Newsletter : 6fax0208.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Feb. 8, 1996 V4, #24
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Christopher to Arafat: Keep Your Promises
By Al Pessin (VOA-Erez Crossing, Gaza)
Secretary of State Warren Christopher has urged the Palestinian
leader, Yasir Arafat, to follow last month's elections with other
steps toward building a democratic society.
Christopher congratulated Arafat on the elections, in which the
Palestinian leader won a landslide victory against token opposition
for the post of president, and his party won control of the new
Palestinian Council. But Christopher urged Arafat not to stop
"Of course, these elections are only one step toward the
organization of an entity here. Now the other institutions of an
accountable government need to be put in place -- the Palestinian
Council needs to be convened, there needs to be established an
independent judiciary, so as to ensure respect for law and human
Christopher announced the US will provide $2.7 million to help the
Palestinians build their democratic institutions, in addition to
millions of dollars in other aid, some of it already delivered.
Neither man referred to continuing delays in declaring the official
results of the voting for the new council or charges of
irregularities in the counting process.
The secretary urged Arafat and the newly-elected council to
intensify the fight against terrorism by militant Palestinian
groups. He also urged them to fulfill the commitment to amend the
Palestinian National Charter to remove several anti-Israel clauses.
Speaking in Arabic, Arafat said the Charter changes are not his
decision alone. He noted changes must be made by the Palestinian
National Council, which includes the newly-elected members and many
from the Palestinian exile community, including some from militant
Under the latest Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, the changes are
to be made by mid-April, but some Palestinian officials say that is
Israel has said if the changes are not made, it will freeze the
peace process. Any failure to amend the Charter will also be an
embarrassment for Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who is
expected to call early elections for the end of May.
Christopher Tells About Damascus Trip
By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Tel Aviv)
Secretary of State Warren Christopher has briefed Israeli Prime
Minister Shimon Peres on his talks in Damascus with Syrian
President Hafez al Assad. They also discussed a State Department
official Christopher left behind in Syria.
Toni Verstandig, an economic expert, remained in Damascus when the
secretary of state returned here to brief Peres on his meeting with
the Syrian president.
Speaking at the Israeli Defense Ministry alongside the prime
minister, Christopher explained what Verstandig's mission was.
"Her role there, and the role of her team is to find out from the
Syrians what their priorities are, what kind of hopes and
aspirations they have."
Israel and Syria have started discussing economic cooperation at
the US sponsored negotiations in Maryland that resume Feb. 26.
Peres says a political agreement may bring an end to war but an
economic understanding can be the beginning of peace.
PLO Executive Committee Appoints Team to Draft New Palestinian
The PLO's Executive Committee, which convened in the town of
el-Arish in the Sinai desert Monday and Tuesday, decided to form a
new Palestinian Covenant that would not include sections denying
Israel's right to exist.
The responsibility for drafting the new covenant was conferred upon
a team of legal experts from the Palestinian National Council and
the Palestinian Authority's executive branch. The covenant would
be presented to the Executive Committee for approval when it meets
in Gaza after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Israel Radio reported a study conducted by Israel's Civil
Administration in Judea and Samaria indicates that Arafat has the
needed majority in the Palestinian National Council for changing
Kiryat Tivon Elects Conservative Jew, Reform Jew to Religious
The Kiryat Tivon municipal council has elected the city's former
Reform community leader, Gavriel Shavit, and Conservative Rabbi
Klil-Shalom Rosenberg to its religious council.
The move came after the High Court of Justice ordered a second
election process free of discrimination against Reform and
Conservative Jews. The town's rabbis said they would uphold the
decision of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, and would instruct
the Orthodox representatives on the religious council to resign if
the two members-elect were appointed.
Kiryat Tivon's Ashkenazic Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Zilberstein said he
would act in accordance with the decision of the Council of the
Chief Rabbinate, which forbids the inclusion of Reform and
Conservative representatives on religious councils. The ruling of
the Chief Rabbinate says "any infraction of this unequivocal rule
will lead to the resignation of the Orthodox representatives."
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