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>Israel Faxx
>PD Nov. 22, 1996, V.4, Number 212

Arabs Caught Before the Act

In the Beit Guvrin area Wednesday morning, five Arabs armed with axes, combat knives, and sharp instruments were apprehended by security guards of Kibbutz Beit Ner and agents of the Antiquities Authority as they attempted to cross the Green Line into pre-1967 Israel. Border Police who were called to the site arrested the suspects. An investigation is underway.

Auditors Appointed to Hunt Swiss Holocaust Money

The independent panel probing allegations that Swiss banks are sitting on unclaimed wealth of Holocaust victims has selected three leading auditing firms to hunt for any missing assets. The committee, formed in May by Jewish groups and Swiss bankers, said the search of banks' old records and questioning of potential witnesses could take until mid-1998. The accounting firms Arthur Andersen, KPMG Peat Marwick and Price Waterhouse were selected by the committee to conduct the search.

Hebron Readies for Israeli Withdrawal

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

While the Israeli-Palestinian talks on the future of Hebron continue almost daily, there has been no progress on the key issues for weeks. Meanwhile, Israel is rounding up suspected Palestinian militants in the city, and restricting the movements of some Jewish militants, as part of the preparations for an eventual handover of most of the city to the Palestinian Autonomy Authority. There is much action related to the Hebron withdrawal -- except the withdrawal itself.

Israeli troops have been making preparations -- setting up guard towers, removing extra furniture and supplies, drilling troops and coordinating plans with the Palestinian police. Israeli settlers are protesting the government's plan to withdraw and have hinted they might try to disrupt the withdrawal when it happens. Palestinian officials are preparing to begin governing the city, and have been trying to pressure Israel to speed up the negotiations.

But with disputes continuing over the details of the withdrawal, and perhaps more importantly what will come next in the peace process, all the preparations have been for nothing, so far.

One of the more controversial moves in recent weeks has been a series of arrests of alleged Palestinian militants by the Israeli army. According to Ha'aretz, more than 30 have been arrested in just the last two days. Israeli officials say they are trying to forestall any terrorist attacks that could further delay the withdrawal. One official warns of "a new kind of terrorism" with direct international support through the providing of explosives, intelligence and logistical assistance.

The Israeli authorities have also renewed house arrest orders for some Jewish militants in and near Hebron, and placed one of them in preventive detention.

But for all the preparations, and all the predictions it could happen any day, the agreement on the withdrawal is not yet ready. Experts on both sides are concerned that further delays could lead to more violence, and then more delays and still more violence and so on -- a return to conflict, instead of a resumption of the peace process.

Israel Rejects Criticism of Settlement Policy

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has rejected US criticism of its settlements policy. The senior spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio the criticism is "puzzling."

Spokesman David Bar Illan defended the new government's plans to expand some settlements as a natural consequence of population growth. And he said the US government did not object when the settler population increased under the previous Labor-led government.

Israel's previous government permitted privately-funded housing construction in the settlements. It limited the use of government money to building public institutions, such as post offices and schools.

The new government, has extensive plans to pay for new settlement housing, expansion of settlement borders and possibly new settlements. It views the settlements as important for Israel's security and as an expression of Jewish nationalism.

Arafat Complains to World Bank

By Julian Mundy (VOA-Paris)

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat has painted a pessimistic view of the peace process, saying at a World Bank meeting in Paris that it could go into reverse. He called at a World Bank donor countries' meeting for the Palestinians' economic accord with Israel to be rewritten.

Arafat said the peace process is at what he called "a crossroads" and said he feared it might even "go into reverse" and create new tensions and instability.

He accused Israel of violating the 1994 economic accord with the Palestinians. He said the agreement was based on two principles -- that of maintaining a 90,000 person Palestinian workforce in Israel and the freedom of movement for goods and people between Israel and the West Bank.

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