JERUSALEM (Apr. 19)
At least one Cabinet minister seems to believe that Israel was behind the assassination of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s No. 2 man, Khalid al-Wazir, and thinks it was the wrong act at the wrong time.
Ezer Weizman, a Labor Party minister without portfolio, sharply questioned the political wisdom of the killing in two radio interviews Tuesday and implied, without saying so, that Israel was involved.
Asked if Israel was indeed behind the commando-like operation that gunned down Wazir at his home in a suburb of Tunis early Saturday morning, Weizman replied, “Guess for yourself.”
His comments followed an NBC News report that the assassination was approved by Israel’s Cabinet, with only Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Weizman voting against it.
But Justice and Tourism Minister Avraham Sharir of Likud flatly denied any Israeli involvement. He said during a visit to France that Israel was used to “such falsehoods.”
IMPACT ON PEACE PROCESS
Weizman, who was himself once a Likud member and served as Premier Menachem Begin’s defense minister, said the assassination of Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad (father of war), was a serious mistake that could jeopardize the peace process.
He said it closed avenues to Palestinian circles who could be negotiating partners and set back U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz’s Middle East peace initiative.
Although Israelis are convinced that Abu Jihad was the mastermind of the four-month-old Palestinian uprising in the administered territories, Weizman said he was not sure the 53-year-old head of Al Fatah was one of the more extreme Palestinian leaders.
Moreover, he argued, Israel has refrained until now from political assassinations, “at least not at this level of leadership and not in such a way.”
“Why was it necessary to do such a thing now” at a time when disturbances in the territories appear to be winding down? If so, why escalate the situation?” Weizman asked.
He said the killing would also have a negative effect on Israel’s relations with Egypt, which has condemned the assassination.