DUBLIN (Jun. 18)
President Chaim Herzog of Israel, on his five-day state visit to Ireland, changed what his hosts regard as a mainly ceremonial occasion into a platform for forcefully putting Israel’s case on Middle East and world affairs.
Departing from the non-controversial style of most Israeli heads of state, the President last night used a State dinner at historic Dublin Castle to launch into the kind of lengthy speech reminiscent of his period as Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.
His purpose is to counter what he termed the lack of perspective and distortion of the picture presented about Israel and about the Israeli-Arab conflict.
President Patrick Hillery of Ireland, Premier Garret Fitzgerald and other members of the Cabinet listened in polite silence as Herzog applied to the Palestinian issue the Irish government’s own formula for rejecting the use of terror and murder in Northern Ireland.
POSITIVE LINKS STRESSED
He also dwelt at length on the positive links between Israel and her neighbors, as well as the good relations between Jews and other communities inside Israel in contrast to the conflicts sweeping other parts of the area from Afghanistan and the Gulf to Sudan and the Western Sahara.
He reminisced about his childhood and early youth in Ireland and stressed repeatedly the historical parallels in Israel’s and Ireland’s struggles for independence and their common devotion to the democratic system.
“I grew up in the throes of the Irish struggle in which part of the Jewish community was involved,” Herzog said. “I personally had the privilege of participating in the struggle for our independence in Israel and I was very considerably influenced by our experiences in Ireland in the early formative days of the Republic.”
IRELAND PLAYS KEY ROLE
The President has adopted his high profile because of the Irish Republic’s key position on the political map. Besides being an active member of the United Nations and the European Economic Community, it is influential in the Third World and has its diaspora of some 40 million Americans and five million Australians of Irish extraction.
Before the visit there had been speculation that Herzog might press for the establishment of an Israeli Embassy in Dublin. But this now seems incidental to the grand themes adopted in his first major speech here last night, the first of four which he will make over the next three days.
He is also influenced by the fact that apart from a trip to Holland some 30 years ago, this is the first full State visit by an Israeli president to any Western democracy.
Hillery, addressing the 220 guests at last night’s Dublin Castle dinner, devoted his speech almost entirely to the achievements and patriotism of Ireland’s small Jewish community and to Irish-Israeli relations. Ireland and Israel have long histories, he said. “Our cultures and traditions are rich and ancient. As independent nations we are relatively young, but we share a deep respect for the democratic system which we cherish. Your visit,” he told Herzog, “reminds us of the bonds of friendship and goodwill which exists between Israel and Ireland.”