Jewish Group Condemns ‘agreements’ That Led to Release of Hijackers

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations today condemned all “gentlemen’s agreements” that led to the release of the Palestinians who hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, and urged the U.S. to begin taking “a strong position” not only toward terrorists but toward Arab countries that harbor and support them.

Speaking at a press conference here this afternoon, Presidents Conference chairman Kenneth Bialkin said the Western world was capable of dealing with “Arab terrorism” and “we require only the will to act.” Reading from a prepared statement, he added. “We must act to reject any deal with terrorists that give them safe passage after they commit their crimes.”

Referring obliquely to Egypt’s acknowledgement that it permitted the ship hijackers to go free after the passengers were released, Bialkin said that “we condemn all ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ that promised them freedom from arrest and trial. And we call on our government to demand that the terrorists be brought to justice by Italy, by Egypt or by the U.S.”

The statement asserted that fighting terrorism effectively called for “a strong position” with governments that supply terrorists with arms, training, money and safe haven.” He included Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, South Yemen, Libya and the Soviet Union.

Although Egypt was omitted from the list, Bialkin criticized Egypt’s conduct of its relations with Israel since the conclusion of the peace treaty between them in 1979.

In response to questions, Bialkin said that “strong action” should include the refusal to sell new arms to Jordan until King Hussein recognizes Israel and negotiates with it, and conveying a “clear message” to other Arab states that the nature of U.S. relations with these countries — including arms sales and economic cooperation — depends on their willingness to make peace with Israel.

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