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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Dec. 4, 1995, V3, #219
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Rabbis Charged with Sedition

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has charged a rabbi and two other West Bank settlers with sedition for a series of protests they organized against the government's plan to expand Palestinian autonomy.

Government prosecutors indicted Rabbi Benny Elon and two other leaders of the group called "This is Our Land." Earlier this year the group issued a series of statements calling the Israeli government "illegitimate," and organized protests which blocked traffic throughout the country.

The government says the group's efforts went beyond legitimate free speech and protest because they were aimed at disrupting the democratic process and blocking the actions of the elected government. The indictment says the three men tried to incite the public and to create hatred and mistrust of the state and the legal government.

One of the defendants, Moshe Feiglin, says the charges come from "an Israeli dictatorship" and he will try to put Israeli democracy on trial when the case goes to court. There has been considerable debate in Israel during the past month about whether right-wing rhetoric contributed to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and what, if any, restrictions should be put on public debate.

Palestinian Autonomy Approaches Jerusalem's Flank;

Cabinet Minister to Israelis, Get Used to It

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy Authority began Sunday the process of transferring control of the biblical town of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem. The move came on schedule, just a few days after disturbances in the northern part of the West Bank threatened to derail the peace process.

About 12 Palestinian officers arrived Sunday on the outskirts of Bethlehem to open a liaison office with Israeli forces. The city is to be under Palestinian control in about two weeks, in time to organize and supervise Christmas celebrations. The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, is expected to attend.

The transfer of control has begun in nearly all the West Bank cities which are to be under Palestinian control by the end of the month.
The northern town of Jenin is already autonomous, and clashes between Israeli troops, and militant Palestinians in and near Jenin last week threatened to delay the process elsewhere. But senior officers met Sunday and the Israelis were generally satisfied with corrective steps taken by the Palestinians.

Two men who kidnapped two Israeli soldiers last week have already been sentenced to nine-years in prison, and a fugitive who sparked a nearly all-night siege was sentenced to five years for violating his parole.

The Bethlehem autonomous area and its Palestinian police patrols will extend nearly to the borders of Jerusalem, a situation a Cabinet minister said Sunday israelis will have to begin to get used to.

Voter Registration Continues on West Bank

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian officials have completed the first phase of voter registration and are preparing to begin final preparations for nominating candidates this month and holding elections Jan. 20 for a Palestinian council.

The Palestinian Cabinet gave overall approval to the election law during the weekend, but some issues were left to be decided by the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, before the final version is written. The Palestinian minister who has been in charge of election preparations, Sa'eb Erakat, is particularly proud of what he calls the "election infrastructure" that has been created during the past two years, and of the voter registration lists generated during the past three weeks.

Palestinian voter registration has been carried out by more than 7,000 teachers in a laborious house-to-house campaign. Erakat says Palestinians who did not register through this process can still come to election offices throughout Gaza and the West Bank to add their names to the list until Dec. 10. He expects the Palestinian electorate to be about 1.2 million people.

Erakat reports only 72,000 east Jerusalem Palestinians have registered to vote, which he called disappointing. He said he expects the number to rise before the lists are closed. The demand for the approximately 180,000 Palestinians in east Jerusalem to have the right to participate in the elections was a major stumbling block earlier this year with Israel in negotiations which led to the election plan.

Palestinian voters will elect a council of 83 members -- one more than agreed to in talks with Israel earlier this year. Israel has apparently agreed to allow a seat to be added for a Jewish Palestinian sect which lives in the hills near the town of Nablus. Erakat indicated other seats will be reserved for Palestinian Christians.
The militant group Islamic Jihad has announced it will boycott the elections. It is not clear whether the larger militant group, Hamas, will participate or not. There are many other, smaller, opposition groups which plan to field candidates. The council, and a president to be elected on the same day, will govern the autonomous Palestinian area, and will oversee negotiations with Israel on just what its final borders will be and whether it will become a Palestinian state.

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