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Israeli Remarks on German Unity Confound German Friendship Group

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The German-Israeli Friendship Association and the German Jewish community have been embarrassed by some sharply negative reactions to German unification from Israeli leaders.

The association issued an expression of regret Friday over remarks by Dov Shilansky, speaker of the Knesset, that the unification of East and West Germany was an occasion for sorrow and concern.

Shilansky, a leader of Likud’s Herut wing, is a Holocaust survivor. According to Hans Koshnik, a prominent Social Democrat and vice president of the Friendship Association, that should be taken into consideration.

Nevertheless, Koshnik found Shilansky’s very disturbing. “The liberation of 17 million people from a Communist dictatorship should not be a cause for mourning. We hope that the younger generation in both Germany and Israel will draw closer and work together for a common future,” he said.

Friends of Israel were irritated last year when Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir spoke out against the possible unification of the two Germanys, drawing a stiff rebuke from Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The Jewish community supports unification, which became official Oct. 3.

But community leader Heinz Galinski has spoken out against the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents throughout all of Germany. He urged the German government to take vigorous measures against propaganda and hate campaigns of neo-Nazi groups.

Meanwhile, attention has been drawn to a controversy between two former Israeli ambassadors to Bonn over the appointment of Philip Jenninger to be Germany’s ambassador to Austria.

Jenninger, former chairman of the ruling Christian Democratic Union’s Bundestag faction, set off a controversy by a November 1988 speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Some of his remarks were interpreted as a justification rather than condemnation of Nazi excesses against the Jews.

Jenninger, who was forced to resign from the Bundestag leadership, insisted he had been playing the devil’s advocate.

One former Israeli envoy, Yitzhak Ben-Ari, welcomed his appointment to Vienna in a letter to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. In his letter, Ben-Ari praised Jenninger as a dedicated friend of Israel and a highly competent politician.

But former Israeli Ambassador Johanan Meroz disagreed. In a letter to the same newspaper, he accused Jenninger of lacking sensitivity.

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