Israel Cabinet Confers, Takes No Official Stand on Invasion of Czechoslovakia

Israelis were stunned today by the sudden invasion of Czechoslovakia by troops of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations. So far no official stand by the Government has been announced, but Prime Minister Eshkol hurriedly returned to the capital from his seaside vacation for a briefing on the situation by Foreign Minister Abba Eban. Consultations on the new crisis in Central Europe went on all day and will continue tonight with a number of Cabinet ministers participating. A Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that so far it had received no requests for visa extensions or political asylum from any of the Czech groups and individuals presently visiting Israel or studying here.

Several hundred Israeli students demonstrated this evening before the Rumanian legation, the only Eastern bloc country that maintains diplomatic relations with Israel. The protest was not against Rumania but, according to student spokesmen, a demonstration of solidarity against the Russian invasion. The students carried signs demanding “hands off Czechoslovakia” and “let the Czechs determine their own brand of Socialism.” The more moderate of Israel’s two Communist factions today denounced the Soviet takeover as an “imperialistic” move and a “cruel intervention in the affairs of a fellow Socialist state.” They urged Communist parties all over the world to express their indignation over the Russian move. Mapam, Israel’s left-wing labor party, expressed “shock” and “horror” over the invasion and also called it “imperialistic.”

The only member of the Government to comment publicly was Israel Galili, Minister of Information, who told a meeting of information service employes that the invasion of Czechoslovakia could have repercussions in the Middle East and might encourage steps by Israel’s hostile neighbors. Czech citizens presently in Israel include a radio team and students. The latter will meet tomorrow at Kibbutz Shomrat, near Acre, to discuss their position and decide what to do, One student told JTA that he would not return to Czechoslovakia until he was sure there would be no mass arrests or purges.

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