JERUSALEM (Jun. 9)
Israel manifested its displeasure over the election of Kurt Waldheim to the Presidency of Austria by calling its Ambassador in Vienna, Michael Elitzur, home Monday for “urgent consultations.”
President Chaim Herzog, at the same time, refrained from sending Waldheim the standard message of congratulations that one head of state normally sends to another just elected to office.
Israelis of all political persuasions were plainly angered by Waldheim’s sweeping victory in Sunday’s run-off elections despite a growing body of evidence that the former United Nations Secretary General may have been directly involved in atrocities while serving as an intelligence officer with the German army in the Balkans during World War II.
UNLIKELY AMBASSADOR WILL BE REPLACED
The decision to recall Elitzur was announced after a meeting between Premier Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yirzhak Shamir. Elitzur will be ending his tour of duty in Vienna next month and there is a strong likelihood that he will not be immediately replaced.
The man believed slated to succeed him is Avi Pazner, long-time media spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. He is a close associate of Shamir who made no secret of his diplomatic efforts in Europe in recent weeks to thwart the election of Waldheim.
There have been many calls for Israel to sever diplomatic relations with Austria and these were echoed by the moderate independent daily Haaretz Monday morning. MK Yossi Sarid of the left-leaning Civil Rights Movement said “No Israeli envoy should ever have to present credentials to Kurt Waldheim.”
AUSTRIAN CONFIDENT OF ‘CORRECT’ RELATIONS
Austria’s Ambassador to Israel, Otto Pleinert, sought to ease Israeli anger in an interview with the Itim news agency here Monday. He said he was sure relations between the two countries would remain “correct” despite the strong feelings against Waldheim.
He pointed out that the Presidency of Austria is largely a ceremonial office and that until the next parliamentary elections a year from now, Austria will continue to be governed by the Socialist government of Chancellor Fred Sinowatz, a long-time friend of Israel.
(Sinowaiz announced his resignation Monday. A report from Vienna said he had been under increasing pressure to do so following Waldheim’s election. The report said he would be succeeded by the present Finance Minister, Franz Vranitzky. Sinowatz will continue as leader of Austria’s Socialist Party until the general elections in April 1987. Vranitzky, a banker, was described as a member of the Socialist Party’s right wing.)
The daily Yediot Achronot urged Monday that Israel continue to probe Waldheim’s alleged Nazi past before he is sworn into office next month. “It might not be too late to reverse the election result if firm evidence were put together,” the paper said.
The Jerusalem Post criticized the World Jewish Congress and, to some extent, the Israel government for waging a campaign which predictably “helped Waldheim’s supporters to revive the ghost of a world Jewish conspiracy.”
The Post advised Israel to head President Herzog’s advice Sunday to react with caution, not anger to Waldheim’s election and decide the matter on the basis of what is “good for the people of Israel and the government of Israel.”