MADRID (Dec. 6)
The European Executive of the World Jewish Congress, meeting here, announced tonight that it has withdrawn its request for an audience with King Juan Carlos I who was to have received a delegation of Jewish leaders at the Royal Palace tomorrow morning. The Spanish government was expected to cancel the audience or grant it only under difficult conditions. The WJC action, therefore, was viewed as the most dignified way out of an embarrassing situation.
The WJC announcement said it withdrew its request because the Spanish authorities preferred to consider the audience “in the context of day-to-day Spanish-Arab relations” rather than “in the historic context of re-establishing relations between the Jewish people and the new Spain” for the first time in 500 years. Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the WJC, who was to have headed the delegation to the Royal Palace, left Madrid immediately after the decision was made.
It became apparent over the weekend that the audience would not materialize because of the Spanish government’s sudden coldness toward the WJC meeting. Deputy Minister of Justice Rafael Mendizabal, who was to have greeted the opening session of the meeting on behalf of the government Saturday night, telephoned two hours before to say he could not attend. He gave no explanation and expressed no regrets.
The decision to boycott the meeting was apparently made by Foreign Minister Marcellino Orega after a meeting with Arab envoys who strongly protested plans for an official welcome to the WJC executive. Fifty Arab demonstrators gathered outside the hotel where the meeting was taking plane were allowed to shout anti-Israel slogans for 30 minutes before police asked them to disperse.
In view of that attitude by the authorities, the, audience with the King was considered doomed. Leaders of the Madrid Jewish community con ferred all day yesterday with officials of the Foreign Ministry in an attempt to salvage it, but to no avail.
The WJC Executive meeting ended today without adopting any resolutions. It thus avoided action on resolutions on Soviet Jewry which might have prevented Jewish communities in Eastern European countries from collaborating with the WJC on future occasions.
The Madrid meeting was attended by 13 delegations from West European countries, Rumania and Yugoslavia. Observers were sent by the Jewish communities in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. These observers reportedly pleaded with the other participants to “show understanding” for their special position if they wanted their collaboration to continue.