WASHINGTON (Dec. 15)
The Reagan administration has told Israel at the highest level that it opposes many of its actions on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a senior State Department official said Monday.
Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, made the remark in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, which was holding its first hearing devoted exclusively to the territories since 1982.
Murphy said that in discussions with Israel, the State Department has voiced concern over the killing of nine unarmed Palestinians earlier this year. It has also criticized Israel’s policy of “collective punishment,” whereby Israel has closed Palestinian universities for a few months when protests or violence erupt.
The assistant secretary also said the United States has protested the demolition or sealing of 70 Palestinian homes and the “denial of due process” to 120 Palestinians placed by Israeli authorities in administrative detention.
Murphy said that harsh security measures by Israel “are sometimes inconsistent with recognized international standards.” He cited a report by the Landau Commission, which found that Israel routinely abuses Palestinian prisoners, both physically and psychologically.
Murphy did praise Israel for recently finding five guards at a Gaza prison guilty of abusing inmates and for dismissing other guards who also abused prisoners.
No permanent peace can be achieved until Palestinians and Israelis sit down and negotiate the future of the territories, the State Department official Murphy said.
But in the interim, he called for improvements in the daily lives of Palestinians to reduce “the frustrations that are one cause of extremism and violence.”
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in the territories in the first ten months of 1987, double the 1986 figure, he said.
Murphy emphasized that while more Palestinians are becoming fundamentalist Moslems, it has not translated into greater political activism. He stressed that fundamentalism was not a significant factor in the recent cycles of violence.
He speculated that the increased violence this year was spurred to some degree by Palestinian bitterness on the 20th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel assumed control of the territories.
Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.) asked Murphy why Arab countries are not doing more to absorb Palestinians from the administered territories.
Murphy told Levine that Arab countries want them to stay put in the territories because they are a political symbol representing “the injustice done to Palestinians as a result of the ’48-’49 war.”
He also said that most Palestinians “really want to stay” where they are.
He said that the recent killing of Palestinians and one Israeli in the territories “reminds us of the deep communal conflict and of the unresolved political status of the West Bank and Gaza.”