Newsletter : 6fax0213.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Feb. 13, 1996 V4, #27
All the News the Big Guys Missed
The Israeli and Palestinian Elections
Israel: By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel's ruling Labor party and the main opposition party, the
Likud, have agreed to hold early national elections May 28, five
months ahead of schedule. Agreement on the date was reached Monday
night following a meeting between the two party leaders.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu telephoned Prime Minister
Shimon Peres, about an hour after their meeting ended, to inform
him that the Likud agreed to elections May 28. Labor had wanted
the election a week earlier, while Likud had preferred a week
With this agreement, Likud will apparently support two bills the
prime minister formally submitted earlier Monday, asking parliament
to dissolve itself and calling early elections. The parliament is
to take up the proposals today.
In past Israeli elections, in spite of various security threats
and peace opportunities through the years, the economy has
generally been the main issue. But this time, the main issue is
expected to be the peace process. The Likud accuses Labor of
giving away too much and risking Israeli security, while Labor
says the Likud's idea of freezing the withdrawal from Palestinian
areas and refusing to return the Golan Heights to Syria will only
lead to more terrorism and more wars.
Speaking to foreign reporters in Jerusalem, a senior Labor leader,
Interior Minister Haim Ramon, said the party will tell voters
Likud's approach is not realistic, and that Israelis must accept
parts of the peace process they do not like -- such as surrendering
territory to the Palestinians -- as well as parts they do like --
such as peace with Jordan.
"Fortunately or unfortunately, without kissing arafat, you didn't
shake hands with Hussein. And if you will stop negotiating with
arafat, you will stop shaking hands with Hussein. It's part of the
peace process. What the Likud is trying to say is 'This is a good
kind of peace, and this is a bad kind of peace.' These are two
parts of the same peace."
Likud is expected to argue that such an approach would leave
Israel defenseless if its neighbors turn against it again in the
Public opinion polls indicate Israelis are deeply and fairly
evenly divided over how to proceed in the peace process, but
prefer Peres to Netanyahu for prime minister by as much as 22
percent. In this election, for the first time, Israelis will cast
two ballots -- one for prime minister and one for a party list.
This opens the possibility that either man could be elected prime
minister but face a parliament in which a majority opposes him on
key issues, such as how to pursue the peace process.
Peres says he decided to call the elections to gain a new mandate
from the voters and to shorten the election campaign. But analysts
point out that he also might have been motivated by seeing his
popularity begin to decline from unprecedented peaks immediately
after the assassination.
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was sworn in as President of the
Palestinian Autonomy Authority in Gaza Monday, two days after the
official results of the Jan. 20 elections were announced.
At the building which will be home to the newly elected Palestinian
Council, Arafat placed his right hand on the Muslim holy book, the
Koran, and read his oath of office.
Arafat swore to be faithful to the Palestinian people and their
homeland, to uphold the law and to pursue the interests of the
Palestinian people, including what he called the integrity of their
land and the pursuit of their national aspirations. Later, speaking
to Palestinian radio, Arafat said he has taken on a heavy burden
which he hopes God will help him to bear.
The ceremony before the chief Palestinian judge and the acting
chairman of the Palestine National Council, as well as about 100
guests, came less than 48 hours after the official results of
last month's election were announced. The results showed Arafat
with 87 per cent of the vote in the presidential race, and gave his
Fatah party 50 of the 88 council seats. The new council is to
convene in about nine days.
Arafat now must form an executive authority, or cabinet, with 80
per cent of its members coming from the new council. The executive
authority and the council will have full control of Gaza and of
Palestinian cities on the West Bank, and control of civil affairs
in all occupied Palestinian areas. They will also represent the
Palestinians in negotiations with Israel on the next and final
stage of the peace process starting in May.
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