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Israel Olympic Committee Divided over Issue of Boycotting the Games

May 21, 1980
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The Israel Olympic Committee, which must decide in seven days whether or not to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow this summer, remains sharply divided over the issue. It is under heavy pressure from the government and several Israeli sports organizations to join the U.S. in the boycott, as West Germany has done. But other sports organizations are uncertain and the committee has received blandishments from Soviet representatives to go to Moscow.

The decision is expected to hinge on whether the U.S. will guarantee that Israel is invited to future international sports events if it boycotts the Moscow Games and if the U.S. itself would boycott any future event to which Israel is not invited.

Yitzhak Ofek, chairman of the Israel Olympic Committee, put those questions to the First Secretary of the U.S. Embassy, Eliot Handell, at a recent meeting. He was promised a reply by today when Israeli Olympic officials are to meet with Premier Menachem Begin, if there is no reply by then, Begin will be asked to intervene personally for the requested guarantees.


Ofek himself is opposed to an Israeli boycott of the Moscow Games. He said he feared that would place Israel in an awkward position, resulting in its exclusion from future international sports contests and future Olympic Games. R. acknowledged, however, that despite his strong reservations, he expected a decision in favor of a boycott.

Representatives of the Maocabi and Betar sports organizations are pressuring the committee to yield to the government’s boycott pressure. The Hapoel delegates agree that under present circumstances a boycott should be considered. But they share Ofek’s fears for the future and apparently will be swayed by the way the Americans answer his requests for guarantees.


Meanwhile, a three-member Soviet delegation attending the annual meeting of the Israel-Russian Friendship League at the Red Army Forest which commemorates the end of World War II, is lobbying for Israel to participate in the Games. Vladimir Karpov, a writer who is a Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor bestowed by the Soviet government, said yesterday that if Israel decides to go to Moscow there will be no difficulties or hardships for its athletes.

The Israeli flags are ready and the brass band has learned to play Hatikva, Karpov told reporters here. He claimed that 51 nations have already announced that they would participate and that American athletes will also compete, under the flag of the International Olympics Committee.

“All preparations are ready for the Games and we can only pity those who will not take part on political grounds, “he said. The Soviet delegation includes one Jew, lan Frankel, a composer of pop music, and Yuri Michayev, a commentator of the Novosti news agency. Whatever the decision of the Israel Olympics Committee, Israeli athletes will not participate in the basketball events in Moscow because they failed to qualify at the pre-Olympics in Geneva last week.

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