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Israeli Anger at Bonn Submerged After Warm Talks, Promises of Aid

March 19, 1991
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With an eye to future economic and political benefits, Israel seems prepared to forget, or at least submerge its anger at Bonn for the help German firms gave Iraq to produce poison gas and improve the Scud missiles that hit Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel during the Persian Gulf war.

That is how officials and observers here are evaluating last week’s two-day visit by Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.

Levy held extensive talks with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and other officials and met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Richard von Weizsacker.

On two public occasions and in media appearances, the Israeli minister praised the Bonn government for showing solidarity with Israel under attack. When a television interviewer referred to tensions between the two countries, Levy interrupted to say, “We have had all along continuous good relations, which have become even closer in the past few weeks.”

His demeanor contradicted widespread assumption that German-Israeli relations were badly damaged during the Gulf crisis.

The public and the government here were deeply disturbed by the harsh criticism and even hatred demonstrated by Israeli activists, who compared the gassing of Jews in the Holocaust with the aid rendered Iraq by private German firms to produce chemical weapons.

But according to observers here, Levy values the good will of the Bonn government. He sees long-term gains for Israel, including a dramatic increase in German financial and other aid. According to television reports over the weekend, Germany will loan Israel 1 billion marks, roughly $630 million, at low interest, to help repair Scud missile damage.

Billions more marks in German loans and other instruments are envisaged to help Israel absorb the hundreds of thousands of Soviet immigrants expected to arrive this year.

The Israeli delegation here argues that united Germany has a moral commitment to help Israel with that formidable task. It points out that the Volkskammer, the parliament of the former East Germany, decided last year, after over 40 years of denial, to pay reparations to Israel and to Jewish victims of Nazism.

The Israelis are aware that decisions by that defunct body carry no legal weight. But they are seeking a way to involve the former East Germany in reparations to the Jewish state.

They say financial and other compensation is owed Israel for the years of hatred and active assistance to its enemies, including terrorists, by the Communist regime. The Germans are said to have listened carefully to these arguments and, according to well-informed observers, may agree.

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