Israel should back down

January 09, 1992

Israel has only one reason not to accede to the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the deportation order against 12 Palestinians and requesting its revocation. Israel does not wish to be seen to back down under pressure from the U.S. and the U.N., who are doing what Arabs bid. That would be a good enough reason, were Israel in the right. But Israel is in the wrong in deporting 12 Palestinians who have records of civil unrest. Which leaves Israel no good reason to spurn the U.N. request.

If Israel can find the murderers of an Israeli settler in Gaza, it should try them. But in the absence of that, deporting a dozen Palestinians, who have at some time made trouble of some sort for occupying authorities, does no good. It does harm.

This is not, admittedly, the worst punishment in the world. That's why Israelis don't give moral credence to U.N. condemnations of deportations when execution, torture and imprisonment elsewhere fail to command U.N. attention. But Israel is punishing people who had nothing to do with the crime. Just to appease hawkish Israeli settlers whom the government should not appease.

In any case, this incident should not be allowed to interrupt the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab states in Washington. The PLO blackmailed the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. to condemn the deportations as a price for letting Palestinians return to the table. It's hard to say the U.S. and U.N. were wrong to accede to this pressure when they should have done what they did anyway.

The government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ought to cancel this deportation order because the deportations are wrong. But the Palestinians and Jordan ought to negotiate with Israel in good faith regardless of what the Shamir government does or does not do. It is in their interest.

If these 12 Palestinians are deported on schedule, there is still one way to get them back. That is to stay at the table and negotiate some autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza, which can then may be able to bring back all deportees.

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