NEW YORK (Jul. 19)
Yugoslavia and Hungary have moved closer to renewing diplomatic ties with Israel, according to World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman, who recently returned from meeting with the two East European nations’ leaders.
During meetings with Bronfman July 14-15, Yugoslav President Lazar Mojsov and Foreign Minister Raif Dizdarevic said the country is considering renewing ties with Israel, reported Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director. Although Mojsov did not say a renewal of the ties broken in 1967 was imminent, Steinberg noted that Yugoslavia has begun to normalize relations with Israel and the world Jewish community.
Bronfman’s visit received wide press coverage within Yugoslavia, which Steinberg saw as a significant positive sign in a Communist country. The warm reception was attributed in part to the enhanced image of Jews and Israel following revelations that Austrian President Kurt Waldheim ordered reprisals against both Yugoslav partisans and Jews while he served as an intelligence officer in German Army Group E during World War II.
Yugoslavia, a leader among non-aligned countries, has shown signs of reevaluating its longstanding pro-Arab policy in the Middle East, Steinberg said. Within the past four months, the Yugoslav press and parliament have openly criticized the one-sided Middle East policy.
Economic and commercial exchanges between Israel and Yugoslavia have also increased in recent months. Internally, Yugoslavia’s tiny Jewish community of about 6,000 enjoys internal freedoms to cultivate religious and cultural life as well as relatively free emigration.
In Hungary, Bronfman met with Janos Kadar, the Communist Party Chief and leader of Hungary, and other top officials.
Bronfman reported that Hungary and Israel have advanced considerably toward renewing ties, also broken in 1967, along the lines of Poland’s low-level exchange of diplomatic representatives with Israel, which commenced last year. Israeli officials have already met with their Hungarian counterparts to work out a similar agreement, Steinberg said.
Referring to other recent developments in East Europe-Israel relations, Steinberg said the WJC viewed the emigration of four Soviet Jews last week directly via Bucharest, Rumania, to Israel as “a feeler on the part of Moscow.” The rare flight followed the arrival in Jerusalem of a delegation of three Soviet officials ostensibly to check up on Soviet nationals and properties in Israel.