JERUSALEM (May. 26)
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was visibly shaken as she toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum here Sunday, the first full day of the first visit of an incumbent British Prime Minister to Israel.
Pausing at the photograph of a German soldier shooting a Jewish mother and her child, she exclaimed, “It is so terrible. Everyone should come and see it so that they never forget.” She added, “I am not quite sure whether the new generation really knows what we are fighting against.”
Noting that Jews were being slaughtered at the rate of 120,000 a day while the Holocaust was in progress, Thatcher observed that had the war lasted another year, the death toll would have been II million instead of six million Jews. She placed a wreath at the memorial to the Six Million.
The images of the Holocaust, she said, told her the horrors of the Holocaust “more than all the stories I have heard.”
CONCERN OVER LAGGING PEACE PROCESS
Thatcher arrived in Israel Saturday night, accompanied by her husband, Denis Thatcher. She was greeted at Ben Gurion Airport by Premier Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Knesset Speaker Salomo Hillel and other dignitaries. In remarks to reporters after she stepped down from a Royal Air Force plane, the British leader expressed concern that the peace process “appears to have lost momentum in recent months.”
“I don’t believe that is your wish or that of the moderate, far-sighted Arab leaders with whom I have talked in recent months,” she said, adding that she hoped her visit would help get the stalled peace process moving again.
Thatcher lunched Sunday with President Chaim Herzog who praised her anti-terrorist policies and said the Israeli people stood beside her in this. Herzog, who was born in Ireland, noted that the people of Israel have always distinguished between their feelings of respect for British tradition and the “less pleasant aspects of our tiesin the past,” a reference to Israel’s struggle for independence in the final years of British Mandate rule in Palestine. He expressed hope that her talks in Israel would help her better understand Israel’s problems.
Thatcher began her official talks at meetings with Peres and Shamir Sunday afternoon. Earlier, she breakfasted with Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, who expressed regret that Britain did not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over united Jerusalem.