JERUSALEM (Feb. 5)
The political turmoil stirred in France by the brief visit of arch-terrorist George Habash echoed Wednesday in the Knesset, where right-wing politicians blasted the Likud government for failing to have him extradited and the French for letting him go. Habash arrived unannounced in Paris on Jan. 29 for unspecified medical treatment and returned Saturday to Tunis. Although the French police kept him under surveillance, he was not questioned about the numerous terrorist acts on French soil and against French citizens, several fatal, which have been attributed to his Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Foreign Minister David Levy, who said he would have liked to see Habash extradited, told the Knesset on Wednesday that Israel informed the French authorities last Friday that it was preparing to request his extradition to stand trial for crimes committed on Israeli soil.
Levy was especially indignant about French President Francois Mitterrand’s television statement that no country had requested Habash’s extradition, mentioning Israel specifically.
The least the French could have done was put Habash on trial themselves, Levy said.
But Israel’s response to the affair was lowkey from the outset.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was quoted as telling the French daily Le Figaro that he thought the whole episode was “a misunderstanding” and of little importance.
Informed sources here said that Shamir wanted to keep clear of the affair because the rumor was that Habash suffered a stroke and was close to death.
Shamir feared Israel’s interference would inflame passions in the administered territories, stalling the peace process.
But his spokesman, Ehud Gol, told reporters afterward that the prime minister would not necessarily have opposed Habash’s extradition.
In the Knesset on Wednesday, Tzahi Hanegbi of Likud burned a photo of Habash.
Even the left wing was incensed. Yossi Sarid of the Citizens Rights Movement tongue-lashed Arab Knesset members for defending Habash’s right to seek medical treatment in France.
The only treatment the murderous Habash deserves is judicial treatment, Sarid declared.