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>Israel Faxx
>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 settlement activities.

"Call it pressure, call it whatever you want. Call it good offices. We want the 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 world."

What made this possible? Jonathan Engler, economic officer for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, says it's due to a couple of factors.

"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 from Israel.

"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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