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>PD
>Israel Faxx
>May 12, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 85

Israel's Population Now 5.8 Million

The Central Bureau of Statistics says Israel's population has reached 5.8 million citizens. Since the 48th anniversary, the population rose by 2.6 percent, with 148,000 new citizens. Sixty-two percent of the growth is the result of natural population growth, with the remainder comprised of new immigrants. About 68,000 new immigrants have arrived in Israel during the past year.


Happy 49th Birthday Israel

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel marks its 49th Independence Day today with fireworks, concerts and nationwide celebrations. But the festivities come at a time when Israel's peace process with its neighbors is in trouble and Israeli society appears to be more divided than ever.

Just as the final speeches and prayers of Memorial Day faded at sunset, Independence Day celebrations began with fireworks and street parties, a poignant moment, designed to remind Israelis that life goes on in spite of the sorrow of death, and to demonstrate that the unity they find in mourning will also serve them well in protecting the freedom they celebrate.

But that unity appears to be threatened more and more as Israel begins its 50th year by deep divisions in Israeli society -- between religious and non-religious Jews, between Jews of European and Middle Eastern descent, between rich and poor, young and old, right-wing and left-wing.

Professor Moshe Lissak of Hebrew University: "I can mention at least three or four divisions. But I think the most important division or cleavage right now and in the near future is the division between religious and non-religious jews."

Middle Eastern, or Sephardic, Jews continue to feel discriminated against and at the same time, the gap between rich and poor is growing, more and more young people are avoiding army service to the consternation of their parents, and the political split in the country is nearly 50-50, and sometimes extremely hostile.

Lissak says the divisions could become serious unless the government takes steps to ease them, and that is something he does not expect from the current government.

But the prime minister's chief spokesman, David bar Illan, says talk of deep divisions in Israeli society is exaggerated. "That's the nature of democracy. We'll never have complete agreement on everything, and that's the way it should be. But it should not discourage people and should certainly not mislead our adversaries and our enemies to believe that they can exploit any kind of dissension in the country for their own purposes."

Lissak describes himself as a pessimist about the status of Israeli society on this Independence Day. Still he believes the forces holding Israeli society together -- Judaism, Zionism, and the shared experiences of the past 49 years -- should continue to hold it together, particularly if political and societal leaders help.

"The forces of unity will be stronger, at least the memory, the collective memory of this population is surrounding the memory of five, six, seven wars. This, still for the coming generation, is a very strong impetus to lean towards unity and not breaking down this kind of society."

But the professor admits that is a long view, and may not provide much comfort for Israelis who feel alienated on this Independence Day, particularly those of Middle Eastern descent, and those who are relatively non-religious and politically left-wing.


New Government Map: West Bank to be Split

By Arutz-7

About half of Judea and Samaria will remain in Israeli hands, according to a permanent-status map drawn up by the Prime Minister's Office and IDF representatives. Maariv reports the Security Cabinet will begin to discuss the map and its implications in its next meeting, Wednesday.

According to what is being termed the Netanyahu map, Israel will retain control over the Jordan Valley, Gush Etzion, the Samaria highlands, and the areas along the 1948 armistice lines. The evacuation of certain Jewish communities that will be surrounded by autonomous areas is being considered. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu's press advisor Shai Bazak has denied the entire report. Bazak told our correspondent that there is no intention to uproot even one settler community, and that the exact extent of the area to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority has not yet been determined.

Arutz-7 correspondent Haggai Huberman adds that the map depicts that which the IDF feels is crucial to Israel's interests, namely, the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert, greater Jerusalem, strategic routes, such as the trans-Samaria and the (as yet unpaved) trans-Menashe highway from Wadi Ara to the Jordan Valley, and the Jewish communities and the army bases. This does not include areas required for other purposes, such as water. Of the remaining 48.2%, more than half is already under partial or complete Palestinian control.


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