Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, ending a three-day visit to Germany and the first-ever visit by an Israeli prime minister to Berlin, called on European countries to contribute to the Middle East peace process by ending their compliance with the Arab economic boycott of Israel.
Rabin, who met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other leaders in Bonn on Monday before attending a session of the Socialist International here Tuesday, also warned Germany and other countries of the possible consequences of current racist violence.
And he expressed optimism that a peace settlement could be reached in the Mideast.
“I am often asked how Europe can contribute to the peace process,” he told a news conference Wednesday.
“Don’t give in to dictates like the Arab boycott,” he said. “To show fear, to give in to Arab dictates is to participate in economic warfare against Israel.”
He pointed out that the United States had passed a law 14 years ago “saying that no U.S. company could sign papers complying with the boycott as a precondition for business with the Arabs.
“The time has come for Europe to do the same – and only then ask how Europe can help in the peace process,” he said.
Rabin said he did not have to bring up the recent wave of xenophobic violence in Germany when he met with German leaders.
“They brought it up, describing the danger they see in the situation, explaining why they have to have more money to cope with the social roots of the phenomenon,” he said. “I am glad that all the political leaders are aware of the danger and are ready to cope,” he said. “The red light of warning is on.”
“Almost 60 years after the rise of Nazi power in Germany, if Europe will not learn the lessons and cope with the problem at the very beginning, I don’t want to say what the meaning will be for Europe,” he said.
Speaking of the Middle East peace process, Rabin reiterated that it was his government’s policy to “explore to the maximum” the possibility of achieving peace within the framework of the Madrid agreement.
“It is not so simple but I believe that with good will and readiness to compromise on both sides, it is attainable,” he said.
He said the fact that the hard-won peace with Egypt has lasted 13 years “gives me hope that peace will be achieved” with other Arab neighbors.
Rabin was the first Israeli prime minister to make an official visit to Berlin – just as he had been the first Israeli prime minister, in 1975, to make an official visit to Germany.
Back then, he said “it was a major decision – I decided to visit Germany after a lot of internal debate.
“No Israeli prime minister, no Israeli, no Jew can ever forget but must always remember the past, the horror of the Holocaust and the responsibility of the people who carried it out,” he said.
“But we have to look forward to the future, assuming that Germans learn their lesson and that it won’t happen again,” he said. Educating against racism, he said, is essential.
He compared Berlin to Jerusalem, noting that in the late 1940s, the two cities were divided. Jerusalem was only reunited during the 1967 Six-Day War through fierce battle, he said.
“I am glad that without the need of fighting, the wall that divided Berlin tumbled down,” said Rabin. “It is a sign of reasoning and justice that these two capitals are no longer divided.”
Rabin spoke to reporters before a meeting with the leadership of the 35,000- strong Jewish community – a community that today includes about 10,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who have come to Germany in the past two years.
On Tuesday evening, Micha Gutman, Bonn-based president of the German Jewish communities told a United Jewish Appeal mission from the United States that the arrival of Soviet Jews had created many problems for the existing German Jewish community and that help was needed in acclimating them.
“It’s not a question of money,” he said, “but of know-how. Many of these Russian Jews know nothing at all about Judaism or being Jewish.”
Rabin told reporters that Israel would prefer that all Russian Jews come to Israel, but recognized the fact that until Israel had the ability to absorb them, assuring them jobs and housing, some would choose to go elsewhere.
“We believe in freedom of movement, but it is our desire that all or most of the Russians would come to Israel,” he said.
Rabin said he had not asked for loan guarantees from the German government. He had, however, described the problems of absorption to German leaders and discussed ways to assist Israel in helping the newcomers.
These included “the possibilities of German industrialists investing in Israel, for example. It is not a question of charity but of business,” he said.
He also said that he had brought up the question of reparations that should have been paid by what was East Germany but were not, following unification. “But I did not press the issue,” he said.
Rabin also visited the former Nazi concentration camp of Sachsenhausen, in eastern Germany outside Berlin, where he gave a brief but moving memorial address commemorating “in the name of the citizens of Israel” the millions of Jews and non-Jews who perished in the Holocaust and warning that such a horrible tragedy must never again be permitted to happen.
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.