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August 18, 1989 - Image 76

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-08-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I BEHIND THE HEADLINES I

Was U.S. Afraid To Call
Bus Action 'Terrorism'?

Some Israelis are deeply disturbed by
Washington's reluctance to condemn the
tragedy as an act of terrorism.

LOUIS RAPOPORT

Israel Correspondent

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.0

ou can cut the tension
with a knife here this
week. Israelis are us-
ed to living close to the edge,
but it hasn't been quite like
this since the Yom Kippur
War in 1973, when it was first
learned that the enemy was
threatening Israel's
heartland.
Bus Number 405, hurtling
over the precipice on the
Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway
after a Palestinian Moslem
fundamentalist grabbed the
wheel, was more than an ug-
ly act of terror and a terrible
tragedy. Many felt it might be
a taste of what is to come,
that all of Israel — Jews and
Palestinians alike — are on a
precipice of sorts, facing
disaster. In the streets of
Israel, numerous small in-
cidents between Jews and
Arabs that drove the point
home.
As of the beginning of this
week, the United States
refused to characterize the at-
tack on the bus, in which 14
Israelis and foreign tourists
were slain, as a terrorist act.
The Palestine Liberation
Organization, of course, also
did not think it was terror,
merely "reaction," "frustra-
tion," the "consequences of
Israeli intransigence." And
Washington, though natural-
ly deploring the act, seemed
reluctant to call it one of ter-
ror because the U.S. talks
with the PLO were predicated
on and conditional upon the
PLO's renunciation of
terrorism.
A stark contrast was provid-
ed over the weekend (July 8)
when Radio Moscow referred
to the bus attack as "ter-
rorism against innocent
civilians."
The U.S. ambassador here,
William Brown, was called to
the Foreign Ministry on Sun-
day and officially informed of
Israel's displeasure over the
Americans' mischaracteriza-
tion of an obvious act of ter-
ror in the heart of Israel. And
American sources here and in
Washington said later that
the State Department
spokesman would probably
define the attack as "ter-
rorism" at the Monday brief-
ing. But the damage had
already been done, and the
United States is not about to
end its talks with the PLO.

Last week, the United
States confirmed reports
emanating from the PLO that
the Americans have upgrad-
ed their talks with the PLO,
and that Yassir Arafat's No. 2
man, Salah Khalaf (known as
Abu Iyad), has met with Am-
bassador Robert Pelletreau,
who was once a hostage of
PLO terrorists, in the ongoing
talks in Tunis. The PLO
leadership is rightfully proud
of its accomplishment, and
boasted of it to a Kuwaiti
newspaper, which broke the
story.
Prime Minister Shamir's
aide Yossi Ahimeir told me
over the weekend that the
prime minister registered
_ Israel's concern over the

The damage has
already been done,
and the United
States is not about
to end its talks
with the PLO.

upgraded contacts with the
PLO during a meeting last
week with visiting Sen. Orrin
Hatch of Utah. Shamir
reportedly said that if the
U.S. meets with the No. 2
PLO man, "they'll be
meeting with Arafat next."
Although he was careful to
say that the U.S. refusal to
condemn the bus attack as an
act of terror won't hurt rela-
tions between Israel and the
United States,- Ahimeir was
only being diplomatic. The
delay in terming the attack
terrorism shows that Israel's
staunchest friend and ally
may be backing away from
Jerusalem, repeating the
kind of errors it made in Iran,
when other "agents of in-
nocence" from the CIA helped
pave Khomeini's way.
Ahimeir said that the bus
atrocity "is something we
think makes clear just what
is the Arab approach to
human life, to their future
and our future in the Middle
East." That the Americans
did not condemn it as ter-
rorism clearly shows what
kind of enemies we are stan-
ding against. We are em-
phasizing to the Americans
the negative aspects of U.S.
contacts with the PLO."
The Americans are sending
a top-level State Department
delegation next week headed
by Deputy Secretary Larry

4

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