WEST BANK Mayors Fahd Kawasme of Hebron and Mohammed Milhem of Halhoul were first expelled by the Israeli military administration last May in the emotional aftermath of the murder of six Israeli settlers in Hebron. Subsequently, they returned to appeal. On Thursday, the Supreme Court, in a 2-1-decision, upheld the deportation order, even as three justices -- in words reflecting a considerable segment of Israeli opinion -- criticized the expulsion procedure and suggested that the mayors be allowed to go back to their towns for a "trial period." Prime Minister Begin, however, acting in his capacity as defense minister in charge of the military occupation, re-expelled them. It weighed heavily on him, he has said, that the two Palestinian mayors, unlike the PLO leadership, were elected. But it weighed more heavily, a spokesman added, that the mayors might incite their people to violence.
We asked a spokesman at the Israeli Embassy, after the Begin decision, what the mayors had said that had made the prime minister fear incitement. There then arrived a four-page list, "Instigation of Violence and Murder," of two dozen statements by the two men. The first one, typical, was from Mr. Kawasme: "Force is the only logic that Zionism understands. . . . That is why the Arabs must move forward to the liberation of Palestine, and there is no way to do it but by force." From Mayor Milhem: "What is needed is that the world . . . should begin to take action against the common enemy called Zionist Nazism." Unquestionably, rough stuff. But except for a single quotation evidently offered in another context, all 20-odd statements were made in exile after the May deportation. How would you react to being arrested at home at night, hooded and, without a shred of due process, dropped into a foreign country (Lebanon) by helicopter?
Surely, it is no less relevant to a judgment to learn how these men address Israelis directly. So we looked at the nine-page single-spaced transcript of a remarkable exchange following a speech that Mr. Milhem gave in West (Jewish) Jerusalem on March 10, two months before his deportation for (unspecified) "inflammatory remarks." This was the flavor: "I want to bring the Palestinians to a Palestinian state, you want to bring Israelis to an Israeli state. We'll have to watch, both of us, that those who come will not undermine the states -- Jews or Arabs. . . ." And: "The time is not mature for Jewish owners to live in the middle of Hebron. Once we prepare the ground for it, everyone can live. . . . I'll take an Israeli passport and abide by Israeli laws and you'll take an Arab passport and abide by their regulations." Israelis report that Mr. Kawasme similarly supported side-by-side independent states.
What is the real Milhem-Kawasme line, the calls to coexistence before deportation or the appeals to violence after? We do not say it is an easy question for one with Menachem Begin's responsibilities. But we do wonder which of those sets of Palestinian words troubled Mr. Begin more. If he had wanted to encourage a peaceable dialogue, he would have let the mayors stay. In expelling them, he invites, as was evident at once, the way of violence and confrontation.