JERUSALEM (Dec. 23)
There was no official reaction here today to the appointment of Kurt Waldheim of Austria as the new Secretary General of the United Nations. Unofficially, however, the comment was largely favorable. Acquaintances of the 53-year-old Austrian diplomat, including some Israeli officials, recalled that Waldheim had on several occasions expressed himself favorably on matters concerning Israel. He was not expected to lean toward the Arabs as many Israelis believe that outgoing UN Secretary General U Thant had done.
According to those who know Waldheim, he is innately a “neutral person” and is expected to take his oath of impartiality very seriously. (In New York, Israeli sources today expressed their best wishes for Waldheim.)
Israeli sources noted that as Foreign Minister of Austria during 1968-70, Waldheim was personally instrumental in speeding up two agreements with Israel–one on the avoidance of double taxation and the other for mutual exemption from visa requirements.
UNDERSTOOD ISRAEL’S PROBLEM
During his tenure as Austria’s representative to the UN, Waldheim showed considerable understanding of Israel’s problems, it was pointed out here. However, in keeping with his country’s strictly neutral posture in world affairs, he would often abstain in votes on matters relating to the Middle East conflict rather than support the Israeli or the Arab side.
There was very little comment here on the failure of Finland’s Max Jakobson to win election although several months ago he was considered to be the front-runner to succeed U Thant. Jakobson, the son of a Jewish father and a mother who converted to Judaism, identified himself as a Jew and never concealed his good-will toward Israel. Some circles here expressed regret that he was not elected. Others, however, thought it was just as well because as a Jew, Jakobson might lean over backward to emphasize his official impartiality in the Middle East conflict.