Newsletter : 5fax1218.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Dec. 18, 1995, V3, #229
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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Will Israel and Syria be Meeting in Dayton?
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem), Ron Pemstein (VOA-Washington)
Israel and Syria have agreed to new, intensive talks near
Washington starting next week, to try to begin solving the
disagreements which have prevented them from reaching a peace
Much of the analysis of the state of the Israel-Syria talks focuses
on the substantive issues on which there is considerable
disagreement. The two sides cannot agree on the extent and timing
of an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights or the exact
definition of a future peaceful relationship. They disagree on
issues of military force reductions on each side of a new border
and on Israel's demand for early-warning stations in Syrian
territory. There are disputes over water rights, Palestinian
refugees and many other issues.
But the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Uri Savir,
who will lead Israel's delegation to the new talks, says there
are still other issues which must be tackled first, a process
which, he says, if successful, should make it easier to deal with
such things as borders, force levels and diplomatic relations.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher is returning to the
US after successfully getting Israel and Syria to agree to resume
negotiations later this month about the future of the Golan and
their eventual relationship.
Just as in Dayton, the negotiators will be placed in a secluded
location outside Washington away from the media and they will talk
around the clock. The schedule for the Israeli-Syrian talks is
less ambitious than the 21 straight days of the Bosnia peace talks.
Instead the Israelis and the Syrians are to meet for three straight
days, take a break for the New Year's holiday and resume again the
next week for three more days. The new format is flexible and the
negotiators will bring up any issue they choose. The interruptions
will give Israel and Syria a chance to access their progress and
decide to go in another direction later.
Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres has signaled Syria can gain a
full withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for full peace.
Syria obviously has different definitions from Israel for what
those terms mean.
O' Little Town of Bethlehem
By Al Pessin (VOA-Bethlehem)
The biblical town of Bethlehem, on the West Bank, gains autonomy
today -- one week before the annual Christmas celebrations at the
site Christians believe Jesus was born. Preparations for Christmas
and autonomy have proceeded side-by-side in Bethlehem in recent
weeks. The two most noticeable groups working in the city have
been Palestinian police officers preparing to take security
responsibility and Palestinian workers stringing Christmas lights.
In stores, Palestinian flags and pictures of the Palestinian
leader, Yasir Arafat, are displayed alongside blow-up Santa
Claus dolls decorated with Arab head-scarves, kafiyehs.
Officials and merchants speak enthusiastically about the coming
of both Christmas and autonomy, mixing references to "Peace in
the Middle East" with the Christmas theme of "Peace on Earth."
Bethlehem's longtime mayor is Elias Freij.
"We hope that peace will be established in the Holy Land between
Israelis and Arabs, where both people can live in peace as good
neighbors, free neighbors, equal neighbors, as neighbors who can
associate freely, visit with each other freely, do business
together freely, and live as good neighbors."
Bethlehem is the Palestinian city closest to Jerusalem, virtually
bordering a Jewish neighborhood on the southern edge of the city.
During the next two weeks, Israeli troops are to withdraw from
parts of the tense town of Hebron and from the city of Ramallah,
just north of Jerusalem. Palestinian elections are scheduled for
Bethlehem is unique among Palestinian towns. Although it no
longer has a Christian majority, Christians make up a substantial
proportion of the city's residents. It is the only Palestinian
city which is a major tourist attraction, giving its economy a
profitable base -- a factor many experts believe has also made it
one of the most peaceful spots on the West Bank even during the
most intense days of the Palestinian uprising.
For those Palestinian Christians who have stayed in Bethlehem, such
as Angela Jackaman, whose family owns a souvenir store on Manger
Square, Christmas is always an important time of year, but this
year the arrival of autonomy makes it more so.
Across Manger Square from Jackaman's Store is the Church of the
Nativity. In a grotto under the church's altar is the spot where
Christians believe Jesus was born. The church is a place of
pilgrimage for Christians every day of the year. On Christmas,
tens of thousands gather for Midnight Mass. This year, Arafat, a
Muslim, is expected to be among them. And for the first time,
outside, Palestinian police officers will be providing the
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