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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 6, 1997, Vol. 6, Number 39

Arafat Addresses United Nations

Yasir Arafat -- president of the Palestinian Authority -- has urged the United Nations Security council to take a stand against Israel's plans for building a housing complex for Jews in east Jerusalem. After a visit to Washington, Arafat held a private meeting with Council members wednesday -- hours before the 15-member body was due to begin debate on the issue.

Arafat pledged again in New York to continue negotiations with the Israeli government. But he said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is straining the peace process. Earlier, Arafat met with American Jewish leaders, who described their discussions as "very positive."

Netanyahu Explains Housing to Mubarak

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Cairo Wednesday to try to defuse tensions over the latest Israeli decision to build more Jewish housing in east Jerusalem. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is still expressing concern about the negative impact of the Israeli decision on the peace process.

Netanyahu insists the new construction in east Jerusalem is an issue of housing for a growing population. He says more units also are being built for Arabs living there.

But Mubarak says the explanations do not ease his fears for the future of the peace process, especially negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem, which begin later this month. "Really, I say that the housing and this problem is a very complicated problem. I fear is it may lead to complications in the future when they start the final status of Jerusalem."

Netanyahu argues that the Oslo agreement on Palestinian self-rule does not specifically deal with Jerusalem. But Mubarak publicly corrected the Israeli leader during a news conference after their talks. He quoted from an article of the agreement that warns against pre-empting the final status negotiations on Jerusalem.

Arab states have long complained that Israel is changing the demography of Jerusalem before the final status negotiations begin in order to prejudice the outcome.

Netanyahu acknowledges the flood of international criticism. But he says it may be overblown. He insists Israel's commitment to the peace process is ironclad.

Jerusalem Palestinian Offices May be Closed

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police are preparing to deliver closure orders to four Palestinian offices in east Jerusalem, saying their presence in an area controlled by Israel violates the peace agreements. The move ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has angered Palestinians, who are planning protest marches Friday against Israeli construction plans for east Jerusalem.

The senior Palestinian official for Jerusalem affairs, Faisal Husseini, says all the Palestinian offices in Jerusalem are not part of the Palestinian Authority, but rather are either local groups or part of the PLO. He says their existence does not violate the peace agreements.

The PLO, which is based in Tunis and technically separate from the Gaza-based Palestinian Autonomy Authority, continues to handle a variety of issues, including some aspects of the negotiations with Israel.

Husseini acknowledges the offices might provide some information or services to the Authority, which is barred under the peace accords from having offices outside areas it controls. But Husseini says ordering the offices to close hurts the credibility of the Palestinian leadership and opens an opportunity for militant groups to make political gains among the Palestinian people.

Husseini says the combination of the closure orders and last week's Israeli decision to build a new Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem amounts to madness and could cause an explosion of Palestinian anger.

Netanyahu says Israel is within its rights in the Jerusalem building plan and in the orders to close the Palestinian offices within four days. But during a visit to Cairo Wednesday he said the final decision could be in the hands of the Israeli courts.

The Palestinian Authority called for mass prayers and demonstrations Friday in support of Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem, which both recent Israeli decisions threaten. Groups are to gather at the east Jerusalem building site, at the Al-Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem's Old City and elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza. But Husseini says the protests will be peaceful.

"I can promise everyone that if the Israeli army will not use violence there will be only peaceful activities there. But if the Israeli government will try to use other ways, non-violence is (in) need of two sides and not only one side."

Friday is also the day Israel is supposed to make the first of three stages of further withdrawals from West Bank villages and rural areas. But the Israeli Cabinet is not discussing the issue until today and officials say there could be some delay in the withdrawal, particularly if there is violence in Friday's demonstrations.

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