DO the Israelis really think they can have peace by getting rid of certain people?'' For Hiba Rajoub, a Palestinian, the question has a very personal dimension. On Jan. 13, Israel deported - permanently exiled - her husband, Jibril, along with three other Palestinians it accused of inciting riots in the occupied territories.
Mrs. Rajoub spoke a day after learning that a mine blast in Limassol, Cyprus had damaged the Sol Phryne, a ship bought by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The ship was to serve as the ``Ship of Return'' for bringing more than 100 deported Palestinians to Israel's port of Haifa in protest of Israel's use of deportations.
Her husband was to be on the ship.
Now, the PLO has announced, the voyage is indefinitely postponed. But for Mrs. Rajoub, the boat stands for her husband's struggle to return home.
``The boat is a symbol. Those who were kicked out illegally must be allowed to come back the way they want to,'' she said.
The 25-year-old secretary had been married for six-weeks when, at midnight on Dec. 28, Israeli security personnel came to their apartment and arrested her husband.
``It was on a Monday,'' Mrs. Rajoub recalled. ``We had gone to sleep at about 11 o'clock, very tired after a long day of receiving friends who had brought wedding gifts. The soldiers broke through the door, woke up Jibril, and told him he had 10 minutes to get dressed and come with them. There were soldiers in every room, on the roof, on the stairway, and surrounding the building. Jibril was handcuffed and blindfolded, and taken away on a bus.''
She believes her husband was selected for arrest because of his past, rather than any alleged current activities.
Rajoub, 34, served 15 years of a life sentence for membership in a Palestinian cell that carried out armed attacks on Israeli targets. He was released in May 1985 in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command.
``Where is the evidence?'' asks Mrs. Rajoub of the charges that her husband recently instigated unrest as an operative of Fatah, the mainstream guerrilla group in the PLO.
``If what they claim is true, why didn't they charge him and bring him to court? They said he was behind the uprising, but it has continued despite his expulsion.''
Rajoub's deportation was ordered Jan. 3, at Jneid prison near Nablus. His wife first heard of it from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
``I was shocked,'' she said. ``We had been planning our life together: settling down, furnishing the house, and having children.''
The four Palestinian detainees decided not to appeal the expulsion order to the Supreme Court, saying they had no faith in the Israeli justice system. The authorities moved quickly. On Jan. 13, without prior notification of Rajoub's lawyer, the four men were flown by helicopter to Lebanon and released on a country road.
``I heard about it on the 5:30 p.m. Arabic news bulletin on Israel Radio,'' Mrs. Rajoub recalled.
``We called the lawyer and the Red Cross, who said it was true, and that they were deeply hurt that they had not been notified. In the evening we saw him landing in Lebanon on the midnight Israeli television newscast. I didn't sleep the rest of the night.''
The expulsions were condemned by the United Nations and the United States, and rekindled the debate on the legality and necessity of the tough measure. The US State Department has continually said that the deportations violate human rights. And last month for the first time in six years, the US voted for a UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel: The resolution called for Israel not to deport Palestinian civilians.
According to official figures, 22 Palestinians have been deported from the territories since August 1985, when the government reinstituted the policy after a series of attacks on Israelis by West Bank Arabs. Israel has deported more than a thousand Arabs since 1967, when it occupied the West Bank and Gaza.
Critics say expulsion is an unusually severe punishment, inherited from Draconian Emergency Defense Regulations dating back to the British mandate. The punishment is meted out on testimony contained in files which are kept secret from the deportee and his lawyers, who are thus powerless to refute the evidence.
The policy is also seen as violating the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 on protection of civilians in wartime. Article 49 of the Convention says that ``Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory ... are prohibited regardless of the motive.''
Israeli defense officials respond that deportation is used only as a measure of last resort against key activists who have persisted in subversive or violent activity, despite repeated imprisonment and other punishment. They say all legal aspects of a deportation case are researched in advance, so that the evidence against a deportee will stand up to an appeal.
Deporting a person to ensure public security, these officials say, is both in accordance with the Defense Regulations and in conformity with the 1907 Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions, which require the occupying power to take measures to maintain law, order, and public safety.
Regarding the Geneva Convention prohibition of deportation, officials cite Israeli Supreme Court rulings, which state that the Convention, adopted in 1949, referred to deportations for purposes of forced labor, torture, and extermination, such as those carried out by the Nazis in World War II.
The officials also note that deportees have the right to appeal their deportation orders to a military appeals board, and later to the Supreme Court. However, in none of the cases since August 1985 have such orders been overturned.
``Now I feel constantly unsettled,'' said Mrs. Rajoub. ``They've separated us and broken up our life, and it's very hard now to live quietly. I don't know what the future will bring, and I find myself just waiting. I can't plan anything. I listen all the time to newscasts, expecting to hear news of Jibril.''
``At times, I just sit doing nothing, and I can't even cry any more.''