Kohl is Reluctant to Speak out on the Mideast Situation

Chancellor Helmut Kohl has studiously refrained from public statements on the Arab-Israeli conflict since taking office October I because he believes they would have an adverse affect on diplomacy. His reticence on the subject is in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who was often outspoken in his criticism of Israeli policies and frequently stressed the need for a comprehensive solution of the Middle East crisis.

An aide to Kohl, who heads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said the Chancellor’s approach is that the more said in public about the Middle East conflict, the less chance there is to resolve it. Kohl knows that any statement on highly sensitive issues would be carefully scrutinized by both Israelis and Arabs. To avoid antagonizing either side keeps open the channels of communication and makes it possible to stay on “speaking terms” with both.

Kohl dodged a question on the Middle East at his first press conference and avoided the Arab-Israeli conflict in his review of world problems in his first address to the Bundestag as Chancellor. Similarly, he did not discuss the subject at the recent Franco-German and Anglo-German summit conferences.

But sooner or later he will have to speak out Kohl’s aide said security for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinians remain the principles of Bonn’s Middle East policy. They were laid down in the platform published by the CDU-Free Democratic Party coalition. But the new government’s view is that these goals can best be achieved by supporting American diplomatic efforts rather than European initiatives which are unrealistic.

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