NEW YORK (May. 3)
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl last week pledged continued support for Israel by a unified Germany, in an effort to soothe American Jewish concerns over the imminent merging of the two Germanys.
“Close and trustful political dialogue with Israel must — and will — be an essential clement of the Middle East policy pursued by a united Germany,” the chancellor said in an April 26 letter to Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International and chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The West German leader also pledged German commitment to Israel within the European Community.
Kohl said that while the E.C. is participating in efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli problem, “we also know that the right of self-determination of the Palestinians meets its limit where Israel’s right to exist is concerned.”
Kohl was responding to a March 16 letter from Reich, which raised the issues of a unified Germany’s support for Israel, material aid to Jewish victims of the Third Reich and educational programming for East German youths on the horrors of the Holocaust.
Of the three issues raised, Kohl responded only to the question of German political support for Israel, although B’nai B’rith sources claim “assurances were given by West German officials that the other issues would be addressed in a subsequent communication.”
Jewish concerns over reunification should be “impressively allayed” by the recent general election, Kohl said, noting that the People’s Chamber in the GDR declared in its opening session that the GDR asks “Jews all over the world for forgiveness.”
The East Germans have “overcome a dictatorship by peaceful means, and that in itself is a manifestation of their democratic maturity,” Kohl said.
The chancellor’s letter to Reich is his second communication in recent months to an American Jewish leader. It follows a somewhat irritated letter to Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had pressed for overt reassurances of German policy toward Holocaust education and programming.