JERUSALEM (Feb. 27)
Franz Josef Strauss, the Prime Minister of Bavaria, arrived here last night on an official visit declaring himself to be a friend of Israel. “I will never do anything to harm Israel,” he said at welcoming ceremonies at Ben Gurion Airport where he was greeted by Ezer Weizman, a Minister-Without-Portfolio attached to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Strauss was seeking to defuse the anger expressed by Israeli leaders and Knesset members over his advocacy of the sale of West Germany’s sophisticated Leopard II tank to Saudi Arabia. He was received today by President Chaim Herzog and by Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel. His reception was “correct” but not “warm,” according to media reports.
He also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial where he placed a wreath. He is scheduled to meet this afternoon with Premier Shimon Peres, on whose invitation he came to Israel, and with Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir who will return from his current European trip before Strauss’ departure Friday.
INCENSED BY STRAUSS’ REMARKS
Many Knesset members declared they would boycott official receptions for the Bavarian leader who heads the rightwing Christian Social Union (CSU), a partner in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) coalition government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
They were incensed by remarks attributed to Strauss by a West German newspaper calling for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in order to provide work and jobs for Germany’s armaments industry.
CLAIMS REMARKS QUOTED OUT OF CONTEXT
Strauss said on his arrival that he had been quoted out of context by a West German trade paper last December in connection with an interview he gave last October. He stressed his role in “cutting through bureaucratic red tape” to provide Israel with West German technology.
He said he always opposed a Palestinian state on the West Bank — which brought him “death threats” from Arabs — and that he believes the greatest danger Israel faces is not the Arabs but the Persian Gulf war between Iran and Iraq which could trigger a world war.
Strauss had high praise for the quality of the Israeli army which he claimed could fend off any attack. He remarked that Israel’s fear of West German arms in Arab hands was like former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali fearing boxing gloves on the hands of a child.
Strauss also said that West Germany would participate in efforts to track down and capture Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz death camp doctor, the most notorious Nazi war criminal still at large. The Bonn government will do everything possible, he said, including a one million Mark reward for information leading to Mengele’s capture.