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>PD Israel Faxx Feb. 10, 1997, Vol 5. Number 22

Palestinians Concerned About Israeli Commitments

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have agreed to convene committees within the next week to manage implementation of existing peace agreements. The decision came at a summit Sunday evening.

After a two-hour session at the Israel-Gaza border, the two men emerged to report they had covered all the issues between them in what Netanyahu called a productive and constructive atmosphere.

The Palestinians are concerned about remaining Israeli commitments, including opening a Palestinian airport and seaport, and Israel is concerned by what it calls illegal operations by Palestinian security forces in Jerusalem, and other issues.

Netanyahu will, at a special Cabinet meeting today, present a plan calling for Israel to transfer 70% of the area of Judea and Samaria to the control of the Palestinians under the permanent status arrangements. Israel will continue to govern a united Jerusalem and all of the Jewish West Bank communities, while maintaining an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley.

Future of Jerusalem Generates Debate

By Maxim Kniazkov (VOA-Washington)

With the Middle East peace process back on track, diplomats prepare to take on one of the thorniest issues on the Middle Eastern agenda -- the fate of Jerusalem. Its future is to be discussed during talks on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are yet to begin in earnest. But the issue is already generating a lively debate.

Israel captured the eastern, Arab, part of Jerusalem during the 1967 war and proclaimed the city Israel's undivided capital. Despite international criticism, the Israeli government has never backed down from that decision.

But the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accord thrust Jerusalem back on the diplomatic agenda. And now that the dispute over Israel's withdrawal from Hebron has been resolved, the Jerusalem question is again the focus of attention.

Palestinian officials say they want east Jerusalem back to make it the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israelis have not given their assent to Palestinian statehood, let alone a change in the present status of Jerusalem. Historically, Jerusalem has been a center of three religions -- Judaism, Islam and Christianity. But Palestinians accuse Israel of using its control over the city to drastically alter its demographic makeup. They say that east Jerusalem's Jewish population grew from a virtual zero in 1967 to 160,000 now, surpassing that sector's Arab population.

Israeli officials argue Jerusalem is central to the Jewish faith and will remain Israel's capital.

With the gap separating both sides wide and deep, diplomats and scholars are now groping for a compromise that would overcome the deadlock.

New York Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg has offered one such recommendation. Hertzberg suggests separating religious and political considerations while tackling the Jerusalem dispute. "The religious problem is not settleable within the political context. What is settleable within the political context is some modus vivendi on shrines, holy places, in which a reasonable amount of peace will be kept."

Hertzberg advocates a certain degree of separation between Arab and Jewish communities in a future Jerusalem. He believes a Palestinian state will eventually be formed in the West Bank and Gaza. But even Hertzberg, a self-professed liberal, stopped short of endorsing the Palestinian demand that east Jerusalem be turned into the capital of the proposed state.

Jane's: Middle East Conflict "Closer Than Before"

The prestigious military journal Jane's Intelligence Review has released a report concluding that a war in the Middle East is "closer than before," but that in any event Israel will emerge victorious. Claiming that Israel has become the third-strongest world power, the British periodical writes that the Israel Air Force is seven to eight times stronger than the combined might of those of the Arab nations, and that the IDF is presently a generation ahead of its Arab counterparts.

The 25-page report presents four possible scenarios:

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