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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Nov. 16, 1995, V3, #209
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Two Yeshiva Students Arrested for Desecrating Rabin's Grave

Two Yeshiva students attempting to spit and urinate on the grave of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were arrested by the police at the Mount Herzl Cemetery. Ha'aretz reported that the students confessed to the crime and remain in police custody.

Peres' Long Day's Journey to Peace

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

As Acting Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres works to form a new government in the next several days, he has a remarkably free hand because the main opposition party has pledged not to oppose the new Cabinet when it is presented to parliament. But Peres is facing the same sharply divided public, and narrow parliamentary majority Yitzhak Rabin faced when it comes to key basic issues.

Should Israel shrink almost to its 1967 borders and allow the West Bank and Gaza to come under Palestinian control, or should it retain control over as much of the biblical land of Israel as it can and halt the autonomy process?

Those are the key questions at the core of Israel's political debate. Peres' position as one of the architects of the autonomy plan is clear, and the staunch opposition of his critics is equally clear. So while there have been calls from all sides for lowering the tone of the political rhetoric, the basic dispute remains.

One of Peres' key political allies, and one of the Cabinet's most liberal members, is former peace negotiator and now Economics Minister Yossi Beilin.

"The question is a pragmatic question, whether we can have a Jewish and democratic state by controlling so many Palestinians, and the answer is very clear, and it is negative."

But on the other side of the political spectrum, at the Council of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, spokeswoman Yehudit Tayar sees the central issue quite differently. "It is a matter of the character of the State of Israel and it should be a Jewish character because we are talking about the State of Israel as a Jewish state. And we believe it is our right, if in the sands of Tel Aviv or in Holon, certainly in the places where we began as a Jewish people."

To Tayar and other settlers that means the now Palestinian cities of Nablus and Hebron, among other places, that are about to become autonomous under the government's peace plan.

Beilin says the government might be willing to change some of its policies to accommodate the opposition, but not the basic approach to the issue.

Among the calls for dialogue, the harsh rhetoric has continued from both sides. Members of the ruling party have accused its opponents of coddling dangerous, potentially violent extremists, and the opposition has accused the government of engaging in a witch hunt.

Peres Readies New Government

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's president has formally asked Acting Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to form a new government, in the wake of the assassination of his predecessor, Yitzhak Rabin. President Ezer Weizman spent two days meeting with the leaders of all of Israel's main political parties. All of them recommended that he select Peres to form the new government. Opposition leaders have not modified their objections to the policies of the ruling Labor Party, but they have said they do not want to reap any political benefit from Rabin's death. Weizman, who has been critical of some aspects of the peace process, also told Peres on national television he has his full support to pursue that policy.

Peres will now have up to six weeks to form a new government, but he said Wednesday he hopes to complete the process very soon. He said he will do his best to make peace with Israel's neighbors and within itself. Israel has been wracked by acrimony since the Rabin assassination, with the left wing accusing conservatives of coddling dangerous militants, and the right accusing the ruling Labor Party of engaging in a political witch-hunt.

The acting prime minister is expected to retain the foreign affairs or defense portfolio for himself, and to give the other one to former Chief of Staff Ehud Barak, who joined the Cabinet just a few months ago as interior minister.

'Witch hunt' Continues as Conspiracy Unravels

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Israeli police have arrested a young woman and accused her of being a key conspirator in the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Police presented 20-year-old law student Margalit Harshefi before a judge in a Tel Aviv suburb and said they will charge her with conspiracy and membership in an illegal group. Harshefi, carrying a small prayerbook in her cuffed hands, said she is not guilty and requested to meet with a lawyer.

A police investigator said the suspect was described as a dominant member of a group that planned the assassination of Rabin on Nov. 4, and was also planning attacks on Arabs. The judge ordered her held for 12 days while charges are prepared.

Harshefi is a resident of a settlement (Beit El) near the West Bank town of Ramallah, and studies law at Bar Ilan University, the same school where the confessed assassin Yigal Amir was a student. Her father admitted she knows the gunman, but denied she has been involved in any extremist group.

Also on Wednesday, the police freed one of the seven men implicated in the Rabin assassination. The leader of the militant Jewish group Eyal, Avishai Raviv, was freed on condition that he remain in his parents' house for seven days while the investigation continues.

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