JERUSALEM (Sep. 5)
Chancellor Bruno Kreisky of Austria said yesterday that he was prepared to apologize to the Israeli people for derogatory remarks he made to a Dutch newspaper correspondent about Israel and Premier Menachem Begin last week. But, he said in a telephone interview with Israel Radio from Vienna, that he would not apologize for his political views on the Middle East conflict. “As far as my principle attitude is concerned, I have nothing to apologize for,” he said.
The furor raised here by the Kreisky interview, published in the Dutch Protestant daily Throuw Saturday, has not abated. Dr. Elimelech Reimalt, chairman of the Israel-Austria Friendship Association, resigned yesterday in protest against Kreisky’s remarks. Dr. Lajos Leopold Gottesman, the Honorary Consul General of Austria in Israel for over 20 years, also resigned and leveled a blast at the Chancellor.
“Though I know that I represent Austria and not you in person, I feel deeply insulted as a Jew and an Israeli,” Gottesman wrote in a letter to Kreisky. “Therefore, I find it impossible for me to continue in my capacity and as an act of protest against you, and only against you as the present Chancellor, I hereby tender my resignation. “
The interview in the Dutch newspaper, Throuw, quoted Kreisky as saying that President Anwar Sadat of Egypt did not receive a generous response from Israel to his peace initiative and was forced to deal with a “political grocer, ” apparently meaning Premier Menachem Begin. He also charged that Israel practiced a South Africa like policy of apartheid against its Arab citizens.
Kreisky told Israel Radio that some of the remarks attributed to him were made in the course of a private off-the-record conversation with the Dutch journalist and were distorted in publication and taken out of context. He confirmed that he used the description “political grocer” but said, “I don’t think that I mentioned Begin directly, but I cannot deny it for the moment.”
Asked if he didn’t think his remarks were anti-Semitic, Kreisky said, “Why, whenever one mentions Jews, the Jews hear anti-Semitic notes.” The Throuw reporter said that he spoke privately with Kreisky for two hours at the Chancellor’s vacation retreat on Mallorca and four hours on-the-record. He insisted that all of the published quotes were taken from the on-the-record portion of their conversation.
Yitzhak Koren, chairman of the Israeli Executive of the World Jewish Congress, predicted today that Kreisky’s remarks will be used by PLO chief Yassir Arafat and other anti-Semitic groups in their attacks on Jews and Israel.
Meanwhile, the offices of Austrian Airways in Tel Aviv were doubted with slogans condemning Kreisky for his statements. The slogans were daubed by a group of four young men and a woman who stormed the almost deserted offices during the lunchtime break. The four men fled before police arrived but the woman was caught. At the same time a number of charter tours to Austria have been cancelled in protest against Kreisky’s statements.