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>PD NOVEMBER 14, 1994, V2, #203

Cabinet Believes Arafat Losing Power

By Patricia Golan & Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Palestinian police say they have arrested 150-suspected Muslim militants since a suicide bomber riding a bicycle killed three Israeli soldiers Friday afternoon near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. All three Israelis killed were IDF soldiers on reserve duty.

The Israeli Cabinet met Sunday to discuss how to deal with the wave of Islamic terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin says PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat could do much more to act against extremists operating in the autonomous territory under his control. Israel withdrew its troops from the Gaza Strip in May. Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, the prime minister said Arafat must disarm the Islamic Jihad and Hamas organizations.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Friday's suicide bombing. The group said it was in retaliation for a car bomb blast which killed one of its leaders last week. It blames the bombing on the Israelis.

Israel is renewing pressure on Arafat to rein in the Islamic militant groups, but Rabin told the Cabinet the Palestinian security services appear to be weaker than they were when they first took control. Police Minister Moshe Shahal complained to the Cabinet the Palestinian Authority has failed to live up to its promise to control terrorism.

Other ministers are calling for a complete separation between Israel and the Palestinian areas. Several dovish ministers are demanding the evacuation of the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the center of the Gaza Strip, or moving it further south. Such a controversial move is unlikely to be implemented in the near future.

The suicide bomber killed three Israelis and wounded about 15 other people Friday, including some Palestinians, near an Israeli settlement in the autonomous Gaza Strip.

Two masked men claimed responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the radical group Islamic Jihad. They made the claim at a memorial service in Gaza City for one of the group's leaders, who was killed the previous week.

Islamic Jihad blames Israeli agents for the car bomb death of the leader, Hani Abed. Israel says he was killed when a bomb of his own went off accidentally.

Arafat ordered an investigation of Friday's bombing, and threatened what he called "harsh measures" against those responsible.

The bomb went off on a road guarded by joint Israeli/Palestinian security patrols, at an intersection less than 700 feet from an Israeli settlement.

Islamic Jihad and another radical group, called Hamas, oppose the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and have vowed to continue fighting for control of all of what they consider Palestine, including all of Israel.

Austria May Apologize for its Holocaust Role

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Austrian President Thomas Klestil has arrived in Israel for a state visit -- the first ever by an Austrian president.

The visit of Klestil marks an improvement in relations between Austria and Israel in the post-Waldheim era. When Kurt Waldheim was elected president of Austria, despite disclosures of his Nazi past, Israeli-Austrian relations were frozen.

But since Klestil was elected, relations between the two countries have steadily improved. Other Austrian officials have paid visits to Israel recently, but this is the first presidential visit.

The president arrived with an entourage which includes 100 senior managers of Austria's leading companies.

There are reports that the president plans to issue an apology to Israel for Austria's part in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust when he addresses the Israeli parliament later this week. In speeches elsewhere, he has accepted Austrian responsibility for Nazi crimes. There is concern in Israel about the resurgence of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism in Austria.

Austria has often acted as intermediary between Israel and Islamic countries -- most recently regarding missing Israeli soldiers.

Zhirinovsky Says He's Not Anti-Semitic

By Elaine Johanson (U.N.) & Dick Cushing (San Francisco)

Russian ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky says if he were president of Russia he would veto attempts by the United Nations to interfere in the internal affairs of states. Zhirinovsky -- on a two-week visit to the United States -- spoke with journalists at the United Nations last week.

