National Consensus Against Sabotage: Shamir and Peres Condemn Attempt to Blow Up Arab-owned Buses

Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres forcefully condemned the attempted sabotage of Arab buses at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee today. Both had the highest praise for the security services that foiled the sabotage by what appears to be a well organized Jewish terrorist gang based in the West Bank.

But when it came to issuing a joint statement on the matter, Likud and the opposition could not agree on the wording. Nevertheless, committee chairman Eliahu Ben-Elissar took the unusual step of making public the comments of both Shamir and Peres to the Knesset panel and stressed that there is a national consensus against the attempted sabotage.

Shamir told the committee that a massive disaster was prevented when police sappers discovered and dismantled powerful time bombs planted in six Arab-owned buses early last Friday, only hours before they were due to start their runs from the center of East Jerusalem to the Arab village of Kalandiya north of the city.

The route takes the buses through densely populated Arab neighborhoods and the bombs reportedly were set to detonate at the peak of the rush hour.

Shamir hailed the “great success of the security services.” At the same time, he warned against besmirching the name of the entire Jewish settlement movement because of the “acts of individuals.” He expressed dismay that security forces had to be diverted from their efforts to protect the populace from hostile foreign elements in order to keep a watchful eye on Jewish terrorists.

SHAMIR HOPES SUSPECTS WILL BE TRIED QUICKLY

He said he hoped the suspects would be tried quickly and that no similar incidents would ever happen again. Peres praised the security agents for their “extraordinary work” and sharply rejected criticism by some leaders of Jewish settlers groups that the settlers were being “smeared. ” Peres observed that nobody blamed all of the settlers for the actions of a comparative few.

MK Geula Cohen of the Tehiya Party complained of the description “the Greater Israel underground movement” applied to the suspects by some of the media. She said this was politically motivated libel, Cohen, a strong advocate of a “Greater Israel,” said “An Eretz Israel with no moral message is not a great Israel, even if it includes all the promised borders, ” implying that the would-be saboteurs did not represent the movement.

NEWS BLACKOUT IMPOSED

A news blackout has been imposed since the initial announcement over the weekend that suspects were being rounded up. The exact number is unknown. According to the media today about 20 persons were detained.

Yesterday’s reports spoke of a least 30. But a number of suspects are said to have been released during the past 24 hours. Others have been remanded in custody for 15 days. They are described as coming from all parts of the country, but mostly from the West Bank and Golan Heights.

Some of the suspects were said to be “key figures in Gush Emunim.” Four of them were reportedly members of the same family living in Moshav Nov on the Golan Heights. The law forbids the identification of suspects until they are formally arraigned. But the remanding judges have refused to allow them contact with their lawyers for the 15-day period.

One attorney, Elyakim Haetzni of Kiryat Arba, the Gush Emunim stronghold adjacent to Hebron, appealed to the Supreme Court today to be allowed access to his client who is a suspect in the sabotage attempt. Haetzni claimed the man has not even been informed of the charges against him. “Nobody knows who was arrested. The man had no access to a lawyer for days and days. In other words, he has been swallowed in thin air,” Haetzni said.

Apart from the initial police statement describing in broad terms the nature of the sabotage attempt, no authoritative information has emerged. This has led to considerable speculation by the media as to the motives of the suspected saboteurs and the police investigation that led to their arrests.

SPECULATION ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE UNDERGROUND

What has emerged is the probable existence of a highly trained, well organized Jewish terrorist underground based in the occupied territories. Its members are believed to include prominent leaders of the settlement movement, rightwing ideologues and military officers with expertise in the manufacture and planting of high explosive devices.

According to a report in Haaretz today, based, as the newspaper acknowledged, on fragmentary information, the Jewish terrorists selected the Arab bus line between East Jerusalem and Kalandiya because the Palestinian refugee camp at Kalandiya has been the scene of many stone-throwing incidents against Jewish vehicles.

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