BONN (Feb. 1)
Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s visit to Israel has become a center of controversy here and a political issue that will be debated in parliament next week. The object of the visit was to further improve West German-Israel relations which had been severely strained in recent years.
But according to the opposition, Kohl succeeded in renewing friction by his blunt insistence while in Jerusalem that Bonn’s promise to sell advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia, a country still technically at war with Israel, is irrevocable.
Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is defending the arms deal. The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) claims that the Chancellor created unnecessary strains in relations with the Israelis.
They say the arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which Kohl stresses was initiated under the SPD government headed by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, was in fact rejected by the SPD, Therefore, there was no need for Kohl’s decision to go ahead with it on grounds that a promise once given cannot be broken, the opposition asserts.
CHARGE KOHL CREATED FALSE EXPECTATIONS
They also charge that Kohl created false expectations by assuring the Israelis that Bonn would protect their interests with the European Economic Community (EEC) and would consult with the U.S. before selling arms to the Saudis. The Israelis are worried about their agricultural exports to Europe after Spain joins the EEC.
Heinz Galinski, chairman of the Jewish community in West Berlin, joined in the criticism of the Chancellor. He said he was shocked by some of the remarks made by Kohl’s aides during the Israel visit which he found lacking in tact and constraint.
Even members of the CDU conceded that the intensity of Israel’s opposition to the Saudi arms deal was underestimated before Kohl went to Jerusalem. Bonn is waiting for a detailed exposition of the Israeli objections which, top government officials have promised, will receive careful consideration. But according to Kohl’s aides, this might influence the scope of the arms sales but will not alter the government’s determination to go ahead with the deal.
SAUDI SHOPPING LIST RECEIVED
Government sources have also confirmed that, reports to the contrary notwithstanding, the Saudi shopping list has a lready been received here, though negotiations over specific items have yet to begin.
Israeli diplomats say there is no question of negotiating with West Germany over which specific items they consider “especially dangerous. “Jerusalem is against the deal on moral grounds and that was made perfectly clear to the Chancellor at this meetings with Israeli leaders last week, the diplomats say.
Nevertheless, some newspapers here are speculating that the Israelis will mute their opposition if they are offered appropriate compensation — meaning German military hardware. The Israelis vigorously deny this but it is assumed that German arms sales to Israel, hitherto embargoed, will go through provided that it is done discreetly and without publicity.
In that event, however, the government will run into a strong opposition from the SPD. Observers say it wouId be impossible for Kohl to undertake secret arms sales to Israel without prior consultation with the opposition party.