Prime Minister Robert Hawke of Australia said here that his government is studying reports that many former Nazis and SS officers have found refuge in Australia.
The reports, submitted by Jewish groups, concern alleged Nazi war criminals who immigrated to Australia after World War II. “We will undertake whatever steps are necessary,” Hawke told reporters. (See Related Story.)
The Australian leader is on a three-day visit to Israel, the first ever by a Prime Minister of Australia. He arrived from Jordan where he had meetings with King Hussein.
At a dinner in his honor at the Knesset Tuesday night, Hawke called for Palestinian self-determination. However, he said he had the impression from his visit to Jordan that a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation was a widely supported solution to the Palestinian problem.
‘DIFFERENCES AMONG FRIENDS’
Hawke, who heads a Laborite government in Canberra, acknowledged that his views on the Palestinians are not generally shared by Israelis. He spoke Wednesday of “differences among friends.” He told the newspaper Davar that those differences did not cloud relations between Israel and Australia.
In fact, Hawke’s remarks on the Palestinian issue were carefully worded and followed close consultations between his aides and the Foreign Ministry in Canberra. They also reflected his private conversation Tuesday with President Chaim Herzog who urged his guest not to issue a direct call to Israel to support a Palestinian state, as apparently he intended to do originally.
Nevertheless, Hawke is regarded as a staunch friend of Israel. He was introduced in the Knesset Tuesday by speaker Shlomo Hillel as a “long-time friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.” Hillel also expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome Herzog received when he visited Australia last year.
Hawke had a private meeting Tuesday with Premier Yitzhak Shamir. He reportedly stressed his impression that Jordan’s King Hussein is earnestly seeking progress in the peace process “but needed the international umbrella” of a peace conference which would include the participation of the Soviet Union and the United States.
BILATERAL TRADE DISCUSSED
On the bilateral level, Shamir and Hawke agreed to establish a joint committee to promote trade between their countries and particularly to try to increase Israeli imports of Australian coal and exports of industrial goods to Australia. Figures released here last week by Israel’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry showed that Israel enjoyed a favorable balance of trade with Australia in 1986. Israel’s exports to Australia totaled $57 million against imports of $51 million. Exports to New Zealand totaled $5.7 million compared to only $500,000 of imports.
According to the report, Israel’s exports to New Zealand grew by 17 percent last year but there was a three percent decline in exports to Australia. That was attributed to the decreased value of the Australian Dollar against the U.S. Dollar. Israeli exports to Australia include chemicals, irrigation equipment, medical supplies, and polished diamonds. Israel buys coal and wood from Australia.
Hawke, who is accompanied by his wife, Hazel, spent an hour at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Tuesday where they placed a wreath. The Prime Minister observed: “If anyone wants to understand the commitment of the Jewish people to the State of Israel and their commitment to ensuring that Israel will have the right to exist behind secure and recognized boundaries, one only has to come to the Yad Vashem to understand.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.