JERUSALEM (Sep. 12)
Reliable reports that Katriel Katz, Israel’s last Ambassador to Moscow, is to be appointed Ambassador to Finland has been tied in by observers here to the persistent rumors in recent months of unofficial diplomatic and semi-diplomatic contacts between Israel and the USSR. The Helsinki post assumes significance because of its geographical proximity to the Soviet Union; the fact that Katz was previously posted to Moscow and the knowledge that the Israeli diplomat would prefer to remain at home after many years’ duty abroad unless his new post involved major new developments. Katz has been serving as director of the Yad Vashem, the memorial for Nazi victims in Jerusalem. He has told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on various occasions that he was gratified to remain in Israel after his lengthy tours abroad which included the post of Consul General of Israel in New York.
There was no confirmation from official sources that Katz would be appointed to Helsinki or that his appointment would be aimed at contacts with the Russians. Nevertheless, official sources have not denied the implications of such an appointment and the conclusions being drawn by observers here. Speculation became rife last May when Premier Golda Meir was reported to have had contacts with Soviet representatives at a remote resort in Finish Lapland, near the Russian border. The report was officially denied but there has been no satisfactory explanation for Mrs. Meir’s sudden return to Finland from Stockholm after having addressed the conference of the Socialist International at Helsinki. Since then there have been other reports of Russian-Israeli contacts in various European capitals.
Israeli delegations have been admitted to the USSR with no difficulty in recent months to attend international scientific conferences. A group of six Israeli leftists, most of them non-Communist, have just returned from a two-week visit to Russia as guests of the Soviet Peace Committee. All of the groups reported a cordial reception. Observers here attribute the evidence of a changed attitude toward Israel on the part of Moscow to differences with Egypt. especially since the pro-Communist coup in Sudan was foiled. Another factor is the emergence of the Peoples Republic of China on the world diplomatic scene which has made the Soviet Union less willing to go unrepresented anywhere in the world. Moscow broke diplomatic relations with Israel during the Six-Day War.