BONN (Oct. 29)
Israel’s protest to the opposition Social Democratic Party for sending a delegation to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat in Tunisia last week was more than a pro-forma complaint.
Israel deeply resents that the SPD, a staunch friend since the era of former Chancellor Willy Brandt, is virtually begging Arafat to visit West Germany.
SPD Chairman Hans-Jochen Vogel reportedly approved the trip, despite repeated appeals by friends of Israel.
According to well-placed sources, the delegation’s main purpose is to convince Arafat to accept an SPD invitation to come to Bonn sometime soon.
But the PLO is apparently piqued at being unable to wrangle an official invitation for Arafat from the West German government.
The claim by PLO officials last week that the government was considering an invitation was promptly denied by a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
Nevertheless, Arafat’s top adviser, Bassam Abu Sharif, was received here Oct. 16 by the ministry’s political director, Jurgen Sudhoff, the highest-ranking West German official ever to meet with a PLO representative.
Observers here believe a possible invitation to Arafat was, in fact, discussed.
Arafat initially rejected an SPD invitation, sources here said, because no meetings would be arranged for him with the president of the Federal Republic, Richard von Weizsacker, or with Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The SPD delegation apparently hopes he will reconsider, arguing that by coming to Bonn, Arafat would have an excellent chance to influence German opinion.
The delegation consists of Peter Glotz, a former secretary-general of the SPD, and Heide-Marie Viczeureck-Zeul, an extreme left-wing activist with a strong anti-Israel record.
Political analysts say they were sent to Tunisia because the party has run out of foreign policy issues after its failed attempt to woo the ruling Communist Party in East Germany.