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>PD
>Israel Faxx
>JN March 20, 1997, Vol. 5, number 49

Supreme Court Considers Har Homa

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's Supreme Court has declined to stop construction of a controversial new Israeli neighborhood in east Jerusalem, which began Tuesday. The work continued Wednesday, amid more small demonstrations, warnings from Palestinian officials, and defiant statements from Israel.

The court declined requests to issue temporary orders stopping work on the site while it considers three lawsuits. For two of them, it gave the government 60 days to justify some of its decisions regarding the site, including why the housing is intended for Jews only. The court postponed arguments on another case until next week, brought by a Jewish landowner whose property was confiscated for the project. The court's decision left bulldozers moving earth on the disputed hill for a second day, protected by Israeli troops.

Palestinian leaders say it could be the end of the peace process, and militant groups based in Jordan and Syria have called for a

violent response.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said
Wednesday there can be  no  peace in which Israel is  not  free
to build in east Jerusalem, and he said he will hold the
Palestinian Authority responsible for any violence.

There were small demonstrations in several Palestinian areas Wednesday, including a village near the construction site. But there has been no violence so far.


Despite Hussein's Visit, Relations Not Cozy

By Andre de Nesnera (VOA-London)

Many British experts on the Middle East say the peace process is in serious jeopardy, due in large part to what they describe as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intransigent policies towards the Palestinians.

Many British experts on the Middle East say Netanyahu's policies have brought the Middle East peace process to a virtual standstill -- and has brought the region to the brink of violence.

Ibrahim Karawan is a Middle East expert with London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. He says last week's murder of seven Israeli schoolgirls by a Jordanian soldier has heightened tensions even more. "Regardless of the specific motivation of this individual, I think it remains true there is a growing sense of an impasse in the region and that the euphoria that surrounded (the) Oslo (agreements) and after that is no longer there. Even in Jordan, which is a moderate country that played a moderating role in the Arab-Israeli settlement process, this resentment and bitterness is mounting."

In an effort to ease strained relations, the Jordanian monarch visited the Israeli families mourning their daughters killed by the Jordanian soldier. Experts say while the visit was emotional, it did little to get Israeli-Jordanian relations back on track. Middle East expert and writer, Hazhir Teimourian, says in dealing with Israel, King Hussein must take into account that 60 percent of his subjects are Palestinians.

"King Hussein fears riots in his country again. He knows that if he is seen to be too close to the new right-wing government of Israel, there will be large-scale, widespread riots again, and therefore he has to pay attention to the sentiments of his people."

Many experts here say the Middle East peace process can only move forward if Netanyahu softens his hardline policies.


Netanyahu Promises Conversion Law Will Pass

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Knesset members from the United Torah Judaism Party that the proposed Law of Conversion will be voted upon following its first reading. The reading is scheduled to take place before the end of the current Knesset session at the beginning of April. The Prime Minister will bring two forms of the new legislation before the government. The first version calls for every conversion performed within Israel to require the approval of the president of the Rabbinical High Court. The second version includes a provision calling for any conversion of an Israeli resident, either in Israel or abroad to require such approval.


Holy Cow!

The birth of a red heifer (cow) in a farm in the religious youth village of Kfar Hasidim (near Haifa) has excited sectors in the religious community. A delegation of some 25 experts, including Rabbis Yisrael Ariel and Yoseph Elboim, visited the farm last week to examine the six-month old cow, and concluded that it is in fact an acceptable red heifer, according to Torah requirements.

However, the cow must be at least two years old before it can be used. Until then, the cow will be carefully watched to ensure that nothing occurs to invalidate its status. According to biblical law, the cow's ashes are used for purification from certain forms of impurity, and is therefore a prerequisite for the renewal of Holy Temple service.


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