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Peres May Discuss Complete Israeli Pullout From the Golan

By Barbara Schoetzau (VOA-New York)

Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Vice President Al Gore were among those who paid tribute in New York Sunday to Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated one month ago by a Jew who opposed Rabin's peace policies.

Peres urged Jews both inside and outside of Israel to put unity ahead of their differences over the peace process. Peres said Rabin did not want to divide people, but believed he had to lead people rather than just please them. Differences over the government's peace policies, Peres said, must be resolved through discussion not violence.

"My dear friends, when you have two views, you do not have to become two peoples. We are one people. And may I suggest unity to those who are for the policies that Yitzhak has introduced and those who are against the policies that he has introduced, provided that we should also be united against violence, against murder, against callousness. Let's argue, not hate."

Despite Rabin's many years as a soldier, Peres said the slain leader undertook the difficult task of making peace with the Palestinians because he believed it was more important to save the lives of young Israelis than to win elections. Peres said his government will continue to seek ways to have a united Israel in a tranquil Middle East.

"And now, maybe, we can conclude the cycle by making peace with Syria and Lebanon. (Applause). If we succeed this will be the end of war in the Middle East."

Gore also urged the audience to renew the commitment to the cause of peace and fight the forces of hate everywhere. "There is hate that must be tempered by love. There is pain that must be healed. There are divisions that must be made whole. Just as Prime Minister Rabin did with some of his own last words, we too must summon the courage and the wisdom to sing the song of peace with our voices and with our lives. We must shout with resolve and conviction in one steady voice that the enemies of peace will not deter us from our cause. We will not be daunted. We will not be afraid."

The two men made their comments at a memorial rally for Rabin. Police estimate some 13,000 people attended the rally. But some Jewish groups opposed to the peace process boycotted the event because they said it was organized to drum up support for the government's peace policies rather than as a tribute to Rabin.

As he left Israel, Peres described his meeting scheduled for today with the president as an important opportunity to explore ways to achieve progress in negotiations with Syria. The Israeli leader says President Clinton has indicated a willingness to become more involved in the peace process.

Israeli officials say Peres will discuss the possibility of a complete Israeli withdrawal from the disputed Golan Heights. The Heights, seized by Israel during the 1967 Mideast war, is the key obstacle to a peace agreement with Damascus. Syria demands their return and a complete Israeli withdrawal.

Israel has offered to engage in non-stop negotiations with Syria, aimed at achieving a breakthrough in six months. The last direct talks between the two countries occurred last June in Washington. Restarting them has been problematic because of differing views over the level and format of the negotiations.

The Clinton-Peres talks in Washington follow the latest shuttle diplomacy by US envoy Dennis Ross, who travelled to both Israel and Syria.

Israel Leaves West Bank City; Man and Daughter Shot by Arabs

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel withdrew its forces from another West Bank city early Sunday, as its handover of authority to the Palestinians speeds up toward an end-of-the-month deadline.

The last Israeli troops rode out of the West Bank town of Tulkarm before dawn Sunday in a driving rainstorm. They handed the town's military headquarters to 50 Palestinian police officers, who were joined at daybreak by 400 more. Jubilant residents poured into the streets to welcome the officers and to mark their first day of freedom from Israeli rule in 28 years.

Tulkarm is the second West Bank town to gain autonomy under the new Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The much larger city of Nablus is to be handed over Thursday.

The transfer of authority is continuing in spite of a series of violent incidents in the West Bank. Saturday night, an Israeli man and his 10-year-old daughter were wounded in a drive-by shooting near Bethlehem, which is to gain autonomy next week. Palestinians continue to be angry at the presence of Israeli settlements in between newly autonomous areas, while settlers are angry because they see Palestinian autonomy as a threat to their security.

Israeli and Palestinian officials say it is a situation people on both sides will have to get used to.

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