WASHINGTON (Aug. 28)
Israel moved today to block expected attempts by Lebanon and other Arab states and their allies to have the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) impose sanctions against it for the Aug. 10 interception of a Lebanese airliner which Israel believed at the time had terrorist leaders aboard.
The Israeli moves coincided with the opening in Rome today of the ICAO’s Extraordinary Assembly and diplomatic conference to consider collective international measures against hijackers. The ICAO, a United Nations agency based in Montreal, is the chief authority governing international aviation.
As the Rome meeting got under way, the Israeli Embassy are released a background paper listing 11 episodes of air piracy between 1968-72 in which, it said, the ICAO failed to take steps against offending member states. Six of the incidents were planned and executed by terrorist organizations headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, according to the Israeli paper.
Israel’s fear of possible one-sided moves stemmed from the fact that the 128-member ICAO like the UN, is susceptible to pressure from the Arab states and their friends who command a preponderance of votes. The 30-member ICAO General Council unanimously condemned Israel at its meeting in Montreal a week ago for intercepting the Lebanese airliner.
TWO PROPOSALS UNDER CONSIDERATION
The ICAO Extraordinary Assembly, which will continue until Sept. 21, is considering two specific proposals for amendments to its 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the agency’s founding statute. Both amendments, one submitted by France and the other by Britain and Switzerland, agree that contracting states should be obliged to arrest hijackers, put them on trial or extradite them. They agree further that the state to which the hijacker has brought an air-craft must help the airliner continue its journey and must give all necessary assistance to passengers and crew.
The amendments differ on the penalties to be imposed on states that fail to ratify them within a certain time limit. The French version would deprive such state of ICAO membership. The British and Swiss proposals would only deprive them of voting rights in the Extraordinary Assembly and General Council. However, the British proposal adds a further penalty for non-compliance, the banning of air traffic of an offending state through the territory of ICAO member states.
NO FOUNDATION FOR SANCTIONS
The Israeli background paper charged that “Lebanese attempts to discuss the imposition of sanctions on Israel has no foundation, contradicts the Chicago Convention and constitutes an effort to misuse this specialized agency of the UN as yet another forum for political warfare against Israel.”
The paper noted that only the UN Security Council, under the Charter, may impose sanctions. It recalled that the Security Council’s Aug. 15 resolution condemning Israel for the Lebanese airliner interception did not provide for any sanction.
“Nobody seems perturbed…that Lebanon has become a center for hijackers…or that Lebanon in 1969 actually signed a treaty with these terrorists whose main aims are to destroy Israel and assault civil aviation around the world,” the paper said. “It would be the height of cynicism if those countries who all along obstructed within ICAO all efforts designed to bring about some enforcement actions to weed out terrorism against civil aviation, would now appear in the role of innocent victims and succeed in passing a resolution against Israel,” it said.
The paper cited the following Lebanese-based terrorist actions against civil aviation: attacks on El Al flights in 1968, 1969, 1970; hijacking of TWA flights in 1969, 1970; hijackings of Swissair, Pan-Am and BOAC flights in 1970; the mid-air destruction of a Swissair flight in 1970; mass murder at Lod Airport in 1972; and hijacking a Lufthansa flight in 1972.
It also cited the prolonged detention of hijacked planes and passengers by Algeria in 1968-69; the failure of Egyptian authorities to prevent terrorists from blowing up a hijacked Pan-Am jet in Cairo in 1970; the detention of two Israelis by Syria after a hijacked plane was landed in Damascus in 1969, and Libya’s forced landing of a BOAC flight and its seizure of two passengers who were handed over to Sudan for execution.
“The obstruction so far by Arab countries of any efforts by ICAO and by the United Nations General Assembly to eradicate terrorism against civil aviation, as well as the readiness of some other countries to allow criminals to go free after apprehension, left Israel no choice but to try and curb air terrorism by what, in the circumstances, was definitely a measure of an exceptional nature of legitimate self-defense,” the Embassy paper said.