Begin Leaves for Rumania

Premier Menachem Begin left this morning for a five-day visit to Rumania–his first visit to Eastern Europe in 38 years. During his stay there he will meet with government officials, including Rumania President Nicolae Ceausescu.

Speaking to newsmen at Ben Gurion Airport shortly before leaving, Begin said he was going to Rumania “with deep excitement,” recalling his pre-wartime activities in Rumania. Begin used the opportunity to reminisce. He said he visited Bucharest for the first time in 1939; he then accompanied a group of illegal immigrants from Bucharest to the port of Constanta where they boarded a ship by the name of “Parita” which arrived safely in Tel Aviv later in the year; he returned from Constanta to Poland where he continued his rescue activities.

Later that year, Begin told reporters, he again reached the Rumanian border with a group of 1200 immigrants. However, the Rumanian authorities would not let them in, under pressure of the British Ambassador to Bucharest. The immigrants had to return to Poland. Only 78 of them managed to eventually reach Israel. The others were murdered during the Holocaust.

Speaking about his present visit, Begin said he would be happy to clarify with the Rumanian leaders Israel’s position regarding a solution of the Mideast conflict.

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported today that contrary to Israeli plans, Bucharest did not authorize a press conference by Begin in the Rumanian capital. The Rumanian explanation, according to Haaretz, was that it was not customary for a foreign statesman to convene a press conference in their country. Begin also was not to review the military guard of honor at the airport, although previous Israeli Premiers did so. The Rumanians reportedly explained that this ceremonial has changed, and was now done only by heads of state.

Although the technical explanations may be correct, observers speculate that the Rumanians may want to keep a low profile on the visit.

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