TEL AVIV and JERUSALEM (Aug. 19)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir made it clear Tuesday night that if the Soviets want to send an official delegation to Israel to deal with consular matters and Soviet assets, Israel must also be allowed to send a delegation to the USSR.
He was assessing before a United Jewish Appeal mission in Jerusalem the 90-minute meeting Monday between Soviet and Israeli delegations in Helsinki, Finland. Shamir confirmed that the Soviets raised no issue other than sending a delegation to Israel for three months.
The Soviet conferees were not authorized, he said, to reply to Israel’s request to send a delegation to Moscow, but he noted that the request was not rejected. The Israeli delegation would deal with Jews there who hold Israeli citizenship. At the meeting, the Israelis stressed the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to join their families, urged the freeing of Jews imprisoned for Zionist activities and outlined Israel’s general views on the Middle East.
Shamir described the atmosphere of the meeting as “quite good” and expressed hope for future meetings.
A COLD BLAST FROM MOSCOW
Shamir’s assessment was contradicted by Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Gerasinow. He was reported to have said in Moscow Tuesday that the Soviets had no plans to continue consular talks with Israel and accused Israel of unjustifiably interfering in Soviet internal affairs with its requests regarding Soviet Jewry.
He said no agreement was reached in the Helsinki meeting on any matter, “not even an agreement about a possible future meeting. There are no plans for a continuation of this meeting.”
Officials in Jerusalem said earlier Tuesday that the opening of an Israeli consulate in Moscow was of utmost importance for reestablishing official links with Soviet Jewry.
PARAMOUNT ISSUE OF SOVIET JEWRY
Shamir made a similar point to the UJA leaders. “It is inconceivable that an improvement of relations between Israel and the USSR can come without a substantial change in their attitudes toward Soviet Jewry,” he said.
He added that Israel and Poland would open interest offices in Warsaw and Tel Aviv, respectively. “There are positive signals also from other East European countries,” he said.
Shamir had told Israel Television before press reports from Moscow were available, that the outcome of the talks was more or less what he had anticipated. He said continued contacts between the countries was possible, with the possible exchange of delegations by October. The Soviets and all Soviet bloc nations except Romania broke off relations with Israel in 1967.
Shamir said this first meeting between officials of the two countries “gave us the opportunity to put Israel’s viewpoint directly to the Soviet Union. We heard their requests.
“No new system of relations between the two countries could be forged at such a meeting, but they listened to us, and will transmit what we said to Moscow.”
Shamir said he presumed further contacts would occur. “There will certainly be discussions, within the Soviet Union and with Israel,” he said. “Both we and they will have to decide how to continue.”