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>>PD Nov. 22, 1996, Vol. 4, No. 213

Shelter for Arafat

Yasir Arafat is building a shelter that will protect him from nuclear and chemical bombs. The four-story underground shelter is being built in Gaza. IDF soldiers have reported that they have seen large quantities of cement being transported to Gaza.


Why is Arafat Procrastinating?

By Al Pessin (VOA-jerusalem)

Israel and the Palestinians traded conflicting assessments of the status of their peace talks Thursday, with Israel saying agreement is near and a senior Palestinian official saying Israel's new government wants nothing but confrontation.

Israel Radio says the talks are down to one issue -- Israel's demand for the right of free access for its security forces to Palestinian-controlled parts of Hebron.

Israeli officials accuse the Palestinians of rejecting reasonable offers on that, and other issues believed to still be in dispute. But on Thursday the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, blamed Israel for the deadlock, saying it raises new obstacles in every meeting. One of his negotiators, Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, accuses Israel of blocking every possible compromise.

"We feel that the Israeli government is looking only for one alternative, that is the confrontation. They don't want a solution in Hebron or anywhere else."

Abed Rabbo says the Palestinians will respond with all means at their disposal, but he would not specify exactly what that means. Many Palestinian analysts, and some in Israel, are concerned there could be more violence if there is not significant progress in the peace process soon.

Arafat May Declare Independence

Security and military sources are apprehensive that Yasir Arafat is not interested in signing an agreement concerning Hebron, and would rather declare an independent Palestinian state. Our reporter Haggai Huberman has learned that Arafat does not believe that Benjamin Netanyahu intends to continue the implementation of the Oslo Agreement after the Hebron redeployment, and therefore prefers to act towards gaining international recognition for the declaration of a Palestinian state.

According to the sources, this is the only explanation for Arafat's "strange behavior" of the last two weeks in refusing to sign the Hebron redeployment agreement even after the two delegations had already come to an agreement. It is feared in Israeli circles that Arafat will make a tour of world capitals, where he will explain that Netanyahu has violated the Oslo accords in not withdrawing from Hebron, and therefore he (Arafat) sees himself free of the agreements, and would like to declare independence.

Though declaring independence constitutes a blatant violation of the Oslo Accords, it is feared that it would cause a very unpleasant diplomatic situation for Israel.

Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Uzi Landau, speaking with Arutz-7, called upon the prime minister to make it clear to Arafat that if he declares a Palestinian state in the autonomous regions, Israel will immediately impose Israeli sovereignty over the administered territories still under Israeli control.

Jewish Senator Visits Assad

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

A senior US senator carried messages between Jerusalem and Damascus Wednesday and Thursday, and ended his visit to the area calling for an Israel-Syria summit at the White House.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) says he carried messages of reassurance between Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Each side has been concerned about military movements and strong statements from the other, in spite of earlier assurances of no hostile intent.

Specter says now that issue has been dealt with, it is up to President Clinton to make a dramatic move to get the Israel-Syria peace talks started again. "President Clinton should invite both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Assad to the Oval Office to continue the peace process."

Specter says Assad is "disinclined" to attend such a meeting, but the senator says he believes Assad would go anyway if Clinton invited him. The senator believes Netanyahu would also attend.

But he also reports that Assad still insists that the talks resume from the point where he left off with Israel's previous government, something Netanyahu refuses to do.


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