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Behind the Headlines New Realities in Europe

Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon this week concluded a 14-day visit to three West European countries which included audiences with Queen Juliana of Holland, King Baudouin of Belgium, Prime Ministers and top officials of the European Economic Community. The visit was not just a courtesy tour but a concrete demonstration of the increasing role Europe now plays on Israel’s political and diplomatic chessboard.

Two facts mark this new Israeli-European relationship, the signature last May of a preferential trade agreement between Israel and the EEC, which opened a new economic hinterland to Israeli products, and West Europe’s vote on the Arab-sponsored resolution equating Zionism with racism. All the nine EEC member states voted against it as did most of the rest of Western Europe. The only exceptions were strife-torn Portugal; Malta, considered a Libyan colony; Cyprus and Turkey, Greece abstained.

At the conclusion of his trip, Allon told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “the amelioration in Europe’s attitude to Israel is clear and visible.” He added, however, that “Europe will never be able to replace the United States, it can only play a complimentary role.”

U.S. ROLE STILL DOMINANT

The Foreign Minister explained that while Western Europe can and should play an ever-increasing economic and political role in relation to Israel, it has neither the material capacity nor the political influence of the U.S.

Allon stressed that Western Europe is already Israel’s largest export market and that the new trade agreement will open further possibilities to Israeli exports. “The new trade agreement gives us an enormous chance to develop our economy. It is up to Israel’s own industries to pick up the opportunity.” Allon told the JTA.

The Minister said that politically, Europe can play a number of important roles: it can first demonstrate to the U.S. that it is not alone in supporting Israel; it can show the Soviet Union that Israel is less isolated than Soviet propaganda claims; it can serve as a bridge across the Mediterranean between Israel and its neighbors. “We are in favor of the EEC signing with the Arab states trade agreements similar to that it concluded with us. It can serve to bring us all closer together,” Allon said.

One of the results of Allon’s last visit to Europe will be an Israeli attempt to still further strengthen its ties with European countries on an individual basis and with the EEC nine as a bloc. The president of the EEC Commission, the Common Market’s supranational government, Francois-Xavier Ortolli, is due to pay an official visit to Israel next month, and the Commission will open a permanent representation in Israel. Some half-dozen West European ministers are also due to visit Israel in the coming months. Israeli officials attribute this West Europeans change of attitude to the realization that a pro-Arab policy “just does not pay.” They also believe that public opinion, which has remained consistently pro-Israeli, has finally left its imprint on official circles.

France’s more balanced attitude in the Middle East conflict, which started with the election of Valery Discard d’Estaing to the Presidency, is also believed to have influenced the other European countries, And finally, the last blow on Israel’s behalf was struck by the Arabs themselves with their UN resolution on Zionism which caused an uproar throughout Western Europe.

Improved relationship with Europe will also probably affect the attitude of its various Jewish communities and increase the ratio of immigration to Israel. Allon said that immigration remains a vital Israel need. “An additional Jew in Israel is a lesser risk of war.” he stated.

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