Israel Moves to Reassure Arabs on W. Bank Expulsions

Israel has sent messages of assurance to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority that it has no intention to take action against Gazans in the West Bank.

This bid to allay concerns in the Arab world follows the storm of condemnation over the Israeli military order that went into effect this week designating tens of thousands of Palestinians as infiltrators and law-breakers.

The Israeli assurances were conveyed by the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major General Eitan Dangot. The PA's minister for civilian affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, who is a senior Fatah official, said Dangot had told him in a telephone conversation that "there is no truth to the reports of Israeli intentions to expel Gazans who are in the West Bank."

The PA minister told Haaretz that Dangot asked him to convey the message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the message was transmitted to the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors as well. Al-Sheikh said Dangot promised that no one would be expelled to the Gaza Strip and explained that the provision in question had existed since 1969.

Despite the assurances, Al-Sheikh condemned the army order, which defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally or who is "in an area without a legal permit" as an infiltrator. This is in contrast with the original order from 1969, which limits the definition of infiltrator to someone who illegally enters the territory after a presence in an enemy state.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Amman and handed him a "strongly-worded protest" over the order, according to the official Petra news agency.