JERUSALEM (Nov. 25)
President Chaim Herzog announced Tuesday that he will make a State visit to West Germany early next year. It is intended to reciprocate the visit to Israel last year by West German President Richard von Weiszacker.
According to the announcement by Herzog’s office, he will “imbue the visit with the symbolic and educational content of yizkor (remembrance) in order to strengthen world awareness of he Holocaust which has been fading.”
Herzog’s military aide, Col. Ami Gluska, said the focal point of the trip would be a gathering at the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which will give the President’s visit its historical context.
VISIT PRODUCES MIXED REACTIONS
The announcement produced mixed reactions. Some public figures questioned the propriety of Israel’s chief of state visiting the country where the Holocaust was conceived. The President’s office said Herzog had consulted with senior ministers and the trip was approved unanimously by the Cabinet.
Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres vigorously defended Herzog’s plans Tuesday. He said Israel’s relationship with Germany had to be forward looking while never forgetful of the past. “If we want to have normal relations with a country, there have to be reciprocal visits at various levels,” Peres said.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir, meanwhile, came to the defense of Herzog’s two-week tour of Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka which ended last week amid controversy. Shamir said critics of that trip spoke from ignorance. The President, he said, succeeded in bringing Israel’s message to an important part of the world where it had not been heard.
Shamir’s remarks were an indirect swipe at Likud Liberal MK Pinhas Goldstein, who charged that Herzog’s trip was poorly planned and that the President was inadequately briefed by his aides and the government. He was referring to political embarrassments encountered by Herzog in Australia and New Zealand and anti-Israel demonstrations that greeted him in Singapore.
Goldstein introduced a Knesset motion to debate the planning of the trip. Shamir lunched with Herzog on Monday and received a first-hand report on the President’s journey. Herzog will brief the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on his trip next week.