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>PD
>Israel Faxx
>JN Jan. 14, 1977, Vol. 5, Number 8

IDF On-Line

The IDF Spokesman's Unit has set up a home page on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. At present, visitors to the site will be able to receive general information on the IDF, including articles on its history, mission, organizational structure, corps and doctrine, as well as pictures of rank badges and emblems. The address is www.israel-mfa.gov.il/idf


Ambassador Optimistic on Troop Withdrawal

By Imani Crosby (VOA-Washington)

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Eliahu ben-Elissar says an agreement on Israeli troop withdrawal from Hebron and other areas will be signed within the next few days. The ambassador spoke Monday at the annual meeting of the international Jewish organization, B'nai B'rith, in Washington.

Ben-Elissar said an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on Hebron and other West Bank areas is likely to be signed, but, the ambassador said the accord still being hammered out in negotiations in Jerusalem is far from perfect.

"We hoped to be able to achieve more for the Israelis who live in Hebron. But we knew very well in order to reach a compromise with the Palestinians according to our policy, which says we will be trying to achieve a peaceful settlement, we're ready to make concessions."

The Hebron agreement is to implement an earlier pledge by Israel to pull its troops back from most of the town. Israeli troop presence would be restricted to the small Jewish section of Hebron to protect several hundred Jewish settlers living there.

Included in the Hebron agreement are other outstanding issues, such as a safe passage route for Palestinians from the West Bank to Gaza, opening of a port and airport in Gaza and prisoner release.

The Israeli diplomat said once those issues are resolved, then negotiations can begin on a permanent status for Israel and the Palestinians. But, Israel has insisted that before those talks can begin, the Palestinian Authority must extradite Palestinians accused of killing Israelis and strengthen the wording in the Palestinian charter to express support for Israel's right to exist.

"What we wish is that the State of Israel, together with the neighboring countries -- Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt -- live together in a kind of cohabitation in the Middle East, peaceful, where actually, the Arabs, for the first time, will have recognized the right of the Jewish nation to exist as a sovereign nation in the Middle East."

Ben-Elissar complimented Jordan's King Hussein for his role in breaking the deadlock in current Israeli-Palestinian talks, but he chided others in the Middle East, who he said have not been as "constructive." This was an apparent reference to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who urged Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to hold out for greater Israeli concessions. Ben-Elissar also accused Arafat of using violence as a political tool.


Negotiations Continue with a False Bomb Scare

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

A bomb scare at a Jerusalem hotel interrupted the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Monday evening. But no bomb was found. And Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are still trying to resolve the final clauses in the long-awaited agreement on the next steps in their peace process.

The negotiators closeted themselves in a Jerusalem hotel for much of the day, pausing only to enable the Palestinian delegates to have the fast-breaking evening meal of the Muslim holy month, Ramadan.

There was considerable optimism in the morning the officials might take only a few hours to write clauses into their emerging agreement, reflecting the progress forged Sunday by Jordan's King Hussein. But Monday's job proved more complicated than some had expected.

The king flew from Amman to Gaza and then to Tel Aviv and emerged with agreement on the time-frame for Israel's withdrawal from West Bank villages and rural areas, after it withdraws from most of Hebron.

The Hebron accord itself was already completed. But there apparently are other unsolved issues. The Palestinians are pressing for Israeli commitments on the opening of an airport in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners, among other things. In return, Israel is insisting on Palestinian commitments on several issues, including a firm date for amending the Palestinian charter to remove its calls for the destruction of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing opposition in his ruling coalition to his plan to carry out the Hebron withdrawal, and other troop pullbacks, promised by his predecessors. Seven of the 18 ministers in his Cabinet say they will vote against the agreement, and several others say they might do the same, depending on what is in the final document.

Among them are right wing and religious ministers, but also public security minister and retired Gen. Avigdor Kahalani, who leads the security-minded but generally moderate party called "The Third Way."


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