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>JN Jan. 15, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 9
Midnight Meeting May Result in Hebron Withdrawal
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian
leader, Yasir Arafat, were scheduled to hold a midnight summit
Tuesday at the Israel-Gaza border. Officials say they could put
the final touches on an agreement leading to further steps in the
Negotiators meeting in Jerusalem settled most of the issues before
them, but a few clauses of the agreement are still in dispute.
Tuesday afternoon, the senior US Middle East mediator, Dennis Ross,
announced the summit designed to settle those remaining issues.
"We have been working and there will be a meeting tonight, between
the prime minister and the chairman, at Erez. It'll be a late-night
The issues in dispute are reported to include Israel's insistence
on the extradition of Palestinians suspected of attacks on Israelis
and the Palestinian demand for the release of Palestinians
convicted of murder and held by Israel.
These extremely tough and sensitive negotiations have been going
on in ernest since President Clinton called Netanyahu and Arafat to
the White House in October. The final issues in dispute reportedly
involve a letter of guarantees the US president is to write, and a
list of the obligations each side must fulfill.
If an agreement is reached, Israel would almost immediately
withdraw its troops from most of Hebron -- the last West Bank city
under Israeli control, and would withdraw from many West Bank
villages and some rural areas by the middle of next year.
But Netanyahu is facing considerable opposition to that plan from
his right-wing supporters. The right-wing is angry that Netanyahu
is agreeing to withdraw from Hebron, which has an important place
in Jewish history, and from large tracts of land on the West Bank,
which could imply the beginnings of Palestinian statehood.
Even moderate right wingers say Israel should hold on to those
territories until agreement is reached on the final borders and
status of the Palestinian entity in talks expected to resume soon
and to last several years.
Several members of his Cabinet say they will vote against the
accord. The prime minister has met with some of them and failed to
change their minds, but his aides say he will have a comfortable
majority in the Cabinet anyway.
South Africa Sells Syria Tank Equipment
By Alex Belida (VOA-Johannesburg)
President Nelson Mandela's spokesman has accused the United States
of trying to dictate policy to South Africa. The remark comes in
connection with a controversial proposed arms sale by South Africa
Presidential spokesman Parks Mankahlana says South Africa
disapproves strongly of what he characterizes as US efforts to
dictate how his country should conduct its affairs. He says US
statements of concern about the proposed arms deal with Syria
suggest the Clinton administration does not respect South Africa's
Mankahlana also suggests the United States is overreacting. He says
the $650 million deal for sophisticated South African-made
fire-control systems for Syrian tanks has only been provisionally
approved and a final decision will not be made until later this
A statement released by the US Embassy in Pretoria said US
legislation prohibits certain forms of assistance to governments
which supply lethal equipment to Syria or other countries
considered state sponsors of terrorism. The statement expressed
hope South Africa would not consummate an arms sale to a country
that supports terrorism.
Although US/South African relations are considered generally close,
there have been tensions over the Pretoria government's continued
relations with such countries as Cuba, Libya and Iran.
By Paul Hockenos (VOA-Bucharest)
Since the fall of communism, a small Jewish community in Romania
has tried to revive a culture that flourished before World War 2.
Today, Romania's 15,000 Jewish population is only a fraction of
what it was, but those who remain in the country are determined to
preserve their heritage.
At Bucharest's historic Yiddish theater, a Jewish acting company
from Ukraine performs to a packed hall. The language of the piece
is Yiddish, the traditional dialect of eastern Europe's Jews. The
group was one of many who came to Romania's capital city recently
to celebrate 120-years of Jewish theater in Bucharest.
Before the war, Romania had more than 800,000 Jews. But the
Holocaust wiped-out part of that population and hundreds of
thousands of Jews emigrated during communist rule. Most of the
sprawling Jewish quarter is gone, the victim of communist dictator
Nicolae Ceausescu's radical urbanization program.
Most young Romanian Jews say they plan to emigrate to Israel. But
as long as a Jewish community exists in Romania, its members here
are determined to sustain its rich heritage.
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