The fedayeen knew all along that the Israelis weren't likely to accede to their demands. Still, they extended their deadline to noon. Issa would emerge from the building from time to time to confer with German officials, usually with a grenade conspicuous in his shirt pocket, its pin sometimes pulled.
The crisis team groped for a plan. First Schreiber offered the terrorists an unlimited amount of money. Genscher, who would later become West Germany's foreign minister, pleaded with Issa not to subject Jews once more to death on German soil, then offered himself as a substitute hostage. Vogel, Schreiber, Merk and Walther Tr�ger, the ceremonial mayor of the Olympic Village, joined Genscher in that offer, but Issa refused. Avery Brundage, the president of the IOC, said he recalled that in the 1920s, the Chicago police had piped knockout gas into buildings to overpower gangsters. But after placing fruitless calls to U.S. police departments asking for more information, the authorities abandoned Brundage's idea. They tried to have policemen disguised as cooks deliver food to the compound and overpower the terrorists, perhaps after igniting a "blitz bomb" to blind them. But the fedayeen weren't going to fall for that; they ordered that provisions be left at the building's threshold.
The terrorists pushed back their deadline twice more, to 3 p.m., then to 5, knowing that each postponement only redoubled the TV audience. "The demand to free our imprisoned brothers had only symbolic value," Al-Gashey would say later. "The only aim of the action was to scare the world public during their 'happy Olympic Games' and make them aware of the fate of the Palestinians."
In the late afternoon one more plan—to have 13 policemen infiltrate the building through the heating ducts—advanced far enough that the men, dressed ludicrously in track suits, began to loosen ventilation grates on the roof. But this operation, too, was called off, mercifully: Television cameras had long since been trained on the building and were broadcasting the police team's movements live to a worldwide audience, including the fedayeen.
Shortly before 5 p.m. the terrorists made a new demand. They wanted a jet to fly them and their captives to Cairo. "I did not believe [the Israelis] would negotiate with us in Germany, and that is why we made a plan to take a plane and the hostages to another Arab country" Abu Daoud told SI. "From there I believed they would negotiate the release of our prisoners." The freed Palestinians were to be waiting on the tarmac in Cairo by 8 the following morning, Issa told the Germans. If not, Black September would execute the hostages before leaving the plane.
"These are innocent people," Genscher told Issa.
"I am a soldier," Issa said. "We are at war."
Yet here, finally, the Germans saw a potential opening. If the crisis relocated, there would be buses and helicopters and planes, embarkations and disembarkations, the agora of an airport tarmac—perhaps an opportunity to draw a bead on the fedayeen. But before going forward, the Germans wanted to make sure of two things: that the hostages were still alive and that they were willing to fly to Cairo.
Genscher and Tr�ger were escorted into the second-floor room of Apartment 1. The hostages told them that yes, if they had to be routed through an Arab capital to freedom, they would be willing to go. But the hostages' spokesman, Shorr, the senior member of the delegation and a resistance fighter during World War II, added that in such a case, they assumed that "our government would meet the demands of the terrorists. For otherwise we would all be shot."
"In other words," said Genscher, "if your government did not agree to the prisoner exchange, you would not be willing to leave German territory."