JERUSALEM (Oct. 14)
The Soviet Consular delegation in Tel Aviv has been granted a formal three-month extension of its original three-month visa to Israel.
Observers say this means, in effect, that the eight Kremlin officials have become a semi-permanent presence in Israel, and thereby constitute a step toward eventual restoration of normal diplomatic ties.
Last month, Israel refused Moscow’s proposal that the two countries exchange permanent interest offices as Israel has recently done with Poland and Hungary.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Vice Premier Shimon Peres both felt that the USSR, unlike its satellites, can afford to offer a higher-level form of representation — and should be required to do so.
The Soviet team in Tel Aviv — three diplomats and administrative staff — has clearly completed any consular tasks it ostensibly came here to perform, given the minute size of the Soviet-citizen community in this country (a few dozen monks and nuns) and the relatively small amount of Soviet-owned property here.
The second three-month term will therefore, presumably, be able to focus on reporting to Moscow on trends in Israeli politics and society.
Observers here note, however, that the Soviet diplomats have been slow — so far — to seek out social contacts with Israeli politicians and officials.