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>Israel Faxx
>PD Feb. 13, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 25

Netanyahu Meets Today with Clinton

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets President Clinton and other US officials in Washington today, with the next steps in the Middle East peace process at the top of the agenda.

Netanyahu left for Washington Wednesday with his ideas for the future of the peace process ready to present to the president and the new secretaries of state and defense.

According to Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel, the prime minister wants to make clear to the key sponsor and mediator what he is willing to do and what he is not willing to do. "It will be a good opportunity for the prime minister to explain what has occurred until now in the peace process and how he envisages different initiatives for the future."

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has taken on new life since last month's Hebron accord, with the resumption of working committee meetings and plans to resume talks on the next and final stage of their peace process next month. But talks with Syria remain stalled, and that also blocks any effort to forge an Israel-Lebanon peace.

So, Syria is expected to top the prime minister's agenda in Washington. Syria is insisting that Netanyahu's government adopt any offers made by the previous government, including territorial concessions on the Golan Heights. Fogel says that will not happen.

"When we sit down it has to be clear that there are no prior commitments by any party. And what we want to do is find a formula, some kind of agreement, that says that we can sit down and talk, exchange points of view, and see where we go from there. But I think it's really impractical to assume that we can tell the Syrians how the talks are going to end before they even begin."

Netanyahu has made clear that he would like to start making peace with Syria by getting Syria to help create a more peaceful situation in southern Lebanon, where Israel occupies a border strip and is fighting Hizbullah terrorists backed by Syria and Iran.

Syria has shown little interest in that approach. But some Israeli analysts believe Syria has less political room to maneuver now that the Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is back on track. And Israel is trying to increase the pressure on Syria to return to the negotiating table.

Netanyahu visited southern Lebanon Tuesday and said he cannot make peace with Syria as long as it is conducting an indirect war against Israel through Hizbullah. Also on Tuesday, Israel bombed Hizbullah positions in the part of Lebanon controlled by Syria, with one raid reported to be just three miles from the Syrian border. Israel's defense minister says the message to Syria is that continued fighting in Lebanon can lead to escalation elsewhere.

Fogel puts Israel's message to Syria this way. "We're saying to the Syrians that we're not looking for escalation. We don't want to get into a conflict with Syria. But it's about time that they remove their support and their active support for the Hizbullah."

Last month, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said Israel would be ready to resume talks with Syria based on UN resolutions which call for the return of occupied territory. There was some optimism at the time that Syria might find that formula attractive.

But now, diplomats say Syria is looking for more, and Israel is not willing to oblige. That will be the dispute Netanyahu will be trying to work out in his talks in Washington.

Arab School Principal Under Fire for Comments on IDF Soldiers

The Director-General of the Ministry of Education said there is no room in the educational network of the State of Israel for Anwar Daud, school principal in the mixed Arab-Israeli community of Neveh Shalom.

Daud was summoned to a hearing on Monday after he publicized an announcement in a Beit Shemesh newspaper implying that he is not willing to drive uniformed Jewish soldiers in his car. Following the death last week of Tom Kitian, he wrote, "My condolences to the family of Tom, a fine person and the only uniformed Jewish soldier that I agreed to take in my car." The school in Neveh Shalom, which is privately-run, was asked to consider whether Daud should continue to serve as principal, and to publish an apology for Daud's announcement.

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