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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Dec. 20, 1995, V3, #231
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Assassination Trial Starts in Tel Aviv

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The trial of the confessed assassin of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin began Tuesday, but the proceedings were recessed until Jan. 23 so defense attorneys could review the evidence. The brief court session came on the same morning that Israel's largest-circulation newspaper published the only known pictures of the killing for the first time.

The former law student, Yigal Amir, walked into a Tel Aviv courtroom Tuesday, appearing relaxed, smiling and waving to his parents. He faces life in prison if convicted of killing Rabin Nov. 4, as he left a peace rally.

The defendant has confessed to the killing, and to stalking Rabin for months, hoping his death would end the policy of expanding Palestinian autonomy. That process has continued under Israel's new government.

As Tuesday's court session began, Amir's lawyers told the three judge panel they had not yet been given copies of the evidence and had not met with their client in three-and-a-half weeks. The court granted their request for a lengthy recess to prepare their case. It is not known how they plan to defend their client, who was captured at the scene. He is expected to enter a formal plea when the case resumes next month. The defendant also faces a separate trial on charges of conspiracy and various weapons violations, together with his brother Hagai and their friend Dror Adani.

As the trial started, Israel's leading newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, published pictures taken from a videotape of the killing. The pictures show the defendant waiting in the parking area near Rabin's car, then approaching the prime minister as he walked toward the car. The student is seen reaching for his gun and then thrusting it toward Rabin's back. A flash from the gun signals the moment the gunman fired the first of three shots. In the next frame, Rabin turns in surprise. A moment later he is seen lying on the ground.

The videotape was recorded by a local resident watching the rally from a nearby balcony. The man, Roni Kempler, gave the tape to the state commission investigating the assassination a month ago, but only sold the media rights Monday, for a reported $400,000.

Palestinian Poll Shows Arafat Winning Presidency

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

A public opinion survey published Tuesday indicates the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, will win a landslide victory in elections next month, and his party could win an outright majority of seats in the new Palestinian Council, without needing a coalition partner. The survey also shows increased support for the peace process, decreased support for militant groups, and a transition in Palestinian society away from issues of occupation and toward the kind of every-day concerns seen in polls everywhere.

The survey published by the well-respected Nablus-based Center for Palestine Research and Studies says if the Palestinian elections were held today, Arafat would receive 68 percent of the vote, with the rest widely split among several possible challengers.

Arafat's Fatah Party receives the support of 55 percent of those surveyed in the West Bank and Gaza, with the militant Islamic group Hamas a distant second at just under 10 percent. A year ago, Hamas scored 20 percent or more in similar surveys.

The poll also shows a considerable amount of support for the peace process which is resulting in widespread Palestinian autonomy and the elections themselves. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said they would vote for candidates based on their support for the peace process. According to the survey Palestinian voters will also look at each candidate's involvement in the Palestinian movement, his or her education and level of religious commitment, and, to a lesser extent, party affiliation.

The survey indicates 71 percent of Palestinians will vote in the Jan. 20 elections, even if Hamas calls for a boycott. In addition, 68 percent believe the elections will be free and fair, and 70 percent believe the new council will play a real role in determining the future of Palestinians. And intraditionally male-dominated Palestinian society, 67 percent say they expect to vote for at least one woman running in their district.

Among the most interesting results of the survey is that when asked to name the most important issue facing Palestinian society today, the number one answer among Palestinians is unemployment, followed by the decline of religion, poverty and limits on free speech.

This survey of 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is the 21st done by the research center. Early surveys showed hope for the peace process, while later ones showed disillusionment and distrust as the negotiations dragged on.

The latest survey shows a strengthening of support for the peace process, now that the expansion of autonomy is being implemented and the election process has begun through the registration of voters and the nomination of candidates. The campaign is scheduled to begin a week from Saturday.

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