PRAGUE (Oct. 14)
The visit here by Israel’s president, Chaim Herzog, is clearly a celebration of the friendship and good will restored between Czechoslovakia and the Jewish state since the collapse of Communist rule.
In the first visit by an Israeli head of state, Herzog arrived Sunday evening with no government ministers in his entourage. Nor is he expected to sign documents concerned with relations between the two countries.
He will, however, participate in Holocaust memorial events, which have been scheduled in the Czech and Slovak republics during his week-long stay.
His host, Vaclav Havel, visited Israel last year. Herzog returned that visit by paying an official call Monday morning on the Czechoslovak president.
The Israeli chief of state was introduced to the public on a special television program upon his arrival. It depicted the Irish-born Herzog as a World War II soldier, a former Israeli general, a diplomat, writer, journalist and politician.
In a television interview, Herzog recalled the importance of the arms deliveries and military training the Israelis were given by Czechoslovakia in their war for independence in 1948.
He spoke frankly of the former Communist regime’s hostility toward Israel after the 1967 war and of the renewal of diplomatic ties following the restoration of democracy in Prague in 1989.
Herzog also spoke of Israel’s unwillingness to rely for security solely on promises and declarations of good will from abroad.
The Israeli president will participate in the unveiling of a memorial tablet in Prague on Wednesday on the 50th anniversary of the first deportation of Jews from the Nazi-occupied capital.
The destination of the first four transports was the Lodz ghetto in occupied Poland. But after Nov. 24, 1941, most deportees from Bohemia and Moravia were sent to the Terezin concentration camp.
Herzog met Monday with the federal prime minister, Marian Calfa; the premier of the Czech republic, Petr Pithart; and the chairwoman of the Czech Parliament, Dagmar Buresova.
His agenda includes a meeting with Alexander Dubcek, chairman of the National Assembly, who as Czechoslovak leader in 1968 defied the Soviets and prompted the harsh Soviet invasion. Herzog will also visit the Slovak republic capital of Bratislava.