Special to the JTA Spain and Israel

For the first time in 500 years, Spanish national and municipal government leaders and other influential non-Jews are making substantial efforts to support and enhance the Jewish presence in their flourishing nation.

They also continue to strengthen their ties with Israel and to encourage Jews from abroad, notably from the United States, to forge new bonds of friendship with their fellow Jews in Spain.

Both the Socialist government and the opposition parties in the Parliament seem united in their desire to extend full diplomatic recognition to Israel, not-withstanding the fact that during an Arab conference held in Madrid in October, the Secretary General of the Arab League made strong representations to Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez that such an act would adversely affect Spain’s relations with the Arab world.

In recent interviews in Madrid with top Jewish leaders, it was indicated that the exchange of Ambassadors between Spain and Israel does not seem imminent. Such a step, they said, is closely linked to Spain’s projected entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) on January 1, 1986.

It appears that Spanish participation is dependent on the resolution of protests from EEC member-nations such as France, West Germany, Italy and even Israel, all of whom feel that Spain’s entry poses a serious competitive threat.

ISSUE OF SPANISH ENVOY TO ISRAEL

It had been reported from Bonn in October that a well-known Socialist political figure, Enrique Mugica-Herzog, might become the first Ambassador to Israel, if and when full diplomatic relations are launched. According to Samuel Toledano, head of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, Mugica-Herzog has a Jewish mother and Catholic father.

Toledano said that Mugica-Herzog “is held in high esteem by the Jewish community as a good friend of Israel and he would make an excellent Ambassador, but we have no definite news of his selection by the Prime Minister, and we must therefore consider the report as a rumor, and in any case, quite premature. We have every confidence, however, that we shall have a Spanish Ambassador to Israel within the next several months, and it may possibly be Mugica-Herzog.”

Meanwhile, it was noted by Jewish viewers who tuned in along with the rest of the populace to a nationwide television address in October on “The State of the Nation “by Prime Minister Gonzolez, that neither Israel nor the Middle East was once mentioned, although he covered a broad range of subjects. It was learned that the government, including the opposition parties, had decided in advance that it would be discreet not to discuss relations with Israel while the Arab League was holding its conference in Madrid.

As in many other countries, oil-rich Arabs are busy trying to get even richer by buying heavily into some of the largest Spanish banks and hotel chains.

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