Israeli officials said today they saw no reason that yesterday's surprise attack on the PLO headquaters in Tunisia should exact a long-term political price either on Israel or on the prospects for Middle East peace negotiations.
"Once the dust settles, everything will return to normal," Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a parliamentary committee today.
In New York, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told a radio interviewer, "There is no political price to pay, and there will be none in the future."
Meanwhile, a White House statement yesterday calling the raid against the Palestine Liberation Organization an act of self-defense were read here as a virtual endorsement of the bombing from Israel's major backer. Prime Minister Shimon Peres, on television, called Washington's response "unequivocal."
While the country's leading politicians were almost unanimous in their public show of confidence that the repercussions of the raid would be minimal, the major political costs and benefits of the action already were the subject of sharp debate among academics, editorialists, and some members of the Knesset, or parliament.
The first emotion that swept the country was pride in the military efficiency with which the attack was carried out, following the military's frustrating years spent in Lebanon.
The domestic political benefits of this reaction are thought to accrue almost entirely to the Labor Party under Peres and Rabin, and the prime minister praised the Israeli Air Force at length tonight.
As Mark Heller of Tel Aviv's Institute for Strategic Studies put it, "Nobody will accuse them of being soft on the PLO or soft on terrorism now."
Underscoring a tough stand today, the government announced that three Palestinians from the West Bank accused of terrorist acts or associations were deported to Jordan last night after their protracted appeals through the courts had been exhausted.
Reinforcing his hard-line credentials still further, Peres declared on television that his government must see to the safety of Israelis, and other Jews as well, anywhere in the world if they are the targets of terrorism because of their nationality or religion.
Such shows of firmness by Labor's leaders, suggested Heller, "may even give them more latitude than they had before" in making peace with Jordan.
But other analysts were less sanguine.
"The unfortunate, maybe even the tragic aspect of the situation," said Asher Susser, a specialist on Jordanian affairs at Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center, "is that there is a serious element in Israeli politics that wants to come to a settlement with Jordan and there is an element in Jordan that wants a settlement with Israel, but these two cannot get together because of factors in their own internal politics."
The thrust of Israeli policy, even among the advocates of peace talks with Jordan, has been to try to separate Hussein from PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.
"There is a strong preference on the part of the leaders of the Israeli government to have this joint Jordanian-Palestinian effort as strongly Jordanian as possible," said Heller.
This appears to have been an anticipated effect, if not the purpose of the raid on Tunisia, which was declared a punishment of the PLO after three Israelis identified as vacationers were murdered in Cyprus.
Despite the king's protests, some Israeli officials suggested the raid actually could have strengthened Hussein's hand.
"Arafat now has egg all over his face because of his insistence on using terror," said former foreign minister Abba Eban, "which makes Hussein's way of diplomacy much more attractive."
Peres tonight was asked to answer speculation that the attack was in fact aimed at killing Arafat.
Peres said he was not certain Israel had an interest in such "personal terror. The war is against the organization."
Yet, as Jordan's king has made clear on many occasions, his fate is now almost inextricably bound up with Arafat and the PLO in the current peace initiative.
"Were Hussein to proceed without Arafat, it would make decisions by Labor-thinking Israelis much easier," Susser added. "But the fact still remains that as far as the king is concerned, his own appreciation of the situaion is that he cannot go ahead without Arafat."