Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon warned Jordan today that if it attempted to enforce a military order threatening West Bank Palestinians with treason charges and death penalties for collaborating with Israeli-sponsored "civic associations," Israel would treat Jordan "as it treats terrorist organizations."
Reacting to reports of a statement attributed to Jordanian Prime Minister and Defense Minister Mudar Badran, in which Badran purportedly gave West Bank Arabs one month to withdraw from Israeli-sponsored organizations, Sharon said, "Israel views these threats very gravely. Israel will defend the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria just as it defends all residents living in the land of Israel." (Judea and Samaria are the biblical names for the occupied West Bank).
Jordan controlled the West Bank and its nearly 1 million Arab inhabitants until Israel occupied the territory in the 1967 war. Jordanian civil law still applies, and the government in Amman still pays teachers and other civil servants' salaries in the territory. Moreover, funds channeled through the joint PLO-Jordan Committee have supported numerous municipal projects.
The Associated Press in Amman quoted Badran as saying that "every person who continues to be a member in these movements or makes propaganda about them or works for them in any way, after this warning period will be charged with treason, tried and penalized."
"The penalty will range from death sentences to confiscation of his movable property and immovable property," he reportedly said.
He apparently was referring to the League of Villages, a quasi-official civic organization that the Israeli military government established two years ago in the occupied territories as an alternative to radical Palestinian nationalist organizations backed by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Hebron-based league, headed by Mustafa Dudeen, dispenses funds provided by Israel for municipal projects--partly as a counterweight to PLO-Jordanian aid--and recently has been distributing to its members pistols and automatic submachine guns supplied by the Israeli Army.
Sharon, in a statement the Defense Ministry issued tonight, said, "Israel will continue to make even greater efforts so that the residents of Judea and Samaria may choose their leaders without fear."
Dudeen said that while the Jordanian military order could affect league members who still receive salaries from Jordan or maintain business interests in Amman, "the majority of the people will not care."
A former member of the Jordanian Cabinet whom Israeli authorities allowed to return to the West Bank in 1976, Dudeen said that he hoped to go to Amman to explain to King Hussein his reasons for heading the league, which the PLO and militant nationalists in the West Bank have branded as a "quisling" organization, one that cooperates with an enemy as the Norwegian government of Vidkun Quisling did with the Nazis.
Dudeen, speaking on Israeli radio, said that under international law, Israel has a responsibility for the safety of the inhabitants of the occupied territories and should respond to any threats made in Jordan.
"Jordan cannot do anything against us. If they do any harm to any person from our membership, we know their agents in the area, and we can take revenge on anyone at anytime we like," he said.
Meanwhile, two Palestinian youths were injured by Israeli troops today during disturbances in the West Bank.
An Army Command spokesman said that a demonstrator in Nablus was shot in the knee when youths stoned soldiers and that another demonstrator in Bethlehem was injured by a tear-gas canister during a protest against a visit to Bethlehem University by Menachem Milson, head of the occupation government.