THE principle of deportation is being realized." Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said it all after Israel reached a compromise agreement with the United States. This negotiated compromise has expedited Secretary of State Warren Christopher's visit to the Middle East in an attempt to salvage the peace process. What remains to be seen is how this can be done.
It appears as if Mr. Christopher's decision to visit the Middle East means that resuming the peace process takes precedence over Israel's full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 799. The US decision also, however, ensures at least temporary paralysis and puts into jeopardy the future credibility and effectiveness of the UN Security Council. In fact, this misplaced sense of priority puts the Arab parties to the peace talks in a predicament which can eventually undo the process.
My intention is not to dramatize the consequences of what the US considers a "reasonable" compromise with Israel. It is, however, to demonstrate that though the compromise seems to provide the US temporary respite from the predicament of either being accused of implementing double standards or from an early confrontation with a traditional ally and friend, the decision actually brings a volatile situation closer to explosion.
True, there are Arab governments willing to facilitate the US task on this critical issue, but they are doing so at the risk of further compounding an already complex and dangerous situation. Their eagerness to establish ties with a new and unfamiliar US administration might lead to a popular impression that they are helping to pressure rather than support the Palestinians. In return for being described as "moderate," these governments hope that the present crisis will wither away. As a result: the prima ry issues are glossed over; Israel has bought time; the US is temporarily relieved; and the UN Security Council realizes once again that its writ is inconsequential and inapplicable where Israel is concerned.
Arabs will be further frustrated and a pervasive sense of humiliation will deepen with a disposition that only extremism can restore their dignity if not secure their rights. The willingness to accept the US accommodation of Israel becomes associated with "moderation" and futility.
The US stance might have been grudgingly palatable if the Arab people, and especially the Palestinians, knew which Israel was being accommodated. Herein lies the legal significance and the serious political implications of Mr. Rabin's statement, "... the principle of deportation is being realized," because this said it all.
A state has the prerogative to deport undesirable aliens. The definition of deportation is "the removal from a country of an alien whose presence is unlawful or prejudicial, always to their country of origin." It is clear, therefore, that if "the principle of deportation is realized" by this proposed compromise between the US and Israel, then Israel is treating it as ratifying its right to deport at will.
The Palestinians can then be regarded as aliens while the Geneva Convention, to which the US adheres, considers them "protected inhabitants" in occupied territory and not aliens or deportables. This is the basis of Arab opposition to the "compromise."
Israel considers the arrangement with the US a successful undertaking on its part to derail the UN from forcing it to recognize its responsibilities and obligation as an occupying power in the occupied territories. Though this has been the strategic objective of successive Israeli governments, the massive deportation of more than 400 Palestinians brought into sharp focus the real cause for the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.
Rabin's statement, asserting the right of Israel to deport, should have prompted the US to insist on full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 799 as a condition for the US to resume the peace process.
By acquiescing to this politically expedient but legally flawed compromise, however, the US has severely damaged, perhaps irreparably, the peace process. Even if it achieves a short-term success through Christopher's visit by securing an Arab "cover," which is still doubtful, the peace process will be damaged. What this episode has shown, and I'm sure the insightful Warren Christopher realizes it, is that the peace process cannot replace the quest for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.