TEL AVIV (Jan. 29)
The Israeli government is embarrassed by the remarks of Mattityahu Shmueevitz, Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, to a leading West German daily that Israel might launch a “pre-emptive strike” against Saudi Arabia if Bonn goes ahead with its planned arms sales to that country.
Shmuelevitz’s statements to the Jerusalem correspondent of Die Welt were widely publicized in West Germany during Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s five-day visit to Israel which ended today. Shmuelevitz and the Government Press Office initially denied that any such statement had been made. Later they acknowledged the statement but complained it had been taken out of context. Government spokesmen are trying to lessen its effects.
Efraim Lahav, the Die Welt correspondent, made available a transcript of the interview which he had taped. According to the transcript, he asked Shmuelevitz “could the supply of arms to Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries place Israel in a position where it could deal a preventive blow?” Shmuelevitz replied, “Yes, this would place us in such a situation. I’m saying this as a personal opinion.”
According to the interview published in Die Welt, Shmuelevitz went on to remind Lahav that he had predicted Israel’s pre-emptive strike against an Iraqi nuclear facility near Baghdad in 1981 which the Israelis claimed was producing atomic weapons.
Shmuelevitz, a top aide to Premier Yitzhak Shamir, also expressed grave misgivings over the projected arms sale and serious disappointment with Kohl’s visit and certain remarks by the Chancellor. He was rankled by the West German leader’s stress of Germany’s support for Israel’s right to exist. “We do not need this recognition and we ask no one to give it,” Shmuelevitz told Die Welt according to the published interview.
He added: “But we deny the right of others to annihilate us. I want to add to this, on our part, we were extremly open to accept the other Germany–even among people like me who lost their whole families in the Holocaust. We wanted to accept Germany as a democratic country, as part of the free world. I cannot say that the visit of Chancellor Kohl contributed toward that end.”
According to Die Welt, Shmuelevitz said France and England also should refrain from selling arms to the Arabs. But he noted that no one maintains there is another France or another England, as in the case of Germany.