JERUSALEM (Jan. 1)
Israeli officials repeatedly praised Thailand officials over the weekend for their handling of the incident in which four Arab terrorists seized the Israel Embassy in Thailand last Thursday and held six Israeli hostages for 19 hours before being persuaded by Thai officials and the Egyptian ambassador to Thailand to release the hostages unharmed.
“Fortitude, sangfroid, discretion, faithful, energetic patience, good judgement and unyielding firmness” were some of the phrases official Israeli spokesmen used to express Israel’s feelings of gratitude. There also was some rather offhand appreciation for the Egyptian envoy in Thailand, Mustaffa el-Essawi but Israeli officials were obviously confused as to how to react to the Egyptian envoy’s unexpected helpfulness.
The formal Israeli tone was set by President Zalman Shazar in a cable to Thailand’s King, declaring that “by a combination of patience, good judgement and unyielding firmness, your authorities averted what might have been a human disaster of far-reaching implications.” He cited the “admiration and appreciation of all of Israel”. Premier Golda Meir cabled Premier Thanon Kittikachorn personally to express her deepest appreciation saying , “I know you yourself played a decisive role in the signal achievement and we are most deeply grateful to you.”
EGYPTIAN ENVOY ONE OF SEVERAL FACTORS
Chief of Staff David Elazar sent a cable to Kittikachorn in his capacity as Thai Army chief of staff, thanking him for the way his soldiers handled the incident. Foreign Minister Abba. Eban told a radio interviewer that the Egyptian envoy had been one among “several factors” which had brought about the successful conclusion. Eban contrasted Essawi’s mediation efforts with Egypt’s flat refusal to help West Germany during the hectic hours in Munich which ended last Sept. 5 in the slaying of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes.
However, Foreign Ministry officials refrained from endorsing the more outspoken praise for Essawi from Israel’s envoy to Cambodia, Shimon Avimor, who had been one of the six hostages. Commenting on Avimor’s appreciative statements, the officials here said he was”speaking in the heat of the moment.” The comments of Israel’s envoy to Thailand, Rehavim Amir were considered here as “most appropriate.” Amir said Essawi’s behavior was “thoroughly proper and befitting a diplomat.”
Israel’s uncertain response to Essawi’s mediation stemmed from the fact, sources said that until last week, Cairo intelligence was known to be in close contact with the Black September group, of which the terrorists at Bangkok claimed to be members.
The question, officials here said, was whether there had really been a change of Egyptian policy or whether Essawi acted on his own without instructions, conceded to be highly unlikely. One consideration for withholding outright praise was a fear that it might deter the Egyptians from acting in a similarly humane manner in a future similar case. One theory here was that Essawi agreed to mediate to avoid the international criticism heaped on Egypt for its behavior in the Munich carnage.
Reappraise Security Arrangements
Meanwhile, an investigation has been started into the security aspects of the case with the start of collection of information in Bangkok. Sources in Jerusalem said today that Israel intends to reappraise security arrangements at its Embassies in the wake of the Bangkok incident. “Of course we are checking to see how the Arab terrorists could have taken over the Thai Embassy and if something needs to be done then we’ll have to do something,” one source said. The sources said that Aharon Yariv, the Prime Minister’s intelligence advisor who flew to Bangkok last week, would report to the government on his return.
At the same time, the Lebanese newspaper, Al Moharer, reported that the four Palestinians who occupied the Israeli Embassy will be referred to a “Palestinian guerrilla court for violating instructions to blow up the Embassy with all its occupants.” The paper, which has close connections with Palestinian terrorist organizations, said the four will be fried as soon as they return to their base. It did not say where the base was.