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>Israel Faxx
>JN June 12, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 105

The Mouse and El Al

An El Al flight was delayed for seven hours this week to deal with an unwanted guest -- a mouse. During Monday's flight from New York to Israel, one passenger said he saw a mouse. And when the airliner touched down at Ben Gurion Airport, the plane was grounded as an intensive search got underway. "The search was necessary for security reasons, because mice are known for eating away at electrical wires," said El Al spokesman Nachman Klieman. However, mice were not found.

Egyptian Envoy to Meet with Netanyahu, Arafat

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

A special Egyptian envoy is to meet separately today with the top Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the next step in the two-week-old Egyptian effort to end the crisis in the peace process.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa says prospects for further direct Israeli-Palestinian talks will be assessed only after the two meetings. The envoy, Osama el-Baz, is expected to meet early Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then to go to see the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat.

Moussa criticized comments Netanyahu made Tuesday as "very harmful." The Israeli prime minister told the Reuter news agency the Palestinians must realize they will never gain control of all the land Israel captured in the 1967 war.

The current Egyptian mediation effort began two-weeks ago with an Egypt-Israel summit, and resulted this past Sunday in the first direct Israeli-Palestinian talks in two months. The future of the effort appears to hinge on el-Baz's two meetings today.

Barak Follows in Rabin's Footsteps

By Deborah Cooper (VOA-Washington)

Israel's new Labor Party head, former Gen. Ehud Barak, says he will be guided by the peace legacy of his mentor, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish militant. Barak, Israel's most decorated living war veteran, takes a somewhat more conservative view of the peace process than either Rabin or former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The election of Barak to the top Labor post represents a shift to the center for the party whose leaders signed the historic Oslo peace agreement with the Palestinians in 1993. Three years later, Peres, who succeeded Rabin, was defeated by Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Since the election of the more hardline prime minister, the peace process has been for the most part stalled and the Labor Party has fallen into disarray.

Leah Rabin, the late prime minister's wife, commented that the election of Barak to the Labor post finally gave Netanyahu an opponent leading "in one direct way toward peace." But the former army chief of staff has said he opposes returning Israel to its pre-1967 borders which did not include the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem. Bernard Reich, an expert on Israeli politics at George Washington University, says from his votes in parliament and his various statements in public it's clear Barak will move the Labor Party to the right.

"Barak thinks more in terms of security and security credentials than Peres did. He certainly disagreed to some extent with Rabin on the Golan Heights issue and other security questions, and he seems more inclined towards the center of the political spectrum than certainly Shimon Peres or any of the other candidates for Labor Party leadership would have been."

Barak has predicted that the Netanyahu government will collapse before the next scheduled election in the year 2000. Netanyahu's first year in office was plagued with domestic scandals and he was criticized at home and abroad for undermining the peace process. But political analyst Bernard Reich believes the new Labor Party leader is expressing his hope rather than the reality.

"Should the process of peace making deteriorate significantly, should there be other major domestic scandals, or other opportunities for a strong vote of no confidence where there might be some shift from the coalition to the opposition, then there's a possibility. And I think what Mr. Barak is doing is looking toward the year 2000 trying to build credentials, slowly but surely so that when he takes the party to the next election whenever that is he'll be more strong and more acceptable to the right of center and hopefully pry away votes from Netanyahu and the Likud."

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