Havel Confirms Plans for Prague to Be Way Station for Soviet Jews

Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel has reaffirmed his promise to let Prague serve as a way station for Soviet Jews immigrating to Israel.

Havel made the pledge Tuesday to Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives. He told Dinitz that Israeli officials could fly here shortly to work out the details.

Dinitz also obtained permission from the Czechoslovak authorities to open a WZO office in Prague, according to WZO officials in Jerusalem.

Dinitz, on a five-day visit to Czechoslovakia, was received by the president at the Prague Castle. He said afterward that they discussed a range of subjects, including the establishment of direct flights between Prague and Tel Aviv.

That issue and Czechoslovakia’s agreement to serve as a way station for Soviet Jewish emigres were discussed during Havel’s three-day trip to Israel at the end of April. But bureaucratic delays apparently prevented implementation of the plans.

The Czechoslovak leader, who was the first Eastern European chief of state to visit Israel, demanded “guarantees” that the newcomers would not be settled in the administered territories.

Dinitz’s visit, which began Monday, was widely covered in the local press, which referred to him as head of the WZO, as well as of the Jewish Agency. That appeared to signify that the longtime ostracism of the Zionist movement is over in newly democratic Czechoslovakia.

Dinitz said the aim of his trip was “to give new dimensions to Jewish-Czechoslovak relations after President Havel dissociated his country from the (U.N.) General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism.”

The former Communist regime in Czechoslovakia supported that resolution 15 years ago, Dinitz recalled.

After concluding official talks in Prague, the Jewish Agency chairman visited the former Theresienstadt ghetto and concentration camp Wednesday. He also addressed a meeting of the Prague Jewish congregation and the Society of Friends of Israel.

He stressed the importance of establishing new avenues of cooperation between Czechoslovakia and Israel, which resumed diplomatic relations in February, after a 23-year break.

JTA correspondent David Landau in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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