JERUSALEM (Oct. 21)
The two deported mayors, Fahd Kawasme of Hebron and Mohammed Milhim of Halhoul, began a hunger strike today in protest against the decision of a Military Government review board not to reverse the orders under which they were expelled from Israel-held territory last May for allegedly inciting to violence.
The mayors had been permitted to return to the West Bank last week in order to press their appeal against the deportation order and were held in custody near the Allenby Bridge while the review board deliberated. Their return was in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling that the summary expulsion of the mayors in the immediate aftermath of the ambush slaying of six yeshiva students in Hebron May 2 violated their right to a hearing under Israeli law.
The review board, which heard testimony from both mayors and other witnesses, decided Sunday night that there were insufficient grounds to rescind the deportation order. It submitted its recommendation to Mai. Gen. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, commander of the West Bank, who accepted it.
The review board appears to have been influenced by the anti-Israel statements made by Kawasme and Milhim in public appearances in the U.S. and Europe during the months since their expulsion. Their remarks were viewed as evidence that the mayors are still opposed to the very existence of Israel.
PRESSURE FOR CLEMENCY
Their attorney, Felicia Longer, has until tomorrow to file an appeal with the Supreme Court against the review board’s decision. Meanwhile, Premier Menachem Begin who is also Defense Minister, has come under pressure from supporters of the mayors to exercise clemency while similar pressure is being brought to bear on him by many Israelis not to follow such a course. Begin agreed to meet today with Mayor Rashad A-Shawa of Gaza and Mayor Elias Friej of Bethlehem who are interceding on behalf of Kawasme and Milhim. According to a television report last night, they plan to propose a compromise whereby Kawasme and Milhim would be allowed to return to their towns as private citizens.
But West Bank settlers are urging Begin to reject any compromise. They claim that the territory has been much more peaceful since Kawasme and Milhim left. The two mayors were not accused of direct implication in the Hebron killings. However, their extreme nationalist, anti-Israel sentiments, publicly voiced on many occasions, allegedly created the climate in which the terrorist act was committed.