BONN (Oct. 10)
A visiting group of Knesset members received assurances Tuesday from Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that united Germany will honor West Germany’s commitment to the existence and well-being of the State of Israel.
The visitors, who are all members of the Likud party, also received that promise from Rita Sussmuth, chairwoman of the Bundestag, the German parliament, and Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, who was president of the East German parliament and is now a minister in Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s conservative government.
The two women were in Israel together in June. They met with President Chaim Herzog, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial with him and Deputy Speaker of Knesset Shevah Weiss, and spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations.
Here, the Germans have sought reassurances of their own. They wanted to know if a remark last week by Knesset Speaker Dov Shilansky, also of Likud, reflects the views of many Israelis.
Shilansky, a Holocaust survivor, called the unification of the two Germanys a “day of sorrow and mourning.”
After Bergmann-Pohl and Sussmuth visited Yad Vashem, Weiss said he knew that the course of history could not be changed, but that Israelis had the right and perhaps even the duty to be concerned, in view of the enormous power of a unified Germany. At that time, Bergmann-Pohl said the East Germans accepted their share of the responsibility for the past, which the Communists had not been willing to do. She had said the free and democratic government of a united Germany would guarantee that the darkest chapter in German history would not repeat itself.
In counterpoint, the visiting Israelis have been deluged with questions about how their country intends to cope with and continue to control a large, hostile Arab population.
Tuesday’s questions pertained specifically to the violence that took place Monday on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
While statements by Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Party reflect acceptance of the official Israeli version that the violence was deliberately provoked by Arabs, the opposition Social Democrats have blamed Israel’s “iron fist” policy in the administered territories.
The situation in the Persian Gulf was another major subject of conversation between the Knesset members and their hosts. The Germans expressed respect for Israel’s display of restraint in the crisis.
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