JERUSALEM — Ignoring strong and repeated U.S. protests, the Israeli government Sunday ordered the expulsion of nine Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, accusing them of "incitement and subversive activity on behalf of the terrorist organizations."
Expulsion orders were served on the nine by instruction of Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and without trials under provisions of a 1945 "emergency regulation," dating from the period when Britain ruled the area under a mandate from the long-defunct League of Nations. The expulsions were reportedly endorsed at Sunday's regular meeting of the Israeli Cabinet.
Under Israeli rules, the deportees can appeal their expulsion orders to an advisory committee headed by a military court judge and then to the Israeli High Court of Justice. However, in the only known past instance in which the High Court has urged that an expulsion order be reconsidered, the government ignored the recommendation.
Triggered by Unrest
The expulsions follow a period of the most widespread unrest in the occupied territories since the Israeli army captured them in the Six-Day War of 1967, and critics charged that they could serve to inflame the situation once more.
However, Lt. Col. Raanan Gissin, acting as army spokesman, told reporters at a briefing: "We have come to the conclusion that (the deportees') presence outside the territories will be more congenial to the maintenance of public order than their presence in the territories."
The expulsion orders, which in at least three cases involve individuals admittedly not involved in the recent disorders, are expected to exacerbate U.S.-Israeli relations already strained by what Washington considers to be the army's excessive use of lethal force in putting down the disturbances.
On Sunday, a soldier shot to death a 25-year-old woman from the village of Ram, just north of Jerusalem, bringing to 23 the number of confirmed fatal victims of army gunfire since the trouble began Dec. 9. More than 160 other Palestinians have suffered gunshot wounds.
Pressure From Washington
American officials had been engaged for several days in what were described as "intense" contacts with Israeli counterparts "at all kinds of levels" in hopes of heading off the expulsions. Washington considers the administrative expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied territories to be a violation of due process and of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
That convention, which Israel has signed, prohibits the expulsion "for any reason whatsoever" of civilians from an area under military occupation.
Israel argues, however, that the Geneva Convention was intended to outlaw mass deportations for such purposes as forced labor, torture or extermination. The government here contends that the rule does not bar the expulsion of individuals or small groups for the purpose of ensuring public order and security.
According to Israeli media, some security officials wanted to expel "hundreds" of Palestinians in the wake of the recent disturbances, and as recently as 10 days ago, informed sources said that Rabin was weighing a proposal to deport up to 20 individuals. It thus appeared that American objections, which gained backing from some Israeli government ministers, may have resulted in a reduction in the expulsion list.
However, public U.S. criticism appeared only to annoy many other Israeli officials. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told a meeting of U.S. and Israeli businessmen Friday: "It is impossible to dictate to someone from afar how to defend oneself against anarchy, riots, attacks on the state, its citizens, its peace and security."
Shamir added, "It seems to me that the American public needs to understand the problems of a democratic state defending itself against anti-democratic elements that want to destroy it."
The army has arrested as many as two dozen other leading Palestinian nationalists in recent days, and some analysts have suggested that they, too, could be candidates for expulsion.
Gissin refused under longstanding government policy to reveal the name of the country to which Israel expects to deport the men.
In this case, however, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon have all said that they will not accept the expelled persons, expressions intended to try to press Israel not to go through with the expulsions.
Gissin said that the nine could not be tried for their alleged activities because the evidence against them "is of such a nature that it could not be elaborated in open court. . . . There are security considerations because of the sources of the information."
The army relies for much of its information in the territories on informants recruited from among Palestinian residents, often in return for favors such as permission to travel abroad.