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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 21, 1994, V2, #229

IDF Threatens Hizbullah with Retaliation

By Susan Sappir (Jerusalem)

One day after two Israeli soldiers and two Lebanese fighters were killed in a clash in southern Lebanon, Israel is warning it may take action against pro-Iranian Hizbullah guerrillas there.

The fighting between Israeli troops and Hizbullah that claimed two lives on each side on Monday was just the latest in an ongoing conflict.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Yossi Sarid described the situation as a war of attrition. Hizbullah has vowed to continued attacking the Israelis to drive them out of the border strip they patrol in southern Lebanon.

Sarid hinted at possible Israeli military action in Lebanon. He said Israel would feel free to take what he called an initiative without any restrictions.

Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Gur said the guerrillas may have violated the terms of a cease-fire with Israel. If that were the case, he said, Israel would not be bound to the 1993 agreement.

Peres/Arafat Meet Today

By Susan Sappir (Jerusalem)

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO leader Yasir Arafat are due to meet today (Wednesday) to discuss redeployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank.

A new compromise proposal has been raised to break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians over Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

Palestinian official Faisal al-Husseini proposes that Israel begin by withdrawing its troops from the towns of Jenin and Bethlehem. The parties would agree on a timetable for a pullout from other areas.

Under the terms of the 15-month-old Israeli/Palestinian peace deal, the Israeli pullout, followed by Palestinian elections, should have been completed by July 13th.

But following a series of attacks on Israelis, Israel has told the Palestinians that it would not complete the withdrawal until the safety of Israelis is guaranteed.

The Palestinians are eager for this phase of the agreement to be completed, saying they cannot vote under the barrels of Israel guns. And the new Palestinian self-rule authority badly needs the people's vote to gain legitimacy.

U.S. Blamed for Weapons Proliferation

By Lauri Neff (Washington)

US experts say proliferation of weapons continues to be a significant problem in the Middle East despite progress in regional peace efforts. Instability in the Persian Gulf is apparently the main reason for their concern.

The United States says multilateral Middle East peace talks have produced a number of confidence building arms control measures. The State Department's Frederick Axelguard notes the participants agreed to notify each other of certain military activities. "Military activities in the field involving movements of troops in excess of 4,000 men would be notified. (One) hundred and 10, (one) hundred and 11 tanks was also adopted as a threshold figure -- what we have basically agreed is, on a multilateral basis, to begin providing transparency."

The parties have also agreed to set up a regional security center in Jordan to allow discussion of such issues as security and ways to ensure that agreements are honored.

Geoffrey Kemp is a senior expert on Middle East arms control. He says despite recent advances in diplomacy, regional weapons sales have surged. Kemp says this is largely due to insecurity among Gulf Arab states. He says they are alarmed by Iranian attempts to bolster its arsenal and worry what will happen if and when UN sanctions against Baghdad are lifted.

"The question is then, is what constraints, if any, will there be on Iraq concerning the modernization and rebuilding of its conventional forces. And my judgment is, is that it will be extremely difficult to prevent Iraq from modernizing and rebuilding its conventional forces and that these, of course, are the primary instruments with which Saddam Hussein can intimidate the region."

Kemp says US military strategy has also contributed to a recent military buildup in Gulf states. "From a strictly military point of view it makes sense to provide these countries with American equipment as we saw during the Gulf war. And furthermore I don't need to stress the economic advantages to selling US equipment. And we are by far the largest supplier, which, of course, makes our calls for conventional arms control extremely hollow."

A new factor adding to concerns about Middle East arms control is the recent proliferation of nuclear smuggling in Eastern Europe. Kemp says that makes it much easier for countries such as Iran to get nuclear arms technology.

Also significant for regional arms control is the future of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, up for an extension next year. Egypt and Iran have already begun debate against the treaty in its current state. And then there is Israel, which is believed to have nuclear weapons and has not signed the accord. Israel contends a debate on regional nuclear arms control is meaningless when the two states most likely to get such weapons -- Iran and Iraq -- are not in on the discussions.

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