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Spanish Leader Visits Israel 500 Years After the Expulsion

Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain participated in ceremonies here Monday marking the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Spanish Jewry.

He was the guest of President Chaim Herzog at the presidential residence following talks with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister David Levy.

Gonzalez, on the first official visit to Israel by a Spanish head of government, told the gathering that one “must learn from the past in order to build a more just future.”

He spoke of Spain’s yearlong program of seminars, exhibitions and cultural events commemorating the quincentennial of Christopher Columbus’ voyages of discovery.

Columbus’ expeditions coincided with the expulsion of the Jews. Herzog referred to the “Golden Age” of Spanish Jewry, which ended 500 years ago but continues to have a profound influence on the Jewish people to this day, he said.

He also paid tribute to the efforts by Spanish officials to save Jews during the Holocaust, even though the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco was aligned with the Nazis.

Gonzalez, whose country recently hosted the first round of the Middle East peace talks, visited the Knesset earlier Monday. He told the lawmakers that peace must bring Israel security but must also guarantee the rights of other people, including the Palestinians.

At their meeting, Shamir thanked his guest for the hospitality extended him by Spain when he headed the Israeli delegation to the talks in Madrid. Gonzalez said he was proud of the Spain’s role in the search for Middle East peace.

The Spanish prime minister promised Levy his country would support Israel’s bid for closer association with the European Community.

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