A spokesman for Likud, Israel's new ruling party, announced today that the government to be headed by Menahem Begin will view friendly relations with West Germany as a "cornerstone" of its foreign policy.
The statement, scheduled to be broadcast on German television Sunday, was made by Zalman Shoval, a Likud leader and Begin's spokesman on foreign affairs.
Shoval's statement follows press reports in both countries raising questions about Israeli-German relations under the Likud government. In the past the party vehemently opposed any "normalization of relations between Israel and West Germany."
"I would like to emphasize that the relations between the Jewish people and the German people are, for obvious reasons, especially sensitive and problematic, but they are also of special importance to both nations," Shoval said. He added that the Likud government will carry on the policy of "special relations" with West Germany that was followed by past Israeli governments.
The press and television reports recalled the violent demonstration that Begin's party staged in 1952 when the Israeli government, under the late David Ben Gurion, decided to sign an agreement with West Germany on reparations. At the time Begin called on the Israelis "never to forgive" Germany to Nazi atrocities.
Concern over the new government's attitude was also expressed through diplomatc channels recently.
Shoval said in the statement that there must be a distinction between personal feelings, including those of Begin, whose parents died under the Nazis, and the official behavior of Israelis responsible for state affairs.
He expressed hope that economic relations between Israel and Germany would, be strengthened with the liberalization of trade planned by the Likud government.