Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

West Germany Signals Improved Relations with Israel

November 10, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

West Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alois Mertes signaled a change for the better in Bonn-Israel relations in an address to the annual conference of the German-Israeli Friendship Association here last night. He cautioned the European Economic Community (EEC) not to launch new, separate initiatives in the Middle East or to give rise to miscalculations in the Arab world.

Mertes, representing the new government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, said that while West Germany supports the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, that does not include the right of the Palestine Liberation Organization to destroy Israel or to rule Lebanon. He was sharply critical of East Germany’s cooperation with the PLO.

Mertes made no mention of the EEC’s Venice declaration of June, 1980, which, among other things, called for “association” of the PLO in the Middle East peace process. The Venice declaration had been a cornerstone of Bonn’s Mideast policy during the previous administration of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

The conference was attended by a Knesset delegation headed by Likud MK Menachem Savidor. Also present were Israel’s first Ambassador to Bonn, Asher Ben Natan who is president of the Association, and the present Ambassador, Yitzhak Ben Ari. Mertes brought a personal message from Kohl, stating that he was fully committed to the goals laid down by West Germany’s first Chancellor, the late Konrad Adenauer, of reconciliation and friendship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Kohl said in a recent interview in the newspaper Bild that he firmly intended to accept Israel’s long standing invitation to the Chancellor of West Germany to visit Israel — an invitation never taken up by his predecessor, Schmidt. Kohl did not indicate when the visit would take place but it is understood here that the timing is now under consideration by the German and Israeli governments.

Much of the meeting tonight was devoted to denunciations of the anti-Israel tone adopted by the West German media in reporting the war in Lebanon last summer. Mertes himself said the media’s comparison of the bombardment of Beirut to Auschwitz was a scandal. Ben Natan said the reportage was “exaggerated, distorted and awful.” Ben Ari cited several examples of misrepresentation, including old film clips that were not related to events in Lebanon.

Recommended from JTA