Israeli Officials Downplay Issue of Shultz’s Hostelry Plans While Visiting Israel Later This Month

Israeli officials dismissed reports Tuesday of widespread anger here over Secretary of State George Shultz’s plans to stay at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Herzliya instead of Jerusalem when he comes to Israel later this month.

Aides at both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry sought to ease tensions surrounding Shultz’s visit and that of French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, due on November 1. Chirac reportedly declined to meet Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem at the City Hall, preferring the non-political venue of a local theater.

Shultz’s plans were said to be tentative. One report Tuesday quoted State Department officials as saying he would stay in Jerusalem. In any event, Israeli officials insisted that the logistical arrangements for Shultz’s visit had no political overtones but were made solely with his comfort and convenience in mind. Nevertheless, it was pointed out that Shultz and other ranking American officials on past visits to Israel stayed in Jerusalem, usually at the King David Hotel.

Much of the uproar was generated by Likud-Herut MK Haim Kaufman, chairman of the Likud Knesset faction, who charged Tuesday that Shultz’s plan to stay at the Ambassador’s residence was a deliberate slight against the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“If this is the way Shultz relates to Jerusalem, what can we expect from him concerning the Israeli stance on Jerusalem if negotiations take place in the framework of an international conference attended by the five permanent members of the Security Council? What can we expect from the Chinese, Soviets, French and English?” Kaufman asked.

TENSION OVER CHIRAC’S PLANS

With respect to Chirac, Kollek warned Tuesday that he would boycott the French leader’s visit, the first by an incumbent Prime Minister of France. But the reports that Chirac would avoid Jerusalem’s municipal headquarters were attributed to his aides. The Prime Minister himself made no decision to boycott the Jerusalem City Hall for political reasons, Israeli sources said. No such reluctance has been expressed by members of his advance party, they said.

The sources noted that President Richard von Weiszaecker of the West German Federal Republic and other European political figures had always called on Mayor Kollek at City Hall and they expect Chirac to do likewise.

Shultz is due in Israel on October 15 or 16, his first visit to the Middle East since 1985. Sources here said he may make a quick trip to Saudi Arabia on the Saturday after his arrival and return to Israel after the Sabbath. He is also expected to visit Jordan and Egypt.

NEXT STORY