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>JN May 14, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 87
Irgun Monument in Acre
A monument in memory of fallen members of the Irgun was
dedicated at the beachfront promenade in Acre. The shrine
memorializes the Irgun members killed in the break-in to the Acre
Prison, 50 years ago this week. During the break-in, considered to
be the most daring action executed by the Irgun against the British
Mandatory authorities, tens of prisoners were freed, and some of
the Irgun members were killed or apprehended.
And the Peace Talks Go Round and Round....
By Al Pessin (VOA-Ramallah)
The senior US Middle East mediator, Dennis Ross, is trying to
arrange a new meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
But Palestinian officials say such a meeting can not succeed unless
Israel stops construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and
Israeli officials say they will not do that.
At the start the current mission by the mediator -- which is now
entering its second week -- US officials knew they had a difficult
situation on their hands. The Palestinians were refusing to
discuss any issues unless Israel froze settlement construction, and
Israel refused to do so.
With that dispute apparently -- irreconcilable -- in the words of
one US diplomat, the Ross team focused on two other goals -- to
get Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation going again and to
restart political talks in the hope those talks would lead to a
way to solve or go around the settlements issue.
On security, there has been some success, with the Palestinians
agreeing to meetings with Israeli security officials -- as long
as a US representative is present. Still, Israel says the
resulting cooperation is not sufficient.
The resumption of broader peace talks has proved to be as difficult
as it had appeared it would be. And the chief Palestinian
negotiator, Sa'eb Erakat, summoned reporters Tuesday to say he sees
little point in attending the kind of meeting Ross wants. Erakat
wants the United States to put pressure on Israel to freeze
"Call it pressure, call it whatever you want. Call it good
offices. We want the Americans...to ensure the genuine, precise
implementation of the agreement."
But Israel says it will not freeze the settlements. And senior
spokesman David bar Illan says Israel is even less inclined to do
so if it is presented as a precondition to full security
cooperation by the Palestinians. "To suggest that we should freeze
settlements is to suggest that we pay a price for the privilege of
not getting killed. That is totally out of the question."
Israel and the Auto Industry
By John Birchard (VOA-Washington)
When one thinks of the automobile industry, one might think of the
United States, Japan, Germany or Italy. But Israel? The Wall Street
Journal has described Israel as "the next frontier" for auto
manufacturers hunting for the latest in high-tech.
Germany's Volkswagen has already crossed that "frontier," setting
up a huge magnesium plant in conjunction with Israel's Dead Sea
Works that will produce parts for cars. That project bears a price
tag of $800 million.
The plant will have a production capacity of 55,000 tons per year
and will make Israel the world's third-largest producer of
magnesium after Norway and Canada. Volkswagen's chairman says his
company will now have "the cheapest source of magnesium in the
What made this possible? Jonathan Engler, economic officer for
the Israeli Embassy in Washington, says it's due to a couple of
"The first of these is the immigration of so many skilled Russians,
the big wave of immigration we've had. And many processes. For
example, at the Dead Sea Works and Volkswagen plant, where they're
going to be producing magnesium products, this whole process was
made possible by technology that the Russian scientists brought
with them. So it's kind of an unusual situation because we have a
raw material that's being processed in Israel which is not
something -- these primary products -- that's normally exported
"The second thing is this -- Israel having come into its own with
electronics that are part of Israel's $30 billion in exports last
year, led by high-tech industrial products. So electronics and
software are becoming so important in the automobile industry, it
plays to some natural strengths in the Israeli economy."
The VW project is the largest, but not the only auto industry
project. General Motors' Adam Opel division is working with the
Jerusalem-based Electric Fuel Corp. to test a zinc-air battery that
would allow electric vehicles to travel up to four times as far as
they can with present batteries. And GM recently set up a special
fund for investment in Israeli auto research that has identified 80
potential high-tech projects ranging from optical-detection
machines to computerized navigation devices.
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