JERUSALEM — Israel on Wednesday rejected a U.N. Security Council condemnation of its plans to expel nine Palestinians and expressed "regret and disappointment" that the United States had, for the first time in five years, joined in an anti-Israeli U.N. resolution.
The carefully worded reaction came just a few hours after the Security Council, in a late-night vote in New York, unanimously called on Israel to drop expulsion proceedings that it began Sunday against four residents of the Gaza Strip and five residents of the West Bank--territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
It also coincided with the opening in Gaza of a military review process that a Palestinian human rights group assailed Wednesday as part of a judicial "charade" intended to give the expulsions the appearance of due process.
Acting in the midst of unprecedented unrest in the territories, Israel accused the nine Palestinians of "incitement and subversive activity on behalf of the terrorist organizations." It said it has served them with deportation orders under provisions of a 1945 "emergency regulation" held over from the period when Britain ruled the area under a mandate from the defunct League of Nations.
In voting for the Security Council resolution Tuesday, Herbert S. Okun, the deputy U.S. representative to the United Nations, reiterated Washington's contention that the expulsions are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which is intended to protect civilians under military occupation.
Okun also asserted that the expulsions are unnecessary to maintain order and that they "serve to increase tension rather than contribute to the creation of a political atmosphere conducive to reconciliation and negotiation."
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
In an official reaction to the Security Council vote, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Ehud Gol charged Wednesday that the resolution "contributes neither to the re-establishment of normal and peaceful life to the residents of the territories nor to the advance of the peace process."
Gol said that Israel considers itself responsible "for matters concerning the territories and for the safeguarding of the security of its inhabitants," adding that it "takes great care that international law and those laws which apply to the territories are fully preserved."
Gol added: "Israel expresses its regret and disappointment over the fact that the United States, as a close friend of Israel, has joined in this resolution."
A government source said Israel was compelled to speak out against the U.S. criticism, but, on the other hand, "wouldn't like to have too big a breach with the (United) States." The source said Israel's statement was "formulated very carefully, without harsh words. I mean, 'regret' and 'disappointment' is the least you can say when you think a friend let you down."
(In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman insisted on the U.S. right to vote against human rights violations committed by friend or foe, but he added that "from our side . . . we have confidence that these relations (with Israel) remain strong."
("We have the capability with the Israeli government to discuss these issues, whether or not we disagree--to be candid and discuss them, and that's what we have done in this case," he said, news agencies reported.)
But earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "I regret very much this vote. I see this as a breach and a severe deviation in our relationship with the United States."
The vote was the first by the United States against Israel since Sept. 17, 1982, when Washington joined in a U.N. condemnation of the Israeli siege of Beirut.
Wire services had incorrectly reported Tuesday that the last such U.S. vote was in 1981.
The highly technical arguments over the legality of Israel's policy of deporting Palestinians from the occupied territories have little practical meaning for the individuals involved. Israel has deported about 1,200 individuals from the territories since capturing them in 1967. But the arguments are important in terms of Israel's international image in the fields of legal and human rights.
Israel argues that individual deportations in order to maintain security are allowed by both the law in force in the territories and international law.
The emergency British regulations were introduced during a period of growing unrest in Palestine, and the power of deportation they bestowed was used against both Arabs and Jews, including Israel's current prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir.