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>JN
>ISRAEL FAXX
>PD OCTOBER 19, 1994, V2, #191

PERES: JERUSALEM NOT IMPORTANT MILITARILY

In Knesset debate this week, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that Jerusalem has no military or strategic significance. "Jerusalem is important to us as part of our Judaism."

Clinton Will Witness Peace Signing

By David Borgida (White House)

The Clinton White House is scrambling to arrange all the details for next week's presidential visit to the Middle East, a visit that will begin with the signing of the historic peace agreement between Israel and Jordan but will include stops in Israel and Kuwait, possibly even Syria. It was an invitation Clinton simply could not turn down.

In July, he brokered the agreement ending decades of hostility between Israel and Jordan at a White House ceremony. But his commitment to a comprehensive Middle East peace, said Clinton spokesperson Dee Dee Myers Tuesday, dates back to the beginning of his presidency. Despite some planned political trips for Democrats next week, she explained why the decision to accept the invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein took just hours to accept.

"The president made the decision based on his commitment to peace in the Middle East -- it is something that as you know he has been working very hard on over the course of the last 20 months." Witnessing the signing ceremony is, in her words, "a unique opportunity."

"This is something he feels very strongly about, he's very committed to, and is going to the signing ceremony in an attempt to underscore his commitment and the commitment of the United States to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And I think the president will continue to do everything he can in the future to help facilitate progress on all those tracks."

The White House Tuesday sent a first wave of logistical and security personnel to the region to begin making preparations for the visit -- the president's first to the region since becoming president.

Hebron Cave to Reopen to Jews and Muslims

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israel plans to reopen the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron -- site of the massacre of Muslim worshipers this past March by a radical Jewish settler. Israel's deputy defense minister inspected security arrangements at the cave on Tuesday.

The cave -- which houses a mosque and a synagogue -- is sacred to Jews and Muslims as the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives. It has been closed since March, when radical settler Baruch Goldstein killed at least 29 Arabs as they prayed inside.

The Israeli army has been working on new security arrangements for the cave, which is also a popular tourist attraction. A special force has been trained for security duty at the cave, and some new equipment has been installed.

The government has worked out a plan for sharing the space in the cave, and for turning it over entirely to Jews or Muslims at certain times and on certain days.

After his visit on Tuesday, Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Gur acknowledged that there are both Muslims and Jews who are not entirely satisfied with the plan. But he said it will be mplemented anyway around the end of this month.

"There are people that are not happy with any agreement. And it's right that in any agreement you will find, let's say, difficulties. But I believe that the majority of the population will realize that all the arrangements that we have established here are positive to both sides, to Muslims and Jews, and that after a very short while they will get used to it and that's the main thing, and it will be quiet."

PLO-Israel Talks Resume in Cairo

By Peyman Pejman (Cairo)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have resumed talks on a timetable for holding elections in Palestinian-held areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This is the third round of negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli teams about an election timetable. Israel cancelled a third day of talks last week after the fundamentalist Hamas group kidnapped and later killed an Israeli soldier.

Hamas wanted to exchange the soldier for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. The soldier died when Israeli commandos raided the house where he was being held.

The Cairo talks between the Palestinians and Israelis have one main goal -- devising a timetable for the Palestinians to hold local elections in the areas they now control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But within that framework, they also are debating several smaller issues, topics they have been debating for weeks and have had little success in resolving.

The Palestinians want Israel to complete its troop pullout from the West Bank before they hold their elections. Israel says it will complete the withdrawal, but not by November 1st, the date the Palestinians want the elections held.

Israel says it will take more time because there are many Jewish settlements in the West Bank which will continue to need protection by Israeli security forces.

Another issue is the question of who will be allowed to run for the legislative council that the Palestinians will elect, and how many members the council will have.

The Palestinians say all Palestinians, regardless of political alliance, should be eligible to run as candidates. Israel says member of Hamas, the extremist group opposed to the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, can vote but should be barred as candidates in the election.

Israel also wants the Palestinian council to be a small one, while Palestinians want it to include about 100 members.


Assad Visits Mubarak in Cairo

By Peyman Pejman (Cairo)

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad made a short visit to Egypt Tuesday to discuss the Middle East peace process with Egyptian officials.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Assad met for more than three hours. Afterwards, the two leaders said their discussions focused on progress in the Middle East peace talks and the security situation in the Gulf.

Assad's short trip to Egypt comes one day after Israel and Jordan initialled a peace treaty, formally putting an end to the state of war between their two countries. The document is to be signed on October 26th.

Assad did not directly criticize Jordan for having agreed to a separate peace treaty with Israel, but Syria has long argued that Arab states should negotiate collectively with Israel.

Details of the talks between the two presidents have not been released. But, in view of the Israeli/Jordanian accord, Syria is under increasing pressure to reach a similar agreement with Israel. Those bilateral negotiations, however, have been stalled for months.

Egypt, the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, has been mediating between Israel and Syria. Egypt's Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said Monday there had been progress in the Syrian-Israeli talks but he did not elaborate.

Judge Believes Iranians Bombed JCC

By Roger Wilkison (Rio de Janeiro)

The Argentine judge who is investigating the bombing three months ago of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires says he still believes Iranian officials were involved in the crime. Judge Juan Jose Galeano told a Buenos Aires newspaper that the evidence he has gathered so far indicates that four Iranians who were once assigned to their country's embassy in Argentina masterminded the bombing.

The July 18th bombing killed at least 95 people. But as in the case of a previous terrorist blast at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 20 people, the investigation into the crime has bogged down, and most Argentines believe the culprits will never be found.

However, Galeano seems convinced that Iran was behind the attack. In an interview that appeared in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper "La Nacion," the judge reiterated his accusation that the four Iranians he indicted in August were involved in the attack.

The Argentine Supreme Court rejected the judge's charges against the Iranians, saying he did not offer enough proof of their involvement. The judge based his indictments on the testimony of one man -- a mysterious Iranian defector named Manoucher Motamer, who, at last report, was living in Ecuador.

Iran reacted furiously to the indictments, and Argentine-Iranian relations entered a tense phase. Iran accused Israel and the United States of inspiring the judge's denunciations. The mysterious Motamer claimed he was a former official of Iran's Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, but the Iranian government said he was a former shopkeeper in the city of Isfahan.

Judge Galeano told La Nacion he wants to interview Motamer again. But, according to a poll published Tuesday in the newspaper "Pagina Doce," seven out of 10 Argentines believe the crime will never be cleared up.

More than 20 people, including some Arabs and Iranians, were detained during the investigation, but most have been released for lack of evidence. An Argentine man suspected of having sold the vehicle used in the car bombing is still under detention, as are two Arabs who were recently found to be in possession of explosives. But police do not believe the Arabs were involved in the attack on the Jewish community center.

Meanwhile, most Argentines cited by the Pagina Doce poll said they fear another terrorist attack. They mentioned weak security measures, the presence in Buenos Aires of a large Jewish community, and the inconclusive investigation of the Israeli Embassy bombing as factors that make the Argentine capital a target for international terrorism.


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