WASHINGTON (Nov. 16)
The State Department warned today that Israel’s expulsion of non-resident teachers who refused to sign a pledge not to provide direct assistance to terrorist groups was harmful to the Reagan Administration’s “effort to restore momentum to the peace process.”
“Actions such as these can only further undermine the confidence of the Palestinians and others who we hope to attract to further negotiations,” the Department’s deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said. “The Israeli military government authorities are requiring that any non-resident who wishes to take out or renew a work/residents permit must sign a pledge not to provide direct assistance to the PLO or ‘any other hostile organization,” Romberg said.
He said that 18 professors from the An Najah University in Nablus have already been expelled. Most are Jordanian citizens and were sent across the Jordan river into Jordan while foreign nationals “apparently” left by air, Romberg said.
He said that in addition, II American citizens, one of them at An Najah and the other 10 at Bir Zeit University, have been ordered to stop teaching and were told they would have to leave when their visitors permits expire. He said two of the Americans plan to leave in the next few days.
U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN TO ISRAEL
Romberg said the U.S. has expressed “concern” to Israel about this situation, particularly the expulsion of American citizens. “We are also concerned that the large-scale bannings and expulsions of vital non-resident educators could eventually force some or all West Bank universities to close,” the spokesman added.
“Since the U.S., both privately and officially has over the years made meaningful financial and intellectual contributions to the development of such institutions, we naturally take an interest if their continued operation is in question,” he said.
Romberg did not know what percentage of the faculties of West Bank universities was made up of nonresidents nor could he specify what financial contributions have been made to those universities by the U.S.
HABIB GOING TO MIDEAST THIS WEEK
In other developments, Romberg said that Philip Habib, who was named last week as President Reagan’s special representative to the Middle East, would leave for the region this week. As has been the custom, he could not disclose Habib’s itinerary.
Romberg refused to comment on whether Premier Menachem Begin’s unavailability because of the mourning period for his wife who died Sunday would slow down the peace process in the Middle East. He said it would “not be appropriate” to “speculate” on that. He said, however, that diplomatic efforts went on continuously.