Bronfman and Hungarian Leader Discuss Israel, Hungarian Jewry

The state of Hungarian relations with Israel and world Jewry was among the subjects discussed Sunday night at a meeting between World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman and visiting Hungarian leader Karoly Grosz.

Three hours of what were described as “intense discussion” took place over a kosher dinner at the Manhattan apartment of industrialist Bronfman, who is also chairman of the board of Seagram and Sons.

WJC Executive Director Elan Steinberg, who was present at the meeting along with Israel Singer, the organization’s secretary-general, said the two men “discussed the role that Hungarian Jewry now plays as a bridge between East and West, and Grosz agreed with that.”

Steinberg described the tone of the meeting as “constructive, positive and helpful,” and said it “continued the process between Hungary and world Jewry and Hungary and Israel.”

Hungarian Jews have been experiencing ever greater freedoms and a strong sense of identity recently, while Hungary appears to be stepping up its currently low-level diplomatic ties with Israel, re-established last September, 20 years after Budapest severed relations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres held previously unannounced talks with Grosz in Budapest on May 8 and 9, two weeks before Grosz took over Hungary’s top position from veteran leader Janos Kadar.

Steinberg said the subject of full diplomatic relations between Israel and Hungary was discussed Sunday night, but that the issue would be left to the two countries themselves.

Grosz, who is on a 10-day visit to the United States, has been holding meetings with top bankers and financial leaders in the United States, as Hungary moves toward what are described as radical economic reforms that will open the country to a greater infusion of Western capital.

AN INDEPENDENT THINKER

Grosz will meet Wednesday with President Reagan, Vice President George Bush and Treasury Secretary James Baker. He will meet with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan on Tuesday, as well as with officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Grosz met Monday with former President Nixon and was scheduled to meet in Boston with Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis.

Also discussed at Sunday’s meeting with Bronfman were Soviet Jewry, the Middle East, the state of Hungarian Jewry, East-West relations in general and “the whole range of international problems,” Steinberg said.

The WJC official said the participants were impressed by Grosz’s “assertiveness and his independent thinking.”

Among the subjects placed on the table was the delicate state of Hungarian-Romanian relations, recently upset by Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s stated intention of razing several thousand villages in Transylvania, a large region that now is part of Romania, but which until World War II was a legendary part of Hungary.

Bronfman met with Ceausescu at the end of June to discuss the situation of Romanian Jews. He is probably the only leader to have met with both the Hungarian and Romanian leaders since the unusual split between the neighboring countries came about.

Steinberg said the discussions between Bronfman and Grosz could be seen as part of a “general relaxation between East and West. There is a general change in the political atmosphere which has moved the Soviet Union and East bloc toward the realization that they cannot play a role in the Middle East without relations with Israel.

“On the other hand, the World Jewish Congress has made it clear to them that the East bloc cannot normalize its relationship with world Jewry, in general, and more specifically thereby with the West and the United States, without normalizing its relationship with the State of Israel. It cannot divide world Jewry from the State of Israel.”

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