Departure of Haiti-bound Police Delayed for Political, Legal Concerns

The departure of a 30-member Israeli police contingent that was to assume peacekeeping duties in Haiti has been postponed pending further consideration by the Cabinet and the High Court of Justice.

The 28 men and two women who volunteered to help restore stability in Haiti were to have left Israel on Monday for Puerto Rico for pre-Haiti training. But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin decided to wait first for the approval of his Cabinet at a meeting scheduled for later in the week.

Rabin authorized the contingent on Sept. 11, after President Clinton telephoned for Israeli assistance in the multinational effort to bring democratic rule to Haiti. The request marked the first time Israel was invited to participate in an international force.

At the same time, the High Court of Justice is considering an appeal by former Kach activist Noam Federman regarding the legality of sending Israeli police on an overseas mission.

Federman argued Sunday that the peacekeeping mission violates Israeli law, which authorizes the police to deal only with domestic issues.

The court apparently agreed that Federman had a point, despite arguments by government attorney Arye Romanov that the policemen were not being sent as police, but rather as volunteers who happened to be police.

Justices Dov Levine, Yitzhak Zamir and Theodor Orr agreed that sending volunteers would be within the government’s authority. But they said the government appeared to be blurring the line between volunteers and acting police, and this might create a legal problem.

The justices also criticized the government for not investigating the legal issues surrounding the sending of the peacekeeping mission. They called on Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair to prepare a legal opinion on whether new legislation was needed.

A Jordanian military contingent, meanwhile, reportedly left Amman on Sunday to serve in Haiti. The 150-soldier force, dispatched following a request from Clinton, boarded a U.S. military aircraft as King Hussein and the U.S. ambassador to Jordan, Wesley Egan, Jr., looked on.

In the aftermath of the U.S. occupation of Haiti, some 17 countries are expected to send peacekeeping missions to the Caribbean nation in an effort to help restore the country’s elected government.

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