Newsletter : 5fax0921.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Sept. 21, 1995, V3, #174
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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Hijacked Plane Leaves for Teheran
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
The hijacking of an Iranian airliner to Israel Tuesday focused
attention on the hostile relationship between the two countries.
There was some hope the incident might ease that hostility, but it
appears it has not.
Israel says it was a good Samaritan, allowing a hijacked plane to
land after the pilot declared he would crash otherwise for lack of
And now it has left for its journey home, with all its passengers
and crew members on board, except the hijacker. The Iranians left
an air force base in southern Israel about 31-hours after they had
arrived. They waited through Tuesday while Israeli investigators
questioned the hijacker and members of the airplane's crew. After
Israel's government decided early Wednesday they could go, they
waited until after dark while a problem with the plane's landing
gear was fixed.
The hijacker, who has requested political asylum, is in police
custody in Eilat. The police have identified him as 29-year-old
Jabari Rizah, a flight attendant on the hijacked plane. Israel
earlier said five other passengers had also asked to stay, but that
did not happen.
The hijacking was plagued by political considerations from
beginning to end. Israel was at first reluctant to allow the
Iranian plane to land. Then its release was delayed while the crew
was interrogated. Upon departure, Israel Radio said the plane had
to fly a long route north over the Mediterranean, over Turkey and
then into Iran, because it could not get clearance to fly over Arab
countries after departing from Israel.
Initially, the Israelis were concerned that the pilot's report of
a hijacking could be a ruse designed to convince Israel to allow
a plane loaded with explosives or terrorists to land. But Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin said even though it was an Iranian plane,
and there was some risk involved, he did not want to be a party
to a tragedy if a plane full of innocent civilians went down.
In Iran, officials responded to the move by accusing Israel of
planning the hijacking, and later called Israel an illegitimate
regime which has terrorism, abduction and inhuman measures at the
top of its activities.
Iran refers to Israel as occupied Palestine and contends that
Israel has no right to exist. Iran opposes all efforts by the
Palestinians and Arab countries to make peace with Israel, and
Iran is believed to be financing and directing a proxy war
against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon by the Hizbullah
Israel considers Iran a terrorist state and accuses it of holding
an Israeli airman who has been missing for nine years.
The deputy director of Israel's Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies,
Ephraim Kan, says the hijacking is not likely to change the
mutual animosity. "I'm doubtful whether this hijacking is going to
significantly affect the relationship between Israel and Iran. I
would not expect the Iranians to do any gesture toward the
Israelis. I'm not sure whether they are going even to thank us,
so I don't expect any real change in the relationship."
Some in Israel have said the plane and at least some of its
passengers should be held until Iran agreed to release the
missing airman, Ron Arad, or at least provide some information
about him, or open a dialogue.
Arad's mother, Batya, was among them. She visited the hijacked
Iranian passengers and asked them to urge their government to
release her son. She put a sticker on the Iranian plane which
read, "Free Ron Arad," and she gave each of the 11 children among
the Iranians a sticker put on their shirts. After the encounter
with Arad, one careful Iranian woman told a reporter "I feel sad
for the family, but I believe whatever my government says about
this story." Iran says it does not know anything about the fate
But not everyone in Israel thought the plane should be held,
and that is the view which prevailed when Rabin and his senior
security advisers met Wednesday morning and decided to release the
plane and all its crew and passengers, except the hijacker.
Israeli Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein said the government
might have put future Israeli hijack victims at risk if it had held
these Iranians as hostages.
And Prof. Moshe Ma'oz of Hebrew University says such an effort
would have been illegal, and would likely have failed anyway.
"We are not going to use the same tactics as the Iranians --
blackmailing or something. We have a different political culture,
Still, Ma'oz says Israel was justified in keeping the passengers
overnight in order to allow time to investigate whether there were
any senior officials or army officers on the plane. He says Israel
needed to take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn anything
it could about the missing airman, the situation in Lebanon,
internal Iranian politics or any other issues.
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