Newsletter : 5fax0811.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Aug. 11, 1995, V3, #146
All the News the Big Guys Missed
For subscriptions or back issues, please contact POL management
Peres-Arafat's Fourth Day in Taba
By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)
PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
are meeting for a fourth straight day in the Egyptian Red Sea
resort of Taba. They are hammering away at disputes over six
issues that are blocking agreement on expanding Palestinian
autonomy in the West Bank. The Palestinians are studying Israeli
counterproposals on several issues.
The two men are trying to remove the obstacles to an autonomy
agreement. They have been reviewing the latest Israeli
counterproposals on several key points still in dispute. Officials
on both sides suggest that if enough progress is made in this
session, Arafat and Peres could initial a draft of the points they
do agree on so their negotiating teams can finish up the details.
A PLO spokesman says the two sides still differ on the deployment
of police in West Bank rural areas, security in Hebron, as well as
water-sharing rights and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Peres returned briefly to Israel late Wednesday for consultations
with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But he did not specify what
proposals he had brought back to the negotiating table.
Hizbullah Prepares for Peace?
By Patricia Golan (Baalbeck, Lebanon)
One of the most potent foes of the Middle East peace process is the
militant Islamic group Hizbullah, which means "Party of God." The
Iranian-backed group has been at war with Israel for 13-years, and
has earned a reputation as one of the world's leading terrorist
organizations. But Hizbullah is attempting to change its image.
The party has entered the political arena in Lebanon and is
cooperating with Lebanese authorities in trying to attract tourists
to its stronghold, Baalbeck.
Baalbeck is an isolated town of 40,000 people. Tourists used to
flock here to see its breathtaking Roman ruins and the town was
once the center of international music festivals.
Today, the town is dominated by symbols of Hizbullah --
larger-than-life portraits of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and
slogans of the Iranian revolution such as --"Israel is a Cancer and
Must be Abolished From the Earth." Recently, new signs -- in
English -- have been put up, directed at the trickle of Western
tourists returning to Baalbeck.
"Hizbullah welcomes you by his pioneer values"-- reads one poster.
And another --"Islam is a religion of compassion and morality."
There are other changes. Hizbullah members no longer reprimand
visitors for wearing miniskirts or shorts. Hizbullah is
cooperating with the Lebanese Tourist Ministry in putting in light
and sound equipment in the town.
One hotel owner says the bad reputation of Hizbullah, together with
the drug trade in the area did great harm to Baalbeck. But in the
past two years, the newly reconstituted Lebanese army -- with
liberal help from Syria -- has managed to almost eliminate the
Hashish plantations which used to fund local warlords.
A turning point for the Hizbullah movement came in 1992 when the
party ran candidates for Lebanon's parliament -- winning eight of
128 seats. It has also become an important factor as a welfare
network in Lebanon, supplying health care and other services the
government does not, or cannot provide.
Sheikh Subhi Toufaili is the former Secretary-General of Hizbullah,
and now the most senior religious figure in the Baalbeck area. He
greets visitors in his heavily guarded house wearing the black
robes and white turban of Shiite Muslim clerics who have studied in
Toufaili rejects the idea Hizbullah is trying to boost its image.
He says this is not a new strategy. He says Hizbullah is not an
enemy of other human beings, only of evil. He says Hizbullah wants
to welcome tourists and foreigners.
Toufaili quotes from the Koran to show continuing resistance
against Israel is commanded by God. But he admits once a deal is
struck between Israel and Syria, Hizbullah will not be as free to
act as it is today.
Political analyst Adnan Iskandar of the American University in
Beirut believes Hizbullah realizes once there is a peace treaty
between Israel and Syria, with Iran's acquiescence, their role
will change dramatically.
"Hizbullah can see the writing on the wall. If Iran and Syria are
in agreement, I think Hizbullah realizes now that they have to
integrate themselves into the mainstream political process. They
accept the system as it is. They are now projecting an image as
another political group in Lebanon that will work through the
Prime minister Rafik Hariri says Hizbullah commands the respect
of most Lebanese because it alone is trying to drive the Israeli
troops out of south Lebanon.
Hariri is among those who believe Hizbullah will lose its
significance once the Israelis withdraw as part of a settlement
between Israel and Syria. Hizbullah's future depends on external
factors. In the meantime, it appears intent on being ready for any
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