"No  embargoes,  no  blockades,  no  United Nations troops in the
Balkans."  The leader of Russia's ultra-nationalist party says the
United Nations was most effective in the 1970's and '80's, when the
former Soviet Union -- as well as the United States -- used the
threat of their vetoes to stymie international action in their spheres of influence.
Zhirinovsky -- who has declared his candidacy for the Russian presidential elections in 1996 -- feels he has a credible edge among disgruntled Russian voters. His party won a large share of parliamentary seats in elections last December. Russian sources in New York say Zhirinovsky's supporters are so emboldened by their inroads that plans are being hatched to introduce a formal parliamentary challenge to Boris Yeltsin well before the presidential elections. The Russian nationalist began his tour of the United States last week in San Francisco. He said there and again at the United Nations that he is not an anti-Semite, a racist or a fascist -- impressions he has at least helped to create in public statements and writings over the past few years. Zhirinovsky was vague on the rest of his itinerary in the United States. He said he would like to go to Washington where he would seek meetings with officials on any level and with members of the US Congress. In San Francisco, Zhirinovsky speaking like a seasoned political campaigner, drew a crowd of 1,200 people for a speech in which he condemned the Yeltsin Government for a stagnating economy; crime and corruption beyond belief; high taxation; and growing unrest in the military. He said a military takeover in the guise of supporting democracy is quite possible in Russia, because the country has become -- in his words -- "a criminal society." He predicts he will win the presidency in the next election with 90 percent of the vote, if there is no fraud. The opposition leader describes as a total falsehood allegations he is anti-Semitic -- saying he and his party are neither pro-fascist or anti-Jewish and never have been. "And of course we are very sorry that the Second World War had happened but I have never said the Jewish were the reason why it happened. Please look at the party's documents. Please listen to me, but not to those papers who are making a special report on me, in order to decrease my popularity and the popularity of the party." As Zhirinovsky spoke inside under extremely-tight security, a crowd of about 1,000 mainly-Jewish protesters -- including two members of Congress -- were in the street outside chanting anti-Zhirinovsky slogans.

Germany Bans Neo-Nazi Group

By Dagmar Breitenbach (Bonn)

German Interior Minister Manfred Kanther on Thursday banned the neo-Nazi "Viking Youth" group in a continued effort to put an end to a rise in right-wing extremism. Early Thursday morning, police also searched the houses of members of the right-wing extremist group in 10 German states, confiscating the organization's assets. According to the Bonn Interior Ministry, the group was founded in Wilhelmshaven in 1952, and is said to have about 400 members. The ministry says the "Viking Youth" wants to eliminate the Constitution, and recreate a Nazi state in Germany. The group advocates identifying Jews with a yellow star symbol and forcing foreigners out of the country.

Kanther says such groups that try to spread racism and anti-Semitism, and preach intolerance and hatred must be eradicated from public life. Germany, Kanther says, is no playground for extremists of any kind.

Germany has been struggling with a surge in right-wing extremism. At least 30 people have been reported killed in violent neo-Nazi attacks since unification. Most of the attacks are directed against foreigners, but handicapped people and Jews have also been targeted.

King Hussein Visits Israel; Signs Ratification Documents

By Al Pessin (Beit Gavriel, Israel)

Jordan's King Hussein has become only the second leader of an Arab country to visit Israel, flying to a conference center on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) to meet with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

As the king and the prime minister walked by on their way from the helipad to the conference center, Israeli school children brought out for the event waved Israeli and Jordanian flags, cheered, and broke into a spontaneous rendition of a Hebrew song, with words meaning "peace be unto you."

A few minutes later, on the shore of this huge, beautiful lake, the two leaders signed and exchanged the ratification documents sealing the peace between their countries, after 46 years of conflict.

King Hussein called the treaty an "honorable, balanced peace" and said he hopes it will be a model for others. "We hope and pray that this important event will be one of many, as we all search for a comprehensive peace in this region, and for the better future which is our peoples' right."

The towering Golan Heights formed the backdrop for the ceremony. Israel captured the Heights from Syria in 1967, and their future is one of the main sticking points in the Israel-Syria peace talks.

The choice of location appeared to be an open invitation to Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to someday soon attend a similar ceremony.

And Rabin drove home the point in his remarks. "And I hope that it will serve as an example to the other countries with which we negotiate peace -- Syria, Lebanon. And they will be convinced by what we have achieved together, Your Majesty, and they will follow what has been done."

