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>Israel Faxx
>JN Aug. 12, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 147

Palestinians Meet with Israelis

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

President Clinton's special Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, is continuing his talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials. Restoring security cooperation between the two sides is of paramount concern for Ross following the July 30 terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority head Yasir Arafat and Israeli security officials met after midnight in the West Bank city of Ramallah -- a significant achievement, since it was the first time Arafat had met with any Israeli figures following the marketplace bombing two weeks ago.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians entered a crisis stage following construction of a Jewish settlement in disputed east Jerusalem in March. Then, after the Jerusalem bombing, relations hit a new low. Netanyahu suspended peace talks and sealed off the West Bank and Gaza.

A Palestinian security official said after Monday's early morning meeting that there are signs of improvement. But Israeli officials say Arafat has still not agreed to try to crack down on the infrastructure of militant Islamic factions, which Israel blames for last month's market bombings.

Israel has eased some of the restrictions on Palestinian areas, but most remain. Thousands of demonstrators in Gaza and the West Bank protested Monday against the continuing closures and the jailing of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Palestinian Legislature Weighs Draft

The Palestinian legislature voted unanimously to begin drafting a military conscription law, Council Speaker Ahmed Korei said. The decision was taken against the background of heightened tensions with Israel over the killing by two Islamic suicide bombers of 15 people in a Jerusalem market July 30.

Legislator Azmi Shoaibi said he had initiated the proposal, under which Palestinian university graduates would be inducted into military and public service for a six months to a year. He also said youths would receive training to enable them to defend the Palestinian people.

Another Piece in the 'Eastern Front' Puzzle?

PLO chairman Yasir Arafat is trying to set up a summit involving Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Jerusalem Post reports. "The purpose of such a summit would be to form an anti-Israeli coalition, and bring Syria and Iraq into the same camp. Syria and Iran have already made progress in forging ties between them, and Syria recently relaxed border controls with Iraq."

But the Post said the entire plan may just be a rhetorical bluff to scare Israel -- given that Egypt would be likely to oppose it, making it unlikely.

As Arab-Muslim diplomatic manoeuvering continues apace, however, the scenario of a united "eastern front" against Israel does not appear that far-fetched. The Egyptian newspaper Al-Sha'b reported last month that Syria had proposed to Iran and Egypt that the three countries form the nucleus of a new regional military and economic alliance.

"The alliance is aimed at confronting the Zionist-US-Turkish capitulation plan that Washington is attempting to impose on the region through the process of normalization of ties with Israel, which is militarily backed to serve the interests of the Zionist-US alliance," the report said.

For Arafat's part, besides his approaches towards the Iraqis, he has sought too to improve bilateral relations with Iran (he issued a gushing statement of congratulation to the newly-appointed Iranian president Mohammed Khatami); and with Syria (he has applied for an invitation to visit to Damascus for talks with Hafez el-Assad).

The fact Iran, Iraq and Syria are on the US State Department's list of terror-sponsoring states does not appear to have given Arafat pause, despite the PA's reliance on Washington for financial and diplomatic assistance.

High Court Reverses Rabbinical Court Decision

By IINS News Service

The High Court of Justice reversed the decision of a Jerusalem Rabbinical Court concerning four children living in a Jewish community in Gaza. The four children, ages 6-13, are living with their mother in a Gaza community for the past 5 years, since leaving the United States. The mother, who took the children away from their father felt by moving to Gaza, the Hague Treaty which applies to children's rights is not applicable.

The mother, who wanted to further strengthen her claim to the children, went to the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court for a ruling. They ruled the children will remain with the mother in Gaza. The High Court now ruled the children must be returned to the United States and a New York court will enter a final verdict regarding the children. The High Court stated the Hague Treaty does extend to Gaza and in addition, they would not permit a community in Gaza to become a place of refuge for the kidnapper of children.

Nathan's of Coney Island Dogs Coming to Israel

For those old timers who are looking for a Coney Island hot dog, the Nathan's frankfurter chain will be arriving in Israel. Nathan's was started in 1916 by a Jewish immigrant from Poland. The frankfurter empire earned $116 million last year. The planned branches in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and Netanya will be the fast food chain's first venture outside of the United States. The new Israeli chains will be kosher.

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