Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Kohl: Germans Bear Special Responsibility for Israel’s Security but Must Pursue Even-handed Policy T

April 9, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has acknowledged that “we Germans bear a special responsibility for Israel’s security” but said it was “essential” for West Germany “to pursue an even-handed policy toward all states in the region,” the Presidents Conference reported.

In reply, Julius Berman, chairman of the Presidents Conference, said that the impending massive sale of military weapons and supplies by West Germany to Saudi Arabia could “imperil the very survival of the Jewish State.” Berman declared that this danger was underscored “by the threat of jihad — holy war — against Israel by King Fahd.”

The letter from Kohl was in reply to an earlier cable sent by the Conference of Presidents urging cancellation of the proposed arms sale. In his reply, Kohl said no decision on selling arms to the Saudi regime had yet been taken, but defended the sale on the ground that Saudi Arabia was a “moderate” Arab state, that any sale would be limited to defensive arms, that no Leopard tanks would be included and that “none of the weapons systems that may be supplied to Saudi Arabia would ever be used to attack Israel.”


Berman responded to Kohl with a letter emphasizing that “Given the fundamental fact that all of Israel’s Arab neighbors except Egypt are in a state of active or suspended war with the Jewish State, it is a contradiction to acknowledge ‘special responsibility for Israel’s security’ while pursuing an even-handed policy toward Israel and its enemies.”

“In our view,” Berman continued, “Germany’s fixed and permanent moral responsibility to the country that is now the homeland of so many victims of Nazi persecution for outweighs any need for ‘even-handedness’ — and is surely superior to the desire for profits that Germany might gain from selling arms to the Saudi regime.”


The Presidents Conference chairman said he could not accept Kohl’s view that the Saudi threat of jihad was not based on “reality.” Berman recalled that “more than half a century ago, when Hitler’s infamous ‘Mein Kampf’ was published in Germany, Jews were urged to disregard the blueprint for destruction it contained. Those who refused to take Hitler seriously learned … that his words were not an idle threat but a warning of the horror to come.

“In 1984 the Jewish people cannot dismiss King Fahd’s warning of jihad and cannot accept any promise that weapons in his hands would never be used to attack Israel. No government that claims to carry a special responsibility for Israel’s security should place its trust in such a prince.”

Berman rejected Kohl’s assertions that any weapons sold to Saudi Arabia would be “defensive in nature” and that the Saudi regime was a “moderate” one. The wide range of weaponry reportedly to be sold to Saudi Arabia, Berman said, “can readily be turned to offensive use against Israel.” He added:

“Contrary to your assertion, Saudi Arabia is no ‘moderate’ state but rather a feudal despotism notorious for its hatred of the Jewish people …. We know that Saudi Arabia continues to provide an estimated $1 millions a day to support PLO terrorism and additional millions annually to Syria, which was accused by Secretary of State Shultz only this week of being one of the Arab countries whose national policy it is to support and abet terrorism.”

The Presidents Conference leader concluded: “For all these reasons, we urge that you and your colleagues in the government consider and act upon the profound sense of anguish and foreboding that millions of people around the world feel at the prospect that German weapons will once again have Jewish targets.”

Recommended from JTA