JERUSALEM (Dec. 30)
Israel is coming under domestic legal pressure to modify its standoff with Lebanon over responsibility for over 400 Moslem fundamentalist deportees stranded in southern Lebanon between military checkpoints of the two sides.
Petitions to Israel’s High Court of Justice mounted as a special United Nations envoy wound up an evidently fruitless shuttle between Jerusalem and Beirut.
On Wednesday, U.N. Undersecretary-General James Jonah returned to Jerusalem empty-handed from Lebanon. The Beirut government had rejected an Israeli offer to allow the Red Cross one-time access to the deportees through Israeli- controlled territory if Lebanon would then allow relief aid through its own lines.
In a second meeting with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Jonah suggested the deportees now be sent to a third country. But Rabin said no other country would accept them.
Jonah reportedly told Israeli Arab leaders Wednesday that, barring a show of greater flexibility on the part of Israel, he would report to U.N. Secretary- General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that his mission had failed. Jonah was due to meet Boutros-Ghali in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, Israel’s High Court was due Thursday to review a slew of appeals dealing with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists expelled to Lebanon on Dec. 17, following terrorist killings of five Israeli servicemen.
The latest application asks the court to order Rabin to open direct negotiations with the deportees in return for the release of Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad, who was downed over Lebanon in 1986, and other missing Israeli soldiers.
Attorney Naftali Gur-Arye argued that international pressure over the deportees created an extraordinary opportunity for moving forward on the missing Israelis, who are believed to be held by Moslem fundamentalists.
His application is the most recent of a series under review by the High Court. One of them would compel Israel to allow Red Cross officials to travel through the Israeli-controlled security zone in southern Lebanon to bring aid to the deportees.
Another seeks to have ailing deportees hospitalized at Marjayoun, inside the Israeli buffer zone.
Although the government has so far won all rounds in court concerning the deportations, the justices have still not issued a final ruling on the legality of the move. And newly reported details about the government’s decision-making process may have an impact on the case.