Israeli Officials Now Concerned About Their MIAs
ISRAELI officials yesterday welcomed announcement of the imminent release of Terry Anderson, but their words masked dismay that the Western hostage crisis appears to be so rapidly reaching an end with no word on missing Israeli soldiers in Lebanon.The authorities here had hoped that United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar's initiative to resolve the hostage crisis would also reveal the fate of seven Israeli MIAs. In return for that information, Israel has said it would free about 400 Shiite Lebanese prisoners. Israel has released 91 of those prisoners since Mr. Perez de Cuellar launched his efforts last August but has received only one body and proof of the deaths of two others. Government officials say they are convinced that one Israeli flier is alive, but they have been given no indication of his fate. Israeli hostage negotiator Uri Slonim said yesterday he hoped the joy felt by the families of Western hostages would soon be shared by relatives of Israel's MIAs. But he cautioned against euphoria. Officials in Jerusalem were taken aback by the hostage-takers' decision last month to unlink the fate of their Western hostages from that of Israel's Lebanese prisoners. Apparently cut out of the deal, Israel this week made two gestures in a bid to be included again - releasing 25 Shiite detainees and a videotape of Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid, a fundamentalist Muslim cleric kidnapped by Israeli troops. Uri Lubrani, Israel's chief hostage negotiator, has said Mr. Obeid and the other prisoners will be released only when Israel's MIAs have been returned, alive or dead. But he expressed optimism this week that Perez de Cuellar's effort will lead to a comprehensive settlement of the issue by the end of the year.