JERUSALEM (Sep. 15)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir said Thursday night that he expected full normalization of diplomatic relations with Hungary “soon,” but he could not say when.
Shamir spoke to reporters on his return from a two-day visit to Budapest. Although it was billed as a “private” visit, it included meetings with Prime Minister Karoly Grosz and Foreign Minister Peter Varkonyi.
Citing Grosz’s high standing among the Soviet bloc leaders, Shamir said the Hungarian premier would be a source of information for them about Israel’s positions on various matters.
“Hungarian Premier Grosz will tell (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev and others,” Shamir said, referring to positions he had articulated in Budapest. He observed pointedly that the Kremlin was “no longer putting out daily dogmatism” in its official references to Israel and the Middle East.
Shamir predicted the expansion and acceleration of trade and tourism between Hungary and Israel, saying their political differences would not stand in the way of improved bilateral relations.
As for future diplomatic ties, the premier expects them, but the Hungarians have not set a time frame.
At the moment, Israel and Hungary maintain interest sections in Budapest and Tel Aviv respectively, the lowest level of diplomatic contact between countries.
Shamir did not explicitly confirm reports that a direct air link would soon be established between Budapest and Tel Aviv. But he noted that 30,000 Israeli tourists visited Hungary last year.
Earlier, in a telephone interview with Israeli army radio from Budapest, Shamir disclosed that he had committed himself to sending teachers from Israel to the 80,000 strong Jewish community in Hungary, and to assisting the community in enhancing its cultural life.
He said the Hungarian authorities raised no objections.
POLITICAL PRIZE FOR SHAMIR
Political observers here are intrigued by the thought processes in Budapest — and presumably in Moscow — behind the invitation to Shamir.
It can hardly have escaped the notice of the Communist leadership that the visit will boost Shamir’s image as a statesman of moderation and wide international recognition during the final month of Israel’s fiercely fought election campaign.
The Labor Party, for its part, must deduce, or at least ponder the thought, that there is sympathy in Budapest for Shamir and his Likud bloc.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the Labor Party leader presently in London for talks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, noted some what lamely that he had been invited to Budapest two months ago.
But the timing of Shamir’s trip, just 46 days before the Knesset elections, cannot help but be seen here as a diplomatic coup for Likud.