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>Israel Faxx
>JN May 29, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 97

Palestinians Plan Statehood

The Palestinian Authority plans to declare the establishment of an independent state at the end of 1998. Abu Ala, chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Authority, told the Arabic newspaper al-Atiahad newspaper, adding this would be the reaction to Israel's "stubborn policies." He said that the Oslo agreement grants the Palestinians the right to declare their independence five years after the signing of the agreement, at the end of 1998.

Shai Bazak, press advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Arutz-7 in response that Netanyahu has made it clear on previous occasions that it is not in the interest of the Palestinians to carry out this violation of the accords.

Arutz-7 notes that clause XXXI:6 of the Oslo accords states that following the five-year interim period, a vacuum-like situation is created in which either side may resort to its original positions: "Neither Party shall be deemed, by virtue of having entered into this Agreement, to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims or positions."

However, until the outcome of permanent-status negotiations, a Palestinian declaration of statehood stands in direct violation of clause XXXI:7: "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."

Many Non-Jews Amongst Immigrant Soldiers

Thirty percent of the immigrant soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces are not Jewish. This statistic was presented Wednesday to the Immigration and Absorption Knesset Committee.

Lt. Col. Aharon Magdalovitz, officer of conversions in the IDF, said that at present some 100 soldiers are undergoing conversion. He said, "They come to us on their own accord; we do not campaign to convince them."

AJC Urges Israelis to Oppose Conversion Bill

The American Jewish Committee plans to run an full-page advertisement in Friday's edition of Yediot Achronot, Israel's largest-circulation daily newspaper, urging Israelis to oppose any "measures and rhetoric that question the legitimacy of the religious life of the overwhelming majority of American Jews."

The Knesset measure gives Israeli Orthodox Jewish rabbis exclusive authority over conversions performed in Israel. Passage of the bill was a prerequisite that religious parties required before joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Many U.S Reform and Conservative Jews have expressed displeasure at the possibility that conversions performed outside Israel would not be considered valid.

The proposed legislation received the first of three readings in Israel's parliament Apr. 1.

Israel's justice minister said this week that the measure would be brought to the Knesset for final action next month if no compromise is reached.

The Yediot ad says unless the bill is stopped "attempts to imprison religious expression in Israel within the confines of a state-imposed Orthodoxy will not only engender conflict among Israelis, but will alienate the Diaspora, making Israel -- however large its population and sacred its soil -- progressively less relevant to Jews everywhere else."

Public Outcry

A poem by Karen Alkalay-Gut

Why are you silent, poets of Israel?
How can you write of anything but
the war we are careening toward like
children on a water slide screaming
for the moment they will hit the sea?

How do we let ourselves believe
that poetry is innocent and we
mere victims of circumstances
that may work themselves out,
if we just continue to concentrate on beauty and the truths that can only mean something in a land that is free?

"Where will you go for the war?"
Simon asks on his first night in this country, throwing us all into total confusion as if we hadn't realized the actuality of our own dire predictions, the logical conclusions of the facts to which we too have played our convictionless part, watching those full of passionate intensity
destroy an actual dream while shaking our sensible heads.

"We should have the courage of our convictions," I say to my friends who having been discussing which new sites on the Internet they like best, which programs they use, which computers they have purchased in the recent past,
and how they use technology to escape,
escape this narrow world.

They all agree something must be done,
then we slip back into the usual complaints

All we have left is a public outcry
we must speak of nothing else,
write only of peace, obsessively whispering, clamoring it until there is so much noise someone at last must hear.

As long as poets believe
they must only write of little wars
that mean nothing to the world outside
and only this is poetry,
there will be no one to listen.

Perhaps it is true that all we write is in vain. But the silence, the silence thunders through me like a train.

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