Israeli Prime Minister Meachem Begin made it clear Yesterday that the terrorist attack in which 41 persons were killed Saturday will strengthen his government's resolve not to permit establishment of a Palestinian homeland.
A widespread manhunt for three Palestinian commandos who were thought to have escaped was called off late last night when their remains were identified among several charred bodies in the burned-out hulk of a bus the terrorists had seized.
Israeli officials said the toll in the attack near Tel Aviv, the worst in Israel's history, was 41 dead and 76 wounded. Among the dead were nine of the 11 Palestinians who entered Israel from the Mediterranean on rubber rafts and seized two tourist buses. The remaining two terrorists were captured.
Both Begin and Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Wiezman indicated that Israel was considering a retaliatory strike against the Palestinians - its customary response to such attacks in the past. Begin said he was postponing a planned trip to Washington for talks with President Carter for at least a week. Begin was to have arrived in Washington today.
Palestinian refugee [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in Lebanon some of which [WORD ILLEGIBLE] :commando bases were reported on full alert last night and there were reports from Beirut that both Israel and the Palestinians were moving forces toward the Lebanese border.
Al Fatah guerrilla organization claimed responsibility for the raid Saturday, but there was no indication whether Yasser Arafat who heads both Al Fatah and the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization had personally approved it Arafat who was visiting in East Germany at the time, returned to Lebanon yesterday.
In a press conference yesterday, Begin said in emotional tones, "It is unthinkable that in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, a state will arise that will be ruled by Yasser Arafat and his murderers." Judea and Samaria are the biblical names for what is now known as the occupied West Bank of Jordan.
Begin compared the PLO with the Nazis and said he hoped Western nations would now understand why Israel has objected to a Palestinian state.
While he would not say directly whether Israel was planning to retaliate, Begin said. "Those who kill Jews in our time cannot enjoy impunity."
Interviewed on ABC's "Issues and Answers," Weizman left little doubt that Israel would take some action.
"We know who is responsible. We will have to do something so things like this do not happen again," he said.
Israel's Foreign Ministry formally messaged leaders of most nation's yesterday, asking that they revoke any sort of recognition they have granted the PLO.
In Herzliya, the northern suburb of Tel Aviv where the Palestinians and their busload of Israeli hostages were finally halted in a fusillade Saturday night, one could see charred wreckage where the bus had burned. Assistant chaplains with pink plastic bags looked along the roadside for possible remains of the hostages who died in the bus.
Across the fields, as a cold wind and rain swept in from the sea, soldiers in full combat gear formed into lines to search every rock and tuft of grass that might possibly give cover to the escaped terrorists. The sound of tracker dogs baying in the distance broke the silence on the usually heavily traveled highway, which was empty except for military and police vehicles. Overhead helicopters swept over the fields searching for anything suspicious.
"This is where it was happening" a soldier said in broken English before the search was called off, pointing to the charred bits of wreckage. "If they will be out there and we will find them . . ." He did not finish the sentence.
When the Israeli Cabinet met yesterday morning, Begin asked them to observe a moment of silence for the "victims of Israel's fight for survival."
In his press conference, Begin recounted the events of the attack: How the Palestinians had landed in two rubber boats on the coast, ambushed a taxi on the coast road and then hijacked a bus. He told of how they had stopped a second bus and transfered more hostages to the first bus before continuing south.
Begin said leaflets discovered on the Palestinians revealed that their intention had been to take hostages, demand the release of prisoners in Israeli jails and to kill the hostages if their demands were not met.
When confronted by security forces at a roadblock, the Palestinians apparently threw a hand grenade into the bus killing at least 25 people. Many of the victims were found with their hands bound behind their backs, Begin said.
The other Israeli victims including one policeman, died in the final shootout or when the Palestinians had fired at passing cars.
"Their purpose was to kill Jews," the prime minister said.
Begin said that almost all the weapons found were of Soviet manufacture and he called upon the Kremlin leaders to ask themselves what they were doing to the Jewish people.
As for the effect of the raid on peace negotiations Begin said that Israel was still being directly and indirectly asked to allow a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza "under the cloth of that misused concept" of self-determination. This, he said, was for sovereign nations but not for factions that made it their purpose and goal to wipe out other nations.
Begin denied that President Carter or anyone else in his administration had urged Israel to use restraint.
As for the future of negotiations with Egypt, Begin said that if Egypt still wants to carry on peace efforts, "These bloody events should not and will not stop negotiations."
Whether Israel will retaliate remains an open question. There will be political pressures on Begin to respond in kind and diplomatic pressures upon him to desist.
Many serious questions were also being asked last night about the way Israeli security forces responded to the attack. How were two boatloads of Palestinians able to land on the Israeli coast in broad daylight? Why was the highway not cleared when the hijacking of the bus became known to avoid the random shooting of passing motorists? And why was the bus not surrounded so that none of that none of the terrorists could escape? Begin said at his press conference that these matters would be investigated.
Clearly the Palestinians timed their raid not only to disrupt Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace initiative by forcing Israel into a tougher stand but also to disrupt the meeting with Carter. Ther Maalot raid in 1974, in which 28 persons including many children were killed, came at a time when Israel was negotiating with Egypt. It was noted here that yesterday's raid was conducted by the mainstream Fatah organization and not a splinter group.
As for Israel, although the tragedy could never justify the result, it is hoped that the raid will swing American public opinion and that attention will be drawn away from issues such as the interpretation of U.N. Resolution 242 and settlements in occupied territories on which the Carter administration and Israel are in disagreement.