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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       March 29, 1996 V4, #58
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Hebron Withdrawal Does Not Take Place

By Al Pessin (VOA-Hebron)

Israel did not withdraw from the West Bank city of Hebron Thursday, as required by its agreement with the Palestinians. Israel cites security reasons, but Palestinian officials says the decision was political.

Hebron residents were supposed to finally experience the elation of seeing the nearly 29-year Israeli occupation end Thursday -- an experience people in other West Bank cities had late last year.

The Israeli withdrawal was to be only partial anyway, leaving some troops in the city to protect about 450 Israeli settlers who live there. And it was left until now, rather than being done with the others last year, so Israel could make additional preparations and also see the performance of the Palestinian police in the other towns. In addition, Hebron is particularly sensitive because it is home to many Palestinian and Israeli militants.

Now, because of the recent series of bombings and the resulting security clampdown, the Hebron redeployment has been further postponed, and the city's Palestinian mayor, Mustafa Natshe, says the decision has added new disappointment and frustration.

Natshe refers to the early Israeli elections May 29. He says Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres is walking a thin political line between guaranteeing the security Israeli voters demand, and being true to the vision of peace he has promised them.

But Israeli officials say security, not politics, is the main concern. Israel and the Palestinian police have been carrying out a crackdown against militant groups since the series of bombings in late February and early March, and they say the delay in the Hebron withdrawal is part of it.

In addition, Israeli officials have hinted that the withdrawal could proceed around mid-April, well in advance of the elections, if the Palestinian police demonstrate they are willing and able to continue and intensify the crackdown on violent groups in the areas they control.

Yigal Palmor is a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry. "There will be a redeployment from Hebron, as agreed, although not on the date that was agreed. But there will be a redeployment. Now, you're saying that it is not precisely according to the agreement, but the agreement did not take into account this wave of suicide attacks with 60 casualties in one week. Now, that's an emergency situation. That's not something which you can simply overlook and go on with the plans as if nothing happened."

Palmor says Israel is committed to fulfilling its agreement with the Palestinians. But he says the militant groups threaten the entire peace process, and that now the priority must be to end their ability to operate.

Assassination Panel Blames Security Flaws

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Israeli state commission investigating the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has sharply criticized the country's Security Service for what it calls operational and management flaws. The commission's final report criticizes several officials by name, saying they failed to act on intelligence about threats to the prime minister from Jewish extremists, and therefore put him at risk.

The commission says the Israeli Security Services had "abundant information" about increased threats to the prime minister and other officials from Jewish groups, but failed to act on it. The commission says the old protection routine was "unreasonable and exposed the prime minister to serious risks."

The commission says the resignation of the head of the service was justified as were the re-assignments of several others. The commission also criticizes the level of cooperation between the Security Service, which is responsible for protecting senior officials, and the Israeli police, who implement the security plans the service develops.

That was the situation at the peace rally in Tel Aviv last Nov. 4, where Rabin was assassinated. The convicted assassin, Yigal Amir, penetrated a secure area without being stopped by police or Security Service agents.

The commission also says the intelligence branch of the Security Service was too reluctant to distribute its information to the relevant operational units, and that those units did a poor job of using what information was provided to alert agents responsible for protecting senior leaders.

The commission also rejects the many conspiracy theories related to the killing. Such ideas have been presented by various groups and individuals, including Amir, who was convicted of the murder on Wednesday. He was sentenced to life in prison, but his lawyer says he will appeal, possibly based partly on a conspiracy theory.

The state commission's mandate did not empower it to look into the societal factors which created the tense domestic atmosphere in which a Jewish student murdered the prime minister because of political views based on what many rabbis call a twisted view of Judaism. But the commission members recommend some national "soul searching" in that regard.

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