JERUSALEM (Jul. 30)
A seven-minister committee has been appointed by the Cabinet to study tougher penalties and preventive measures against terrorism. This was the upshot of the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday under the shadow of the recent double murder near Afula.
The Cabinet decision seems to mean that there will be no immediate move to introduce the death penalty by new legislation — although, as Premier Shimon Peres has pointed out, the death penalty is on the statute book for terrorism among other crimes, and military courts are technically at liberty to impose it.
The intelligence and security services, it is reliably reported, are unanimously opposed to the use of the death penalty.
The committee is chaired by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and includes three former Defense Ministers — Ezer Weizman, Ariel Sharon and Moshe Arens — and three jurists — Moshe Nissim, Amnon Rubinstein and Moshe Shahal. Its recommendations, scheduled to be submitted next week, are expected to include the use of banishment as a potent and effective punishment-cum-deterrent against terrorism in the administered territories.
The lawyers of the panel will have to determine, however, how the use of banishment can be squared with the provisions and requirements of international law — specifically the prohibition of an occupying power to deport inhabitants of the occupied territory.
Parallel to this committee’s work, the 10-member Inner Cabinet is expected to devote its session later this week to the problems of rising terrorism. Deliberations of this body are conducted under a veil of secrecy.
SHARON OFFERS SOME IDEAS
Sharon, meanwhile, has told his Likud Knesset faction colleagues of his own far-reaching ideas of how to combat terrorism. He recommended yesterday that where stones are thrown from refugee camps, the entire row of homes facing onto the road be torn down. If the stone-throwing persists — the next row of houses would be demolished, and so on.
Sharon also urged that Israel attack the PLO bases reestablished by Yasir Arafat, the PLO and Fatah leader, in Jordan. “Why should bases in Jordan be immune?” Sharon asked. He noted that “certain persons” were “giving legitimacy” to parts of the PLO, an apparent reference to Peres himself who said last week that Hana Seniora, the editor of Al-Fajer, and Fayez Abu Rahme, head of the Gaza Lawyers Association, would be acceptable negotiating partners. These two men are reportedly among the seven recommended by Jordan and the PLO to the United States as members of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. Peres has explained that while Israel opposes in principle the idea of peace talks not involving Israel, these two persons would be acceptable as partners in talks with Israel.
But Sharon urged yesterday that the two men be prevented from travelling from the administered areas to Jordan to meet with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy.
Other measures proposed by Sharon included that the terrorists recently freed in the POW exchange with the Ahmed Jibril group should be deported; closure of pro-PLO newspapers, printing houses, and booksellers in the administered areas: closure of Raymonda Tawil’s Palestinian Information Office in East Jerusalem, which is a source of West Bank information mainly for the foreign media stationed here.
Arens suggested the judicial procedures pertaining to banishment be curtailed so as to facilitate deportation within 24 hours. He said that refugee camps from which stones and bottles are thrown at Israelis should be shifted physically and relocated in the Jericho area.
Among reactions within the Likud faction to the two former Defense Ministers suggestions were repeated questions as to why Sharon and Arens had not instituted these various measures while they were in office. MK Eliahu Ben-Elissar, former chairman of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, termed Arens’ and Sharon’s proposals “unrealistic.” He noted, though, that he himself did favor the death penalty.
PERES WARNS AGAINST STIRRING ‘PUBLIC PASSIONS’
At a meeting of the Labor Knesset faction, also held yesterday, Peres spoke against the stirring of “public passions” following terror crimes. He said the Likud had released this genie from the bottle, “then Tehiya sought to control it: and now it has gone to serve the Kach Party (of Meir Kahane).”
The faction did not formally discuss the death penalty issue, since this is an issue on which Labor has in the past allowed a free vote by its MKs.
But MK Shevah Weiss warned: “Those Israelis who chant death to terrorists today will chant death to Arabs tomorrow and death to traitors the day after. By traitors they will mean those who oppose the death penalty. That is why I personally already feel scared.”