Bonn (May. 6)
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has come under a sharp attack from Christian Democratic oppostion leader Helmut Kohl who charged today that Schmidt was “co-responsible” for what he termed a “dramatic development” of deteriorating relations between Bonn and Jerusalem. Kohl said his faction in the Bundestag will initiate a major parliamentary debate over relations with Israel.
The President of the German-Israel Association, Erik Blumenfeld, expressed his concern over the crisis which he said could cause a further deterioration of relations between the two countries. He said that the harmful atmosphere created by the exchange of accusations between Schmidt and Premier Menachem Begin of Israel could encourage the activities of extremists, referring apparently to neo-Nazis.
The German State Radio reported today that Israel’s Ambassador in Bonn, Yochanan Meroz, failed to show up for a meeting with a high ranking German official at the Foreign Ministry who was to submit a formal protest note over Begin’s accusations against Schmidt.
The Israel Embassy promptly denied the report, saying that the meeting is to take place later today. The Israeli envoy is expected to protest against Schmidt’s anti-Israel remarks and what Jerusalem considers an acceleration of Bonn’s appeasement of Arab extremists, notably the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, honorary president of the World Jewish Congress, sharply criticized Begin’s attacks on Schmidt as “tactless and at least as arrogant as Mr. Begin accuses others of being.” In a radio interview from Paris today, Goldmann defended Schmidt as a man who for years sought to make whatever amends could be made for the Nazi slaughter of European Jewry.
Most German newspapers sharply criticized Begin and generally defended the Chancellor and his pro-Arab stance. But the focus is shifting gradually from Israel’s emotional reaction to continuing West German efforts to woo the Arabs’ side and possibly weaken its former commitment to Israel.
Some commentators made the point that for six years Schmidt has ignored a standing Israeli invitation to visit Jerusalem. The invitation was renewed by the present government in what was considered at the time as a dramatic gesture on the part of Begin, a survivor of the Holocaust.
SCHMIDT WOOS ARABS, IGNORES ISRAEL AND JEWS
More attention is being paid to one-sided remarks by Schmidt which seem to appease the Arabs and to ignore Israel and the Jewish people. At one point in a lengthy television interview about his Middle East policies, Schmidt reminded of Auschwitz, mentioned several peoples being among the victims but forgot the Jews.
In a subsequent sentence he referred to the Arabs as one of the few peoples who did not have
bad experience with the Germans. In the same interview, which coincided with Holocaust Day in Israel, Schmidt spoke of Germany’s moral commitment to the Palestinians but did not mention such a commitment toward Israel.
(In Jerusalem today, the German Charge d’Affairs, Franz Sikora, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry where Director General David Kimche handed him Israel’s formal protest against Schmidt’s comments in favor of Palestinian self-determination, made during the Chancellor’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week.)
PREPARING FOR EURO-ARAB DIALOGUE
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Arab League paid a short visit to Bonn to prepare for the resumption of the Euro-Arab dialogue on the Foreign Minister level. During his recent visit to Riyadh, Schmidt had promised for the first time that such a conference would take place. While Egypt is expected to be boycotted, the PLO will be represented. Prior to Schmidt’s promise, officials in European capitals said that the conference still depends on the PLO’s readiness to give formal recognition to Israel.