WASHINGTON — Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, calling Israeli soldiers in the West Bank "very far from trigger-happy," said Sunday that a paratrooper's fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Palestinian woman arose from tensions caused by a month of sporadic rioting.
Peres also strongly defended plans to expel nine Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are accused by Israel of subversive activity. He said that the expulsions are the strongest way to punish violence short of capital punishment, something he said Israel will "never" use in the occupied territories.
The foreign minister's remarks, on ABC-TV's "This Week With David Brinkley," appeared to be aimed at damping growing U.S. criticism of Israel's suppression of unrest in the two territories.
Force Denounced by U.S.
The United States has denounced Israel's use of lethal force to cope with the rioting and has termed the proposed expulsions a potential violation of international law.
Peres implied that the Israeli government may now have banned the use of live ammunition in quelling the riots, saying that Sunday's shooting incident was "against the rules" in such situations.
Peres said the incident should be viewed in the light of weekend efforts by the Palestine Liberation Organization "to incite the population" in the West Bank to riot against Israeli forces.
"You must understand the tension is very high, and a single soldier or two soldiers may find themselves in an unprepared, very provocative and very difficult situation," Peres said. "I regret very much the incident this morning. . . . But there were neither mass riots nor other disturbances, and I hope the situation will subside for a very long time."
Peres also defended the expulsions ordered for the nine individuals army officials call "chief organizers" of unrest, noting that some of them have served long jail terms for terrorism or other crimes. Peres said this move is permitted under Jordanian law, which Israel accepts as the ruling code for Palestinians in the West Bank.
'Negotiation Between Equals'
The Israeli leader said that the West Bank troubles underline the need for "negotiation between equals, with full respect, with good faith to look for a solution" to the Palestinian question. Israel's neighbors have scorned offers to begin face-to-face talks on a regional peace accord, and Israel refuses to talk with officials of the PLO, which claims to represent the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
One Palestinian spokesman accused Israel on Sunday of blocking a negotiated settlement in the region. Speaking on Cable News Network's "Newsmaker Sunday," Ibrahim Abulughod of the Palestine National Council said Israel is ignoring a U.N. call for an international peace conference that would encompass all parties from the region, including the PLO, and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.