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>JN Feb. 18, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 28
Netanyahu's American Vacation Ends
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned from his
visit to the United States, only to face a host of domestic
problems and still more tough decisions in the peace process.
In Israel's pressure-packed domestic politics, sometimes it seems
that no prime minister ever has a quiet week. But this week
looks to be even tougher than usual for Netanyahu, who faces
defections from his ruling coalition and questioning by police
Akiva Eldar is a political columnist for the respected Israeli
newspaper Ha'aretz. "Perhaps President Clinton gave him a very good
time in Washington. But he will have to pay for that. I mean, he
had a great time in Washington, but now it's time to work and there
are no free lunches in this area."
Several members of parliament who are part of Netanyahu's coalition
have threatened to vote against him on key issues unless he
immediately approves the start of construction for a new Jewish
neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The prime minister supports such
projects, but has delayed this one, apparently so as not to anger
There are concerns the construction could spark renewed Palestinian
unrest, as did an Israeli tourism project in east Jerusalem in
September. But right-wing politicians are threatening the equally
devastating removal of their support if Netanyahu does not go
While he ponders that dilemma, the prime minister must prepare to
be questioned by police investigators this week. The police are
investigating allegations that senior officials in his office
conspired to manipulate the Israeli justice system.
Columnist Eldar says the scandal and the Jerusalem construction
issues will be serious tests for Netanyahu, but he does not believe
they will bring his government down -- the threat which is implicit
in many of the statements made by his nominal political allies in
"I don't see the political interests leading to new elections.
Netanyahu will not volunteer to call for new elections. He has
got no interest. And I think that at the end of the day when his
partners in the Likud will have to make their own calculation and
to consider the alternative, they will realize that they are much
better off with Netanyahu than with new elections."
As if such domestic concerns were not enough to keep Netanyahu
busy, he also faces key moments in Israel's peacemaking with the
Palestinians and Syria. The Palestinians are pressuring him to
implement several remaining aspects of existing agreements,
including the opening of a Gaza airport. Talks on those issues
In addition, next month Israel is committed to make the first of
three further withdrawals on the West Bank, the extent of which
Netanyahu must determine with one eye on Palestinian and US
reaction and the other on his already dissatisfied right-wing
supporters in the Israeli parliament.
Also next month, Israel and the Palestinians are to resume a
separate set of negotiations aimed at drafting a final peace
treaty. Those talks are to tackle the most difficult
Israeli-Palestinian issues, including Palestinian statehood, the
future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and
At the same time, the United States is pressing for renewal of
the Israel-Syria peace talks. Netanyahu's Washington trip included
some overture to Syria but also some tough talk about Israel's
opposition to returning the Golan Heights. Syria has called
Netanyahu's comments in Washington a disaster for the peace
It is almost never quiet around the prime minister's compound on a
Jerusalem hilltop. But this week, the activity should be
particularly frenetic and the lights will likely be on particularly
late into the nights.
Israeli Training Plan Against AIDS, in Libya
An Israeli educational program against AIDS is being presented
in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The program, called "Youth Learns
about AIDS," in Arabic, is based on an Israeli model called "The
Immune System and the Disease of AIDS," shown in Israeli high
schools since 1987. It was written by Dr. Yinon Shenkar, an expert
in preventing AIDS among youth. Its adaptation into an Arabic
context was done with the help of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
Two young Libyan doctors from Libya who participated in an
international course on education to prevent AIDS were exposed to
the Israeli model by instructors in an AIDS project in Jerusalem,
who were invited to the course.
"The contact with the participants from Libya was extraordinary,"
instructor Hani Rozenberg reported. "Wonderful relations were
established between us, of study and work. They were enthusiastic
about the model developed in Israel and received a version of the
training program in Arabic. In a phone conversation with them a
week ago, one of the Libyan doctors said he is already using the
system to teach in Tripoli."
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