“Feeling of Solidarity with Israel”

Die Presse (04/12/2006)

Never were relations between Austria and Israel so good as at the moment. Plassnik’s trip to Tzip Livni is the visit to a “friend.”

Jerusalem – They characterize each other as “friends,” telephone regularly and have met now and then outside the realms of protocol. The relationship between Jerusalem and Vienna was probably never so good as now.

As expected, the reception was cordial while Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was preparing the way for her counterpart from Austria. Israel’s journalists presented Ursula Plassnik as a leader who made efforts toward justice, clarity and depth. Thus, the tone was set for a bilateral highpoint and for the real occasion of the visit – the opening of a symposium at Hebrew University honoring fifty years of diplomatic relations between Austria and Israel.

Plassnik didn’t fail to conceal that they had no simple history: “We recognize the difficulties of the legacy of our past,” emphasized Plassnik. That made the “deep feeling of solidarity” which Austria and Israel enjoy today all the more joyous, especially for someone like her who was born after the Shoa.

Austria, who thought of itself as being Hitler’s first victim, refused for a long time to assume responsibility for Nazi crimes. Only during the course of the Waldheim affair did this illusion become apparent and with Israel at the time also recalling its ambassador in Vienna at the beginning of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) coalition government. The open questions regarding restitution were solved only after 2001.