Meaning of Decision Still Unclear

Despite the outcry, the shocked reactions, the tough Cabinet line, and the apprehensions, no one in Jerusalem could say today what precisely is the meaning of the Austrian decision. It seemed as if Israel and the Jewish Agency were playing it safe; reacting violently and volubly in case the worst happens and the transit of immigrants is made impossible, and at the same time blanket refusal to discuss–at least openly–any contingency plans for moving olim other than through Schoenau.

The Austrian Ambassador to Israel herself could not enlighten top Israeli officials on the real and final intentions of the Vienna government. The envoy Dr. Johanna Nestor, flew in to Lod last night having been ordered to cut short her holiday. Today she met with Foreign Ministry Director General Avraham Kidron in Jerusalem at her request to tell him what she knew.

SOME HOPE FOR REVERSAL OF DECISION

She pointed out that whereas in the original statement by Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, it seemed clear that Schoenau would be closed, subsequent statements left room for hope that it would not. The Ambassador drew particular attention to a speech Kreisky made yesterday to a group of visiting Soviet parliamentarians in which he said:

“Austria believes in humanitarian principles –I stress this especially today…nothing that has happened or will happen will change our position or our laws or our humanitarian principles…. There will be certain small changes in the interests of preserving peace in the country but there will be no radical change in our principles. Austria will continue to be a state which gives haven to persons who see themselves persecuted and who want to reach another country, which other country is willing to take them in via Austria….”

As of tonight the situation seemed fluid. Dr. Nestor and Israel’s envoy to Austria, Yitzhak’ Patish, are in contact with the Foreign Ministry in Vienna. Dr. Nestor said in an interview that she did not take personally the demonstrations in Tel Aviv outside her Embassy. Even the rotten eggs splashed on the wall was understandable, she said, observing that the demonstrators could very well have cousins or friends waiting to leave Russia.

Foreign Ministry officials discounted observers’ speculation that Patish’s recall to Israel was intended as an expression of displeasure. He went only to report they said, and would return very shortly.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that Patish came in for some sharp criticism from ministers at the Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem last night. They all thought he had been duped by the Austrians who made their deal with the terrorists while pretending to Patish that all was well. However, they did not blame him for his optimistic reports from Vienna. But they did blame him for making an optimistic statement at Lod when he arrived last night and in general for being too hopeful in interviews.

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