BONN (Oct. 5)
The new West German coalition government headed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is expected to follow essentially the same Middle East policy as its predecessor government of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
But there is likely to be a moderation of the pro-Arab bias often displayed by the Schmidt regime and an emphasis on coordination of policy with the United States rather than on European intiatives, observers here believe.
Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Foreign Minister in the Schmidt government when his Free Democratic Party (FDP) was its coalition partner, will retain that post under Kohl. But friends of Israel within the new coalition formed by the CDU and FDP have expressed grave concern that Genscher plans to nominate his party colleague, Juergen Moellemann, to the office of Vice Foreign Minister.
They see this as a direct challenge to Israel because of Moellemann’s public expressions of anti-Israel views and his defense of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat. Moellemann owns a public relations firm said to have accounts in various Arab countries. He was a vigorous supporter of proposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Another candidate for Vice Foreign Minister is Alois Mertes, the CDU’s foreign policy spokesman when it was in the opposition. Mertes’ record is one of even-handedness in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In an interview with the German News Agency last week, just before the Bundestag voted to displace the Schmidt government, he said the new coalition will closely coordinate its Middle East policy with the U.S. and will view Israel’s security as an “absolute priority” arising from Germany’s past. However, Mertes criticized Israel for interpreting its security needs “in a way we cannot follow anymore.”
NO MENTION OF VENICE DECLARATION
The CDU-FDP principles for a Middle East settlement do not mention the 1980 Venice declaration by the European Economic Community (EEC) heads of state which called among other things for the “association” of the PLO in the Middle East peace process. Schmidt had been a strong supporter of the Venice declaration to which Israel vigorously objected.
But the new coalition will support President Reagan’s plan for Arab-Israeli peace, announced September 1, which upholds Palestinian rights but opposes a Palestinian state. The Reagan plan was rejected and denounced by Israel within hours after it was proclaimed.
REINSTATEMENT OF DIALOGUE WITH ISRAEL SEEN
Observers here believe Kohl will want to reinstate direct political dialogue with Israel’s leadership. It was in limbo for years because of Schmidt’s failure to accept a long-standing invitation to visit Israel and Premier Menachem Begin’s personal attacks on him during the Israeli election campaign of 1981.
But diplomatic sources in Bonn say Kohl’s attitude toward Israel is largely unknown. While he criticized Schmidt for not accepting the Israeli invitation, he himself failed to accept an invitation extended to him as a CDU leader. Unlike Schmidt, Kohl has never been to Israel. The new Chancellor, at 52, the youngest in West Germany’s history, has in fact had little experience in international affairs.
Some observers believe, meanwhile, that the new coalition will decide to remove West Germany’s self-imposed ban on weapons sales to countries in areas of tension, opening the way to a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Schmidt had favored the deal but was forced to abandon it because of opposition within his own party. The CDU-FDP coalition is not expected to encounter similar opposition from within its own ranks.