JERUSALEM (Jul. 5)
“In a bold, resourceful and sophisticated effort, the Israeli Defense Forces have succeeded in carrying out the decision of the government of Israel to save and liberate from captivity the passengers of the Air France plane, who were hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and kept prisoners in Uganda, with their lives in danger.”
With these words Premier Yitzhak Rabin began his address yesterday to a jubilant and applauding Knesset on what has been described here and abroad as the most daring and incredible rescue mission in military history. Rabin did not give many details of the operation to the specially convened session attended by President Ephraim Katzir and other Israeli notables as well as by foreign diplomats who crowded the visitors gallery.
“The Israeli Defense Forces have achieved one of their most exemplary victories from both the human and the moral and military operational points of view, a remarkable manifestation of Jewish fraternity and Israeli valor.” Rabin declared. Continuing, the Premier stated: “Together with the families who have lost their dear ones, we mourn our dead, uniformed and civilians, victims of the vile Arab terrorism, and send to the wounded our best wishes for their recovery.
WORTHY OF PRIDE
“Members of the Knesset, this operation of redemption of captives is worthy of Jewish and Israeli pride and of worldwide acclaim. The decision for this operation of redemption was taken by the government of Israel, and on its sole responsibility. We did not consult with any other government in advance, nor shall we lay responsibility on any other country or government…
“In the hijacking of the Air France plane to Entebbe, all indications showed that the Uganda ruler (President Idi Amin) was collaborating with the terrorists, while using deceit and false pretenses. This was the situation on the eve of July 1, 1976: The time of expiry of the ultimatum grew increasingly closer. The release of non-Israeli hostages (48 last Wednesday and 100 last Thursday) more and more exposed the malicious conspiracy against Israeli citizens. The political efforts bore no fruit. The sand in the hourglass was about to run out, leaving no possibility for an independent rescue effort.
“Linder these conditions, the government of Israel decided unanimously to take the only way left to rescue our people and to announce our willingness to release detained terrorists. Close upon the Cabinet’s resolution (last Thursday), we accordingly informed the French government. through the negotiations were conducted with the terrorists, we were prepared to adopt even this alternative–in default of any other–to rescue our people.
“Members of the Knesset, this was not a timesaving tactic, and had only this choice been left, we would have stood by our decision, as a last resort. Throughout the entire time since the capture of the plane, we sought ways and means to foil the terrorists’ scheme by our own devices. The I.D.F. and the intelligence community lost not a single hour required for thinking, planning and preparation. When the opportune moment arrived, the plan was submitted for the Cabinet’s consideration. The Cabinet approved the operation unanimously….
ACHIEVEMENT OF GREAT VALUE
“This rescue operation is an achievement of great value in our struggle against terrorism. This is Israel’s contribution to humanity’s struggle against terrorism as an international manifestation–but it should not be viewed as an epilogue. This achievement will help us in the continuation of our efforts–but the struggle is not over, and new efforts, new methods and unremitting sophistication will be required. Terrorism will not find us static, nor adhering to routine.”
Rabin said there was no difference between the government and the opposition on the rescue operation. “We deemed it vital to act out of a united national approach, unifying all sections of the people,” he said. He said in every stage of the negotiations and before decisions were made the government consulted with the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee and with Likud leaders Menachem Beigin and Elimelech Rimalt.
Rabin said they both endorsed the decision last Thursday to negotiate and later the decision to use force. “The unity thus revealed is of inestimable value in a time of struggle and stress.” Rabin said after praising the two Likud leaders. Beigin rose in the Knesset to praise Rabin for his leadership and the army for its brilliant action. The Knesset adopted a resolution praising the army. The sole dissenting voice came from the Rakah Communist faction.
In a statement to foreign newsmen later. Rabin called on the United Nations “to realize who the so-called PLO is: You cannot fight terrorism and at the same time give honor and respect to terrorists.” he said.