JERUSALEM (Nov. 14)
The Ministerial Defense Committee decided today to deport Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus despite his reported willingness to make a public denunciation of terrorism. The final decision rests with the Supreme Court which issued a temporary injunction against his expulsion last week. But the ministerial action today indicated that at least a majority in the government is opposed to any deal and believes that the pro-Palestine Liberation Organization mayor must be deported.
News of that decision spread rapidly on the West Bank where the mayors of Bethlehem and Hebron promptly resigned, joining 16 other mayors and municipal council members who handed in their resignations yesterday in protest against the treatment of Shaka. Shaka remains in the Ramle jail where he was confined since his arrest last Sunday. His attorney, Felicia Langer, said he would begin a hunger strike.
Until this morning there was wide speculation that Shaka would be released and allowed to return to office on condition that he declared his opposition to terrorism and the loss of civilian life. Langer said her client was prepared to make such a statement. He was removed from office by the Military Government last week because of statements he made at a private meeting with a Defense Ministry official in which he allegedly condoned the massacre of 34 civilians in a terrorist attack on Israel’s coastal highway in March, 1978. Shaka insists that his remarks were distorted and taken out of context.
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman appeared yesterday to have had second thoughts about the wisdom of deporting Shaka. His comments in private and before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee indicated that he would have preferred to settle the matter quietly. But the Voice of Israel Radio reported this afternoon that Weizman reconsidered again and concluded that the government had no choice but to deport the deposed mayor. The report said it was Weizman himself who demanded that the expulsion order be carried out.
The decision was reported just as the Israeli and Egyptian working groups met in Tel Aviv for another round of talks on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ( See separate story.) The chairman of the Egyptian delegation, Ahmad Izzat Abdul Latif, made a brief statement on the Shaka case. He spoke before the deportation decision was announced, expressing concern over its possible effects on the Future of the autonomy talks. Haim Kubersky, head of the Israeli delegation, insisted that the Shaka case had nothing to do with the autonomy negotiations.