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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      May 23, 1995, V3, #95
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Israel Suspends Land Confiscation

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem), Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

Israel has decided to suspend its decision of last month to confiscate land in east Jerusalem, which caused an international furor and a crisis in the Middle East peace process. The announcement resulted from an Israeli government crisis and came shortly after a meeting between Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Peres announced the decision during a stormy parliament debate on a no-confidence motion. He accused the main opposition party, the Likud, of forcing the move by threatening to vote with Israeli Arab parties to bring down the government.

Peres said it is the shame of the Likud that the government was forced to put the future of Jerusalem in jeopardy. He announced that the finance minister will suspend the confiscation decision and a committee, to be headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, will review the issue.

Two Arab parties had put up the no-confidence motion, objecting to the confiscation decision. The Likud believes in Israel's right to do whatever it wants in east Jerusalem, but threatened to vote against the policy in order to bring the government down.

After Peres' announcement of the policy change, the no-confidence motion was defeated by a vote of 58-3, with 43 abstentions.

The foreign minister attacked the Arab parties in parliament, saying "we concluded the Oslo accord without you, and we will continue without you.

"Toppling the government is more important to the Likud than keeping the unity of the country around Jerusalem," Peres added.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin criticized Likud for assisting the Arab parties in forcing a decision on the Government regarding policy. Likud Knesset member and Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert told Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu before the Cabinet's decision that he would not back the party in supporting the no-confidence motion.

Following the Government's decision to suspend the expropriation, Chadash withdraw its sponsorship of the motion. Opposition leaders, including Mayor Olmert, were heavily critical of the decision by the Cabinet.

Earlier Monday, the Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Faisal Husseini, said the suspension of the Israeli decision was the minimum required to defuse the crisis over the land confiscation. "The principle of confiscation, confiscating here in Jerusalem, or implementation in east Jerusalem is refused from the beginning. But if you are asking me what is the more sensitive issue, I will tell you (it is) the implementation on the ground."


Also on Monday, Peres met with Arafat, in Gaza City. After that meeting, Arafat downplayed the Jerusalem issue, saying only that he hoped Israel would live up to its commitment not to confiscate any more land in east Jerusalem. Arafat said the most important result of the meeting was a renewed commitment to the July 1 target date for agreement on the expansion of Palestinian autonomy. Talks toward that goal have been slowed and overshadowed by the Jerusalem dispute.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has welcomed Israel's decision to freeze its plan to confiscate some 134 acres of land in east Jerusalem. The Arab League is temporarily calling off a summit that was planned for this coming weekend to discuss the controversial action.

Arab League Secretary-General Esmet Abdel Meguid told reporters an Arab League summit to discuss the Israeli land confiscation will be put on hold.

The PLO in Gaza welcomed the Israeli news and attributed the reversal to Palestinian, Arab and international pressure. An Egyptian official here in Cairo suggested privately the threat of a no-confidence vote in parliament against Rabin's government offered a convenient cover for freezing what he called a clearly unpopular decision.

Jordan's foreign minister says the land confiscation should be canceled altogether. The land confiscation issue has sparked widespread Arab anger and prompted the call for a mini-Arab League summit to work out a unified response to the controversial action.

The Arab League had already pushed for a strong UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to reverse the plan. But a US veto blocked that effort.


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