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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       June 7, 1996 V4, #104
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Assad Holding His Own Summit Today

By Jessica Jones (VOA-Cairo)

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad will host the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a summit today (Friday). The meeting is a chance for Arab leaders to coordinate future moves in the peace process.

The official Syrian news agency says Assad invited the leaders to a summit in Damascus Friday. The three are expected to discuss the prospects for Middle East peace after Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory in Israel. Sources say the talks reflect Arab concern that Netanyahu's victory in Israeli elections is a challenge to future peace negotiations.

But Arab leaders at the Aqaba summit Wednesday said they hope the new Israeli prime minister will soften his policies after he takes office.

The Syrian president has announced he will not consider continuing peace negotiations with Israel until Netanyahu's stance is clear. Syria wants Israel to give back the Golan Heights seized by Israel in 1967. Netanyahu has said he does not plan to give back the area. But news reports say he might make some territorial concessions. Syria has held talks with Israel since 1991, but the two countries has made little progress toward peace accords.

What About the Religious in Israel?

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The leader of one of the Israeli political parties representing religious Jews -- which gained power in last week's election -- says no one should worry about a move toward Jewish fundamentalism in either Israeli society or its peace policy.

The politician, who is also a rabbi, admits there are some policy implications to the rise of the religious parties. The leader of the party called United Torah Judaism, Rabbi Avraham Ravitz, states his goal simply. "We want a state Jewish. That's all."

Ravitz says that means more money for Jewish schools, for housing in religious neighborhoods and some changes in the law concerning matters related to religious affairs, such as archeological excavations at religious sites. And he says the religious parties oppose ending the Orthodox monopoly on such things as marriage, divorce and religious conversion.

Ravitz says such policies, along with several Cabinet posts, will be in the joint list of demands the religious parties are presenting to Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu in coalition negotiations. But he says fears expressed by secular Jews in israel of a move toward Jewish fundamentalism are not founded, and he says the joint position paper reflects that.

"They're afraid, what are we going to do to their private life and to the society of Israel as religious power is growing. In order people shouldn't make a comparison between us and Iran and the fundamentalism we are trying to make one paper in order that no one of us should be totalistic and not militant and only put in the paper such issues that we feel could be accepted by the Likud and by the Israeli society. Even (if) not everybody would like it, but it will be accepted and wouldn't hurt too much and wouldn't hurt at all in the private life of each individual in Israel."

Ravitz says there is no plan to force the closings of non-kosher restaurants, or those which remain open for business on the Sabbath. The rabbi says the religious parties have become more practical in their domestic policy, recognizing that Israeli society will not accept everything they would like to impose, and that although their power has increased in the parliament, they still hold only 23 out of 120 seats.

On peace policy, the leader of United Torah Judaism acknowledges there is a reluctance among the religious parties to trade land for peace -- as the current government has been doing -- but he says some of that is possible.

"Real peace means, by us, that Jewish people could live, if they wish so, all over the promised land, with peace. And of course this includes the settlements who are there already, they should be able to live in peace. The question of what kind of a political situation would be over there is by us a second stage of a question.

Ravitz says that means Jews could live under a Palestinian political entity, as long as they were free and safe. Not all religious Israelis would agree with that view. And even Ravitz says there are some areas Israel should not give up, at least not for now, including the west bank town of Hebron, most of which the current government was planning to hand over to Palestinian control this month.

The rabbi says he wants the new prime minister to have to work a little, to take some difficult decisions on himself, and not to be able to say that all his conservative policies result from demands by the religious parties.

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