Israel’s leaders hailed America’s punitive air raids on Libya-as an act of self-defense against international terrorism but stressed repeatedly Tuesday that Israel was in no way involved and had no advance knowledge of U.S. plans.
Premier Shimon Peres, questioned by reporters while visiting Nazareth, said he does not know yet what results the American action might have but “I know the reasons for it. Libya was undoubtedly behind the bombing of American soldiers at the discotheque in (West) Berlin and it doesn’t surprise me that the United States takes steps in its own self defense,” Peres said.
‘A DETERMINED AND DARING ACTION’
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told reporters after an appearance at the Hebrew University that the U.S. action in Libya was “a determined and daring action against a country which took the lead in the encouragement, finance and support of international terrorism.”
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said in an Israel Radio interview that the American action was an act of defense of the U.S. and the free world against international terrorism.
“It is clear to everybody that terrorism can succeed only when it has the support of countries like Libya, Syria and others, and if we want to put an end to terrorism we have to punish these countries and to convince them to change their way of action in this regard,” the Likud leader said.
But except for Britain, Israel was alone among America’s allies in expressing unqualified support for the U.S. air strike. It was deplored even by the moderate Arab states, including Egypt which has long considered Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi a foe.
Peres said he “reserved judgement” when asked if he thought the U.S. action went far enough toward eliminating terrorist acts such as the discotheque bombing, the bombing of a TWA airliner over Greece, and the machinegun and grenade attacks on the Rome and Vienna airports last December, all of which the Reagan Administration claims were masterminded by Qaddafi.
Responding to a condemnation of the air strike by Nazareth’s Communist Mayor Tewfik Zayyad, Peres asked what else did he expect the Americans to do when they had proof that Qaddafi was planning to kill more Americans, “sit back and praise the Lord?” Asked to comment on the Soviet charge of State-sponsored terrorism by the U.S., Peres remarked, “The USSR has a language of its own.”
With respect to Israel, he said, “We were not invited (to participate in the air strike) and we played no role in it.” He warned, however, that Libyan and Palestinian terrorism would not solve anything. “The Palestinians are not our enemies and Israel is interested in solving the Palestinian problem through negotiations,” he said.
Rabin, too, stressed that the strike at Libya “was an American action. Israel was not involved and was not notified about it.” But, he added, “It is an attempt to deal with the sources of terrorism, not only with those who carry it out.”
“Therefore, as a matter of principle, I believe that every country that believes that something has to be done against international terrorism, in coordination with the democratic free world, should come and say that it is a justified action,” Rabin said He dismissed concern that a world war could evolve from the American action.
REACTIONS IN EUROPE
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministers of the 12 member states of the European Economic Community (EEC) will meet in Paris Thursday to evaluate the consequences of the American air strike. According to Western diplomats, a majority of the twelve — with the notable exception of Britain — are opposed to the raid and hope to convince the Americans to abstain from further military actions against Libya.
The EEC Foreign Ministers, meeting at The Hague Monday before the U.S. launched its bombers against Libya, made clear that they favored diplomatic and political measures before resorting to force. After the raid, the Foreign Ministries of the EEC states were either critical or non-committal.
Only British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe maintained, in a BBC address, that the U.S. “has exercised its right of self-defense.” Britain allowed a part of the American strike force–F-111 long-range bombers–to use NATO bases on British soil.
But British opposition parties, especially Labor, condemned the raids. Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock said he was “horrified” by the American action and maintained that there were “other and more effective ways to fight terrorism.”
Denis Healy, Labor’s foreign policy spokesman, accused Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of “grovelling subservience” to President Reagan and warned that Britain would now become more of a target of Libyan terrorism than it was. According to opposition spokesmen, Qaddafi now has more friends than he had before the action.
The French Foreign Ministry refused permission for the American bombers to overfly French territory on the way to Libya and expressed regrets over the raid, which it said would “escalate” terrorism.
The raid was also condemned by West Germany’s Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Another member of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Cabinet, Economics Minister Martin Bangemann, called the raid “inappropriate and incomprehensible.” The Dutch and Italian governments were also highly critical.
In the United States, Jewish organizations expressed full support for the air strike against Libya.
In a telegram to President Reagan Tuesday, Kenneth Bialkin, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, hailed the action against Libya.
“We support your policies in defense of freedom and in rejection of intimidation,” the telegram said. “Only when international terrorists are made to realize that they must pay for lawless conduct and are accountable for the consequences of their acts will there be a return to the rule of law. Until then, your efforts should be appreciated by all of us who understand the dangers of appeasement.”
Nathan Perlmutter, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, sent a telegram to Reagan Tuesday saying, “We applaud and fully support your decision to attack Libya.” He added: “There is no simple, short-term way to deal with terrorists. Rather, it requires hard decisions, risk-taking over a period of time. We stand behind you in this difficult but necessary effort.”
Sidney Kwetel president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, also sent a telegram to the White House in which he said his organization “applauds the courageous action taken by the U.S. in its effort to combat Libyan-inspired and sponsored terrorism. We fully support the Administration in its world-wide war to end the scourge of terrorism.”
UN LEADER URGED TO TAKE ACTION
The leaders of the Herut Zionists of America, the Betar Zionist Youth Movement and the Tagar Student Zionist Activist Organization, jointly sent a letter to United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar Tuesday urging him to mobilize the “nations of the world in a united effort to punish the sponsors of international terrorism.”
The letter stated, in part: “The United States yesterday (Monday) took a courageous and important step in the campaign to eliminate the cancer of international terrorism. Through military action against Libya, President Reagan reaffirmed America’s role as the leader of the free world and boldly demonstrated that barbaric acts of terrorism–such as the brutal murders sponsored by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, the PLO’s Yasir Arafat, and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini–will not be allowed to continue unpunished.”
The letter urged the Secretary General to “take immediate steps to expel Libya, Iran and the PLO terrorist group from the United Nations and all of its affiliated agencies… ensure formal international cooperation in the effort to fully prosecute and punish those states, organizations and individuals which participate in global terrorism” and “implement a program which will effectively isolate and limit the global capabilities of nations which fail to participate in the campaign against international terrorism.”
Harold Jacobs, president of the National Council of Young Israel, strongly endorsed the U.S. reprisal attack on Libya and stated: “We must be prepared to confront not only Libya, but all other international terrorist havens, from the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, to Teheran, to the terrorist training centers behind the Iron Curtain.”
He added, “It is imperative that other governments of the free world abandon their policy of appeasement and join the United States in the war against international, State-sponsored terrorism.”
Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the American Jewish Heritage Committee, sent a telegram to Reagan extolling the strike against Libya as an “historic and courageous action that strikes at the very center of the terror kingdom. The United States has demonstrated by this direct action its resolve to stand firm against the evils of terrorism,” Berkowitz said.