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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     June 14, 1995, V3, #108
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Netanyahu Tells of his Coming Administration

Israel's top opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu says if he comes to power he might change some arrangements the current government is making with the Palestinians. "I don't intend to re-occupy anything, and I certainly do not want to entertain the idea of using forceful means, unilaterally, that is moving unilaterally. But I don't think we can say a lot more than that until we see what the situation is. Suppose we're choked with a ring of Islamic terrorist bases around us. Obviously, we're not going to give immunity to those terrorist bases."

The Voices of the Golan Heights Speak

By Al Pessin (Alonei HaBashan, Golan Heights)

Israeli, Syrian and US negotiators say they are making progress toward an Israel-Syria peace treaty. Such a development would change forever the lives of the people on the Golan Heights, an area Israel would return to Syrian control. Arab residents on the Heights welcome the move, but for the 11,000 Israelis who built homes, farms and businesses there, it would be the end of a dream.

Al Pessin visited a settlement close to the cease-fire line which news reports say could be the first to be returned to Syrian control if a treaty is negotiated.

Here at the settlement of Alonei HaBashan, and at others nearby, people are sad and angry, and settler Dror ben Haim believes his government -- 90 miles away in Jerusalem -- is about to make a terrible mistake. "We know why the border with Syria is quiet since '67. Because the Israelis can see from Mt. Hermon, and from here, from my house, we can see what's going (on) in Damascus."

Ben Haim is exaggerating, but only slightly. To really see to the edge of Damascus you have to drive up a small hill across the road from Alonei HaBashan, where the wind makes it almost impossible to hear ben Haim's description of the view. "Thirty-five miles northeast of here is Damascus. We can see its airport and the planes at the airport. And even the neighborhoods of Damascus we can see from here."

You may be able to see the edge of Damascus from there on a clear day, but on this windy, hazy day views of the city are elusive. But no matter. It is there, a half hour's drive beyond the double barbed wire fence.
Israel's leaders say they must give up this view, with its obvious tactical advantages. But many Israelis disagree, saying no promise of long-term peace is worth that price, and they note that from other parts of the Heights it is possible to see nearly to Haifa and halfway to Jerusalem.

Not far from Alonei HaBashan, at Kibbutz el Rom, settler Mike ben Har says contrary to the government's policy keeping the Golan is the best guarantee of peace. "I believe that we have every right to demand our presence here in the Golan, under Israeli sovereignty, as the keystone of a peaceful settlement for this region."

And politics aside, ben Har (which translated means son of the mountain) says the prospect of leaving the Golan is emotionally wrenching for himself and his fellow settlers. He has been here since 1977, and he has invested much effort and emotion in the place. "The part that I have really loved most about being here in this place is the fact that i, essentially, have built my own home. I have built a town, something that very, very people have ever had the chance to do. We've built dining halls; we've built classrooms; we've built homes -- all on very difficult places."

Now, although the Israeli settlers on the Golan Heights try to pursue normal lives -- even building and expanding their settlements -- ben Har admits it is difficult. "We're sitting and waiting. We don't know what we're waiting for at this point. Every day we wake up and find something else in the headlines. My wife is climbing walls and uncertain. She cries on my shoulder in the evenings, 'What are we going to do?' We don't know. We don't know. We don't know."

But for all the emotion tied up in the Golan issue for the Israeli settlers, local Arab residents have little sympathy. One such man is As'ad Safadi from the Druze village of Majdal Shams. He works at Kibbutz el Rom, in the same building as Mike ben Har, but he

believes the settlers must go. "They came to the wrong place.  It's
not  their own area.  It's  not  their own land.  As people, they
are very nice people, but if you are talking about rules and
the right to stay here, so I don't think they have the right to
stay here."

Ben Har has a quick counterpoint. "I'd say we have the right to be here as anybody would have the right to build his home on a place which is necessary for the existence of the country."

The Golan settlers believe most Israelis share that view, a belief which is to be tested in a referendum on the Israel-Syria peace treaty, once it is signed. But for now, the Labor Party government is pursuing a plan to give up the Golan Heights in return for peaceful relations with Syria and a set of security arrangements now being discussed.

In 1971, it was the Labor Party that established Kibbutz el Rom, and many others on the Heights, which makes it even more difficult for ben Har and his neighbors to accept the party's current policy. "This kibbutz was founded by the Labor Party and has supported the Labor Party or bodies that are identified with the farther left. It's a terrible feeling. Do we feel sold out? Do we feel resentful? Yes, we do."

But ben Har also knows that his own emotions and those of his family and friends will not change the political reality.

The Golan settlers hope Israeli voters will reject any treaty that calls for a withdrawal from the Heights. But if such a treaty is approved, most of the settlers say they will move without any violent resistance. But they will be personally devastated, and they will fear for the future of their country.

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