JERUSALEM (Apr. 26)
Israel suspended the press credentials of two leading American correspondents Tuesday for failing to submit stories to the military censor.
Yoram Ettinger, director of the Government Press Office, announced that Glenn Frankel of The Washington Post and Martin Fletcher of NBC News will be denied all facilities and cooperation from government ministries, the Israel Defense Force and the police “until the inquiry is completed” into their breach of regulations.
Ettinger stressed that suspension was not permanent revocation of the two reporters’ credentials. He said the government could have imposed much stiffer penalties, including withdrawal of residency permits. But it decided to be lenient “because of our desire to maintain our intimate relations with the foreign press,” the official said.
Fletcher was the first to file a story last week saying that Israel’s policy-making Inner Cabinet authorized the assassination of Khalil al-Wazir, the second-ranking official of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Wazir was better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Jihad, which means “father of the holy war.”
Wazir was gunned down by a commando-style hit squad at his villa in suburban Tunis on April 18. The Tunisian government charged Israel’s secret service, Mossad, with the deed.
Fletcher’s account. and a fuller one by Frankel published in The Washington Post, reported that the five Labor and five Likud ministers of Israel’s Inner Cabinet were split over the plan. Frankel reported that three Labor ministers dissented: Shimon Peres, Ezer Weizman and Yitzhak Navon.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied having a hand in Wazir’s killing. Ettinger said the government’s action against the American journalists had “no implication” with respect to Israel’s role in the matter.
Frankel and Fletcher said Tuesday that they intended to continue to work in Israel without credentials and their attendant privileges. Ettinger raised no objections.