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>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
"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
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
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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