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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Jan. 23, 1996 V4, #12
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Terrorists Threaten Americans Worldwide

A Egyptian terrorist organization vows attacks against Americans in revenge for the life prison sentence given to Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman last week by a judge in New York. The Egyptian Muslim group says Americans have chosen war with Islam and for that the group will "blow for blow" respond by attacking American interests and people. Terrorism expert Robert Cupperman says law enforcement agencies should take the militant group's threats seriously.

The Future of Autonomous Palestine

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

With the Palestinian elections now over, and the results endorsed by international observers, attention is focusing on the new Palestinian Council and how its members might interact with the new president in running the Palestinian autonomous areas.

There is no Constitution to define its powers and duties. The Israeli-Palestinian agreement which created the council says it will have power over all spheres of authority which are part of Palestinian autonomy. That means such things as education, taxes, health care, and many other ordinary government functions, including control of the (Palestinian) police.

But those are powers which the newly elected president, Yasir Arafat, has held by himself since Palestinian self-rule began a year and a half ago. And analysts say it will be a matter of time and personalities that will determine just how the new president and council divide their powers.

Most experts believe Arafat will be as powerful as he was before, and perhaps more so because his Fatah party will control the new council. But others speak of a new Palestinian political dynamic, created by having an elected council.

Tel Aviv University Prof. Mark Heller points out that, although Arafat will have a majority in the council, there will also be several outspoken and often critical independents and Islamists, who will have a new, prominent platform for their views.

"I don't think it's going to be a rubber stamp because there are some people in there who already in the past have shown their willingness to talk, if not to act, independently of Arafat."

But Palestinian researcher Khalil Shkaki argues that while well-known independents such as the former peace negotiators Haider Abdel-Shafi and Hanan Ashrawi might make fiery speeches in the new council chamber, they will not be politically strong enough to have much real impact.

"Hanan Ashrawi is one of the most prominent Palestinian politicians. She is very critical of Arafat and she will be a very critical voice in the council. But she isn't a political force opposed to Arafat, or Fatah or the peace process."

Some in Arafat's own party say even they will be more independent now that they have been elected by local constituencies. The Fatah leader on the West Bank, Marwan Barghuti, who won a council seat from Ramallah Saturday, says members of the party will be tough on the leadership, wanting to demonstrate that their loyalty to their constituents comes first. And he says those constituents want the new council members to do a lot.

So the answer about the role of the new Palestinian Council is, at this stage, still a little uncertain. The council has much to do, a solid political majority, several outspoken independent members, and much authority -- at least on paper. But no one is quite sure how much power the council will actually have, how effective it will be, or even how it will work. Those aspects will only begin to become clear when the just-elected members formally take their seats about a month from now.

Tunisia and Israel Move Toward Diplomatic Relations

By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Washington)

Israel and Tunisia have agreed to open interest sections in Tunis and Tel Aviv by April 15. The agreement was announced after more than one year's delay.

This weekend's Palestinian elections and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from major towns in the West Bank has made Tunisia confident enough to open an interest section in Tel Aviv and to let Israel open its office in Tunis.

This is considered the first step toward full diplomatic relations and the two sides first agreed to exchange interest sections in 1994 when then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met here with Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib ben Yahia and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak has replaced Israel's current prime minister and he and ben Yahia had separate meetings with Christopher and then all three ministers met together. Afterward, the Tunisian foreign minister explained his government's gradual approach.

"Tunisia believes in harmonization between normalization process and the peace process itself. Two days ago we had the elections and you have seen the results. This is a historical event and we hope that peace between Israel and Syria is around the corner. So this gradual approach of Tunisia will be constant and we hope that the comprehensive peace will be soon so you will see full relations between Israel and Tunisia."

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