JERUSALEM (Aug. 24)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s decision this week to cancel deportation orders against 11 Palestinians is the latest in a series of signals that Israel’s new government intends to adopt a much more moderate policy toward residents of the administered territories.
The Defense Ministry announced Monday that deportation orders issued in January against the 11 Arab residents of the territories will be rescinded.
Instead, the 11 will be placed in administrative detention, “in order to distance them from hostile activity in the field.” This means that they will serve sentences in a prison camp and then be able to return to their homes.
Rabin, who is also defense minister, acted on the recommendation of Justice Minister David Libai, after consulting with the heads of the Israel Defense Force’s Southern and Central regional commands.
But Rabin made clear that he has not ruled out the use of expulsions in the future to crack down on violence in the administered territories.
The premier’s decision came a day after the Defense Ministry announced a series of measures designed to relax the atmosphere in the administered territories.
These included the early release of 800 security prisoners serving time for incidents that did not result in bodily harm, and the reopening of houses of security offenders that were sealed off five years ago and earlier.
While the measures indicate a determination by the Rabin government to adopt a more moderate stance toward the Palestinians, a series of recent incidents shows that the rapid change of policy has not yet trickled down to those responsible for implementing it.
As a result, one government hand often appears to lack awareness of what the other is doing.
For instance, the government has signaled that it wants to treat members of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks with respect and would essentially look the other way if they had contact with Palestine Liberation Organization officials in Tunis.
VIP ABROAD, SECURITY RISK AT HOME
But last Friday, border police prevented six support staffers from crossing the Allenby Bridge into Jordan with the rest of the Palestinian delegation, which was en route to peace talks in Washington.
The authorities cited a regulation requiring a special pass for Palestinian men under 35 who leave the country and wish to return in less than nine months.
The incident was finally resolved without the staffers having to obtain the passes, but not before the Palestinians were able to raise an international outcry over the incident, which resulted in a one-day delay of the resumption of the peace talks.
At issue was the larger question of the composition of the Palestinian delegation.
While Labor Party officials have hinted they are ready to depart from Likud policy and allow residents of East Jerusalem to vote in Palestinian elections, the government is continuing its refusal to recognize Faisal Husseini as an integral part of the official Palestinian delegation because he is a resident of the formerly Arab eastern portion of the capital.
As a result, Husseini, who undoubtedly calls the shots in local Palestinian politics, is treated as a VIP abroad and as a security risk at home.
That appears to go as well for other members of the Palestinian delegation. Several weeks ago, Israeli soldiers burst into the Gaza home of delegation member Zakariya al-Agha, allegedly for “operational reasons.”
But the move was widely seen as a clear challenge to the delegates’ claim to a certain measure of diplomatic immunity.
Israeli officials have, in fact, tried to offer the Palestinian delegates official documents granting them special immunity.
But the Palestinians have refused, insisting that the same privileges be accorded to members of their “advisory board,” which includes Husseini and spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi.