BONN (Feb. 3)
More than 100 members of Western European parliaments met in West Berlin yesterday and Friday to discuss lines of joint action in support of Israel. They came from all parliamentary parties except the Communist and Fascist parties. The countries represented were: Belgium, Denmark, France, Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, West Germany and Ireland. The delegates were all members of the European-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship group founded in Paris last Nov. as a direct result of the Yom Kippur War which posed a blunt threat to Israel’s existence.
The meeting took place at the Berlin Rathaus, and the participants were warmly greeted by Klaus Scheutz, the Lord Mayor of West Berlin and head of the West Berlin administration. The meeting was treated as a major political event in the press of West Berlin and West Germany as a whole. Among the participants were Annamarie Ringer, Speaker of the Bundestag; Otto Probst, Deputy Speaker of the Austrian Parliament; Jacques Servan-Schreiber, editor and member of the French Assembly; Lord Janner of Leicester; and Manlio Brosio, former Secretary-General of NATO and member of the Italian Parliament. Israel was represented by Elimelech Rimalt (Likud) and Aviad Yafeh (Labor Alignment), with Dr. George Flesch, external relations director at the European Office of the Jewish Agency in Geneva, as observer.
In a forceful keynote speech, Servan-Schreiber called for a united stand in defense of Israel against Arab blackmail. He declared: “We are here to assert our solidarity with the people of Israel at a time of grave danger….This demonstration in Berlin takes place at a permanently threatened outpost of Western civilization. It addresses itself to a crisis faced by another permanently threatened outpost of Western civilization. Both Berlin and Jerusalem are engulfed by a sea of seemingly relentless hostility and both are equally vulnerable….From the modern Wailing Wall of Berlin to the ancient Wailing Wall of Jerusalem must go forth a call for vigilance, a call which draws its inspiration from a shameful past, a vacillating present, a hopeful future.”
Servan-Schreiber declared that Premier Golda Meir and President Anwar Sadat had shown the way toward peace. He expressed hope that Syria would soon move in the same direction, beginning with the application of the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war. But for humanity, more was at stake, Servan-Schreiber said: “….The question is whether a handful of Arab leaders, spurred on by fanatics from the inside and by Russia’s military hawks from the outside, will be allowed to abuse their dominant oil position so as to destroy the economies of the industrialized world and plunge into even deeper misery the impoverished areas of the Third World.” Continuing, Servan-Schreiber declared: “If Israel is forced by pressure from friend and foe to accept the straightjacket that its adversaries would place upon it, then proof will have been shown that aggression and blackmail pay, and that they can constantly be used with impunity as tools of international policy.”
At lunch Friday, Mayor Schuetz, an outspoken friend of Israel, said it gave him extraordinary pleasure to welcome the conference delegates, especially those from Israel. He said Berlin and Israel had many things in common: love of freedom, democracy, security, peace. Schuetz, who will be visiting Israel, said these were the reasons why Berlin had been chosen for the conference of European parliamentarians. Yafeh, declared that while it was difficult to assess the direct political influence of the conference, “What is important is the fact that the conference is taking place, that Europeans are standing up together in this impressive manner in support of Israel. The conference will strengthen each delegation in putting pressure on its own government. There has been no dispute over attitudes towards Israel.”
Yafeh said he had been overwhelmed by the reception. He recalled that in 1967 people thought Israel was on the verge of elimination, but no one had lifted a finger to help. He praised the European-Israeli friendship group for its work, adding that he hoped now that Israel was perhaps on the way toward peace. It was ready to withdraw its troops and live peacefully with its neighbors. He expressed great concern at the fate of Israeli POWs in Syrian hands. As far as the conference was concerned, Yafeh said it was important for Israel to know that it was not being left alone because of blackmail. The parliamentarians unanimously adopted a resolution expressing “support and encouragement” to Israel. (Full text will be given in Tuesday’s Bulletin.)