GENEVA (Oct. 1)
The Israeli charge d’affaires in Vienna recently had an unplanned encounter with the wife of Austrian President Kurt Waldheim at a concert hall.
The Israeli diplomat, Gideon Yarden, a lover of classical music, was occupying his reserved loge recently when Sisi Waldheim and her daughter Elizabeth entered and sat next to him.
When the concert ended, the president’s wife told Yarden, “What a shame, if only Kurt had known you would be here, he would have joined me. He is dying to meet you.”
The Israeli diplomatic mission in Vienna has gone out of its way to avoid Waldheim ever since he was elected president of Austria in 1986, following revelations of his Nazi past.
Israel did not replace its ambassador after his term ended, and its Vienna legation has been headed by a charge d’affaires ever since.
So far, Yarden has successfully avoided meetings with Waldheim, who has had few successes in breaking out of his diplomatic isolation.
Yet the Austrian president, who concealed his World War II service in a Wehrmacht unit charged with atrocities against civilians, has persisted in trying to make contact with Israelis. He reportedly has asked prominent Jewish families who still invite him to their homes to ask Yarden over at the same time. Yarden has refused.