JERUSALEM (May. 12)
There were no tangible gains but also few strains to mar Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh’s historic visit to Israel on Friday.
Israelis were disappointed that the hoped-for announcement that Moscow was ready to resume full diplomatic ties did not materialize.
But neither did their fears that the highest-ranking Soviet official ever to visit Israel would hold Soviet Jewish aliyah hostage to Israel’s abandonment of settlement-building in the administered territories.
Before coming here, Bessmertnykh told reporters in Amman, Jordan, that he did “not rule out” that possibility.
But in his public statements here at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister David Levy and after his talks with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Bessmertnykh seemed deliberately to avoid repeating the threat or anything approaching it.
On the contrary, he assured the Israelis that Jewish emigration would continue unfettered, describing it as an aspect of the general democratization of Soviet society.
Amity, not calamity, was the tone of the Soviet diplomat’s brief sojourn here.
Bessmertnykh, in fact, seemed to take pains to avoid crossing swords publicly with Israel, while on Israeli soil, on any of the issues of dispute between the two governments.
He referred to these in general terms. Both he and Levy spoke of areas of accord and other areas “on which work still needs to be done.”
FUTURE COOPERATION DISCUSSED
Both men sought to project an evolving atmosphere of cooperation between their governments. They spoke of regular consultations in the future, of joint projects in scientific and techno logical areas and of Bessmertnykh’s visit here as a milestone toward full normalization of relations.
Shamir, reporting Sunday to the Cabinet on his own lengthy conversation with Bessmertnykh, said he had stressed to the visitor that there should be no link between aliyah and settlements. He pointed out that Israel is not directing the Soviet newcomers to live in the administered territories.
Shamir said Bessmertnykh underscored U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 as the basis of future peacemaking, to which the prime minister responded that Israel has its own interpretation of that resolution.
Shamir said he had stressed Israel’s objection to any role for the Palestine Liberation Organization in peace diplomacy, and to the participation of the United Nations in the proposed conference. The conference, he said, should not be an ongoing forum but a one-time event.
In an address Sunday to new immigrants in Jerusalem, Shamir spoke of Bessmertnykh’s visit as a “historic day.”
“For the first time in Israel, a guest of such seniority from the Soviet Union held political talks with representatives of the Israeli government, as equals among equals,” he said.