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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Aug. 29, 1996 V4, #160
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Arafat: Israel's Actions Constitute Declaration of War

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, says recent actions by Israel's new government amount to a declaration of war against the Palestinians. He has declared Thursday the first Palestinian general strike day since the beginning of Palestinian autonomy in 1994. Israel says it views Arafat's strike call "seriously."

Arafat told the Palestinian legislative council that Israel's policies on settlements, Jerusalem and other issues are, "continuous crimes and violations." He accused the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of implementing a "hellish plan" and creating a "very critical" situation.

He called on Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza to strike Thursday to show solidarity -- particularly on the Jerusalem issue.

Arafat also urged the entire Palestinian population to flock to Jerusalem's "Al Aqsa" mosque to pray Friday, despite the closure and the roadblock-checkpoint, and for Jews and Christians who support them to go along. For most Palestinians, that would involve crossing Israeli checkpoints, which few of them are allowed to do.

In a meeting of the Palestinian Autonomy Council in Ramallah, Arafat called on Jews and Christians to "stand by the Arabs" in their just struggle. "The Israelis are idiots for beginning a war regarding Jerusalem," said Arafat.

Arafat and other Palestinian officials were particularly angered by the demolition Tuesday of a Palestinian community center in Jerusalem's Old City, which Israel re-captured in the 1967 war and the Palestinians claim as their own. Arafat said Netanyahu has started a "war on Jerusalem," which he described as a "stupid" thing to have done. In addition, the Netanyahu government has announced its first solid plan to expand a settlement in the West Bank, authorizing construction of 900 new housing units.

Netanyahu's office issued a statement Wednesday saying Israel takes a "serious" view of any attempt to escalate tensions or provoke violence. The Israeli statement characterizes Arafat's speech as "radical" and says such statements or actions should be avoided because they will not help move the peace process forward. "The government will view with severity any attempt to escalate [tensions] or any call for violence that could hurt the peace process."
This latest flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian tension came just as it appeared negotiations might finally begin soon between the Palestinians and the two-month-old Netanyahu government.

Turkey and Israel Sign Second Defense Pact

By Amberin Zaman (VOA-Ankara)

Turkey's Islamist-led government and Israel signed a second defense agreement Wednesday, increasing military cooperation despite strong objections by some Arab nations.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Omer Akbel says the latest agreement covers the exchange of technical expertise in the military field.

Akbel said the agreement was signed by the director general of Israel's Defense Ministry, David Ivry, and various Turkish military officials. He did not elaborate on the deal but sought to play down its significance. He said Turkey had similar agreements with 20 other countries, which he described as standard framework agreements.

Analysts say some of Turkey's Arab neighbors and Syria in particular are likely to take a differing view of the agreement which they say underscores the deepening military relationship between Turkey and Israel.

Syria had led the chorus of Arab protest against an earlier military cooperation and training accord revealed last February which allows Israeli air force pilots to train over Turkey and to use Turkish bases. Syria said its national security was directly threatened by the deal and called on Turkey to scrap it immediately.

Observers said Syria hoped that under Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, the country would shift towards a more pro-Arab stand. Certainly throughout his political career, Prime Minister Erbakan has been a vociferous critic of Israel and a strong proponent of Islamic solidarity.

Since coming to power two months ago in a power sharing deal with Tansu Ciller's Conservative True Path Party, Erbakan has sought to forge closer ties with Muslim states. His first official trip abroad was to Iran, where he signed a $23 billion deal to buy Iranian natural gas starting in 1999.

At the same time, Erbakan has also sought to preserve Turkey's long standing ties with its most important ally, the United States, and has toned down much of his anti-Western rhetoric.

Analysts say Erbakan is well aware of the risks of upsetting his country's Western allies. And they note Turkey's powerful military establishment is rigidly pro-secular and pro-Western.

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