Rabin said Thursday's exchange of documents began the process of establishing various contacts and projects called for in the peace treaty. He said those steps will establish what he called "the structure of peace."

A few hours earlier, and not far away, Israel and Jordan opened one such structure -- the second border crossing between them, a one-lane bridge across the Jordan River.

Sunday, a busload of Israeli tourists crossed the bridge into Jordan. Local officials hope traffic at the border will be so intense, they will have to build a new, wider bridge very soon.

It is a small bridge, barely wide enough for a truck and less than 160 feet long. But it bridges a gap that had existed for 46 years since the old bridge was blown up by Jewish forces during Israel's Independence War in 1948.

Cholera Breaks Out in Gaza

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

The Palestinian Authority has confirmed an outbreak of cholera in the newly autonomous Gaza Strip. The Palestinian health minister confirmed earlier Israeli reports of the disease, initially rejected as propaganda.

Palestinian Health Minister Dr. Riyad Zaanoun said a two-and-a-half year old boy has died from cholera, and 15 other people have been diagnosed as having the disease. There are some 20 other suspected cholera sufferers. The cases are all in Gaza City.

Cholera is a highly infectious bacterial disease carried by contaminated water. If untreated, it can kill within hours through dehydration. Flooding as a result of recent storms is suspected of causing sewage to overflow into water sources in Gaza.

Zaanoun says the Palestinian self-rule authority is getting help from the World Health Organization, the Israeli Health Ministry, and Egypt and Jordan to stem the outbreak. Israel's Health Ministry has halted the import to Israel from Gaza of all food as a result of the outbreak. The ban includes fruits, vegetables and other agricultural product. Israeli authorities say they confiscated and destroyed some food smuggled into Israel. Farmers in Gaza have protested the ban, which is costing an estimated $300,000 a day in lost exports of one of Gaza's few sources of income.

Simple Alzheimer's Test Developed

By David McAlary (Washington)

Researchers have developed a simple, inexpensive eye test that can diagnose and possibly even predict Alzheimer's Disease -- the degenerative brain disease which afflicts former President Ronald Reagan and more than 20 million other people worldwide.

At present, autopsy is the only definitive way of diagnosing Alzheimer's -- which is estimated to affect almost one in 10 people older than 65. There is a relatively reliable method of assessing it in the living, requiring an expensive and complex battery of neurological and psychological tests.

But Harvard University Medical School neurobiologist Huntington Potter and colleagues have developed an easy test for Alzheimer's. It requires only an extremely diluted version of the standard eye drops used in eye examinations.

"The initial study is done by placing a drop of a drug into the eye of an individual and asking whether the pupil dilates in response to the drug. A normal patient will not respond at all to this low concentration, but Alzheimer's patients will respond by dilating their pupils."

The Harvard researchers report in the journal "Science" [Nov. 11th issue] that the pupils dilated substantially in 18 out of 19 elderly people already diagnosed with Alzheimer's or suspected of having it. In 40 other individuals with normal brain function or other forms of dementia, the pupils showed minimal dilation.

The large dilation is a response to low levels of a brain chemical called Acetylcholine in Alzheimer's patients. Acetylcholine controls the tension of muscles in the eye and throughout the body. The drug in the eye drops blocks its action. Even in very diluted form, it is still powerful enough to counter the lowered Acetylcholine in Alzheimer's victims and widen their pupils.

Potter says the test could be extremely valuable: "Eventually we will have drugs to treat the disease. But it's very important -- especially in a neurodegenerative disease -- to detect the onset of the disease as early as possible so the treatment can be started as early as possible. Once neurons in the brain die, they can not be replaced, so once somebody is demented, it's a little late to begin the therapy."

The Alzheimer's Association in Chicago -- a support organization for patients and families -- welcomes a diagnostic test for the disease. But the group's spokeswoman -- Kathryn Kane -- says having the ability to predict it raises ethical problems. She draws a parallel with Huntington's Disease -- a similar form of fatal dementia. She fears genetic tests that detect the potential for inheriting it might be used against people: "They may be denied employment or denied insurance. They may make life choices about whether to get married or have children based on this information. There are even cases of people who thought they were going to get the disease and when they finally took the test, they found out that they didn't have the disease and have been suicidal because they just assumed they were going to get it and were braced for that. When they got a reprieve, they didn't know how to handle it."

