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>JN March 5, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 38
Arafat Meets the Press
By Melissa Winkler (VOA-Washington)
Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat says there is no alternative but
to continue peace negotiations with Israel, despite the uproar over
Israel's decision to build new Jewish housing in Arab east
Jerusalem. Arafat made the remarks at the National Press Club
during a two day visit to Washington.
Arafat bitterly denounced Israel's decision to build 6,500 new
homes in mainly Arab east Jerusalem. Addressing reporters in
Washington, he said the construction plans violate commitments by
Israel's former Labor government. "It is a settlement, no doubt,
and it is illegal. The agreement between me and Mr. Rabin and after
that Mr. Peres -- was not one single house to be added to any
settlement and no new settlements."
He accused Israel of wanting to build the neighborhood between
Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a means of cutting off the Holy City
from the Palestinian controlled West Bank. The Palestinians want
east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Arafat also called Israel's decision to build the new Jewish
Quarter extremely damaging to the peace process, but said he has
no choice but to press on with negotiations. "It is our duty and
our job and our target to carry on with the peace process. We have
no other alternative."
In spite of his criticism of the Israeli government, Arafat called
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a peace partner -- a term he
usually reserves for the late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. "I
have to respect what (who) the Israelis elected. He is now my
partner as Rabin was my partner, as Shimon Peres was my partner.
Now my partner is Mr. Netanyahu."
Arafat's two day visit to Washington concludes after meetings
with congressional leaders. Today he holds talks at the United
Netanyahu Travels to Cairo
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Cairo today
for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. He also plans to meet with
Egyptian business leaders to spur bilateral trade. But the latest
Israeli decision to expand Jewish housing in east Jerusalem has
cast a long shadow over the visit.
Scathing editorials in the Egyptian press this week are blasting
Netanyahu for the latest decision to expand Jewish housing in east
Last weekend, Foreign Minister Amr Moussa labeled the move a
violation of the peace process. Mubarak already had warned the
Israeli leader by phone last week that such a move at this point
could undermine the peace process. He says he will make that point
again in his talks with Netanyahu in Cairo.
The problem now is the peace process, Mubarak says. Peace and
stability are our concerns. And he warns that without stability
there can be no development of the region. The Egyptian leader
says Israel's settlement policy complicates negotiations on the
final status of Jerusalem. The talks are due to get underway
later this month.
This is Netanyahu's second visit to Cairo. The two leaders
met here last July. But Mubarak refused to see the Israeli leader
again until Israel implemented the long-delayed Hebron agreement
for redeploying Israeli troops in the West Bank town.
Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel
in 1979 and has played an active mediator role in the
Netanyahu's visit to Cairo comes a few days before Mubarak heads to
Washington for talks with President Clinton. The future of the
peace process figures high on the agenda.
Israeli Withdrawal on Schedule
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will go ahead
with the next planned Israeli withdrawal from West Bank land, and
will convene a Cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue.
The prime minister's comments came after some of his aides had
suggested the withdrawal might be delayed. Officials say the
required moves will be made by the Friday deadline, or within a few
An official who requested anonymity says Thursday's meeting could
be a long one, and several ministers might vote against any further
withdrawal. But he said he expects the Cabinet to approve the
move. And Netanyahu says the withdrawal will be implemented as
soon as it is approved.
The official who spoke later says the withdrawal might even be
completed Thursday night, but he acknowledges it might not happen
until early next week.
The official would not speculate on how big the first withdrawal
will be. Press estimates range from six to 10 percent of West Bank
land, with reports saying the Palestinians want 20 percent in the
A senior Israeli official said Tuesday the first of the coming
withdrawals will be "much smaller" than newspapers are guessing.
Such a small step, or any substantial delay, can be expected to
add further to Palestinian anger, already sparked by an east
Jerusalem construction plan approved last week.
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