JERUSALEM (Feb. 25)
The Cabinet decided today to pay cash sums to the families of the 106 Libyan airplane victims who died Wednesday when the plane entered Israel-occupied air space and was brought down by Israeli fighters. The Cabinet communique pointedly avoided the word “compensation” which, it was explained would imply restitution for a wrong which Israel does not admit having done.
The government announced its readiness to make unspecified payments to the families of the victims “in deference to humanitarian considerations,” the communique stated. The decision came despite Defense Minister Moshe Dayan’s statements Thursday and again yesterday that he personally felt there was no reason for Israel to make any such payments. Cabinet sources said no figures or other details were discussed. When 11 Israeli Olympic athletes were killed by Arab terrorists in Munich last Sept., the German government paid out $1 million in a similar humanitarian gesture.
The Cabinet decided not to open a commission of inquiry into the plane mishap and declared itself satisfied with the internal army investigation which was held over the weekend. Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar reported to the Ministers on the findings of this inquiry. The Cabinet expressed once more “Israel’s profound sorrow over the death of the passengers.–They died in the terrible disaster which occurred under circumstances of belligerency and incessant threats of acts of terrorism from the air.”
The Cabinet stated that the Air Force had acted in compliance with international law when it forced the plane to land and noted that Israel had informed all states that its front-line deployments near the Suez Canal were closed to civilian aviation. Cabinet sources explained later that Israel had notified the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), to which Libya belongs of all the closed military areas in Israel and the occupied territories.
WILL PROVIDE ALL AVAILABLE INFORMATION
One Minister suggested that an Israeli quasi-judicial commission of inquiry be established, not, he explained, because he had any doubts about the propriety of the Air Force’s action, but because he thought such a commission would help to placate international opinion. After some discussion the Cabinet rejected this idea.
The question of an international inquiry was not raised, according to Cabinet sources, since no country has formally approached the Israel government requesting that one be set up. Instead, the Cabinet resolved to provide all the available information on the plane incident to the relevant governments and international organizations. Since there was no clear decision ruling out an international inquiry, observers here believe that the government might still agree to one if strong pressure were brought to bear by friendly Western governments.
This evening, French Ambassador Francis Hure called on Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban to request once more that French observers be included in any inquiry. He had made the same request Thursday to Israel’s Paris envoy. The Ambassador left the meeting professing himself satisfied. This is interpreted to mean that Eban told him of the Cabinet’s decision to make all information available and this was sufficient.
Dayan is to present a government statement to the Knesset tomorrow and a debate is expected to follow with the left-wing parties calling for a commission of inquiry and the right-wing decrying exaggerated foreign condemnation of Israel over the plane incident.