Peres Rejects View That IDF Raid in Tunisia Might Stymie Peace Efforts

Prime Minister Shimon Peres tonight dismissed the argument that the Air Force strike in Tunisia might stymie peace efforts.

Replying to high schoolers’ questions in the Negev township of Sderot, the Premier said there was no reason for peace prospects to be set back. Israelis and Jews could not be murdered with impunity, he said.

Peres made a point of distinguishing between Tunisia and Jordan, which both host PLO headquarters units. He said the Jordanian government ensured that no PLO terror raiders set out from its territory.

Details emerging of the decision-making process here indicated that the 10-member Inner Cabinet gave its approval for Israel Defense Force plans to attack the PLO base today — in the wake of the Larnaca yacht attack in which three Israelis were killed last week on Yom Kippur.

The Larnaca assault was the last straw, according to sources here. They indicated that the Tunis bombing was a contingency plan that was avilable for the ministers today.

Ezer Weizman, Minister-Without-Portfolio (Labor – Yahad), was the sole opponent. He argued that while the planned raid was justified, its timing was wrong and it might impair peace efforts both with Egypt and Jordan

Weizman and other Labor Party ministers are now likely to press Peres for greater flexibility towards both Egypt and Jordan. They will argue that Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin have made their point with the bombing raid — both in the eyes of the Arab world and in the eyes of Israeli public opinion.

This line was taken this evening by Health Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, a Labor moderate, who came out in favor of the raid. Gur said he would like to see a more forthright and outspoken welcome from Israel for King Hussein’s vision-of-peace speech at the UN General Assembly last week and Hussein’s remarks in Washington this week.

Gur stressed that there was no contradiction between Israel’s hitting hard at PLO terrorists and searching hard and incessantly for any openings on the diplomatic front.

Gur said Egypt was making a grave mistake by suspending the Taba talks because of the Israeli military action. He noted that back in 1973, while separation-of-forces talks went on between Israel and Egypt, the guns kept roaring until the accord was signed. Egypt’s action now was “totally unjustified,” he said. “What do they expect — that we let the terrorism continue to run riot, unchecked?”

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