JERUSALEM (Aug. 5)
Israel’s Cabinet decided unanimously here today that, under no circumstances, will Dr. Robert A. Soblen, the fugitive American psychiatrist convicted in the United States as a spy for the Soviet Union, be flown to the U.S.A. in an El Al Israel Airlines plane.
If the British Government insists that Dr. Soblen, now in a London prison, be flown out of England by El Al, the Cabinet decided, the physician is to be taken by the Israeli airline only back to Israel. The British Government had given El Al until next Wednesday to take Dr. Soblen out of the country.
Today, Haim Yahil, director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, presented a formal Government note to the British Ambassador, Patrick F. Hancock, declaring: “Since an Israeli aircraft carried Soblen from Israel to the United Kingdom, Israel considers itself obliged to remove him from the United Kingdom, if that is the request of Her Majesty’s Government. An Israeli aircraft will carry Dr. Soblen only to Israel and, under no circumstances, in the direction of the United States.”
Both Mr. Yahil here, and Israel’s Ambassador to London, Arthur Lourie, in a visit to the British Foreign Office, protested yesterday in unusually sharp terms against Britain’s attitude on this case. They informed the British that Israel will not act as an “agent” to carry out an extradition decision by Britain.
Today’s Cabinet decision emphasized also that the expulsion order against Dr. Soblen still stands, as far as Israel is concerned. Should Dr. Soblen be returned here, he will be arrested upon his arrival on orders of the Minister of the Interior. Dr. Soblen’s Israeli attorney, Arieh Ankorion, could then apply to the Israeli Supreme Court for a writ against the Ministry, ordering the Ministry to show cause why its moves should not be cancelled. Or he could request that Israel permit him to go to Czechoslovakia which has offered him asylum.
According to last-minute instructions issued here today by the Israel Government, a charter El Al plane will be ready at London Airport, Wednesday night, to fly Dr. Soblen back here. Israel’s position, it was pointed out, is that, while the British Government had the right to demand that El Al take the physician out of England, Britain cannot tell El Al where to fly the man, once the craft is airborne.
Since the planned flight will be on a charter plane, the two U.S. marshals, standing by to board the El Al plane along with Dr. Soblen, will not be permitted aboard. They could go along only if the flight were open to regular, commercial passengers.