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Richard Steve Goldberg, not such a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, his most recent address in Long Beach, California, now lives in close proximity to Osama bin Laden. Goldberg and bin Laden are neighbors on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Bin Laden has been on the list slightly longer than Goldberg.

Bin Laden is a suspect in the murder of thousands of people; $25 million awaits the person who provides information that leads to his arrest. Goldberg is a pedophile who engages in sexual activity with underage girls. Both men are sought for having allegedly committed federal crimes, and both are considered armed and dangerous.

You have to get into the FBI's head, in more ways than one - into the organizational line of thought, as well as that of its director, Robert Mueller - to understand why the investigators are hesitant to classify the murder at the El Al check-in counter a terrorist attack. To Israelis, it's as plain as day: An Arab attacked Israelis on the grounds of an installation of their national airline. Americans might see it slightly differently, especially if they have vowed to fight crime - and in their eyes, terror is just that, a crime - as opposed to an enemy. Over the past few months, Mueller has been trying to appease the large Arab and Muslim community, part of which extends its patronage to dormant terror cells and most of which has been adversely affected by its identification with bin Laden.

"These attacks against you and your communities are not only reprehensible, like terrorism, they are attacks against humanity," said Mueller two weeks ago in a speech to the national convention of the American Muslim Council. He said that the FBI had launched more than 360 investigations on attacks and threats against Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Americans, and that over 100 individuals had been charged with federal, state or local crimes. Muslims are now volunteering to work for the FBI translating intelligence material and interviewing prisoners in Guantanamo. FBI agents are taking courses in Islam. No one dares mention the problematic term, "dual loyalty."

From this point of view, an American of Egyptian descent who has lived in California for years caused the deaths of two Americans of Israeli descent who have lived in California for years. This may be terror (and if so, it would be the pretext for transferring the investigation from the local police to the FBI) and maybe not; the connection to the never-ending Middle East conflict still has to be proved.

Such a connection has been made in the past decade in only one instance - the murder of ultra-Orthodox teenager Ari Halberstam and the wounding of three friends as they drove on the Brooklyn Bridge on March 1, 1994. The shooter, Rashid Najib Baz, was captured and convicted. This was the only instance in which the FBI decided that the circumstances - revenge for the murderous attack at the Tomb of the Patriarchs the previous week - justified the classification of Halberstam's murder as an act of terrorism.

In Los Angeles, Hesham Hadayet did not survive to explain his motives. And even if he had, he was not unlike the Egyptian murderer in Ras Burka and the Jordanian murderer in Naharayim - an isolated assailant, a title that was first coined during the investigation of the Hebron massacre - in which the attacker did not belong to any organization. Although the FBI has issued warnings that members of Gama'a al-Islamiya (which has its headquarters in Egypt), al Qaida, Hezbollah, Harakat ul-Mujahidin and Kahane Chai are all active in the United States, nearly all of the terrorist incidents there - over 300 in the past two decades - can be attributed to the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front, the anti-abortion front, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the extreme right, the extreme left, organizations for the liberation of Puerto Rico, the Jewish Defense League, the Justice Commando of the Armenian Genocide and Irish provocateurs.

Back in Israel, the computers of the intelligence community have also come up with nothing after being fed the name of Hadayet, cross-linked with every known terror organization. Attacks against Israeli delegations abroad are considered a realistic threat, but the highest alert has been declared for Amman, Cairo, Alexandria, Istanbul, Ankara and Manila. Los Angeles is not considered a prime target.