TEL AVIV (Aug. 13)
Histadrut General Secretary Itzhak Ben Aharon last night supported the criticism by the Israeli Pilots Association of the interception Friday night of a Lebanese Middle Eastern Airlines Caravelle Speaking at a meeting of the Israeli Inland Airline Co. (Arkia), Ben Aharon said that the reaction of Itzhak Shaked, chairman of the pilot’s association, was well timed, wise and balanced.
However, the labor federation newspaper, Davar, supported the government action as did most of the Israeli press. Davar said today that the operation was in line with the government’s declared policy to strike at terrorism whenever it had the opportunity.
Ben Aharon said that for the last two years Histadrut has been urging other labor federations and trade unions to pressure their governments to take action against countries that shelter hijackers or terrorists. He said Histadrut’s efforts had shown results in several countries where, under labor pressure, the governments took a hard line on terrorism.
The Histadrut leader said that now, after the interception of the Caravelle, the Israeli labor federation would find it difficult to gain support among foreign workers to oppose Arab terrorism He said the Histadrut will now also be the target of protests from labor unions and federations throughout the world. But Davar disagreed, commenting that “having been designed to apprehend a gang of murderers striking at civil aviation, the operation coincided with Israel’s demand to combat terrorism.”
ACTION WAS JUSTIFIED
Meanwhile, Israeli diplomats are trying to convince other governments that the action was justified because of the lack of action by the international community against the Arab terrorists.
The Lebanese plane, chartered by Iraqi Airways, was intercepted by Israeli jets as it took off from Beirut Airport enroute to Baghdad because the Israelis thought four terrorist leaders were aboard, including Dr. George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The plane was forced to land at a northern Israel military air base and was allowed to leave two hours later after the identities of the 81 passengers and crew were checked.
Dr. Habash and his colleagues cancelled their bookings at the last moment. There was speculation here and abroad today that Dr. Habash changed his mind when he found that the Caravelle had a Jordanian pilot. The PFLP leader and other Palestinian terrorists faced a possible death sentence in Jordan which cracked down on their operations on Jordanian territory two years ago.
CALLS FOR SANCTION MOUNT
In other developments here, Shaked said that the Israeli Pilots Federation will not support any attempt by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations to impose sanctions against Israel as the international organization had not imposed sanctions against any country that sheltered hijackers. The 50,000-member international federation is considering whether to take some action. The 2000-member Guild of Air Pilots and the Arab League have called the act “air piracy” and called for Israel’s expulsion from the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Shaked said that while his group understood why the Israeli action was decided upon, “we do not think that the war against the terrorists should be diverted to International air traffic.”
Two small Israeli left-wing factions criticized the operation. Urt Avnerl of Meri said the action is a “knife in the back of Israel” and Meir Payil of the Moked group (which includes Maki, the Communist Party) said it will make the war against terrorism more difficult. Herut Knesset member Chaim Landau said the thing to be sorry for is that the operation did not get its target.
Meanwhile in Geneva, the International Air Traffic Association (IATA) refused to make a statement in the absence of its director Knut K. Hammerskjold. But the IATA said the operation was not a “skyjacking” but a “military operation.”
In Bonn, the West German Foreign Office today issued a statement saying: “The Federal government deplores any use of force of this kind, which is suited to further increase tensions in the Middle East. The Federal government agrees with the views which other western allies have expressed.”