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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 30, 1994, V2, #235

Tourism Ministry to Assist Hotels in East Jerusalem.

Tourism Minister Uzi Baram says his ministry will help build 1,500 new hotel rooms in East Jerusalem. Currently there are 1,800 hotel rooms in part of the city. Baram said Jerusalem is lacking hotel rooms, and will need to add some 10,000 rooms by the year 2000.

Alexandria Arab Meeting Concludes With Demand

By Kim Reid (Cairo)

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, Syrian leader Hafez al Assad and Saudi Arabia's King Fahd ended their two-day meeting Thursday in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The Middle East News Agency says a joint statement issued by the three leaders calls for greater Arab solidarity, and demands that Israel withdraw its forces from all occupied Arab lands.

The three-way meeting ended with a strong message to Israel, demanding that it remove its troops and settlements from the Golan Heights and Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem. Syria and Saudi Arabia also backed up Egypt's call for Israel to reveal its nuclear capability, and to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The statement is a political boost for Assad, the man who called the meeting. Diplomats say Syria has felt increasingly isolated from the Arab world as one by one, Arab countries have made peaceful overtures toward Israel.

Syrian officials say this Arab warming trend has produced Israeli intransigence in its talks with Syria, because it no longer sees Syria as the linchpin to peace with the Arab world.

The Jewish state has made great strides since signing a peace treaty with the PLO last year, signing another with Jordan, and opening diplomatic relations with Morocco and Tunisia.

Now, Gulf nations appear poised to join the peacemaking efforts. Six Arab monarchies have partially dropped trade sanctions against Israel, and several countries have hosted Israeli official visits, including one by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to the Sultanate of Oman.

Western diplomats say Syria may have asked Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to rein in his overly friendly Gulf neighbors until Syria can cut its own deal with Israel.

The Alexandria statement reflects at least public support for the Syrian position. But the real test of the Alexandria summit will come during the next few months, as Arab nations decide whether solidarity with Syria outweighs opening relations with Israel.

Syria and Israel: A Year-End Report

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

Palestinians and Israelis spent 1994 arguing about how to implement their self-rule deal for Gaza and Jericho and how to expand it to Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Jordan and Israel began implementing their peace treaty. And Syria finally appeared ready to talk peace in Washington.

It took more than six diplomatic shuttles by the US secretary of state and a visit to Damascus in October by President Bill Clinton to nudge Israel and Syria to talk to each other again. Without Syria, Clinton acknowledged, a comprehensive peace remains elusive.

During Clinton's visit -- the first by a US president in 20 years -- Syrian President Hafez al-Assad indicated his readiness to help transform a state of war into a state of peace. But (through a translator) he repeated his conditions for that peace based on land-for-peace.

"Emanating from the principle of full withdrawal for full peace, I stressed to President Clinton the readiness of Syria to commit itself to the objective requirements of peace through the establishment of peaceful, normal relations with Israel in return for Israel's full withdrawal from the Golan to the line of June 4, 1967, and from the south of Lebanon."

Israel wants Syria's commitment to normal relations first, before considering a pullout from the Golan Heights. Negotiations have snagged in part on the timing and extent of an Israeli withdrawal and future security arrangements along the strategic border.

Peace talks were suspended last February after a radical Jewish settler massacred Muslim worshipers in a West Bank mosque. Even after Palestinians and Jordanians returned to the negotiating table, Syria refused to budge.

Then, after a year-end US diplomatic shuttle, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said Syrian and Israeli negotiators might meet soon in Washington for what he called an exchange of ideas. After 10 months of deadlock, it was a welcome sign.

Some analysts have suggested Jordan's decision to sign its own peace treaty with Israel added pressure. Diplomats in the area say the Syrian leader is more worried about the credibility and stability of his regime and wants an airtight agreement to avoid any loopholes.

Disputes about ambiguities in the PLO's self-rule deal with Israel have delayed full implementation and fueled violence by Palestinian extremists opposed to any accord with Israel. PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat's credibility in Gaza and Jericho has suffered.

Bilateral talks on expanding self-rule to Palestinian communities on the West Bank are stuck on Israeli security concerns and differences about Palestinian election procedures. The PLO calls Israel's suggestion that it would not pull out its troops before elections a breach of the self-rule accord.

Israel's foreign minister described the dilemma as trying to bridge the gap between Israel's need for security and the Palestinians' need for dignity and freedom.

Even the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize -- awarded jointly to Israel and the PLO -- could not dispel the cloud of gloom hanging over Gaza and Jericho where hopes and expectations have given way to frustration and despair.

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