LONDON (Jan. 10)
The Israeli government disassociated itself tonight from a visit to Israel by hard line Protestant leaders from Northern Ireland. A statement by the Israel Embassy said that the visit, by five members of the Rev. Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, including two Members of Parliament, was “completely private” and that none of the meetings they held in Israel were sanctioned or approved by the Israeli government.
The statement was made following claims in Belfast that the delegation had had “every cooperation” from the Israeli government.
The Democratic Unionist Party said the delegation paid a six-day visit during which it met members of the Israeli government and opposition and visited the West Bank. They also toured the Lebanese border and spoke to manufacturers of frontier security equipment which they thought might be suitable for preventing terrorists from infiltrating across the Irish border.
The Israel Embassy here, which also represents Israel interests in the Irish Republic, is embarrassed by the visit for political as well as security reasons. It said tonight that Israel discusses security matters only with governments and not with private interests from foreign countries.
Unofficially, the Embassy is also worried that too close an association between Israel and Northern Ireland Protestants could provoke the IRA terrorists into actions against Israeli property or personnel, “I have enough on my mind without that,” an Israeli official said here.
The Northern Irish group visited Israel at the invitation of Labor MK Michael Bar Zohar, who was in Belfast last month.