Repercussions in England over Begin’s Attack on Schmidt
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Repercussions in England over Begin’s Attack on Schmidt

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Anglo-Jewish leaders, assembled here to mark Israel’s Independence Day, deliberately withheld comment on Premier Menachem Begin’s controversial attacks on West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, even though many of them are privately appalled about the damage this has done to Israel’s already tattered image in the British press.

Instead, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, at a special Independence Day session, warmly applauded a defiant speech by Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov who said that Begin was entitled to “express dismay” at Schmidt’s attempt to put his country’s debt to the Palestinian Arabs on the same level as its debt to the Jewish people.

Schmidt’s remarks, Argov said, were “part of an attempt to call into question the legality of Israel and to promote an alleged settlement of the Middle East conflict that would be calamitous for the Jewish State.”

Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi-hunter, in an earlier speech to the Board, refused to be drawn into the Israeli-German controversy. He claimed that except for the Israeli Premier’s personal attack on Schmidt, there was no difference between Begin and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres in their statements about West Germany’s Middle East policy.


One reason why Begin’s denunciation of Schmidt has gone down so badly here is that the Chancellor is one of the most popular foreign leaders in this country.

Denis Healey, the opposition Labor Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, last week accused Begin of seeking votes through “the ruthless exploitation of greed, chauvinism, and racialism.” Begin’s behavior, he told Parliament, could only isolate Israel from the rest of the world.

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