JERUSALEM (Dec. 16)
Israel’s Cabinet has affirmed Defense Minister Moshe Arens’ order to deport four Hamas activists from the Gaza Strip in connection with the savage murder Friday morning of three Israelis at an aluminum-processing plant in Jaffa.
The four, who were taken into custody Friday, have the right to appeal to the High Court of Justice against the deportation order, though the court has never reversed an expulsion.
All have been identified as leaders of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement based in the Gaza Strip, which has emerged as the most extreme and brutal of the groups involved in the 3-year-old Palestinian uprising.
The actual murderers, known to the police, were still at large Sunday, the objects of a massive manhunt.
Arens warned Sunday that there could be further deportations.
He said anyone who thinks of perpetrating such an offense in the future “must take into account that the people he has been in contact with will find themselves over the border in Lebanon.”
Arens spoke on television after the Cabinet meeting to a nation deeply worried by the worsening situation and seething with anger over the latest outrage.
The defense minister said in his opinion, shared by Israeli experts and even Palestinians, deportation is an effective deterrent punishment. He maintained it is more painful and therefore more feared than imprisonment.
SHAMIR CALLS FOR COMPOSURE
Arens linked the current rash of murderous attacks by Arabs on Jews to the Persian Gulf crisis.
He said some Palestinian extremists seemed to identify Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with Saladin, the 12th-century Islamic warrior who bested the Crusaders.
This reflects “desperation,” Arens said, because most of the world, including many Palestinians, know Hussein is doomed to defeat and will contribute nothing to the Palestinian cause.
But many of the attacks have been proclaimed as revenge for the 17 Arabs killed by Israeli border police during the Oct. 8 riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The spate of knife attacks on Jews by Arabs dates from then.
The Cabinet issued a gloomy communique Sunday stressing Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s call for “composure and the strengthening of the people’s spirits” as the “first and foremost requirement” in the ongoing national battle against terrorism.
Cabinet sources said Shamir cooled off some of the more fiery expressions heard around the Cabinet table by pointing out that Israel functions within a broader international setting and must take into account the consequences of its actions in the international arena.
Reports from Washington, where Shamir visited last week, said Secretary of State James Baker urged the Israeli leader during their Dec. 13 meeting to refrain from deporting Palestinians from the administered territories.
The United States is concerned with keeping intact the Arab element of its international alliance against Iraq.
Observers here attributed the relatively small number of deportees announced after the Jaffa murders to Baker’s appeal for restraint.
Shamir and Arens are under constant pressure from their small, right-wing coalition partners to deport the most prominent Palestinian nationalist leaders.
Some, who are internationally known, live in East Jerusalem. They are therefore not subject to the military laws that govern the administered territories and empower the Israel Defense Force to order deportation.
On Sunday, Tehiya Knesset member Geula Cohen called the announced deportations too little and too late.
DEATH PENALTY PROPOSED BY SOME
There was no formal discussion at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting of proposals to institute the death penalty for crimes of the type committed Friday. But several ministers later indicated the controversial subject is on the agenda.
Proponents of hanging intifada murderers include Arens and Tourism Minister Gideon Patt, both of Likud. Opposed are Health Minister Ehud Olmert of Likud and Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz, an independent Cabinet member formerly of the Orthodox Shas party.
Political observers predict that notwithstanding the public outcry, senior security officials will advise Shamir against the death penalty.
The IDF, meanwhile, released background material on the four men it has ordered deported, out of “hundreds of Hamas and other terrorist organization activists” it said were arrested Friday and Saturday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The IDF said the four men ordered expelled were involved primarily in drafting leaflets, inciting violence, recruiting activists and initiating violent acts and terrorist activities.
They were also accused of issuing the operational guidelines that resulted in the rising rate of murders, assassination attempts and other violent acts, using knives and other weapons.
They were identified as Imad Khaled el-Alami, Mustafa Ahmed Mahmoud Kanua, Mustafa Yousef Abdullah al-Lidawi and Fadel Khaled Zaher Za’about.