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>Israel Faxx
>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 peace process.

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 meeting."

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 to Syria.

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 sovereignty.

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 month.

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.

Romania, Romania

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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