Rumania’s unorthodox position on the Middle East within the Eastern European Communist bloc is predicated on maintaining good relations simultaneously with Israel and the Arabs. This policy make Rumania more important to Israel in some respects than many a greater power, despite Bucharest’s ardent embrace of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Hence Israel’s welcome to the decision to maintain and foster dialogue between the two countries which emerged from Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s recent official visit to Rumania and to the second visit to Israel next September by the Rumanian Foreign Minister, George Macovescu.
Allon spent five days in Rumania which included two meetings with Macovescu and an extended and decisive talk with President Nicolae Ceausescu, This correspondent, who accompanied the Foreign Minister’s party to Bucharest, also learned something of the delicate equilibrium Rumania maintains within the Eastern bloc and some of the concerns it entertains regarding its own future security which, in part, is responsible for its cordial attitude toward Israel.
Rumania has a unique life of its own under the Communist bloc umbrella. It follows a more or less independent foreign policy and tries to develop an economy of its own. In the Socialist world, it is technically an equal among equals. But this does not allay certain very real fears on the part of the Rumanians.
It is no secret, for example, that its neighbor to the south, Bulgaria, has hinted of a desire to become another Republic within the aegis of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Should that ever come to pass, the Rumanians fear that a corridor may be carved through its territory along the Black Sea linking Bulgaria to “Mother Russia.”
HUNGRY WANTS TRANSYLVANIA
Hungary, on Rumania’s western frontier, has never forgotten Transylvania. Hungarian historians now claim that the act of union of the Rumanian provinces, including Transylvania, was really an act of “occupation,”
Rumania is also disturbed by the possibility of upheaval in Yugoslavia, after President Tito dies, which may involve Rumania, In short, Bucharest feels that it needs friends outside of the Communist bloc, and her policy is motivated by the conviction that if Rumania deserts a small nation fighting for survival–a nation such as Israel–it may be deserted by others should it find itself in the same position.
On the other hand, Rumania also supports the PLO terrorists and has gone farther even than the Soviet Union in permitting the PLO to open an office in Bucharest, Rumanian leaders recently met with PLO chieftain Yasir Arafat and his aides and pledged to support a sovereign Palestinian state.
Rumania’s attitude toward the PLO is the most serious obstacle to the continued improvement of its relations with Israel. Macovescu stated it bluntly at his first meeting with Allon last week which lasted four hours instead of the scheduled two, He repeated the idea of a Palestinian state at an official dinner for Allon that evening. A press conference scheduled for the next day was postponed and it appeared for a time that a crisis had developed in Israeli-Rumanian relations.
LONG TALKS WITH CEAUSESCU
But Allon had a talk with President Ceausescu. It was to have been a short meeting but ran over four hours. Apparently, whatever deadlock may have been created in the earlier talk with Foreign Minister Macovescu was broken by the Rumanian President. Allon described his meeting with Ceausescu as most impressive and announced that the dialogue with Rumania will continue.
On Sunday, he had another meeting with Macovescu–not at the Foreign Ministry but in the shade of a huge tree on the green lawn of Macovescu’s “dacha” (country villa) near Bucharest, There, in a relaxed atmosphere, the two foreign ministers worked out a joint communique that Israeli circles described later as the best that could have been achieved. It was released on the eve of the meeting of President Ford and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in Salzburg, Austria.
The communique contained no mention of the PLO or the Palestinians. It stated that both ministers were convinced that there was no more room for the old-time political system of dictation by others–meaning the great powers–which was viewed as a rejection of any imposed solution in the Middle East. The communique also expressed the right of each nation to live in lasting peace and security. This was interpreted as an indirect concurrence by Rumania to Israel’s claim for secure borders.
Allon’s visit to Rumania also provided an opportunity for bilateral discussions and fields for more cooperation between the two countries were explored. A cultural and scientific agreement will be worked out soon and the possibilities for a technical cooperation agreement are to be discussed. Tourism was also an important topic–Rumania is a favorite destination of Israeli tourists–and Israeli travel agents have been invited to visit Rumania’s seashore and mountain resorts.
The outcome of Allon’s visit was encouraging to Israel. Relations with Rumania have been advanced for the benefit of both nations. Israel, of course, had a difficult time getting across its views on the Palestinian problem to the Rumanians. But it faces the same difficulty in many Western countries. The Jerusalem-Bucharest dialogue will continue and Rumania will continue to serve as an unofficial go-between whenever possible, in the Middle East. It is clear that Rumania regards a peaceful settlement in that region–which is adjacent to her own–as in her national interests.
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.