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>Israel Faxx
>Jan. 18, 1995, V3, #12

Clinton Refuses to Move Embassy to Jerusalem

By David Gollust (State Department)

The Clinton Administration Tuesday delivered an implicit rebuff to House Speaker Newt Gingrich's call to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The status of the embassy has been a US domestic political issue for some time.

While not responding directly to Gingrich himself, the administration is making it clear it is not about to take any action on the sensitive issue of Jerusalem that could upset the Middle East peace process.

Comments here followed interviews with Israeli media over the past weekend in which Gingrich voiced support for moving the US Embassy -- now located in Central Tel Aviv -- to Jerusalem.

There have been frequent calls over the years from supporters of Israel in Congress to relocate the embassy. But the remarks by Gingrich -- with his new prominence as house speaker -- drew immediate criticism from several Arab countries and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

The United States does not recognize Israel's claim to Jerusalem as its capital and like most other countries having relations with the Jewish state, it has maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv, the country's commercial hub. Briefing reporters, State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelly's response to Gingrich was indirect, but clear:

"We've certainly seen the remarks. We're aware of them. It's a very sensitive issue as you know. And the president has made it very clear that we will not undertake any action that could complicate the peace negotiations between the parties."

The US position on Jerusalem's ultimate status has long been that it is a matter to be determined by Israel and its Arab negotiating partners. The issue of moving the embassy is likely to surface again in the new Congress -- since one of the most vocal proponents of relocating it to Jerusalem is Sen. Jesse Helms, now the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Arafat's Fatah Faction Vows New 'Peaceful' Intifada

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israeli troops broke up a demonstration by Palestinians near the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday and roughed up some senior Palestinian officials in the process. The protest was one of a series in several parts of the Israeli-occupied territories against the expansion of Jewish settlements.

The soldiers fired rubber bullets and threw tear gas canisters and stun grenades. The protesters threw stones. Two Palestinians were reported wounded and many others were roughed up, including Ahmed Tibi, a senior adviser to the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat.

An official of Arafat's Fatah faction told Israel Radio this is the beginning of a new intifada, or uprising, focused on the settlements. But the official, Marwan Barghouthi, said this uprising will be peaceful, unlike the seven years of violent uprising which ended in 1993.

Palestinian officials had declared Tuesday "National Anti-Settlement Day" and also held protests outside settlements near the West Bank town, Hebron, and in a rural area 15 miles east of Tel Aviv. Several hundred people participated in each.

The protest campaign comes amid news reports of increased plans for building in and around Israeli settlements in the occupied territories -- although the government says no new settlements will be authorized.

Israeli newspapers say the housing minister will recommend nearly doubling the number of planned housing units in the occupied territories, mostly in or near East Jerusalem. The Cabinet is scheduled to discuss the settlements issue on Sunday.

Some Palestinian leaders say settlement construction threatens the peace process. But Israeli leaders say the settlement building did not prevent the process from starting, and has not stopped it so far. And they believe the process will continue, along with the settlements controversy. They also point out that most of the building in and near the settlements is being done privately, without any government money.

The future of the settlements is to be discussed in the third phase of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, scheduled to begin by the end of next year. Intensive negotiations are now under way on the second phase. Many observers believe both sides are trying to assert control over as much territory as possible -- by building or planting crops -- before the final borders are drawn between the Israeli and Palestinian areas.

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