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U.S. Critical of Israel over Deportation of Arabs

Israeli Cabinet ministers met Wednesday to discuss the U.S. State Department’s tough criticism of Israel’s deportation of West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinian leaders.

They empowered Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to send a detailed Israeli reply to Washington.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering discussed the issue Wednesday with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then at greater length with Premier Yitzhak Shamir.

In a statement issued Wednesday in Jerusalem, the Foreign Ministry said the deportations were carried out with full regard for Israeli law and also in accordance with international law.

The statement said the U.S. and Israel had long differed in their interpretations of the law on deportations, and that Israel does not accept the American interpretations.

At the State Department Wednesday, spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the department was “shocked” at Israel’s decision to expel 25 Palestinians.

“If all the orders are carried out, a total of 60 Palestinians will have been deported in 1988,” Oakley said. “That appears to make expulsion the norm rather than the exception.”

“As a strong friend of Israel, we are deeply concerned over the widening use of expulsions. The government of Israel is well aware of our views,” Oakley added.

Wednesday’s meeting between Pickering and Shamir and Rabin followed a meeting Monday at the State Department between Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead and the acting head of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Oded Eran.

Eran is filling in for Ambassador Moshe Arad, who is vacationing in Israel.

At the meeting, Whitehead, who is acting secretary of state during George Shultz’s vacation, protested Israel’s plans to deport additional Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

EROSION OF U.S. SUPPORT?

The Washington Post quoted sources as saying Whitehead told Eran that if Israel goes ahead with some new expulsions of Palestinians, it cannot expect continued U.S. support on the issue at the United Nations.

On Jan. 5, the United States supported a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel not to go ahead with its Jan. 3 deportation orders to nine Palestinians.

That marked the first U.S. vote against Israel in the Security Council since 1983.

Officials explained at the time that they supported the position because it believed deportations of Palestinians were unneccesarily harsh measures and only served to increase tension in the territories.

Israel was said to be “deeply disappointed” with the U.S. vote, although Rabin said at the time that the decision to deport the Palestinians “is taken and is in the process of being implemented.”

Since the uprising began, the United States has abstained on all other Security Council votes related to Israel’s deportation policy.

The Foreign Ministry statement also noted that the deportation issue was tested last April by an appeal to the Supreme Court, when a five-justice panel ruled that expulsions were in full accordance with Israeli law and in accordance with Israel’s interpretation of international law.

Legal experts here explained that the restrictions on deportations are enshrined in the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions following World War II.

The Hague regulations call on the occupying force to preserve order.

The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, on the other hand, prohibits individual or mass deportations and forced transfers. The United States is basing its protest on this agreement.

Israel contends that the convention, issued after the last war, was intended to prevent Nazi-style mass deportations and population transfers for the purpose of extermination, enslavement and economic exploitation, and not to preserve order, which is required by the earlier Hague rules.

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