members shouted at one another from their benches, but Dr. Rubin did not reply to the question.

Finally, however, Mr. Eshkol assured the House that the reports of Bonn’s resale of the Uzzis to Portugal were “baseless” and the Knesset accepted his promise for a Cabinet report to the Parliamentary Security Committee about fresh clauses that will forbid resale of Israeli arms. By a unanimous vote the matter was then referred to the Security Committee.

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