In addition to the ethical questions, many researchers are skeptical of the biological value of the Alzheimer's eye drop test. Various skin punch tests, blood tests, and brain scans had once showed initial promise, too, only to fail in large clinical trials. The Harvard researchers agree that studies at least 10 times bigger than theirs are needed to prove their assay. The process is already underway. The University of Pennsylvania's Alzheimer's Research Center is preparing to give the test to large numbers of people and "Science" magazine quotes its director as saying he expects other centers to follow.

A Reporter's Notebook: Israel's Road to Peace

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israel has been through a series of fast-paced changes in recent months, including peace with Jordan, ups and downs in peace efforts with Syria and the Palestinians, and continuing terrorism. Officials often talk about "the road to peace" and "signs of peace." Well, in recent weeks in Israel, we have begun to see what might be called "road signs of peace."

Some of them are on roads west of Jerusalem, for the first time indicating the way to Gaza. The signs were put up on the roads which are the official passage routes between Palestinian autonomous areas on the West Bank and in Gaza. In the past, Gaza was barely mentioned on Israeli road signs, until one approached close to the roadblock at the border. There, large signs mainly indicated the way to avoid going into the Strip.

There are more "road signs of peace" on Route 90 in northeastern Israel. These brand new signs say "Jordan 30 Kilometers," then 20, then 10, then "Turn Right Here," and finally "Prepare Documents

for Inspection."  Until recently, such roadside directions were
not  needed because it was  not  possible to cross the border.  But
the new signs lead to a new bridge over the Jordan River, which
ministers from Israel and Jordan dedicated last week.

At the ceremony, Israel's Transportation Minister, Yisrael Kessar, spoke about the importance of roads in the quest for peace. "Practically, peace is first and foremost the connection between nations. Connections cannot be realized without methods of transport by land, air, and sea."

Kessar's Jordanian counterpart, Samir Qawar, used the familiar "road to peace" analogy in his comments, standing, literally, on the road leading to the bridge. "The road to peace has been very long. Yet, with sincerity and determination, what looked impossible in the past has become the reality of the present and the aspiration of the future. The expectations of peace are understandably high, and the challenge ahead of us is to meet these expectations."
The peace agreements with Jordan and the Palestinians have led to a series of new circumstances with which Israelis are grappling. Some aspects of peace have been welcomed, particularly the prospect of diplomatic relations, trade and tourism with Arab countries. First on the list is Jordan.

Israeli school children cheered and burst into song when they welcomed Jordan's King Hussein on his first trip to Israel, shortly after the bridge opening ceremony. The king is popular here, even though his country fought two wars against Israel and supported Iraq as it fired missiles at Israel just three years ago. Israeli families are already talking about making day-trips to Jordan to go shopping and touring.

But peace with the Palestinians is not as popular. That involves giving up territory and giving autonomy to a people many Israelis deeply distrust. Continuing terrorism by Palestinians opposed to the peace accord contributes to the tension.

And then there is the "road to peace" with Syria, as twisted and precarious as the road from northern Israel to the top of the Golan Heights, which starts not far north of the new Israel-Jordan border crossing.

While many Israelis embrace peace with Jordan and grudgingly go along with peace with the Palestinians, they tell public opinion pollsters they are not interested in peace with Syria if it means giving up the Heights. But the Israeli Government is determined to go ahead, if the Syrian Government is prepared to establish the same kind of full peace Israel is now building with Jordan. Israeli officials hope such an arrangement would convince the Israeli people to go along.

If that happens, Israelis may have still more new concepts to get used to -- and maybe more new road signs, too, perhaps indicating "Jordan 30 Kilometers, Syria 60, Prepare Documents for Inspection."

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