Secretary of State George P. Shultz today laid a wreath and planted a tree at Yad Vashem, a memorial to victims of the Nazi Holocaust, but several demonstrators dismissed the offering as a “desecration.”
The protest was a painful reminder of the controversy over President Reagan’s Sunday visit to a German World War II cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany. As Shultz drove through the gates of the memorial, he was met by a sign saying, “Today’s visit is a desecration.”
Yitzhak Arad, chairman of the Holocaust council, said in introducing Shultz, “There can never be a reconciliation with the criminal acts of the SS.” Forty-nine of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS storm troopers are buried at Bitburg.
No Bitburg Reference
Shultz, in a speech after laying a wreath at the new memorial, made no reference to Bitburg. He spoke instead of the possibility that hope and triumph can rise from the evil represented by the killing that took place during the Holocaust.
“Israel is the true witness of the Holocaust, the symbol of victory of the good,” he said. “That is why Israel must endure. That is why the American people are forever committed to Israel’s security.”
Also attending the ceremony were New York Mayor Edward I. Koch, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
The memorial was the original reason for Shultz’s trip to the Middle East, after traveling with Reagan in Western Europe. After the trip was announced, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt invited him to stop for talks.
After the memorial ceremony, Shultz went immediately to a meeting with Shamir.
At a nearly three-hour lunch, they reviewed Israeli-U.S. relations, ties between Israel and Egypt and prospects for new peace talks in the Middle East.
PLO Talks Rejected
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Shamir, a hard-liner in Israel’s coalition government, told Shultz that Israel rejects talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization “and there is no use looking for formulas for talking with them.”
U.S. officials in Washington said this week that the Reagan Administration might talk to members of the Palestinian National Council, considered the Palestinian parliament-in-exile, rather than to the PLO directly.
Shamir told Shultz that he rejected any such ideas. “Shamir said that for us, the PNC is the PLO and there is no difference,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said after the meeting.