JERUSALEM (Dec. 28)
Israel has received firm undertakings from key officials in the new Argentine government that no effort will be spared to establish the fate of Argentine Jews who were kidnapped and “disappeared” during the “dirty war” years under the military regime.
The commitment was made to David Kimche, Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, who represented Israel at the inauguration ceremonies for President Raoul Alfonsin in Buenos Aires earlier this month.
Kimche met with two senior officials in the Argentine Foreign Ministry and with leading legislators in the new parliament, including the powerful chairman of the foreign affairs committee.
Israeli sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they had few illusions that any of the “desaparacedos” were alive. But Israel felt it vitally important to establish details of their fate and, if possible, their places of burial. Some 2,000 Jews are estimated to have been among the many thousands of “desaparacedos” in Argentina. (The overall figure is variously put at 7,000-30,000 “disappeared ones.”)
ISRAEL HOPES TO SEND DELEGATION TO ARGENTINA
Meanwhile, the Alfonsin government has set up a prestigious commission, which includes two prominent Argentinian Jews, to investigate the entire tragic episode and Israel hopes, according to a leading Knesset member here, to be able to send observers to its proceedings.
Labor MK Uzi Baram, chairman of the Knesset aliya committee, told reporters this week of his hope that Israel could send observers. Baram has been involved in an ongoing effort to send a Knesset delegation to Argentina to look into the issue.
According to media reports here, the Foreign Ministry — and Premier Yitzhak Shamir who is also Foreign Minister — have opposed a Knesset delegation trip to Buenos Aires at this time and have sought to persuade the MKs to delay their visit.
The Foreign Ministry has recently come under criticism from a group of former Argentinians living in Israel, some of them relatives of “desaparacedos,” for alleged inaction on the issue. The ministry angrily denies these charges and maintains that its quiet diplomacy approach during the years of military rule was helpful.
Ministry officials recall that Shamir, visiting Argentina as Foreign Minister last February, raised the issue at the highest levels and submitted to the Argentine authority a list of some 300 persons about whom Israel sought specific information.