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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 28, 1994, V2, #233

Tariffs will be removed from U.S. Imports

Beginning next week, tariffs on all imports from the United States will be removed, Israel Radio reported. This step completes the creation of a free-trade zone between the U.S. and Israel as agreed upon in a trade accord signed nearly 10 years ago. All U.S. imports, including agricultural products, will be tariff-free.

Rabin Returns From Oman Trip

By Susan Sappir (Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has returned to Israel after a ground-breaking visit to the Gulf state of Oman Monday. It was the first visit by an Israeli leader to an Arab state in the Gulf.

None of the Gulf Arab states have diplomatic relations with Israel. Just three months ago six Gulf states, including Oman, took a first step towards changing this, when they lifted a 46-year boycott on companies doing business with the Jewish state.

Several Israeli officials have visited the Gulf in recent months in initial contacts. Rabin's spokesman said the prime minister met Oman's leader Sultan Qaboos Bin Said at his palace in Muscat.

The spokesman said the leaders discussed ways to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East. He said Rabin praised the sultan for his courage in becoming the first Gulf leader to host an Israeli prime minister.

Israeli and Arab Demonstrators Arrested

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Israeli soldiers and police Tuesday forcibly removed Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli sympathizers protesting the expansion of a Jewish settlement on the West Bank. At least 50 demonstrators were arrested and several injured by soldiers.

Witnesses say security forces detained the demonstrators as they linked arms on the disputed land, where bulldozers were about to begin digging to prepare for new housing units. Israeli residents of the Jewish settlement of Efrat, near Bethlehem, and residents of the adjoining Arab village of El Khader both claim the same parcel.

Efrat intends to build 500 housing units on land just south of Bethlehem. Efrat officials say they were given the land by the Israeli government in 1983, a claim Israeli military authorities in the West Bank have so far upheld.

The authorities issued an eviction notice to residents of the village of El Khader who, along with Israeli peace activists, tried physically to block the bulldozers.

Efrat Town Councillor Menahem Spitz insists the settlement has the legal right to expand. "We've gotten authorization to continue the settlements of Efrat and we'd like to work to proceed without any violence or noise."

The confrontation has been building since last week, when villagers planted olive trees on the disputed land. On Tuesday security forces twice evicted protestors by force, in the process knocking down a minister of the Palestinian self-rule authority in Gaza, Saeb Erekat. "I was trying to stop the soldiers from beating the kids and then I was beaten up and thrown to the ground, and somebody smashed my back."

An Israeli police official says charges will be brought against Erekat for reportedly kicking a soldier. Erekat called the site the graveyard of the peace process. The Palestine Liberation Organization has repeatedly threatened to suspend autonomy negotiations with Israel if the government goes ahead with plans to construct the units. Two Israeli cabinet ministers have made public statements against the construction.

Hussein Salah, a resident of El Khader, says Palestinians in the area are determined to continue their fight over the disputed land. "We'll stay here even one year, we will stay here and struggle to keep our land."

Bulldozers went back to work to prepare the site for the construction, after all the protestors had been removed.

Knesset Bans Palestinian Political Activity in Jerusalem

The Knesset passed a measure banning Palestinian political activity in Jerusalem, The law is part of a larger bill concerning the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho agreement.

The measure passed Monday explicitly bans activity by "the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinians." Fifty-six Knesset members voted for the law, six opposed it and 32 abstained.

Police Minister Moshe Shahal said the police have uncovered many violations by the Palestinian Authority pertaining to political activity in Jerusalem.

82,000 Immigrants Arrive in Israel in '94

Immigration was six percent greater in 1994 than in the previous year, Davar reported. Eighty two thousand immigrants arrived in Israel this year, 83 percent of them from the former Soviet Union.

The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption says 635,000 immigrants have arrived in Israel since the latest wave of immigration began at the end of 1989. Twenty-four percent of the new immigrants are under the age of 18, 39 percent are aged 19-44, 21.5 percent are aged 45-64, and 15.5 percent are aged 65 and above.

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