JERUSALEM (Dec. 21)
As Israel’s High Court of Justice continued hearing challenges Monday to the expulsion of 415 Moslem fundamentalist activists to Lebanon, the government stood firm in its decision to refuse the deportees permission to return.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Knesset on Monday that he had “no pity in my heart” for the expelled activists, who earlier in the day had made a televised effort to cross back into the Israeli-controlled security zone in southern Lebanon.
The chief of the army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Danny Yatom, vowed Israel would use “all the means at our disposal” to prevent the activists from crossing into Israeli-held territory.
In the end, the deportees backed off from their attempt to walk back to Israeli-held territory when confronted across the demarcation line by troops of the Israeli-allied South Lebanon Army.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the High Court was reviewing written appeals filed by lawyers for the deportees in support of arguments made at the beginning of the week before a seven-justice bench. The court announced it would reconvene Tuesday morning in public session.
The court planned to hear a government response to the claims before deciding whether to order the return of the deportees pending a final ruling on the legality of the mass deportation.
In the Knesset, Rabin accused the world of hypocrisy in its criticism of Israel’s action.
“This is the same world that said nothing when 300,000 Palestinians were deported from Kuwait” and when “thousands are killed and raped in Bosnia,” the prime minister observed.
“For some reason, the world likes to cry on our shoulders. Fortunately, we have broad enough shoulders,” he said.
Referring to “the crocodile tears of the media,” Rabin said he found himself thinking of the orphans and widows of border policeman Nissim Toledano and other recent Israeli victims of murders perpetrated by Hamas activists.
He added that “we alone shall be the arbiters” of “what is needed for our security.”
The prime minister spoke in response to a no-confidence motion against the government introduced by Ariel Sharon of the opposition Likud bloc.
The motion later failed by a large majority, when two right-wing opposition parties, Tsomet and the National Religious Party, abstained in a show of support for the deportations.
In his remarks to the parliament, Rabin said the mass expulsion was an “extraordinary measure” designed “to crush the head of the snake.”
He said the Cabinet, which on Sunday reaffirmed its expulsion decision and rejected demands for the return of the deportees, had fully understood the likely consequences of the move.
The prime minister termed the notion that the deportees were now situated in a “no man’s land” a “media falsehood.” The area is under Lebanese army control, he said.
He also accused the Lebanese government of cynically trying to manipulate world opinion by barring international relief organizations from assisting the deportees.
Rabin cited the Lebanese defense minister who had been quoted Monday on Lebanese radio as saying such actions were designed “to help the lawyers who are defending the deportees.”
The prime minister said Israel was seeking to awaken “a sleeping world” to the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism. “This is the real threat to world peace in future years,” he said. “Just as Israel was the first to alert the world to the Iraqi nuclear threat, so, too, now we are in the front line of the battle against this threat.”
At the same time, Rabin stressed Israel’s determination to press ahead with the peace process. He said some progress had been made in each track of the negotiations, except with Lebanon.
He predicted that negotiations would resume as scheduled, following the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton in Washington.