Newsletter : 6fax0517.txt
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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
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
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
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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