Rabin declares deportation crisis over

February 14, 1993|By New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared an end yesterday to the crisis over nearly 400 deported Palestinians, an assessment rejected by Palestinian leaders, who also dismissed a new Security Council agreement that is intended to leave the dispute behind and focus on restarting the troubled Mideast peace talks.

Mr. Rabin said through a spokesman that the deportation issue "came to its conclusion" with a deal he struck Feb. 1 with the United States to return 101 deportees right away and the remaining 295 by the end of the year.

On Friday, the Security Council called the arrangement "a step in the right direction" for carrying out a mid-December council resolution demanding the Palestinians' full return from southern Lebanon. It also urged the Israelis to "advance expeditiously" toward bringing all the exiles back and asked "all concerned" to get the peace talks going again.

In a triumph for Israel, the council not only agreed to abandon any consideration of anti-Israel sanctions but also seemed to drop the idea of further debate on the deportation issue, at least for now.

That was a primary goal of the Clinton administration, which has wanted this matter cleared up before Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher sets off for the Middle East on Wednesday. U.S. officials had expressed concern that the expulsions would dominate the visit, when the top priority for both Washington and other council members is jump-starting the peace talks.

In that vein, Mr. Rabin's spokesman described the council action Friday as a "formal conclusion" of the crisis that now "paves the way for the resumption of the peace talks."

But the Palestinian reaction yesterday was, in effect: not so fast.

Not surprisingly, the 396 deportees rejected the latest council development. From the camp in southern Lebanon where they have stayed since their expulsion Dec. 17, they accused the United Nations of a "double standard" in the way it enforces resolutions against Iraq but accepts compromises when Israel is involved. They reiterated their position that none will go back to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip until all do.

The agreement Friday was also denounced by Hanan Ashrawi, spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the talks, who said the agreement "has no validity" and represents "a blow to the integrity of the Security Council and another attempt at bailing Israel out."

Although she said nothing about returning to the negotiation table, delegates have said repeatedly that they will stay away if the deportation issue remains unresolved.

But they have also declined to slam the door, suggesting that they are seeking a way out of the crisis.

Some Israeli officials say they think the Palestinians will return to the talks after Mr. Christopher's visit. But there is no evidence that a behind-the-scenes deal has been worked out. Moreover, some Israeli press commentators and Middle East specialists argue that as long as the banished Palestinians remain camped out in Lebanon, the crisis will not necessarily disappear just because the Israeli government says it will.

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