BONN (Jun. 19)
Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, here on an official visit, expressed shock and dismay Monday over the exceptionally strong showing of the right-wing extremist Republican Party in Sunday’s elections to the Parliament of Europe.
The Republicans, headed by a former member of the Waffen SS, Franz Schoenhuber, won 7.1 percent of the popular vote in the nationwide elections. They will probably have six seats in the Strasbourg-based parliament, which is the legislative body of the 12-nation European Community.
But in the opinion of observers of many political persuasions, a party of that ilk has no place in a democratic forum.
“We would have liked to think that such results were impossible in post-war Germany,” Arens told reporters. “It was a big disappointment for us.”
Schoenhuber ran on an anti-foreigner ticket. He clashed frequently with Jewish activists who challenged his views.
The West German authorities, meanwhile, continued to debate whether his party should be placed under surveillance by internal security agencies.
The Republicans were founded in Bavaria in 1984, the year of the last European parliamentary elections. They won 3 percent of the popular vote in the Bavarian state elections that year.
The party was considered inconsequential, overshadowed by other ultranationalist factions with racist, xenophobic messages.
But when it won 7.5 percent of the popular vote in the West Berlin municipal elections in January, the country and much of Europe took notice.
The gains made by the Republicans were raised at two meetings Arens had Monday. One was with the president of the Federal Republic, Richard von Weizsacker, a staunch anti-Nazi who has been a target of scurrilous personal attacks by Schoenhuber.
OVERSHADOWS PEACE PLAN
Arens also met with Hans-Jochen Vogel, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party.
The issue was discussed further at a meeting Arens had with members of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.
They told the Israeli minister they were very much concerned by the Republicans’ success. They assured him that the country was firmly under the control of the moderate, democratic parties.
The Bundestag members also vowed to combat right-wing extremism.
The Republican gains Sunday were particularly striking in Bavaria and Baden-Wurtemberg, both heavily Catholic states in southern Germany. In parts of Bavaria, Schoenhuber won as much as 15 percent of the popular vote.
There will probably be a concerted effort by the mainstream parties to stop him in the next general elections, slated for the autumn of 1990.
The European elections almost overshadowed the purpose of Arens’ visit, which was to win support for the Israeli peace plan, which calls, among other things, for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But the West German Foreign Ministry declared Monday that Bonn stands by its view that an international peace conference on the Middle East is the best way to make progress.
That statement indicated that the three-hour meeting Arens held Sunday with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher was of little avail.
The 12 European Community heads of state are expected to issue a new declaration on the Middle East at their summit conference in Madrid next week. Israel hopes it will at least partially endorse the Israeli peace initiative.
At his meeting with Vogel, Arens criticized the recent SPD decision to invite a high-ranking official of the Palestine Liberation Organization to attend an SPD conference in October.
Vogel was unimpressed. He maintained that the PLO has changed and that his party’s gesture is in Israel’s interests.