Genscher Visit to Israel Helps Ease Strains; but Differences Continue over Mideast Policies
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Genscher Visit to Israel Helps Ease Strains; but Differences Continue over Mideast Policies

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West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s 34-hour-visit to Israel eased long-standing strains with the Bonn government. But the political gap between the two countries over Middle East policy remained as wide as ever.

Genscher, who arrived Wednesday night and left Friday, made it clear that his country regards self-determination for the Palestinian people to be inseparable from a comprehensive peace in the region and reiterated Bonn’s adherence to the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Venice declaration of 1980. Israel’s Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who was Genscher’s official host, made it equally clear that Israel totally rejected that concept.

Notwithstanding the sharp differences, Genscher’s visit is believed to have improved relations between Israel and West Germany which soured because of Premier Menachem Begin’s personal attacks on Chancellor Helmut Schmidt just before Israel’s parliamentary elections last year and Schmidt’s persistent refusal to visit Israel despite an invitation extended seven years ago and periodically renewed.

Genscher invited Shamir to visit Bonn. The two men agreed to set up a joint economic commission to meet at regular intervals. Genscher also expressed support for the idea of joint EEC-Israeli-Egyptian economic projects as a way the European community could contribute toward bolstering peace in the region.

The Israelis were also pleased by Genscher’s expression of his country’s “sympathy and respect” for Israel’s sacrifices for peace, particularly its withdrawal from Sinai last April 25. He said Germany understood how hard the Israelis found it to cede territory replete with historic and strategic significance.


But Genscher’s remarks at his meetings with Israeli leaders, at a dinner given in his honor by Shamir Thursday night and at a press conference before his departure, dashed any hopes the Israelis may have had that the EEC might soon abandon or modify the Middle East policies set forth in the Venice declaration. Such hopes had been raised last week during the visit of Leo Tindemans, the Foreign Minister of Belgium and current chairman of the EEC Council of Ministers. Tindemans said that in light of developments over the past two years including the withdrawal from Sinai, he would recommend a re-evaluation of Europe’s Mideast policy.

Genscher, who will-take over the chairmanship of the Council of Ministers this summer, declared at the Thursday dinner that “Israel’s comprehensive security presupposes comprehensive peace in which all neighboring peoples are involved. The Palestinian people must not be omitted. Equality self-determination and security are as indivisible as peace in the Middle East.”

He maintained that the principles of the Venice declaration are still valid. They include “association” of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the peace process. Shamir bluntly rejected Genscher’s views. Responding to his dinner guest, he contented that “the practical meaning of this (Palestinian self-determination) is in effect the establishment of a PLO state between Israel and Jordan which will endanger both the existence of our State and the welfare of the entire region. Therefore, in our circumstances, we have to reject this demand out of hand.”

Shamir said that Israel rejects as well “the addition to the negotiations of a terrorist organization whose publicly and officially stated purpose is the destruction of the State of Israel. We trust that our friends will correctly understand that any explicit or implicit support for the PLO, whether by deed or declaration, lessens the chance of a dialogue with those many Palestinians who seek a path to coexistence with us.”


Shamir said that Israel watched with “tense” interest the debate in Bonn over the possible sale of advanced weaponry to Arab countries and had received “with satisfaction” official German assurances that no sales of tanks to Middle East states were contemplated. He was referring to Germany’s powerful Leopard II tanks which had been considered for sale to Saudi Arabia.

The Israeli minister warned that his government would continue “to oppose with all our might the furnishing of offensive weaponry to our enemies from whatever sources.” He expressed concern over outbreaks of racism in Germany, observing that “It happened on more than one occasion that those disseminating these slanders are cooperating with the Palestinian terrorist organizations … That which unites them is hatred for the Jews and for Israel.”

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