Provocations in Gaza

January 09, 1992

Last month the Arab negotiators came to Washington and had to cool their heels waiting for the Israelis. Now it is the other way round. That is gamesmanship, not serious negotiating.

Yasser Arafat used the Israeli order expelling 12 Palestinian agitators from the occupied territories as an excuse to bring the talks into question and reassert his own dominance of a process from which the PLO was formally excluded. He ran to Arab heads of state to build a demand that the U.N. Security Council condemn Israel as a precondition for Arab return to the table.

The Security Council duly condemned the deportation anrequested Israel to accept back all Palestinians previously deported. The United States voted for the resolution which, PLO ultimatums aside, is the right position for the U.S. and U.N. to take.

What's wrong with this is that the Palestinians are not participating in peace talks to reward others for good behavior, but to achieve self-determination for their people in the West Bank and Gaza. In their own legitimate interest, they should allow nothing to keep them from the negotiating table, least of all Israeli provocations. That would be delegating to the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir control over Palestinian diplomacy.

The eight men in Gaza and four in the West Bank whom Israel has ordered to be deported are not implicated in the murder of an Israeli settler in Gaza last week. They merely have records as agitators in the Palestinian cause. No other nation recognizes Israel's sovereignty in the occupied territories or, therefore, its right to deport residents (although that is more benign than jailings, executions, torture and other methods of dealing with dissidents used by many governments, including some that condemn Israel).

The deportation order taken by Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Arens was intended to head off violent reactions against Palestinians by armed Israeli settlers. Even so, it could have been anticipated that it would cause the reaction in the Arab world that, in fact, it did.

This was Israel's response to the fourth murder of an Israeli settler since Oct. 30. If military courts reject the deportees' appeals, as they always have, this would bring the number of deportations to 79. The unknown murderers oppose peace talks. Just as the PLO delegated control of its actions to Israel, the Israelis have done the same to the assassins. The way to avoid that is to cancel the deportations.

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