JERUSALEM (Sep. 30)
Israel demanded today that Austria revoke its decision to close the transit station that the Jewish Agency maintains for Soviet Jewish emigrants at Schoenau Castle near Vienna. The demand was contained in a communique released here after midnight which charged that the Austrian government’s “surrender to the terrorist demands is encouragement for continuation of acts of extortion and violence and a dangerous burden on Jews’ right of passage.”
The communique was released following a three-hour emergency session of the Cabinet which heard a report from the Israeli Ambassador to Austria, Yitzhak Patish. The envoy was recalled yesterday for urgent consultations after Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky announced his government’s decision to close the facilities at Schoenau to save the lives of three Soviet Jews and an Austrian customs official held hostage by two Arab terrorists who hijacked the Moscow-Vienna express in Czechoslovakia on Friday.
Patish, who landed at Lod Airport last night, hinted to reporters that there had been a meaningful shift in the Austrian position between Kreisky’s announcement and his subsequent statements and telephone conversations with the Israel envoy. Patish did not disclose the contents of the message and letter from Kreisky to the Cabinet. Asked if Schoenau was to be shut, he replied in the negative. “Olim arrived there today and they will arrive tomorrow,” he said, but did not elaborate.
CHARGE AUSTRIA CAPITULATED TO TERRORISTS
Whatever message Patish brought with him did not mollify the Israeli Cabinet. The communique reflected bitterness and anger on the part of Israel over the Austrian action a feeling that was widespread today throughout Israel. The Knesset, meanwhile, has been called into emergency session tomorrow to discuss the events in Austria.
The Israeli communique was tempered somewhat by an expression of appreciation for “the humanitarian tradition followed by the Austrian government for years in respect of Jews on their way to their homeland.” But it did not conceal its shock that this policy may have been ended. “The government of Israel expresses its astonishment at the Austrian government’s unjustified decision which is interpreted as recoiling and acquiescence in the terrorists’ demands.” the communique said.
“The government of Israel cannot acquiesce in the hasty decision and calls on the Austrian government to revoke it and to continue to make the arrangements that have obtained to date with regard to the passage of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel. The government of Israel will communicate with the government of Austria on this matter,” the communique added. The Cabinet gave no indication when Patish would return to his post. His swift recall was seen as another indication of Israel’s bitterness toward the Austrian action.