Jewish Agency Officials Hopeful That Hungary Will Resume Flights

Jewish Agency officials were hopeful Tuesday that Hungary will soon resume charter flights carrying Soviet Jewish immigrants from Budapest to Tel Aviv.

The Hungarian state airline Malev halted them last week after it was threatened by the extremist Islamic Jihad with attacks on airports and aircraft.

But the Hungarian government apparently has taken a firmer stand against the Malev move.

“We are very encouraged by the strong position adopted by the government of Hungary against the decision of Malev to stop the flights,” Agency spokesman Gad Ben-Ari told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Israeli officials believe eventually the Hungarian government will convince the air carrier to resume the flights.

The differences between the Hungarian government and the state-owned airline, they feel, simply reflect the democratization process in Hungary.

Some of the optimism here derives from the knowledge that the United States has been pressuring the Hungarians to reverse the decision.

FIGHT OFF TERRORISM

Foreign Minister Moshe Arens told the Army Radio on Tuesday that Israel would turn to world public opinion, including Eastern European countries, to fight off threats of terrorism.

“We are trying to explain to Hungary, which has switched from a totalitarian regime to a democracy, that giving in to terrorism is not one of the characteristics of democracies,” Arens said.

Malev is not at the moment operating charter flights to Israel or carry immigrants on its regular flights to Tel Aviv.

The Jewish Agency has increased the number of El Al charters from Budapest to meet demand. El AL is operating almost daily charter flights from the Hungarian capital this week.

Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Poland announced Sunday in New York that Soviet Jews could use his county in transit to Israel.

Arens said Israel acknowledged the offer with “appreciation,” but did not say whether Poland would be used as an alternative route for Soviet immigrants.

In Washington, the United States praised Poland for its decision, and denounced Malev for stopping flights in the face of terrorist threats.

“We deplore the terrorist threats which have led to these decisions,” said State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler. “We believe a more appropriate course of action” would be to “provide the required levels of security.”

Robert Lifton, president of the American Jewish Congress, met Tuesday with Peter Varkonyi, the Hungarian ambassador to the United States and “pointed out the position taken by Poland was a courageous position, and did not contrast well next to Hungary’s position.”

Lifton called the meeting with Varkonyi an “open, warm and cordial exchange.”

NEXT STORY