Admitting improper procedure in the expulsion of three Arab notables from the occupied West Bank two months ago, the Israeli government's chief attorney assured the Supreme Court today that no person will be ousted again without being able to appeal the decision.
State Attorney Gabriel Bach presented his case against an injunction brought before the court by a lawyer for the mayors of Hebron and Halhoul and a religious leader also expelled on May 3 -- a day after ambush killing of six Jews and the wounding of 16 others by Palestinian terrorists in Hebron.
While acknowledging the improper procedures, Bach warned of a "catastrophe" if the three were allowed to return to Hebron, where unrest has subsided in recent weeks. "They symbolize the violent uprising against Israel," Bach told the judges.
Justice Haim Cohen interrupted to suggest that the three might have been "transformed into the symbol of the uprising because of the deportation order."
Lawyer Felicia Langer asked that her clients be allowed to return to Israel to appear before the appeals board, the process denied them when they were taken from their homes and sent into Lebanon. A decision is expected after the hearing that opened today resumes on Friday.
State Attorney Bach conceded that the military occupation authorities sought no legal advice before acting. The audience in the overflowing courtroom included several foreign observers and left-wing members of the Israeli parliament was well as members of the three Arab's families.
Bach's main legal argument to oppose allowing the Arabs' return was that Israeli court procedure allows the hearing of appeals in absentia. He cited a number of cases in which the Supreme Court ruled that a person's rights were not violated when his case was discussed while he was absent.
Among the cases Bach cited were appeals heard by the British military court before 1948, when Palestine was still a British mandate, when the authorities had expelled members of the Jewish underground to Kenya. Some of those expelled then are now members of the Israeli government.
Bach also charged that statements made by the three in recent weeks against the maintenance of law and order in the occupied territories were proof that the decision to expel them was justified.
The three are Hebron Mayor Fahd Kawasme, Hallhoul Mayor Mohammed Milhem and Moslem leader Rajab Tamimi.