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Israel and Palestinians Wrangle over Return of Pre-1987 Deportees

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Israel and the Palestinians are again at odds over deportees, but this time the dispute concerns Palestinians expelled from the administered territories between 1967 and 1987.

The Palestinians have come up with a list of 50 people whom they want returned to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as an Israeli gesture coinciding with the resumption this week of the Middle East peace talks in Washington.

But Israel apparently is only ready to return some 30 Palestinians who were deported before the intifada began in December 1987, sources said over the weekend.

That reported offer is separate from Israel’s public proposal, which the Palestinians have so far rejected, to take back immediately 100 of the 415 Moslem extremists deported last December to Lebanon.

The Palestinians initially demanded that Israel allow the return of 400 of the so-called “past” deportees to balance out last December’s deportations.

The Palestinians later reduced their demand to 100 and then, late last week, submitted a list of 50 past deportees to Molly Williamson, the American consul general in Jerusalem, who acts as a de facto ambassador to the Palestinians.

Israel deported at least 1,200 Palestinians between 1967 and 1987. Israel’s willingness to allow a few dozen of them back is a mere drop in the ocean, as far as the Palestinian political community is concerned.

Among the list of 50 who the Palestinians have asked to be returned are such prominent figures as Akram Haniyeh, former editor of the eastern Jerusalem daily A-Sha’ab and a key activist in the territories, who was deported in 1986; Hanna Nasser, president of Bir Zeit University, who was deported in 1974; and Mohammed Milhelm, former mayor of Halhoul and key Palestine Liberation Organization figure, who was deported in 1980 following the murder of six settlers in Hebron.

Meanwhile, the Israeli right is still against Israel’s early return of any of the Palestinians deported last December.

This past weekend, Knesset member Moshe Peled of the Tsomet party appealed to the High Court of Justice to block any early return of those deportees.

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