Arafat cancels Israeli military laws in Gaza, Jericho

May 25, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

JERICHO, West Bank -- Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and head of the Palestinians' interim government, canceled yesterday most of the military orders issued by Israel over its 27-year occupation of the Gaza Strip and this West Bank town.

In a move that asserted Palestinian authority in the two regions and promised to affect everything from retail sales to taxation and from traffic regulations to street crime, Mr. Arafat restored all the laws in force prior to the 1967 Middle East war and Israel's capture of Gaza and the West Bank.

Although Israeli officials questioned Mr. Arafat's authority in issuing so sweeping an order and asserted that he needs their approval for all legislative actions, Palestinians hailed the move as another step in their liberation.

"Establishing our own laws is an essential part of our emancipation," said Saeb Erekat, a political scientist nominated to serve on the interim Palestinian Authority. "Legally, most of the 2,500 military orders issued by the Israelis became null and void with their withdrawal last week, and so Arafat re-established the legal framework for everyday life."

The Palestinian Authority, which will administer the Gaza Strip andeventually most of the West Bank under the autonomy agreement with Israel, will soon be faced with the task of adopting a basic law and then extensive civil and criminal codes after the elections planned for October.

Some of the military regulations that have governed life here were preserved as part of the agreements establishing Palestinian self-government and economic relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Mr. Arafat restored 1967 Jordanian law in Jericho and Egyptian in Gaza to "give people the sense of being masters in their own home," Mr. Erekat said. "It's better to have some legislative gaps than to have Israeli military orders plugging them."

In other developments, the Israeli military commander in the West Bank closed Jericho for 24 hours to all but its 15,000 residents in cooperation with the new Palestinian police commander, who reportedly asked for a "breather" in order to get a firmer grip on the town and to brief his men on regulations governing Israelis traveling through it.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, visiting Israeli positions along the border with Gaza, again warned Mr. Arafat that Israel will not turn over administration of more of the West Bank until it sees how self-government works in Gaza and Jericho.

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