JERUSALEM (Jul. 4)
Israeli officials took two steps today clearly aimed at improving relations with the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries, none of which, with the exception of Rumania, have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir sent a cable to Eduard Shevardnadze, congratulating him on his appointment as Soviet Foreign Minister. President Chaim Herzog sent a “warm message” to Andrei Gromyko, who has been promoted to be President of the Soviet Union, after setting a record of more than two decades as Soviet Foreign Minister.
Yediot Achronot reported today that contacts between Israeli and East European diplomats have intensified recently, with the latter indicating a possible improvement in Soviet-Israeli relations. Shamir told the Knesset yesterday that Israel hopes that, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union would change its policy toward Soviet Jews who want to emigrate. Shamir was commenting in reply to a motion from Mirium Glazer-Tasa, a Likud member who is chairman of the Knesset’s Aliya committee. She noted that only 36 Jews — a new monthly low — left the Soviet Union in June and she urged the government to permit no easing of activity on behalf of Soviet Jews.
Shamir also recalled that the new Soviet President, then Foreign Minister Gromyko, voted at the United Nations in 1948 for the General Assembly recommendation to create a Jewish State and an Arab state. Shamir said Gromyko often recalls his vote with pride.
Herzog wrote Gromyko that his election as Soviet President “is one more step in a distinguished career, parts of which are enshrined in the hearts of the people of Israel.” This was understood to be a reference to the Soviet Union’s support for the UN recommendation and for the creation of Israel in 1948.
A number of Jewish intellectuals from Soviet Georgia reportedly have fond memories of the new Foreign Minister who had been Communist Party chief in Georgia. They recalled he had a sympathetic attitude toward the ideals of Jewish people-hood and Jewish national aspirations.