JERUSALEM (Nov. 12)
The mayors of 23 towns on the West Bank and Gaza Strip have threatened to resign collectively tomorrow unless Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus is released from jail and deportation proceedings are dropped. Shaka was detained in Ramle yesterday pending a Supreme Court ruling on an appeal against his expulsion from the occupied territories. But the high court has refused to order his release.
Mayor Rashad A Shawa of Gaza was scheduled to meet today with Defense Minister Ezer Weizman in a last minute effort to prevent the deportation of his colleague. Weizman will also see Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem.
The entire Nablus city council has already resigned in protest against the treatment of Shaka. If the other mayors resign, all of the local town councils and employes are expected to walk out as well, paralyzing municipal services in most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Defense Ministry said today that it was prepared for such a contingency and would see to it that essential services are maintained.
TENSION MOUNTS ON WEST BANK
But tension and unrest mounted on the West Bank today. Businesses shut down in Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah. In the latter town, Israeli vehicles were stoned and students at nearby Bir Zeit College staged a sit-down strike. East Jerusalem remained calm however and shops were open.
Shaka was ordered expelled because of pro-terrorist remarks he allegedly made in the course of a private meeting six days ago with Gen. Danny Matt, coordinator of West Bank activities in the Defense Ministry. The Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction barring deportation while the matter was investigated. Today it turned down an appeal by Shaka’s attorney, Felicia Langer, who argued that his arrest was in violation of the injunction.
Shaka, a leftist and supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization, reportedly told Matt that the terrorist massacre on Israel’s coastal highway in March, 1978 in which 34 people were killed, was justified and that such acts would be repeated until the Palestinian problem is resolved. Defense Ministry sources said Shaka’s deportation was ordered because of his record of anti-Israel provocations over a period of years. They said his remarks to Matt were “the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Freij, who is regarded as a moderate, said today that he and the other mayors who announced their intention to resign would do so unless Shaka is freed by tomorrow. “All the employes of the Bethlehem municipality will likewise resign with me,” he said. “Even the street cleaners in Bethlehem are going to resign so municipal services will virtually come to a standstill.”
DIFFERENCES AMONG MAYORS
On the other hand, they are being urged to quit by more extreme elements, notably the National Front which is associated with Israel’s Communist Party. The mayors in the Gaza region held an emergency meeting last night where it was decided that Shawa would seek a meeting with Weizman. “We are asking the Israel government and particularly Defense Minister Weizman who is known as a reasonable man not to lend his hand to a general revolt in the entire occupied land,” Shawa said. He postponed a visit to Jordan in order to meet with Weizman.
Israelis generally were infuriated by the remarks attributed to Shaka which were leaked to the press. But reactions to the deportation order were mixed. Although all coalition factions supported the decision, Weizman himself reportedly had second thoughts. He said he would set up a committee to investigate the matter.