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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Sept. 20, 1996 V4, #175
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Differing Attitudes Toward Syrian Threat

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem) and Arutz-7

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he remains concerned about recent Syrian troop movements. But he says tension with Syria is under control, at least for the moment. Netanyahu spoke Thursday at a meeting with the senior US Middle East mediator, Dennis Ross.

Netanyahu said that what he called 'important messages' were exchanged between Israel and Syria in recent days. And he said he believes the situation is under control. "I think there are real concerns, and I think it's important that calming messages were sent by one side to the other. And I think it is important in this case that the United States also assisted in this."

Still, Netanyahu says, Israel remains on alert against any possibility that recent Syrian troop movements could turn hostile. In recent weeks, Syria has moved 12,000 troops into an area near the Golan Heights cease-fire line. Netanyahu has accused Syria of using "psychological warfare" to try to get Israel to resume peace talks on Syria's terms.

An assessment by Israeli intelligence has concluded that the likelihood of war with Syria is no longer low, Ha'aretz reported. The assessment was submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following Syrian troop movements in Lebanon.

Still, the assessment states that there are no signs from Syria indicating that a war will break out in the immediate future. In recent years, the IDF Intelligence Branch has determined that the likelihood of a war with Syria was low.

The IDF deployed troops in defensive positions on Israel's northern border this week. On Tuesday, Israeli tanks and armored vehicles carried out joint exercises with infantry units. The exercises included taking up unmanned positions and emergency drills close to the Syrian border. Military sources emphasized that the exercises have been planned for several months and denied any connection to the current tension with Syria.

The newspaper reported that senior analysts have said in closed meetings that they are finding it difficult to explain both the Syrian troop movements and Syrian President Hafez el-Assad's intentions. Intelligence experts said the maximal advantage that Syria could gain from its concentration of forces in Lebanon is reducing the amount of time needed to switch from a defensive to an offensive position. The experts said their main concern is that Israeli-held portions of Mount Hermon could be captured quickly.

The conclusion is based on an analysis of the structure and the character of Syrian units currently on alert, which are mainly composed of commandos capable of carrying out a rapid attack.

The US mediator, Dennis Ross, indicated that, so far, there is no formula for resuming Israeli-Syrian talks. But he said the United States will continue working toward that goal.

Peres Retires from Public Life

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has announced his retirement from politics, but he will not be leaving immediately. Peres told Israel Television he will not run for prime minister in the next elections, scheduled for the year 2000. He also said he will step down from the Labor Party leadership when its next internal election is held next year.

The 73-year-old Peres has been active in Israeli and Zionist affairs since before the country was created in 1948. He held many Cabinet posts and played key roles in building Israel's air force and its nuclear program. Peres served as prime minister twice, but lost in five attempts to win the office at the polls. He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Peres succeeded to the prime ministership when Rabin was assassinated last year, and lost the post to Benjamin Netanyahu in elections three months ago by less than 1 percent of the vote.

The internal Labor Party battle to succeed Peres has already begun. Former Chief of Staff and Foreign Minister Ehud Barak has declared his candidacy and he is expected to be challenged by several other party officials.

Etrog Exports on the Rise

The exports of etrogim - lemon-like fruits used on the upcoming holiday of Sukkot - from Israel has increased by 230%. Doron Shmueli, chairman of the Citrus Fruit Export Council, announced this morning that Israel would export 360,000 etrogim this year. Thirty licensed exporters will send the fruits to 31 countries in Europe, the Americas, and Hong Kong.

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