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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       July 9, 1996 V4, #123
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Netanyahu Meets with Clinton Today

By David Borgida (VOA-White House) & Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

President Clinton meets at the White House later today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks focusing on the Middle East peace process and on terrorism. Even though Clinton supported former Prime Minister Shimon Peres in the Israeli elections, US officials say they expect the tone of the Clinton-Netanyahu meeting to reflect the long-standing friendship between the two nations.

Clinton supported Peres largely because he believed he would be more willing than Netanyahu to negotiate for peace. But Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry says Clinton and Netanyahu agree on, what he called, many of the fundamental aspects of the peace process.

McCurry welcomed reports Netanyahu brings to Washington new evidence of Syrian sponsorship of terrorism. The Clinton spokesman says the president looks forward to a discussion with the US educated Netanyahu on terrorism. He says Clinton has read a book that Netanyahu wrote on the subject.

One of the most pronounced differences between Netanyahu and the Clinton administration is about the issue of "land-for-peace," which US officials say is the basis of the Middle East peace process, and the new prime minister says is not. Netanyahu says his Likud Party has a different interpretation of the key UN Security Council resolutions at the heart of the peace process.

"The assumption that it is land for peace that governs the equation is one that has not been shared by successive Likud governments. Secure and recognized boundaries is the other complement of 242 and 338 -- that is conveniently forgotten. Can Israel have secure and recognized boundaries if it cedes 100 per cent of the land taken in the Six-Day War and comes back to the pre-'67 boundaries? I believe not. So if the conception is that Israel should go back -- that is, Israel should give 100 percent and the Arabs should give zero percent in the equation -- then I can tell you the vast, the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public does not share that view, and I do not share that view."

Some US officials are concerned, but they say the new Israeli government should be given a chance to show what it is willing to do for peace. Netanyahu does not deny his differences with the Clinton administration on the peace process. But he says he expects to work closely with the US government in spite of those differences.

"Successive American governments have had different interpretations on all these issues from successive Israeli governments. This didn't prevent us from deciding, on numerous occasions, on a common policy, on a common practical course. And so I don't expect any conflict with President Clinton's administration. In fact, I expect quite the contrary."

After a face-to-face meeting with Clinton, Netanyahu meets with other US officials, including Defense Secretary William Perry, Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The prime minister addresses Congress Wednesday.

Arik Sharon Sworn in as Infrastructure Minister

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's controversial former Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, has joined the country's new right-wing government, following a parliament vote Monday which ended a political crisis and paved the way for Benjamin Netanyahu's departure on his first visit to the United States as prime minister.

After weeks of negotiating with his coalition partners, Netanyahu persuaded them to give up powers from their various ministries to create a new ministry of "national infrastructure" for Sharon. Netanyahu proposed creation of the new ministry to the parliament on Monday, and the parliament approved it after a short debate. Sharon was sworn in moments later.

The new ministry gives Sharon authority over energy industries, railroads, and water and sewage -- among other things. But more importantly, it will provide a large budget and a seat at the Cabinet table for the hardline former defense minister, who was instrumental in Netanyahu's election victory.

Cabinet Approves Budget Cuts, Amidst Opposition

After a seven-hour debate, the Cabinet approved the Treasury's plan for a massive budget cut. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the measures as "painful but inevitable surgery," adding that there would have to be additional cuts.

Under the new plan, a visit to the doctor will cost the patient $2.85, and $5.71 for hospital out-patient appointments. Netanyahu said steps would be taken to ensure that "weak families" would not pay more than $4.25 in any given month. Child-allowance payments to high-income families will also be reduced. Public transport fares are set to rise by 13 percent and hundreds of civil servants will lose their jobs.

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