JERUSALEM (Jan. 22)
Four Palestinians were killed and scores wounded or arrested over the weekend, as the new leeway given soldiers to fire on rioters was hotly debated in the Cabinet and by Knesset members.
The orders issued by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin permit soldiers to open fire on rock-throwers or other rioters fleeing the scene of a clash.
Moreover, non-commissioned officers are now authorized to fire the often lethal plastic bullets. Until recently, their use was restricted to commissioned officers.
Some in the Cabinet and Knesset maintain those measures are illegal.
There is also dissent within the defense establishment. Rabin was warned by senior officers and others Friday that rapidly mounting Arab casualties only escalate the Palestinian uprising and tarnish Israel’s image abroad.
But Rabin is standing fast and seems to have the legal authorities and a majority of the Cabinet behind him.
The objections were summed up by Amnon Rubinstein of the opposition Center-Shinui Movement, who warned in a letter to Rabin that “killing as a punitive measure, or as a deterrent, is illegal, and therefore the new guidelines are illegal and must not be obeyed.”
The same view was expressed by one of Rabin’s fellow Laborites, Energy Minister Moshe Shahal, at the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday. Shahal, like Rubinstein, is a respected lawyer.
But other ministers disagreed, and Attorney General Yosef Harish ruled that the new shooting orders were perfectly legal.
Harish said he was not making a snap judgment, because all military orders are reviewed for possible illegalities before they are issued to the troops.
RABIN PRESENTS FOUR-POINT PLAN
Meanwhile, the Palestinian uprising, which the Arabs call the intifada, is well into its 14th violent month.
According to Israel Defense Force figures, some 285 Arabs have been killed by the IDF from the start of the uprising on December 9, 1987, up to the end of last week.
Of that number 190 fatalities were recorded in the West Bank and 95 in the Gaza Strip. Another 50 Arabs have been killed either by Jewish settlers or by Arabs punishing them for alleged collaboration with the Israelis.
Arab sources estimate that at least 400 Palestinians have died at the hands of the IDF or Jewish settlers, and that 4,325 have been wounded. Two-thirds of the casualties occurred in the West Bank, these sources say.
The official number of Jewish fatalities since the intifada began is 10 soldiers and civilians.
About 815 soldiers have been wounded, most of them slightly. The number of Jewish civilians wounded was put at 450.
Rabin, while defending his “get tough” measures, has been floating a plan for an armistice in the intifada, to be followed by free elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
His four-stage plan would call for a three to six-month suspension of the intifada. Residents of the territories would then go to the polls to elect their representatives.
These representatives would then negotiate with the Israeli authorities for an interim settlement, based on the Camp David autonomy formula.
The final settlement, according to Rabin’s plan, envisages an autonomous Palestinian body, though not an independent state, which would federate either with Israel or Jordan.
Rabin said on Israel Television over the weekend that he would give “favorable consideration” to a proposal to release imprisoned Palestinian leaders immediately if they agreed to participate in the elections.
He seemed to be referring, among others, to Faisal Husseini, 48, who is due to be released next weekend, after 6 months under administrative arrest.
But Rabin’s plan appears to be going no-where. It has been flatly rejected by the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab states.
Meanwhile, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were paralyzed by another general strike Sunday. This time it was called by Hamas, the Moslem fundamentalist movement opposed to the PLO. It was almost 100 percent effective.