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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       July 3, 1996 V4, #119
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Fire marks anniversary of largest fire

A major forest fire is raging south of Beit Shemesh, and has claimed 150 dunams of forest land. IDF helicopters were called in to aid in the fire-fighting efforts. The blaze is raising suspicions it was the act of arsonists. One year ago, a major fire burned much of the Shaar Hagai forest, west of Jerusalem. The fire last year was considered the largest fire in the nation's history.

Interview with Rabbi Moshe Levinger

(Released Tuesday From Five Months in Prison)

Q: Five months ago, when you began serving your sentence, the Prime Minister was Peres, and new elections had not even been announced. Do you have high hopes and expectations from the new government?

A: If Netanyahu tells the U.S. leadership and everyone else that the Land of Israel is ours, and that all of our generations have prayed for it, then they will understand him, and everything will go well.

But if he too lowers himself to only talking about security, and does not speak with pride about our intrinsic bonds with the Land, then it may not be any better than with the previous government, and maybe even worse. So far, Netanyahu has done a good job, and we pray that he continues to act with wisdom.

Q: Do you expect that the government will totally cancel the plans for a withdrawal from Hebron, or is there a compromise solution that you would accept?

A: I am convinced that the plans for withdrawal will lead to the killing of Jews and the shooting of Jews in Hebron. The Jewish community is located in a valley, below the areas that are earmarked for the Arabs, and I emphasize again that they will shoot at Jews, God forbid. Therefore, these plans that were hastily formulated cannot serve as a basis for the future arrangements in Hebron.

Bibi Raise Possibility of Compromise with Arabs

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised the possibility of easing some of his tough positions in future talks with the Palestinians. But he also indicated he will not compromise on several key points.

Netanyahu says he will talk about enlarging the autonomous Palestinian territories, and increasing their autonomy, perhaps to something close to sovereignty. But he also says he remains opposed to Palestinian statehood. And he said he will insist on a tougher Palestinian policy toward militant groups.

The prime minister, who took office two weeks ago, says he has a "more nuanced" approach toward a broadened Palestinian autonomy than is usually reported. But his vision still falls far short of Palestinian demands for a state throughout the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital.

"We don't oppose an arrangement whereby the Palestinians would have an entity, an autonomous entity that would give them all the freedoms to run their affairs, including through their elected representatives and institutions, without those aspects of sovereignty that we believe threaten the existence of Israel."

Netanyahu says those aspects include raising an army and forming military alliances with foreign countries. But he indicated that aside from such things, Palestinian autonomy could be extensive.

Still, he ruled out turning all of the West Bank over to the Palestinians, saying Israel's Arab negotiating partners must also give some "land for peace." He also said Israel's pre-1967 borders can never be "secure" as called for in the same United Nations resolutions which demand the surrender of occupied land.

The previous Israeli government had already agreed to withdraw its troops from most of the West Bank town of Hebron, and to further withdrawals from other unspecified areas of the West Bank -- a process which was to have begun about now.

Netanyahu said he is studying the Hebron issue. But he said any further expansion of the autonomous Palestinian territory could come only through negotiations and only if the Palestinians live up to all their previous agreements, particularly on security issues.

"They have begun an effort. The question is, can this effort be expanded to fulfill all their commitments, and secondly, is it ephemeral, is it episodic, is it a tactical behavior, or can we receive some indication that this is a permanent change?"

Netanyahu accused the Palestinian authority of not doing anything to fight militant groups until the suicide bombings in Israel in February and March -- and then only to try to help former Prime Minister Shimon Peres win re-election.

Still, Netanyahu said he hopes that in the future, Israel and the Palestinian areas will have what he called "an open arrangement" in which economic interaction can benefit people on both sides and also make peace more stable.

On other subjects, Netanyahu said he is not concerned about Israel's relations with the United States, in spite of some disagreement about the concept of "land for peace." And he said he supports closer security ties with the United States, particularly on fighting terrorism, and that he hopes many other Middle Eastern countries will join in that effort.

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