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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Dec. 5, 1995, V3, #220
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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State Department's Middle East Mediator Arrives

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The US mediator in the Middle East peace talks has begun a shuttle mission between Jerusalem and Damascus. One senior Israeli official calls the mission the last chance to get peace talks going again for at least a year.

Israeli government Minister Yossi Beilin says he is not overly

optimistic the effort to break the Israel-Syria deadlock will
succeed.  And he says if it does  not,  there probably will not  be
another such effort until after the US elections 11 months from
now. Israeli elections are expected at about the same time.

Beilin, who is minister in the prime minister's office, says the burden is on the US to get the talks moving again, and he says the Clinton administration has expressed a willingness to try. But he says with the US elections approaching, he does not expect another such effort during the coming year.

Beilin indicated the US evaluation of the status of the talks after this shuttle mission will be an important indicator of whether there is a chance for progress at this stage. He says if there is, it might require, at some point, a lengthy shuttle mission, rather than the three or four day trips the mediator and Secretary of State Warren Christopher have done from time to time.

There are reports Christopher could come to the region in mid-December after Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres visits Washington next week. The US mediator, Dennis Ross, was to hold talks in Israel today, then travel to Damascus and return to Israel later in the week.

Israel and Syria disagree on the exact extent of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war. There are also disputes over early-warning stations Israel wants and over the extent of peaceful relations Syria is willing to establish, including Israel's demand for an end to Syria's support for militant Palestinian organizations.

Russia: Israel's New Ally?

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Russia's Defense Minister Pavel Grachev is on the first visit by a Russian in his position to Israel -- a five day visit which has included stops at several Israeli military bases and the signing of a defense cooperation agreement. The agreement provides for exchanges of military officers and Israeli upgrading of some old Soviet-made military equipment owned by Russia and other countries.

When the cooperation agreement was signed last Friday at the Israeli prime minister's office, Grachev said his visit and the signing had not been "an easy step" for Russia. Later, touring an Israeli military facility, Grachev said Russia's exclusive policy of linkage with the Arab states has changed and he added that Russia wants to cooperate with all the countries in the region, not only with what he called our old friends.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said the visit marks the end of a sad chapter in Israel's relations with Russia and the Soviet Union.

Grachev's visit and the defense cooperation agreement have raised questions about just how far this new relationship can go. Military affairs expert Dore Gold at Tel Aviv University says it will likely be limited, primarily because of Israel's close defense relationship with the US and NATO, including $1 billion a year in US security aid.

Gold says the Russian defense minister's visit to Israel signals some new possibilities and some shift in the region's relations with the major powers. "During the Cold War we were used to a situation in which Soviet and American defense ministers (and) chiefs of staff would visit Arab countries, and the Arab states could have relations with both superpowers, while Israel only had a defense relationship with the US. And now, in the new post-Cold War era, surprisingly enough, it's possible for Israel to be a strategic ally of the US, but at the same time have a basic, rudimentary security relationship with Russia."

That has already angered some Arab countries. Egypt's Foreign Minister Amr Moussa blasted the new Israel-Russia defense cooperation agreement, saying it has nothing to do with peace and ignores what Egypt sees as the main regional military issue -- Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal. Moussa said if the new agreement creates any destabilization of the regional military balance, Egypt will take steps to restore the balance.

But Gold says the accord will not have much regional impact and that neighboring countries will simply have to get used to Israel having defense ties to their former benefactors in Moscow. But Gold also notes that those changing times come with certain built-in limitations -- including the large US military presence in the Middle East and the financial constraints on Russia's foreign military involvement.

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