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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       May 17, 1996 V4, #91
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Arab Israelis Could be Swing Vote

By Al Pessin (VOA-Qufr Qasm, Israel)

When Israelis go to the polls to elect a prime minister and a new 120-member Knesset May 29, more than 10 percent of the eligible voters will be Arabs. They are Palestinians who lived inside the borders of Israel after the 1948 war and became Israeli citizens, and this year, even more so than in the past, they are expected to have a significant impact on the election results.

In some ways Qufr Qasm could be any village on the West Bank -- road signs in Arabic, a mosque with a tall minaret at the town center, old men in traditional robes and head-scarves and Arabic songs playing on a cassette machine in the local barber shop.

The owner of this barber shop, Issa Abdul-Karim, does not hesitate when asked whether he would rather have his village be part of Israel or part of a possible future Palestinian state. Abdul-Karim says of course Israel: "We are Arab Muslims on our land and we are part of the Israeli state and we are going remain part of the Israeli state."

That is the attitude of many Israeli Arabs, who have enjoyed the benefits of Israel's democratic rights and economic advancement. They also have complaints about their treatment by Israel. Some complain that in many ways they are second-class citizens.

But when it comes time to vote, they are not, and they have made their voices heard by putting five members in the current Israeli parliament. Now, they are trying to increase that to something closer to the 12 or 14 seats they could have, based on population.

Political science Prof. Gadi Wolfsfeld of the Hebrew University says Israeli Arabs will still have a big impact on the election. He says that will be particularly true in Israel's first direct vote for prime minister, in which the generally left-of-center Arab voters could provide the margin of victory for Israel's Labor Party leader, Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

"Any majority Peres has will be dependent on the Arab citizens of Israel. And the Likud may very well charge that, in fact, although Peres got a majority of Israeli citizens, he did not get a majority of the Jewish citizens of Israel. Now, the Labor Party will no doubt countercharge that that's racism and an insult to our Israeli citizens. Nevertheless, it's going to be an emotional issue, a sensitive issue, and if Peres should win, I'd be very surprised if it didn't become a public issue."

Terrorist Used a Jewish Name to Enter Israel

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel says a man seriously injured by a bomb explosion last month in Jerusalem is a Lebanese citizen who had been dispatched by Iran to carry out a terrorist attack. Details of the case were kept secret until Thursday.

The Israeli police identify the man as Hussein Mikdad, a Lebanese they say is connected with the terrorist group Hizbullah. In Beirut, HizbUllah denied any connection to the man.

The Israeli police say Mikdad spent some time at the Iranian Embassy in Beirut before leaving on a trip which brought him to Israel April 4 with a forged British passport bearing a Jewish-sounding name.

The police say he smuggled a small amount of high-powered explosive material through Tel Aviv's airport inside a clock radio, which was to be the timer for the device. Investigators say it was enough explosive to destroy an airliner. When it detonated accidentally in an east Jerusalem hotel, it destroyed an entire floor. The would-be bomber reportedly lost both his legs, one arm, and both eyes in the blast. He remains under guard in a Jerusalem hospital.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has said Islamic militants backed by Iran are trying carry out attacks to spoil his chances of winning the May 29 election. He says the security services have stopped 10 or more attempted attacks in recent weeks. In addition there have been a few successful attacks, including one this week in which a Jewish student was killed in a drive-by shooting on the West Bank.

Wednesday, Peres ordered a tightening of the closure of Palestinian territories in order to help prevent such attacks. The territories were closed after the series of suicide bombings in Israel in February and March, and restrictions on travel by workers have only recently been eased. Many of those workers find themselves again barred from Israel at least until after the election.

Peres' opponent in the race for prime minister, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, says the current government's Palestinian Autonomy policy has placed Israelis in danger. He uses the recent series of attacks as evidence. Peres notes there were attacks before his party took office four-years ago and he says his policy is designed to end such incidents in the long term. But pollsters say a serious attack in the final weeks of the campaign could erase Peres' narrow lead over Netanyahu.

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