JERUSALEM (Oct. 22)
The mayors of Hebron and Halhoul, Fahd Kawasme and Mohammed Milhim, appealed to the Supreme Court today to reverse the deportation orders under which they were expelled from Israel-held territory last May. Their attorney, Felicia Longer, submitted the appeal after Premier Menachem Begin, in his capacity of Defense Minister, refused to intervene.
Begin told Mayors Rashod A-Shawa of Gaza and Elias Friej of Bethlehem yesterday that he could not bypass the Supreme Court which will render the final judgement in the case. He promised that the government would abide by whatever the high court decides. A-Shawa and Friej met with the Premier for an hour and 40 minutes yesterday in a vain attempt to have him intervene with the West Bank Military Government whose special review board upheld the deportation orders after deliberating over the weekend.
The appeal to the Supreme Court asked that the State show cause why the deportation orders should not be reversed. Ms. Langer claimed that the proceedings of the military review board were illegal because “the testimonies of the mayors were not taken into consideration. Their eloquently expressed desire for peace and co-existence were ignored.”
Instead, the board ruled on the basis of interviews given by the two mayors while traveling abroad after their deportation whereas it should have been limited to the deportation order itself which was carried out summarily without the hearing the appellants were entitled to under Israeli law, Langer said.
LONG JUDICIAL PROCESS EXPECTED
The Supreme Court is scheduled to begin its consideration of the appeal tomorrow in what is expected to be a long judicial process, possibly lasting for weeks. Kawasme and Milhim were deported on May 2, within hours of the ambush killing of six yeshiva students in Hebron by Palestinian terrorists. While they were not directly implicated in the murders, the Military Government contended that their extreme nationalist, anti-Israel public statements created the climate for the terrorist act.
Their attorney reportedly has not ruled out a final appeal to Begin should the Supreme Court decide against them. Yesterday’s meeting with Begin by mayors A-Shawa and Friej was the first time either of them had been received in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. In the past, their dealings with the Israeli government were conducted through the Defense Ministry office in Tel Aviv.
The two mayors, regarded as moderates among Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories, were apparently abashed by the failure of their encounter with Begin. They left his office through a side door and refused to speak to reporters.
Begin told reporters afterwards that he had explained to them that the review board’s decision was not the final word since the deportees have recourse to the Supreme Court. “I told them I cannot grant their request to intervene with the court’s decision. If I would have granted their request, it would have meant bypassing the Supreme Court and that I could not do, ” Begin said.
Kawasme and Milhim, who remain in custody near the Allenby Bridge, went on a hunger strike Monday. A demonstration by their relatives outside the Prime Minister’s Office was dispersed without incident. Langer said she would demand that the two men be transferred to a regular place of detention where they could receive medical attention.
Meanwhile, attempts by their supporters to convince the mayors in the occupied territories to resign en masse as a gesture of solidarity with the deportees have so far, failed. Mayor Ibrahim Tawil of El Bireh spoke by telephone last night to Mayors Bassam Shaka of Nablus and Kanm Khalaf of Ramallah on the subject, but apparently got no commitment.
Relatives of the deportees appealed in vain to Mayor Friej to resign but he refused. Military Government officials are convinced that there will be no mass resignations because, they said, the mayors know that this time their resignations may be accepted.