Israel Tightens Restrictions on Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AP) _ In a bid to end knifing attacks, Israel plans to deport more activists in the Palestinian uprising and to deny entry to private vehicles from the occupied territories, an official said today.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s decision-making Defense Cabinet passed the new rules Sunday after acrimonious debate over the handling of the 40-month- old Palestinian revolt against Israeli occupation.
Left-wing Israelis denounced the decisions as too harsh. Palestinian leaders called it collective punishment and said thousands of Arabs who depend on work in Israel could be left jobless.
Meanwhile, police today blocked a group of extremist Jews from going to the Temple Mount, Islam’s third-holiest site, but allowed them to march with Israeli flags through the Muslim quarter of the Old City. No violence was reported.
Plans by the group, the Temple Mount Faithful, to march to the mount last Oct. 8 sparked Muslim riots in which stones were thrown at Jews worshipping at the nearby Western Wall. Police opened fire, killing at least 17 Palestinians and wounding scores more.
During today’s march, the Temple Mount Faithful stopped at a corner where a Jewish seminary student was stabbed to death last month. Arab knife attacks on Jews increased after the Temple Mount deaths.
Reporting on the new government rules regarding Palestinians, the three leading Israeli daily newspapers said the decisions focused on ways of reducing the numbers of Palestinians permitted to work in Israel.
More deportation orders are to be issued against Palestinian activists in the hometowns of knifing assailants, the reports said.
Israel has ordered 67 Arabs expelled during the uprising, drawing frequent condemnations from the United States.
Private vehicles bearing blue or grey license plates - indicating they are from the occupied territories - are also to be kept out of Israel, the reports added.
Defense Ministry spokesman Danny Naveh and Cabinet Secretary Eliakim Rubinstein declined to comment on the decisions.
Another defense official confirmed they were ″made in principle,″ but added it would take time to resolve how they should be implemented.
Referring to the car ban, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted, ″it’s a logistic problem here to do this,″ to find alternative transportation.
Israel has already increased restrictions on Palestinians since the Persian Gulf War, when blanket curfews were imposed on hundreds of thousands.
Since the war’s end only about half the 110,000 Palestinians who worked in Israel have returned to their jobs.
According to Israeli reports today, more than 70,000 Palestinians have work permits and defense officials plan to cut that number.
In all, 1.7 million Palestinians live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and some 85,000 Israelis have moved in since Israel seized the areas during the 1967 Middle East war.
The new measures are a diluted version of the harsh tactics urged by hard- liners in response to a wave of stabbing attacks in which six Israelis were killed during the past month.
Police initially proposed banning Palestinian bachelors younger than 30 from entering the country, arguing that most assailants fit this profile. But the army objected to the idea as unworkable and it was never raised on Sunday, reports said.
Foreign Minister David Levy and Defense Minister Moshe Arens were reported to have argued against drawing further Western criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Hawkish Housing Minister Ariel Sharon urged ″a cessation of our policy of restraint,″ and to impose more political restrictions against Palestinians, the Hadashot newspaper said.
Levy was quoted as replying: ″You are trying to do a security striptease for the media,... You cannot conduct a policy based solely on punishment, it will stain Israel’s name.″
Israeli moderates were also critical, arguing that the government should also devote some effort to trying to arrange peace talks with the Palestinians.
″A knife doesn’t just jump up by itself, and you cannot deal with knifings without curing the motivation for them,″ said Shimon Peres, head of the left- leaning Labor Party.
″We are deluding ourselves to think you can deal with the symptom and not with the cause,″ of violence, Peres added in an interview with Army radio.
Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian political scientist, called the measures, ″a war against peacemaking.″
″It will make lives unbearable,″ in the disputed territories, Erakat added.