Newsletter : 6fax1115.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Nov. 15, 1996 V4, #208
All the News the Big Guys Missed
Hebron Withdrawal Called Elusive
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
US and Palestinian officials now say they do not expect an
agreement on the future of Hebron in the next few days, contrary to
expectations which were raised Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, told reporters in Gaza he is
"not optimistic" about reaching an agreement soon. He said another
late-night bargaining session into the early hours of Thursday
failed to make any progress on key issues. He says he can't accept
several israeli demands.
Meanwhile, in Paris, the spokesman for Secretary of State Warren
Christopher also expressed doubts about reaching a Hebron
withdrawal accord soon. Nicholas Burns quoted the senior US Middle
East mediator Dennis Ross as saying more than a few more days will
be needed. Ross made a brief stop in Israel Wednesday night on his
way from Cairo to Washington. The US Embassy says he spoke to both
Palestinian and Israeli officials during his stopover, but did not
leave the airport.
Among other things, Israel is believed to want restrictions on the
type of weapons the Palestinian police will carry in Hebron and the
right for Israeli forces to enter Palestinian-controlled parts of
the city. Arafat says he is not only opposed to such ideas, but
the existing agreement cannot be changed to include them because
the accord signed a year ago was ratified by the Israeli parliament
and the Palestinian Council.
Israel says it does not want to change the agreement, but only
to add some security enhancements. The Palestinians say the
Israeli demands amount to a fundamental change in the definition
Negotiators have been meeting almost around the clock in recent
days and have indicated some significant progress has been made.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a visit to
the United States so he would be at hand for the final stages of
the talks, and perhaps the withdrawal itself. Israeli newspapers
predicted a Hebron withdrawal as early as Saturday night. But
Thursday's statements cast significant doubt on all that optimism.
Hebron Arabs Celebrate Independence Day
By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)
An agreement on a pullback of Israeli troops from Hebron remains
elusive. The Israelis are demanding that their troops be able to
chase Palestinian suspects in the city without restrictions. But
with the anticipated redeployment imminent, Jewish settlers in
Hebron are anxious about the future.
Hundreds of scouts from Hebron's elementary and high schools
marched through Hebron Thursday to mark Palestinian Independence
Day -- the day in 1988, five years before the Israeli/Palestinian
peace accord -- when PLO chairman Yasir Arafat declared Palestinian
statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The celebrations took place despite the deadlock in talks on the
long-delayed Israeli pullback. But much of the army redeployment
in Hebron has already been completed. Israeli soldiers are to
remain in about 20 percent of the city, in an area that includes
five Jewish enclaves and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy
to both Jews and Muslims.
About 450 Jews, most of them children, live in Hebron, surrounded by
130,000 Palestinians. The settlers are convinced that the
moment the redeployment takes place, they will be attacked by
mobs of Palestinians, including Palestinian police.
Middle East Economic Conference Ends
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)
The Middle East and North Africa Economic Conference wound up its
business after three days of discussions and deal-making. The
business meeting was overshadowed by the strains of the peace
process it aims to encourage.
The focus of the three-day forum had been the technical aspects of
trade and investment. But it was hard to divorce it from the
politics of doing business in a region still strained by the
process of stitching together a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
Arabs and Israelis used the conference for matchmaking projects and
finding potential investors. Egypt used it to promote its own
resources and reforms. A few major deals were announced, including
an Egyptian contract to supply Turkey with natural gas.
Private-sector entrepreneurs suggested they are often ahead of
their leaders when it comes to regional integration. One Israeli
joked that maybe the peace process should be privatized.
But the participants also addressed the problems that a faltering
peace process presents for efforts to integrate the Middle East
and North Africa.
Conference organizers warn that time is running out for the Middle
East to match the competition from other areas of the world for
trade and investment. Next year's meeting in Qatar will again
concentrate more on business than on politics. Delegates here say
its success will also depend on subsequent progress in the peace
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