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>PD Feb. 6, 1995, V3, #25

Palestinians Refused Entry to Israeli Jobs

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Israel's Cabinet Sunday voted to ease the two-week closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the government took no decision on lifting the ban which keeps tens of thousands of Palestinians away from jobs in Israel.

The Cabinet had been expected to approve a gradual lifting of the strict closure, imposed since the suicide bombing near Netanya which killed 21 Israelis. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers in Gaza and the West Bank are being prevented from reaching their jobs in Israel.

The Cabinet ended its discussion on the closure without making a decision, although some restrictions will be eased for what is termed "humanitarian reasons": doctors and teachers will be allowed into Israel, as will some produce. Government ministers interviewed after the meeting said the Cabinet is deeply divided over the issue.

Palestinian leaders have repeatedly condemned the closure, calling it collective punishment.

Israeli media reports say some security officers have recommended against lifting the closure, calling it an effective way to decrease friction between Israelis and Palestinians. Others warn that a protracted closure serves radical Islamic groups by further weakening the authority of Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestinian self-rule authority.

Syria Blasts Four-Way Summit

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

Syria's official media is blasting last week's four-way summit and Israel's position in the Middle East peace process. Syria did not participate in the summit. Syrian-Israeli negotiations are still stalled over the timing and extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

The state-run Syria Times complained that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made no concessions to Arab demands to stop new Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and to speed up the release of Palestinian prisoners and the date for Palestinian elections.

The newspaper said Rabin refused to talk about thorny issues like lifting the closure of the West Bank and Gaza. An Israeli official in Cairo says that was not the point of the summit.

Egypt did not invite Syrian President Hafez al Assad to the summit to avoid embarrassing him as long as he refuses to talk directly with Israeli leaders.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosted the summit, which included Rabin, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan.

Another Syrian newspaper, Al Thawra, suggests it may be pointless to resume talks with Israel until it shows more flexibility. And Syria criticizes Israeli suggestions that the peace process could go on even without Syria. Syria has long been considered the key to a comprehensive peace.

Eban Defends Peace Process

By Barbara Schoetzau (New York)

In a meeting with a group of New Yorkers interested in international affairs--members of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, former Israeli statesman Abba Eban strongly defended the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The former foreign minister called Thursday's summit between King Hussein of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat a meeting that was unimaginable only a few years ago.

Eban, who has long been identified with the so-called "dove" faction of Israel's governing Labor Party, has advocated an Israeli withdrawal from most of its occupied territories for many years. Eban said both sides must understand their mutual interests -- that Israeli security and Palestinian freedom depend upon one another.

Addressing the issue of continuing violence against Israeli citizens, including a recent spate of attacks against Israeli soldiers, Eban said the terrorists will be victorious if they succeed in silencing peace negotiations.

"All we can do now is plan some protection against the infamies of those who have a double target. They want to do two things: They want to usurp and humiliate the PLO in its situation of self-government and, of course, they want to re-emphasize the hostility to Israel. The answer to that, however, is not to do what they want. It is the first law of anti-terrorism. Find out what it is that the terrorists want and then refuse to do it. What they want is to silence the peace dialogue. Refuse to silence it."

Eban said suffering and deaths would be even greater if the process is derailed.

"Even the recent tragedies which have taken a hundred lives must be seen against the background of the greater number of those that would have been taken if the peace process had not been enacted; because experience tells us what were the losses and the grief and the tragedies involved in maintaining that enlarged territory."

In order to achieve a long-term peace, Eban said the standard of living of the Palestinians must improve.

"I think that is the central issue now because if there was more contentment and more people earning their living in Gaza, fewer of them would be available for these adventures. Life is so unlivable in Gaza now. The fact is that none of the countries, not even the United States, has really made good on the aid program because Secretary Christopher had a fundraising meeting in Washington and $2-billion were voted. I do not think any of it -- or very little of it -- has reached Gaza or Jericho.

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