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Behind the Headlines Israel and the Soviet Bloc

Israel will resume diplomatic ties with Poland and Hungary before such ties are formed with the Soviet Union, according to political sources here. The sources noted that ties with Poland — at the lowest diplomatic level of “interest sections” in Warsaw and Tel Aviv — are expected to be established this month followed by similar relations with Hungary.

Poland’s resumption of diplomatic contacts with Israel was initiated by Warsaw, although this move apparently received the green light from Moscow, according to Israeli experts on Poland. That green light was given in the past week which, the experts noted, explains the delay in the implementation of the agreement in principle which was reached several months ago in talks between Israeli and Polish diplomats in Bonn.

The talks in Bonn followed those between Shamir and the Polish Foreign Minister at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last autumn. Officially, Holland will continue to represent the diplomatic interests of both countries.

As for relations between Hungary and Israel, the two countries have had relatively developed contacts for some time. Hungary, for example, has for the past three summers been a popular destination for Israeli tourists.

BREAKING THE DIPLOMATIC ICE

The pending resumption of relations with Poland and Hungary is seen here as part of an overall effort by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to break the diplomatic ice in Soviet bloc nations, without directly tying it to the scheduled Israeli-Soviet consular talks in Helsinki August 18 and 19.

The assumption here is that the USSR announced the talks a week ago — albeit in the context of discussing Soviet assets in Israel — as a sign that the Russians believe there may be some diplomatic movement in the Mideast soon. Moscow, according to this theory, does not want to be left out of the action.

Another diplomatic ice-breaker between Soviet bloc countries and Israel was the visit here at the end of last week by an emissary of Rumanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, who met with Premier Shimon Peres and Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir and reportedly urged them to agree to an international peace conference to be attended by all the parties concerned, including the Soviet Union and the Palestine Liberation Organization. (See related story.)

The mass circulation Yediot Achronot reported Sunday that EI AI was making preparations for direct Tel Aviv-Warsaw flights. Poland, like Hungary, is open to Israeli tourists.

According to reports over the weekend, Mordechai Palitzur will represent Israel in Warsaw. Twenty-five years ago, he served as Second Secretary of Israel’s Embassy in Warsaw. Until recently he served as Israel’s Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The timing of Palitzur’s departure to Warsaw, along with a number of staff members, depends on technical issues particularly finding suitable housing.

Yoav Biran, Deputy Director General of the Foreign Ministry, visited Poland two weeks ago to deal with those technical issues. He initiated work on the building that housed the Israel Embassy before Poland broke diplomatic relations in 1967. Israel has continued paying rent for the past 19 years.

A Polish delegation is also in Israel, for the same purpose, to resituate its office in the same building which served as its Embassy before the break in diplomatic relations — the building of the Polish bank on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.

In spite of the optimism in Jerusalem over these developments, sources stressed over the weekend that at this stage the ranks of representation by both Israel and Poland will remain at the low-level “interest sections.”

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