Newsletter : 7fax0319.txt
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>JN March 19, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 48
Construction Starts at Har Homa in East
By Al Pessin (VOA) & Ron Pemstein (State Department)
Israeli bulldozers began moving earth on a disputed east Jerusalem
hilltop Tuesday afternoon -- in spite of an international outcry
and efforts by Palestinians to block the construction of a new
Jewish neighborhood on the site.
This was the moment Israelis and Palestinians have been waiting
for these last several weeks -- the arrival of bulldozers on this
hill on the edge of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want
to be part of their future capital and which Israel says it will
never surrender. A handful of Palestinians who managed to reach
the site stood in front of the bulldozers, but police stepped in
and the bulldozers took another route down the hillside.
A few kilometers away, about 50 marchers led by two senior
Palestinian officials tried to walk to the site from a base camp
they had set up on a nearby hill. But Israeli soldiers blocked
An Israeli army officer tried to convince the marchers to turn
back, but they refused, and a shoving match followed. When it
became clear the marchers would not reach their destination,
they did turn back. But the speaker of the Palestinian Council,
Ahmed Qureia, said it was not a good moment for the peace
process. "It is the time to defend this process, otherwise we will
lose it. And believe me if we lose it today it will be lost
forever. By this army they can dictate. By the power of the
occupation, they can do it. But by the peace, they will never win
Qureia says this will not be the end of Palestinian reaction to the
building project, and he says once the bulldozers moved, the whole
atmosphere of Israeli-Palestinian relations changed. Israel says
the Palestinians must accept Israeli sovereignty over all the
territory Israel considers part of Jerusalem, including this hill.
But Qureia says the peace process faces a disaster, unless Israel
is willing to negotiate all issues.
The United States is calling for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
to resume. President Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
last month that he wished the decision to construct the settlement
had not been made. Now that construction has started, the Clinton
administration has begun to call for negotiations between Israel
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tells reporters at the White
House, the United States hopes violence can be avoided. "We are
obviously concerned about the fact that violence is never an answer
to the problems in the Middle East and we would very much want to
see a return to the table. That is the only time that there has
been progress in the Middle East is when the parties are actually
talking to each other at the table."
The secretary of state refused to criticize directly the Israeli
decision to go ahead with construction. But she says the Israelis
understand the difficulties the Clinton administration sees with
their decision to go forward.
Arabs Upset Over Har Homa
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began
implementing his controversial housing policy, Arab leaders are
again warning Israel against pursuing construction of Jewish
housing in east Jerusalem.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak again warned Israel's policy is
dangerous to the peace process. In two TV interviews, he called on
Netanyahu to evaluate the reality of the situation before
continuing with plans to build in east Jerusalem.
Mubarak had consulted by phone with Palestinian chairman Yasir
Arafat and with King Hussein following his trip to Israel Sunday.
He also talked by phone with Netanyahu. Mubarak told his
interviewers that most Arab leaders resent Israel's settlement
Saudi Arabia's King Fahd has also denounced the policy. The
official news agency says he told a weekly cabinet meeting that
Israel is violating UN resolutions and international agreements
to preserve east Jerusalem's demographic and geographic features in
terms of Islamic and Arab identity.
Arab leaders complain that Israel is trying to change the
demographics to prejudice the outcome of negotiations over
Jerusalem's final status. Israel sees the unified city as
its capital but Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital
of a future state.
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