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Mrs. Meir: Responsibility for Safety of Olympians Rested with Germans

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Premier Golda Meir told the Knesset today that the responsibility for the security of Israel’s Olympic team in Munich – before and during the games – rested with the German authorities. She also disclosed that Israeli authorities had been in contact with the Germans about the security requirements necessary to protect the Israeli contingent but that the means adopted had not prevented the terrorists from infiltrating into the Israeli building in Olympic City.

(Even as Mrs. Meir was reporting to the Knesset, there were reports from Rome and London that two synagogues were attacked. See separate stories.)

Mrs. Meir, who had been delegated by the Cabinet to supervise the collation of information regarding the tragic events last week in which II Israeli Olympians were killed by terrorists, told the Knesset that a thorough investigation was now being conducted into all aspects of the affair. She said that although the investigation was incomplete, she could already put the record straight on several matters. When the news of the attack first came through last Tuesday, the Cabinet decided on three basic guidelines:

(1) There would be no negotiation with the terrorists; (2) Israel would support any German promise to the terrorists to let them go free if they released the hostages unharmed; (3) Israel relied on Germany to do everything possible to protect the postages’ lives.

Mrs. Meir disclosed that Israel had dispatched “a representative who occupies a senior position in the security services together with his assistant” to Munich and he had arrived there at 10:15 p.m. and had witnessed the airport shoot-out. She said his evidence constituted a vital part of the ongoing investigation but stressed that he was neither asked to advise the Germans nor to approve their rescue plans. By the time he reached Munich the transfer to the airport was underway.

ISRAEL NOT ASKED TO APPROVE RESCUE PLAN

The senior Israeli security official only acted during the final stage of the tragedy, after the shooting had begun. He suggested to the Germans that his assistant be allowed to speak to the terrorists in Arabic. The Germans agreed and the Israeli explained to the terrorists that their fate was sealed and they had better throw down their arms, free the hostages and accept the promise of safe conduct out of Germany. The terrorists refused.

Other than this last minute effort, no Israeli conducted negotiations with the terrorists, said Mrs. Meir, nor indeed was Israel asked to take part in the negotiations. The negotiations were conducted by the German authorities in the name of the German government, she said. Mrs. Meir added that after the shoot-out, when the German radio and television were broadcasting happy tidings, Israel’s Ambassador in Germany, Eliashiv Ben Horin, warned the government here not to believe the reports until they were reliably confirmed after the whole operation had ended.

Referring to the waiting period earlier that Tuesday, the Premier stressed that neither the German government nor any other political body had asked Israel to accede to the terrorists’ demands. She said she again thanked Germany for not knuckling under to blackmail, using force as a last resort.

Late in the afternoon Germany had informed Israel of the rescue plan explaining that there was no chance of freeing the hostages by negotiation or of attacking the kidnappers in the Olympic Village. The Israel government was not asked to approve the plan, Mrs. Meir added. She said there was no possibility of Israel employing its own personnel to free the hostages since there simply weren’t any Israeli soldiers or sharpshooters in Munich.

WILL INFORM NATION OF FINDINGS

Mrs. Meir told the Knesset that she would inform the Cabinet and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of her findings as soon as possible. She also promised to inform the public of all information which did not involve security matters, and said the government would draw all the necessary conclusions. Gahal opposition leader Menahem Beigin demanded the appointment of an all-party commission of inquiry to conduct the investigation.

Mrs. Meir praised King Hussein and other Arab leaders who had decried the massacre. She assailed the majority of Arab states who welcomed it. She described Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s refusal to take Chancellor Willy Brandt’s phone call asking Egypt’s advice on whether or not it would receive the terrorists along with their hostages as an indication that Egypt did not want to be involved with saving human lives.

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