DUBLIN (Jun. 23)
While the only tangible result of last week’s five-day state visit by Israeli President Chaim Herzog to his native land was the decision by the Irish government to abolish the need for visas for Israeli tourists, the Herzog visit was clearly a major success.
A senior Irish government official said it reflected the warmest friendship between Israel and Ireland and “enhanced our mutual friendship and respect.”
He added: “It achieved what we intended when inviting Mr. Herzog and we will now build on it and hope it will deepen our cultural, economic and political relations.”
‘FAMILY SPIRIT’ IS BOND
He also insisted that Herzog’s Irish connection had been only an additional reason for the invitation, adding, “on the state and personal level, we are happy it has gone as expected.”
The official said that the visit’s success had in one way been reduced by the controversy over the latest incident in south Lebanon involving Irish UNIFIL personnel and members of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
Such differences had been anticipated when the invitation had been made. Describing the Irish and the Israelis as outspoken people, he said that they enjoyed “exceptional friendship” and that it was “the family spirit that brings us together.”
HERZOG ENJOYS APPLAUDING CROWDS
From Herzog’s point of view, the success was evident in the crowds of applauding, smiling people who lined the streets on his walk-about last Thursday through the former Jewish district of Dublin where he grew up. He visited his late parents’ home and his old elementary and secondary schools, where a choir sang the national anthems of Ireland and Israel. He also opened a Museum of Irish Jewry in a former synagogue.
There was also applause for Herzog all over Dublin as his motorcade hurled past at high speeds, causing long traffic jams.
His success was also reflected in the friendly editorials published in the main Irish newspapers on the morning of his scheduled departure with his wife, Aura.
IRISH NEWSPAPERS PRAISE VISIT
The Irish Times, in a leading article, commended the Israeli President for having held his ground against the intense criticism of the previous few days and having done so with gravity and style.
Describing the Irish-Israeli relationship as valuable, the paper added: “It deserves to be nourished from both sides. The President was a welcome visitor. Ireland and Israel know each other better. The exercise has to be recorded as a genuine success.”
The Irish Independent, which only they day before had accused Israel of “arrogance, stupidity or ineptitude” in its south Lebanon policy, Friday commented that the Herzog visit had nonetheless concluded successfully.
Noting Herzog’s popular reception throughout the country and his ability to get on very well with people, the Independent expressed its appreciation of his praise for Ireland’s progress.
It added: “As an Israeli, President Herzog made a consistent effort to enlarge our horizons about the situation in the Middle East and to help us recall the daily violence which is killing scores of people every week in Lebanon … given the circumstances–over which the President has no control — his visit went off well. For a while we had among us a man born in Belfast, brought up in Dublin and now the head of a powerful and sorely-tested state.”