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In wake of Knesset criticism, Croatian leader won’t visit Israel

JERUSALEM, Sept. 11 (JTA) – Croatian President Franjo Tudjman will not visit Israel in the near future, according to Israel Radio. Despite reports last month that Tudjman would come to Israel soon after the two countries established formal diplomatic ties, Israeli officials did not think the timing was appropriate, Israel Radio reported. Israel and Croatia forged these ties earlier this month, a move that drew criticism from some Jewish organizations and political figures. The establishment of ties came after Tudjman said he planned to visit Israel and apologize for his nation’s persecution of Jews during World War II. Tudjman’s nationalist policies are viewed by many as an attempt to rehabilitate the fascist Ustashe regime that ruled Croatia as a Nazi puppet state during World War II. He drew particular fire in 1996 by declaring that he wanted to rebury the bones of Croatian fascists at a Yugoslav-built memorial to the thousands of Jews and Serbs slaughtered at the Ustashe’s Jasenovac concentration camp. Croatia had 25,000 Jews before World War II, most of them prosperous and largely assimilated. Some 20,000 were killed by the Nazis or the Ustashe regime. The Israeli government’s decision to establish ties with Croatia came under sharp criticism earlier this month from Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin, who said Tudjman had yet to fully repudiate writings which cast doubt on the number of people killed during the Holocaust. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel has also joined the chorus of critics urging Israel to reconsider its ties with Croatia.

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