TEL AVIV (Jul. 14)
Israeli officials were checking reports Tuesday that Soviet authorities will henceforth allow Jewish emigrants to fly directly to Israel via Rumania, by passing Vienna, the usual transfer site.
Israeli media were speculating meanwhile that the current visit by a three-man Soviet consular mission to examine the status of Soviet nationals and Soviet property in Israel was in fact a test by the Kremlin of Arab reaction to a possible improvement in Soviet-Israel relations and had far greater political significance than officially stated by both countries.
Haim Aharon, head of the Jewish Agency’s Aliya Department, said Tuesday that the Rumanian government has agreed to allow Soviet Jews to travel to Israel via Bucharest. But it is not yet known whether Moscow is ready to change its policy on direct flights, Aharon told Voice of Israel Radio.
There has been a flurry of rumors that a group of Jews would arrive this week or early next week from Odessa via Bucharest. Both El Al and the Rumanian airline Tarom maintain regular flights to Tel Aviv.
RUMORS OF PROMINENT REFUSENIKS
Aharon said he heard that two prominent refuseniks had received permission to fly to Israel via Bucharest. But this was less a breakthrough than a Soviet “public relations ploy,” he said.
Officials here said if reports of direct flights are true, it remained unclear whether all Jews leaving the Soviet Union would be allowed to use them or only Jewish emigrants from the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Soviet Georgia which are closer to Bucharest than to Vienna.
Israel has been pressing for direct flights because the great majority of Soviet Jews travelling via Vienna do not come to Israel.
Haaretz quoted the Foreign Ministry’s Political Director General, Yossi Beilin, Tuesday that “Only a blind man can ignore the numerous signs indicating an important improvement in the Soviet attitude toward Israel, whether in the rise in the number of immigrants from the Soviet Union since January, the release of all ‘Prisoners of Zion,’ contacts for the establishment of interests sections in other Eastern European countries, and so forth.”
“However,” Beilin said, “we are not prepared to accept these signs as a response to our central demands.” He added that it is possible that by dispatching a delegation to Israel, “the Soviets want to study the reaction in the Arab world. If they see that they can live with this reaction it is conceivable that they will try to institutionalize the delegation and leave it permanently in Israel, perhaps as a base for a future embassy,” Beilin said.
EXPECTS RECIPROCAL TRIP
Beilin disclosed that Israel granted the Soviet delegation visas “with the understanding that a similar Israeli delegation would reach the Soviet Union within a reasonable period of time,” Haaretz reported. He said he expected that “We will soon receive a green light from the Russians to dispatch an Israeli consular delegation.”
Hadashot reported Tuesday that the Soviet delegation might serve as a base for a diplomatic delegation in Israel. It quoted Foreign Ministry sources as saying they might request an extension of their visas and turn their temporary office in Ramat Gan into a permanent legation.
Al Hamishmar reported Tuesday that Israel will soon approach the Soviet Union through the Dutch Embassy in Moscow — which handles Israeli interests there — to request visas for an Israeli consular delegation.
The Soviets meanwhile have stopped jamming Hebrew language broadcasts of Voice of Israel Radio. Broadcasts in Russian, Georgian and Bukharan are still being jammed. Officials here are not certain whether the halt in jamming reflects a new policy or is an isolated incident. Victor Grajewski, director of Voice of Israel’s foreign services, said Monday that it was not the first time the Soviets stopped jamming Hebrew broadcasts. In the past they renewed it after three or four days, he said.
Earlier this year, the Soviets ended their long-standing jamming of Voice of America and BBC radio broadcasts to the Soviet Union.