Netanyahu in spotlight as assassination plot unravels
Israeli Cabinet discusses failed attempt on Hamas leader
October 5, 1997
Web posted at: 1:17 p.m. EDT (1717 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) --
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met top Cabinet officials Sunday to discuss the assassination attempt on Khaled Mashaal, a militant leader of the fundamentalist Hamas movement. The Cabinet again refused to
say whether the Israeli secret service Mossad had been involved, but sources
told CNN that Netanyahu personally ordered the attack.
Alleged Mossad agents carrying Canadian passports reportedly
tried to kill Mashaal in Amman 10 days ago by injecting him
with a toxic substance.
Sources told CNN the following information regarding the
-- Netanyahu wanted Mashaal killed, overruling objections of
some Cabinet members, and ignoring an offer from
Hamas for a 10-year cessation of hostilities and bombings.
-- Once it was known that the assassination had failed,
Netanyahu called King Hussein of Jordan, saying, "We have a
-- Hussein considered recalling his ambassador to Israel and
demanded that Netanyahu provide the poison antidote.
-- Netanyahu first refused to do so, but changed his mind
after U.S. President Bill Clinton intervened. Clinton was
quoted as saying of Netanyahu: "I cannot deal with this man.
He is impossible."
Israeli media have now swung into investigating what one
newspaper headline called the "sordid business in Jordan."
Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh refused to confirm or deny that
Netanyahu had ordered the assassination, as Israeli news
reports have claimed.
"Israel is prevented at this stage from making references
to reports about action against Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal,"
Naveh said after the Cabinet meeting.
However, he did tell reporters that Mashaal "is considered
the number one figure in Hamas and is responsible for the
murder of many innocent Israeli civilians."
"The government's obligation is to protect the lives of its
citizens and to wage an uncompromising campaign against
terrorism," he said.
King Hussein: 'This worries me a lot'
Mashaal's life reportedly was saved when an Israeli doctor
delivered an antidote for the poison.
However, the alleged government involvement has rocked
relations with Jordan and Canada.
Canada recalled its ambassador from Israel in protest at the
use of Canadian passports in the attack. And while Jordan's
Hussein did not specifically tie Israel to the
attack, he said Israel should respect the 1994 peace treaty
between the two countries.
"I personally can't figure out what the Israeli prime
minister is thinking of, and this worries me a lot," the
London-based Al-Hayat newspaper quoted the king as saying.
Israeli reports described Israel's release to Jordan last
week of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' ailing spiritual leader,
as part of a swap for the two men held by Jordan in the
attack on Mashaal. The king denied there was any such deal.
Jordanian and Hamas officials said Yassin would be flown to
his home in the Gaza Strip on Monday.
Israeli, Palestinian talks set for Monday
Despite the latest tension in the Middle East, Israelis and
Palestinians were to sit down for face-to-face talks on
U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross will join the two sides at
their first talks since a six-month-old stalemate kept the
sides from implementing existing peace deals.
Last week in New York, after meeting top PLO negotiator
Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced that Israeli
and Palestinian negotiating committees would resume work on
implementing issues left over from existing deals.
Correspondents Jerrold Kessel, Walter Rodgers, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.