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Israel Cabinet Says Pressure Must Continue on Austria to Make It Revoke Promise Made to Terrorists

October 4, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Cabinet called tonight for continued pressure on Austria to persuade a reconsideration of the decision to close the Schoenau transit camp. In a communique issued after three-and-a-half-hours’ meeting the Cabinet said: “There must be no relenting on the demand placed on the government of Austria that it revoke the promise made to terrorists under pressure of threats and violence.”

The Cabinet maintained that Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky’s explanation yesterday to Premier Golda Meir “Were not such as to carry conviction to the government of Israel, and do nothing to correct the injustice that has been wrought.” The communique continued: “The government of Israel recognizes that the government of Austria cannot absolve itself of the humanitarian obligations. Fulfillment of the right of Jews to free and unlimited passage as has been the case hitherto must continue to be called for.” Of the Austrian promise to the terrorists the communique says: “The promise constitutes a serious impairment of the foundations of morality and international law and is liable to encourage additional acts of violence.”

There was no mention in the communique of consideration of alternative proposals for the transit of Jewish migrants enroute to Israel. In an unprecedented move the Austrian Ambassador Johanna Nestor drove to Jerusalem and waited at the Prime Minister’s office to hear the results of the Cabinet meeting.


Premier Meir, returning to Israel last night, defended her decision to meet with Kreisky despite the fact that it did not result in reopening the Schoenau transit center. She told newsmen when she arrived at Lod Airport at midnight that her two-hour talk with the Austrian leader was very difficult but that there had been some positive aspects. Mrs. Meir declined to elaborate pending the Cabinet meeting which heard her report of her meeting with Kreisky. But she told reporters that things can be done so that the Austrian decision will have no effect on immigration from the Soviet Union.

The Cabinet apparently did not discuss today two widely mentioned alternatives–placing the Schoenau facility under the aegis of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a reputed offer by Holland to assume Austria’s role as the country of transit for Soviet Jews enroute to Israel. The Dutch offer turned out not to be a firm one. A Netherlands Foreign Ministry spokesman in The Hague said today that the report was “premature” and the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had received no specific offer from Holland.

The Foreign Ministry said it was not in contact with the UN over Kreisky’s suggested UN role because the Cabinet has to give the green light first. But the Ministry disclosed that it was preparing a feasibility report for the Cabinet on that and other alternatives. The fact that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Saudin Aga Kahn, is a Moslem, was not considered to be an obstacle here as he is regarded as a scrupulously fair man. (See separate story from UN.)


Premier Meir ruled out the severing diplomatic relations with Austria, a move demanded by some elements in Israel. Problems are not solved by rupturing relations, she told reporters at Lod Air-port last night. In response to critics who thought her trip to Vienna was hasty and ill-advised, Mrs. Meir said that no understanding could be achieved by running away.

She indicated, however, that she might not have gone to Vienna if she had not already been in Europe. One Cabinet source said today that Mrs. Meir knew in advance that her mission was hopeless but felt she had to meet with Kreisky nevertheless. Asked about a direct Moscow-Lod airlift for the emigres, the Premier said that would be the best solution but it was up to the Russians to agree.

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