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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 5, 1996, Vol. 4, No. 220

World Jewish Congress Releases Document on Nazi Funds

The Nazis secretly sent more than $1 billion to Argentine banks, insurance companies, and commercial firms one month before World War II ended. A declassified communique dated April 1945 from the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires to the secretary of state said the figure was based on "financial reports and conjecture" because the embassy "did not have contact with Argentine authorities who might assist." The document was released by the World Jewish Congress, whose researchers have been searching U.S. archives to trace Nazi funds.

Israel Admits to a Commando Squad

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's military has acknowledged for the first time that it operates a commando squad in southern Lebanon. The unit was established two years ago to fight the Hizbullah terrorists on their own terms -- through small-scale guerrilla-type operations.

There was no indication of why the unit's existence was confirmed now. But Israel's northern commander, Gen. Amiram Levine, said he wanted to dispel the notion published in some foreign newspapers that the unit is an assassination squad aimed at Hizbullah leaders. Hizbullah is fighting Israel's occupation of the area, and sometimes launches attacks into northern Israel.

Levine says the commandos are specially trained to operate in rough terrain and in populated areas, which are believed to include areas beyond the Israeli-occupied zone.

In May, Levine acknowledged that a then-unidentified Israeli unit became stranded while on a mission during Israel's southern Lebanon offensive, and its call for artillery support resulted in the shelling of a UN post packed with refugees. At least 91 people died in the shelling.

The formerly secret unit is called "Egoz" -- Hebrew for walnut. Levine says two of its members have died since the unit was created. Foreign news reports attribute dozens of Hizbullah deaths to Egoz operations.

National Unity Government in Works?

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli politicians and commentators are talking more and more about the possibility of forming a national unity government -- bringing mainstream rivals, Labor and Likud, together in order to freeze out more ideological groups on both sides of the political spectrum and move the peace process forward. But for all the interest, the idea also has many built-in difficulties.

It seems far-fetched -- the sometimes bitter political enemies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres sitting side-by-side at the head of a government, pursuing an amalgam of their policies. But the idea is getting considerable attention in Israel these days, and it is believed to be the reason why Peres is resisting retirement.

Labor and Likud have different views on the two main issues facing the country -- the peace process and economic policy. Labor favors compromise with the Palestinians and Syria, and a big-government approach to economics. The Likud wants to give much less to the Palestinians and Syria, and is working to privatize more of the economy and cut the government budget.

But supporters of the national unity government idea say political realities might force the two parties to work together. For Labor, the relevant factor is the prospect of four years out of power during which the peace process it nurtured might suffer serious setbacks. For Likud, the motivations might include shedding the constraints of a six-party, largely right-wing coalition and avoiding the political backlash from an economic slow-down that some fear could result from delays in the peace process.

Both Netanyahu and Peres have said they are open to the idea of working together under the right circumstances. Some other senior members of both of their parties agree. But some analysts say there is just not enough potential common ground, particularly on the peace process, for them to be able to work together. Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai told Israel Radio this week there could be a national unity government sometime, but he does not expect one to be formed soon.

Palestinian Jailer Kills Prisoner

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

A Palestinian prison guard has shot and killed a prisoner being held in a jail in autonomous Jericho. The incident comes two-days after the international human rights group "Amnesty International" criticized the Palestinian Authority for its treatment of prisoners.

According to the Palestinian Security Services and the prisoner's family, the man got into a dispute with a guard, which escalated into a fistfight, and then the guard pulled a gun and shot him. The chief of the Palestinian police in the West Bank says the guard has been arrested and will be prosecuted.

The police initially claimed the prisoner was shot while trying to escape. The prisoner, Rashid Fityani, 25, had been held for nearly two-years without trial for allegedly working with Israeli operatives in the murder of a Hamas activist. His lawyer says he was tortured while in prison.

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