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>Israel Faxx
>PD Feb. 10, 1995, V3, #29

NATO Tightens Relations with Middle East Countries

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will tighten its relations with five Middle East states as part of efforts to combat Islamic fundamentalism and curb arms proliferation, According to Ha'Aretz, the five countries are Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania.

Rabin and Arafat: Crisis in a Relationship

By Al Pessin (Erez Checkpoint)

A meeting between the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders broke up with the peace process apparently in something of a crisis Thursday. Both sides admit they have serious differences over several key issues.

The meeting ended without the traditional joint news conference. The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, walked quickly to his car without comment but his information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters there are serious problems.

"I think it is a crisis, but the only thing that we hope will enable us to overcome it is that each side will study and reevaluate the situation and the position of the other side."

Abed Rabbo said the differences center on what he called "major issues" including plans to expand Palestinian autonomy and withdraw Israeli troops from more of the West Bank. Security arrangements, Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and the current Israeli closure of the Palestinian territories were also in dispute.

The closure was imposed three weeks ago after a double suicide bombing near Tel Aviv killed 21 Israelis. The Palestinian information minister said there is also disagreement on what he called the continuation of the peace process.

But speaking later, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin denied the peace process is in crisis. He described the problem as one of differing priorities.

"Israel sees the terror as the most dangerous obstacle on the road for implementation of the Declaration of Principles. On the Palestinian side, of course, the major issue is what they consider the lack of progress in the negotiations for the purpose of the implementation of the declaration beyond Gaza and Jericho. I am not trying to say that there were no differences but by no means will I describe it as a crisis or a stop in the talks between us."

When Arafat came to this stark compound of concrete buildings on the edge of his Gaza Strip, he found his Israeli counterpart, Rabin, wanting more before he will agree to implement the next stage of the peace accord -- expansion of the Palestinian autonomous area.

"What we look to be done by the Palestinian authority in the areas under their control is, first, to make sure that there is only one law enforcement force that carry arms in the area under their control. Second, to use these law enforcement forces to maintain law and order in these areas. Three, to make sure to foil any attempt to organize terror activities and to pursue in a serious way those who have carried them out.

A member of Rabin's negotiating team, Yossi Sarid, said the closure cannot be lifted now because Israel has information about more planned terrorist attacks. Officials say the two sides will review their positions, hold consultations during the next few days and Rabin and Arafat will meet again next week.

On Wednesday, Arafat issued a statement about the establishment of state security courts. We would like (to) see not only declarations, but implementation. For the Palestinians, that meant crisis.

Later, at his headquarters in Gaza City, Arafat said he will not accept it if Israel wants to lock the Palestinians inside Gaza and the West Bank and, in his words, "hold the keys to the big prison."

Some observers have been marveling at Arafat's willingness to continue meeting with Rabin, and to allow lower level talks to proceed, while the closure goes on -- hurting Palestinians economically and damaging his political standing.

Palestinian Autonomy Cracks Down on Militants

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

The Palestinian Autonomy Authority widened its crackdown on militant groups which oppose its peace accord with Israel, arresting more than 100 alleged members of organizations which have attacked Israelis in recent months.

Palestinian police arrested more alleged members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed responsibility for the killing of an Israeli security guard in Gaza this week. But this time, the police also added people allegedly connected to Islamic Jihad, one of the most active groups in attacking Israelis.

Israeli forces also rounded up militants early Wednesday. News reports say at least 21 alleged activists of Islamic Jihad and another group, Hamas, were apprehended in five West Bank towns.

But a senior Hamas leader says such arrests will not deter his group. In an interview in Gaza, Raja Sorani said Hamas is not interested in protecting the peace process because the process will not achieve the group's goals. Sorani says Hamas wants all of the occupied territory turned over to a Palestinian state, including east Jerusalem, and without any Israeli settlers. He says the Israeli-Palestinian accord reached in Oslo, Norway a year-and-a-half ago will never deliver that, and also will never deliver what Israel wants.

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