UK down­graded Is­raeli pres­i­dent’s visit

The Jewish Chronicle - - HOME NEWS - BY BERNARD JOSEPHS

FOR­EIGN OF­FICE con­cern about a planned of­fi­cial visit to Bri­tain by Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Ephraim Katzir 30 years ago re­sulted in the down­grad­ing of his trip, se­cret doc­u­ments re­leased by the Na­tional Ar­chive have re­vealed.

In a June 1976 let­ter to 10 Down­ing Street, a White­hall of­fi­cial pointed out that as Is­raeli Pre­mier Yitzhak Rabin was due “next year” to visit Bri­tain, “the el­e­va­tion of Pres­i­dent Katzir’s visit to an of­fi­cial one would up­set the bal­ance we are seek­ing to strike”.

For­eign Sec­re­tary James Cal­laghan (be­low) sup­ported the of­fi­cial’s warn­ing, telling Prime Min­is­ter Harold Wil­son that Pres­i­dent Katzir, a scien-sci­en­tist due in the UK to at­tend the Royal Academy of Sci­ences’ 70th birth­day party for Sir Ernst Chain, the codis­cov­erer of peni­cillin and No­bel Prize lau­re­ate, “might best be left as a private visit”.

How­ever, he added that be­cause of the “close and friendly re­la­tions with Is­rael”, the Queen should nev­er­the­less be re­quested to re­ceive the pres­i­dent for lunch at Buck­ing­ham Palace. Mr Wil­son agreed. He would also be host­ing Pres­i­dent Katzir for lunch at Down­ing Street, he replied in a cable to the For­eign Of­fice, but this should “not be made pub­lic”.

There were wor­ries too in White­hall about the pres­i­dent’s feisty and out­spo­ken wife Nina, who ac­com­pa­nied him on the trip. In a cable from the Bri­tish Em­bassy to the For­eign Of­fice — part of which is still be­ing held back un­der the 40-year-rule — a diplo­mat at­tempted to sooth of­fi­cials’ fears.

“I do not think she [Mrs Katzir] would be likely to do any­thing strange or em­bar­rass­ing,” he said.

“If the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment thought there was a risk of this, I am sure they would find a way of keep­ing her at home.” An­other im­age of 1976: joy­ous cel­e­bra­tions at Ben-Gu­rion air­port af­ter the suc­cess­ful res­cue of the Air France hostages who had been held cap­tive in En­tebbe, Uganda, by Pales­tinian guer­ril­las

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