JERUSALEM (Jan. 25)
Israel has decided to allow some 400 Palestinians it deported to Lebanon last month to meet with their lawyers at a border checkpoint on the edge of the Israeli controlled security zone in southern Lebanon.
The move is the Israeli government’s latest concession in the ongoing dispute over the fate of the Moslem fundamentalists, who were expelled from the administered territories Dec. 17.
Last weekend, Israel allowed the Red Cross to pick up 17 of the men, 13 of whom had been deported by mistake and another four of whom were hospitalized for serious medical problems. Medical aid was also flown in, but the Palestinians refused to accept it.
The government’s decision to grant the deportees access to their lawyers, announced Monday, came as part of its testimony to Israel’s High Court of Justice, which is hearing a challenge on the legality of the mass deportations.
One of the principal arguments used by civil rights lawyers in their challenge of the expulsions was that the government did not allow the deportees a chance to appeal their case.
Attorney General Yosef Harish, in a statement on behalf of the government, told the High Court that the deportees could file appeals from their tent camp in southern Lebanon, located on a strip of land between Israeli and Lebanese lines.
RABIN SAYS HE HAS NO REGRETS
Harish said the army is ready to escort the deportees’ lawyers to the Zumriya checkpoint at the northern edge of the security zone. The government promises to provide a confidential setting where the lawyers can meet with their clients and arrange to file appeals of their deportation to the military authorities.
But the deportees have so far refused to appeal via the military court system, demanding that Israel allow their return unconditionally.
Harish also said the government will allow mail and telephone calls between the deportees and their families in the territories.
Harish’s testimony was the latest development in the court’s review of 12 separate appeals in connection with the deportations. The court was expected to hand down its final ruling later this week.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he did not regret his decision to deport the Palestinians and disagreed with those officials who reportedly hope the High Court will reverse the decision, providing a way out of the crisis.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that world public opinion is unfair to Israel, because it criticizes the deportations but fails to mention the fundamentalists’ terrorist acts.
Miguel Martinez, visiting president of the Council of Europe, was in Israel on Monday as part of an effort to help defuse the crisis.
Martinez, speaking in the Knesset, said that although there was no justification for the terrorist acts of Islamic fundamentalist groups, there was also no justification for Israel’s deportations.