Newsletter : 6fax1217.txt
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>PD Dec. 17, 1996, Vol. 4, No. 228
Hebron Talks May Take Place, or Maybe They Won't
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli-Palestinian talks on the long-delayed Israeli withdrawal
from Hebron are set to resume, after a telephone summit Sunday
night between the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, and Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But a member of Arafat's cabinet
says there has been no progress on the key issues which have
deadlocked the talks for weeks.
The two leaders spoke, partly at the request of US mediators to, in
the words of one Palestinian official, "ease the tension."
Israeli-Palestinian relations deteriorated last week, with the
Hebron talks effectively in recess, when Palestinian militants
killed an Israeli woman and her son on the West Bank. Israel
responded by giving financial incentives for settlement expansion
in the area.
But Palestinian Higher Education Minister and former peace
negotiator, Hanan Ashrawi, says the telephone conversation was
mainly a forum for mutual reassurance, not substantive talks.
Ashrawi says neither side has changed its positions on key issues,
so while the atmosphere improved Sunday night, there is not
necessarily any increased chance of an agreement anytime soon.
But Monday, Netanyahu told a committee of the Israeli parliament he
does not plan to establish any new settlements in occupied
territory until the eventual Israeli-Palestinian border line is
established. That is to be done in the next stage of the peace
talks, which began under the previous government, but have yet to
resume since Netanyahu took office six months ago. The prime
minister's statement does not directly affect the Hebron talks, but
it could ease Palestinian concerns about Friday's Cabinet decision
to facilitate the expansion of existing settlements through
Ashrawi says such issues are important because the Authority wants
to be sure Netanyahu will continue to implement the latest peace
accord, once a Hebron agreement is reached. But she and other
Palestinians are concerned that Netanyahu has no intention of
doing that, and Monday she called for more US involvement to force
him to stick to the peace process which he opposed for many years
before his election.
US officials deny charges of a pro-Israel bias, in spite of the
long and close US-Israel relationship. US mediators have been
working closely with both sides for months to try to move the
Hebron talks forward, and Secretary of State Warren Christopher
said Monday the United States will continue to work "actively and
patiently" to keep the peace process going.
Settlements Could Lead to Civil Unrest
By Victor Beattie (VOA-Washington)
A US Middle East analyst warns tensions between Israel and the
Palestinian self-rule authority over Israel's plan to boost Jewish
settlements is undermining the peace process and could lead to
civil unrest. Georgetown University's Dan Bromberg says President
Clinton must exert leadership to save the peace process.
Bromberg says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under
pressure from some members of his Cabinet to expand settlements.
He says Netanyahu's political support could erode because neither
the peace nor the security promised in his election campaign is
Bromberg says the United States is at a disadvantage to influence
events because its foreign policy team for Clinton's second term is
in transition. The analyst says the president must act soon or see
his diplomatic efforts to advance peace in the region fail.
"His entire effort to promote Middle East peace is on the verge of
collapse and unless he is going to engage his own prestige in
defending that effort, and the gains that have been made, the thing
is going to collapse."
US officials have called the expansion of Jewish settlements both
unhelpful to the peace process and troubling. Following the latest
moves clearing the way for Jewish houses in Arab east Jerusalem and
the government's tax incentive program for expanding housing in the
West Bank, Bromberg says the chance for violence has grown. Barring
an agreement, he says there is a possibility escalating civil
Netanyahu "Chats" with Thousands
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a "chat" session with
thousands of internet users Sunday. "This is wonderful," he told
reporters. "It's a way to cut through the press" Nearly 3,000
people logged on to the session with Netanyahu at the joint
"This gives you a direct contact with thousands of people who can
ask you questions, who can read your answers, and there's no
intermediaries between you and them," he said. "It's a wonderful
thing that will break monopolies of information."
Netanyahu said that Israel is often misrepresented in the media,
and "there is no better way I can think of to correct these kinds
of misimpressions than to have this kind of contact." MSNBC is
planning a chat session with Shimon Peres Wednesday and possibly
one with Yasir Arafat in the near future.
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