MONTREAL (Jun. 6)
The 30-nation governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has condemned Israel for shooting down a Libyan civilian airliner that strayed into Israeli airspace over Sinai last Feb. 21 and crashed with the loss of 108 lives. A resolution stating that Israel had “no justification” for shooting down the Boeing 727 was adopted at a closed session of the council here late Monday night by a vote of 27-0 with the United States and Nicaragua abstaining and one member, Pakistan, absent.
The resolution, which also condemned Israel for a 1968 commando raid on the Beirut airport, was sponsored by Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon and Tunisia. It was adopted in face of a report of the findings of a special ICAO committee assigned the task of investigating the disaster which indicated that the situation in which the Libyan plane found itself was due to inefficiency, laxity and incompetence on the part of Egyptian and Libyan air control authorities.
The report of the investigating committee was before the governing council when it voted and was released here and forwarded yesterday to the United Nations. Its text, however, had been “leaked” earlier to the London Daily Express whose science editor, Chapman Pincher, stated in an article Friday that “this report exonerates the Israelis to such an extent that many countries which criticized the Israelis…will have to do some swift apologizing.”
An ICAO spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the report of the investigating committee was “entirely a technical report and drew no conclusions.” The spokesman said that “exoneration is open to interpretation.” The spokesman stressed that the investigating committee was a “subordinate body” of the ICAO governing council and that it was up to the latter to render a judgement, Israel is not a member of the council.
INCONGRUITIES IN VOTE NOTED
An Israeli delegation, headed by Meir Roseanne, attended the council meeting as non-voting observers. Roseanne, who is a legal advisor to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, asked the council how it could condemn Israel when the report of its investigative committee blamed the Libyan plane disaster on “the behavior and incompetence of Egyptian and Libyan authorities.” He also objected to Egypt and Lebanon, both council members, voting on a resolution concerning Egypt and Lebanon directly.
Roseanne stressed to the council that “what is important is to make sure that in the future these tragedies to not occur again.” He said that as a first preventive step, Israel has installed VHF transmitters at its military radar stations so that direct contact can be made with civilian airliners.
He said that what is needed in addition is a “hot line” between Israel and Egypt such as the telephone hook-up that existed between Israeli and Jordanian military commanders in Jerusalem before the Six-Day War which was credited with preventing many incidents. He noted that Egypt had rejected similar proposals by Israel as far back as 1951.