Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan, the architect of Israel's occupation policy under the previous Labor Party government, has sparked a debate on current occupation strategy by condemning the expulsion of two Palestinian leaders from the occupied West Bank.
Mr. Dayan charged that if "quiet" on the West Bank was to be achieved by the expulsion of two prominent mayors and the serious injury of two others (in as-yet-unsolved car-bombings last June), then "that sort of 'quiet' is reprehensible."
The two former West Bank mayors, Muhammad Milhem of Halhul and Fahd Kawasmeh of Hebron, were exiled Dec. 5 following an Israeli Supreme Court recommendeportation orders. However, the Cabinet-level ministerial defense committee, chaired by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and under strong pressure from the military and from Jewish settlers on the West Bank, decided in less than a day to oust the men.
West Bank leaders of all political outlooks expressed disappointment, and student demonstrations erupted throughout the West Bank.
[Israeli forces used tear gas and warming shots to quell violent demonstrations in the West Bank Dec. 8 in the third straight day of protests over the banishment of two prominent leaders, military sources reported, according to Reuters.]
Mr. Dayan's remarks reflect heightened debate over whether occupation policy should be based mainly on security considerations or on broader political grounds. Since another former defense minister, Ezer Weizman, resigned last May , West Bank policy has been formulated to a large extent by Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan, according to the Israeli news media. They have run stories saying this allows undue influence to be put on technical and security considerations.
Justice Minister Moshe Nissim stressed that "security considerations" had been the determining factor in the government's decision and must take precedence over political expediency. He said he was "convinced" that the expulsions would not adversely affect the Egyptian-Israeli negotiations over autonomy for the West Bank which call for the participation of Palestinian leadership.
But the Jerusalem Post, which favors the opposition Labor Party, editorialized that since "autonomy is to be negotiated with the residents of this area and its representative leadership, it is difficult to see how exiling such leaders is to bring autonomy nearer."
Mr. Dayan, who resigned a year ago over government policy toward the Palestinians, said it sometimes seemed that the Israeli authorities sought to suppress the local populace "like natives."
"Does this square with the spirit of the autonomy plan?" he asked a TV interviewer. The former defense and foreign minister also criticized the government for deferring West Bank municipal elections, which by law should have been held in April.
Mr. Dayan's West Bank policies as defense minister have come under attack by officials in or close to the present military government. They say his policy of nonintervention in West Bank politics encouraged radicals to take power and discouraged moderates. They argue that by rewarding those Israel considers moderate and "smashing," by legal means, those considered radical, nationalism can be cooled on the West Bank.
Prominent West Bankers, long considered moderate by the Israelis, insist, however, that it will be virtually impossible to find any West Bank figures who will support an autonomy plan that does not lead to Palestinian self-determination. They add that "moderates" whose only backing comes from Israel will be vulnerable to assassination by the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
However, many of sources believe that when the mayors of Nablus and Ramallah, now abroad receiving treatment for injuries suffered in car-bombings, return to the West Bank, the military government will find ways to remove them from office.
The two exiled mayors were originally deported on May 3 following the murder of six Jewish settlers in Hebron. They were never directly linked with the killings and were allowed to return six weeks ago to appeal their deportations because they were denied this legal right in May.