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                             ISRAEL
                              FAXX

Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       March 27, 1996 V4, #57
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Peres and Netanyahu Win Primaries

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israelis voted in primary elections Monday and Tuesday to choose the candidates for the May 29 elections, the first step in a new political process for Israel.

Members of three of Israel's major political parties gathered at centers throughout the country to cast their ballots, creating party lists which will determine who sits in the next Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

The Labor Party, head of the current ruling coalition, voted on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was guaranteed the top spot on the party's parliament list, but there was a surprise for the number two slot. According to preliminary returns, tourism minister and longtime party activist Uzi Baram won the coveted position, beating out Foreign Minister Ehud Barak, who joined the party just a year ago after a long military career.

Two current ministers finished too low in the voting to have realistic chances of winning parliament seats, and the Internal Security minister, Moshe Shahal -- who acts as prime minister when Peres is out of the country -- finished 34th, a safe slot, but much lower than expected.

The center-right coalition formed by the main opposition party, the Likud, voted Tuesday. Opposition leader and candidate for prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will have the number one spot. Other results of the primary are not known, but many of the good spots in the top 45 are reserved for members of two smaller parties which have joined with Likud for this election.

Some Israeli commentators have said the primaries will give an indication of the future leadership of Israel, or at least of the makeup of the next government. But Hebrew University political science Professor Reuven Hazan says past parliamentary lists have offered no such insights.

The primaries signal the start of a more intensive period in the Israeli election campaign. This year, for the first time, Israeli voters will elect the prime minister directly, in addition to voting for a party list.

The parliament is formed by listed candidates according to the percentage of the vote their party receives. The elected prime minister will have to form a government and seek the approval of a parliament which could be controlled by the opposition. Hazan and other political scientists warn this could be a recipe for political disaster. But the politicians who devised the new system say it will result in a strong prime minister and a disciplined coalition.

Interfaith Conference Brings People Together

By Judith Latham (VOA-Washington)

Religious people across the United States have begun to work together in interfaith councils to explore their common beliefs and values, to feed the hungry and homeless, and to bring about a just society.

This year, the Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and a Presbyterian minister, says, the seven interfaith groups, members of the local Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Latter-Day Saints, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Sikh faith communities were also joined by Bahai's, Zoroastrians and Buddhists.

The beliefs of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religions are familiar to many Americans. But, for some people who attended the interfaith dialogue, it was their very first opportunity to ask questions about Islam, Hinduism or Sikhism. Hakim Rashid, a psychology professor at Howard University and a Muslim, says the dialogue was a welcome opportunity for him.

"I think it gives us as Muslims as opportunity to clarify a number of misconceptions about Islam that are really predominant within this cultural context. Many people who are not Muslim in America, for example, don't really understand that when a Muslim talks about 'Allah,' the Muslim is talking about the same God that the Christian and the Jew prays to.

Rashid and the other panelists explored topics such as the Holy Scriptures of their faith, the role of prayer, their views of the after-life, the role of women in leadership, traditions of fasting, and what their religion teaches about other religions. Purushottama Dasa, a regulatory scientist with the U.S. government and a member of the Hare Krishna temple in Potomac, Md., says that Hinduism encourages interfaith dialogue.

"Our scripture is [the] Bhaghavad Gita, and it's a universal Bible, and it starts out with dialogues with different groups of people. We like to exchange information and views and to understand each other. I think that's very important."

About 300 people attended the interfaith conference at Howard University in Washington. After the dialogue session, they pursued further questions about each other's beliefs in small group discussions over supper.


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