MOSCOW (Oct. 30)
A high-level Soviet official maintains that the future of peace in the Middle East is now squarely up to Israel.
Gennady Gerasimov, chief spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, also insists that Soviet support of the latest Arab attempt to oust Israel from the United Nations did not reflect a hardening of the Soviet attitude toward the Jewish state.
“Not at all,” Gerasimov told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here last week. He was referring to the Soviet vote at the United Nations on Oct. 18 in favor of an Arab move to have the 43rd General Assembly reject Israel’s credentials.
It was defeated by a 95-41 vote, one of the largest margins since the Arabs first attempted the maneuver in 1982. The Israelis were elated by the results, but disturbed that the Soviets continued to vote along with the Arab bloc.
“This particular event shows on the contrary that we did not change our position. We supported the Arab demand on expelling Israel all along and we did it again this year,” Gerasimov said. He added, “That has been our traditional attitude.”
The Israelis were told at the United Nations that a change in the Soviet voting pattern would occur only when an international conference for Middle East peace is convened.
According to Gerasimov, the fate of such a conference and a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict now depends largely on the results of Israel’s parliamentary elections Tuesday.
WILL EXTEND VISAS
In his opinion, it is up to Israel to adopt a realistic approach and to make the conference possible. He does not think a further change in the Soviet attitude is necessary to allow this to happen.
Gerasimov confirmed that the Soviet government would extend the visas of a five-member Israeli consular delegation that came to Moscow last summer, the first diplomatic mission on any level to visit the USSR in 21 years.
But the official was adamant that the Israeli delegation is severely limited as to its activities.
While it may inspect the building on Bolshaya Street that housed the Israeli Embassy before Moscow broke diplomatic relations with Israel in 1967, there is no question of allowing the team of diplomats to use the building for any purpose.
“I do not think so. No, we won’t do it,” Gerasimov told JTA repeatedly.
Gerasimov stressed that the Israeli delegation came here for specific, limited purposes and its status has not changed.
He denied reports in the Israeli news media that the delegation has met members of the Foreign Ministry’s political staff. The Israelis’ contacts have been limited to officials in the consular and technical departments, Gerasimov said.
That was confirmed by Meron Gordon, head of the Israeli delegation, who was interviewed by JTA at his hotel.
Gerasimov would not say whether he would be prepared to receive members of the delegation if they asked for a meeting.
“The fact is that they didn’t,” he said. “They did not apply.”