Western European nations, having criticized Israeli handling of Palestinian riots in the administered territories and Israeli deportation orders against nine Palestinians, seem to be considering renewed involvement in settling the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of West Germany will visit Syria this month and possibly Israel as well. West German diplomats say Genscher will explore whether and how the European Community could advance peace prospects. The EC has urged the convening of an international Mideast peace conference.
The heads of the 12 EC nations are expected to issue a statement on the Middle East at their special February meeting in Brussels. West Germany this month assumed the rotating chairmanship of the EC’s political institutions.
Delegations of Arab ambassadors have met with virtually every European government over the past weeks to demand strong condemnation of the deportations and the handling of the unrest.
And European criticism of Israel mounted this week. In The Hague, Israeli Ambassador Zeev Suffoth was summoned by Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Brock on Wednesday.
Van den Broek expressed his government’s “extreme concern” about the deportation orders issued against nine Palestinians Sunday and about Israel’s action in the territories in general. He also urged Israel to enter into an international Mideast conference.
The U.N. Security Council voted Tuesday to demand Israel to refrain from the deportations.
On Thursday, the French Socialist Party appealed to Israel to drop the deportations and “condemned the brutal oppression against demonstrators.” The party, led by President Francois Mitterrand, is France’s friendliest toward Israel.
The party’s executive committee noted that the deportations are “contrary to international law” and warned that transgression of the Geneva Conventions may adversely affect Israel’s image in France and Western Europe.
A fellow traveller, German Social Democrat Party leader and parliamentarian Hans-Juergen Wischnewski, also recently protested to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres over the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces during demonstrations by Palestinians.
Twenty-four Palestinians have been shot dead.
The highly publicized protest by Wischnewski, who heads the Middle East Committee of the Socialist International, was seen as a direct affront to a “brother party” in Israel.
A French investigatory commission also criticized Israel’s riot control in a report issued Wednesday night. Three French attorneys, headed by Jean-Louis Weil, a Jew, said that during their recent tour of the territories they saw dead and wounded hit by large-caliber bullets.
The commission, which is linked to various left-wing movements, claimed that many of those arrested “were severely beaten” before they were taken to court.
A British Foreign Office official, David Mellor, had said Monday during a tour of the Gaza Strip that conditions were “appalling” and “an affront to civilized values.”
Israel’s ambassador to Belgium and the EC, Avi Primor, reacted on Belgian radio Thursday with a message of understanding.
He said it was “normal” that Mellor was “shocked by what he saw in the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip” during his first trip to Israel.
But he added that Israel has “built new cities and new housing” in Gaza, “… but this move has been opposed for political reasons, by the Arab countries.”
He noted that the British supported the PLO-backed U.N. Security Council resolution Tuesday. “The British should make a decision: Do they want us to do something to improve the life conditions of these refugees, or do they condemn us for doing this?”
In Rome, the Vatican’s newly invested Latin rite patriarch of Jerusalem, Monsignor Michel Sabbah, a Palestinian, said last Friday that he could not foresee a speedy end to the tension in the Middle East.
(Contributing to this story were correspondents David Kantor in Bonn. Edwin Eytan in Paris, Yossi Lempkowitz in Brussels and Ruth E. Gruber in Rome.)