TEL AVIV (Aug. 28)
American oil magnate Armand Hammer said here Wednesday night that he was convinced that only quiet diplomacy would open the doors of the Soviet Union to Russian Jewry emigration.
Hammer, who is to meet Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow next week, was speaking to reporters after receiving an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University.
He said he intended speaking to Gorbachev about permitting direct flights from Moscow to Tel Aviv to bring Soviet Jewish immigrants directly to Israel. “We want to stem the dropping out, so that Soviet Jews will see how Israel prospers before they make irrevocable decisions about settling elsewhere,” he said.
Hammer, 88, has been dealing with every Soviet leader since Lenin. He noted that the Soviets had permitted over 51,000 Jews to leave in one year — 1979–when the Carter Administration was pursuing its detente policy.
He said that Hungarian leaders had recently mentioned the feasibility of flights for Soviet Jews via Budapest to Israel. He said he had also heard Bucharest mentioned as a possible transit point.
Hammer said he was not taking any message from Prime Minister Shimon Peres to Gorbachev, but said he would tell the Soviet leader of Israel’s strong desire for peace.
Hammer said his business affairs in Israel would now concentrate on oil exploration. “If there’s oil here and my geologists say there is — my company will find it,” he said. Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who spoke at the University ceremony, made what was regarded as one of his most conciliatory statements to date about the Soviet Union, praising its role in fighting Nazism during World War 11, and stressing that the recent meeting between Soviet and Israeli officials in Helsinki had been sought by Moscow.
Shamir noted that Hammer was unique in that he was the only person who enjoyed friendship with both Vladimir Lenin and Menachem Begin.
Hammer said that while in the Soviet Union he would try to obtain data and evidence requested by Israel about suspected war criminal John Demjanjuk, believed to be the notorious “Ivan the Terrible” guard at the Treblinka death camp.
Hammer met before the university ceremony with Peres and reportedly discussed with him the laying of a gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel, a project in which the American oil tycoon said he intends to invest.