JERUSALEM (Jan. 4)
Israeli leaders were quick to praise the U.S. Navy for shooting down two Libyan jet fighters off the Libyan coast Wednesday.
The first reaction came from Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who is also finance minister and leader of the Labor Party. He said the Americans were obviously threatened by the Libyan planes.
Avi Pazner, media spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said the incident seemed to be a Libyan provocation. “Coming from a country like Libya, you can expect that kind of behavior,” said Pazner.
According to an announcement in Washington, Navy F-14s from the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan MIGs over international waters, near the eastern Libyan port of Tobruk. The report said the MIGs were behaving in a threatening manner.
America’s Western allies were reported nervous over the incident, which some saw as a last attempt by the outgoing Reagan administration to “hammer another nail” in the coffin of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
The U.S. Air Force bombed Gadhafi’s headquarters in Tripoli in April 1986, in retaliation for a terrorist act in West Berlin allegedly perpetrated by Libya.
President Reagan has recently spoken openly of attacking a plant in Libya alleged to be manufacturing chemical warfare weapons.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS THREAT DISCUSSED
Several agenda motions were introduced in the Knesset Wednesday to discuss reports that Libya is producing nerve gas and other chemical weapons.
Responding for the government, Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel will propose tough measures against countries manufacturing or using chemical weapons.
He said Foreign Minister Moshe Arens will recommend a series of sophisticated economic and political sanctions when he addresses a U.N.-sponsored international conference in Paris on banning chemical weapons.
Arens and Netanyahu are scheduled to fly to Paris on Friday. Netanyahu said he would talk there to the foreign ministers of countries believed to have supplied raw materials to countries making chemical weapons.
He observed that Libya was not the only Arab country with chemical weapons, but did not elaborate.
According to Netanyahu, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and now a Likud Knesset member, the world reacted with indifference to the use of poison gas during the Iran-Iraq war, thereby removing the international taboo on those weapons.
He said Israel must embark on a massive campaign to revive international opinion, which once rejected chemical weapons.
In Los Angeles, meanwhile, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has written to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl protesting the reported involvement of a West German company in helping Libya build the alleged chemical weapons plant.
Saying the center was “shocked” by the report, Rabbi Marvin Hier wrote, “It is inconceivable that Germany’s technology and expertise could in any way be allowed to assist (an) implacable enemy of the West and a fanatic foe of Israel in obtaining mass-murder capability.”