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>Israel Faxx
>JN Oct. 20, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 191

Succot Storms Hit the Promised Land

Weekend heavy rain storms appear to have subsided. Although rain was still falling Sunday in many portions of the country, it did not resemble Saturday's thunderstorms with their accompanying high winds. Thousands of people remained stranded as the roads leading to and from Eilat remained closed as of yesterday afternoon, 11 people died nationwide as a result of the inclement weather conditions. A rare hail storm in Beersheva damaged homes and cars and piled up drifts of hail stones to a height of 25 cm.

Netanyahu: "War to the Death"

By ICEJ News Service

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are secretly negotiating a halt to Jewish housing construction in disputed areas, in exchange for the delay or cancellation of further Israeli troop withdrawal from rural areas of Judea-Samaria, the Jerusalem Post Sunday quoted a government official as saying.

US mediators are reportedly working with both sides to reach what the official called a package deal, which would link all Israeli and Palestinian concerns raised over the past year. At its core are Arab concerns relating to "settlement" expansion and Israel's desire to delay further redeployment.

US envoy Dennis Ross was to arrive Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PLO chairman Yasir Arafat. Further substantive negotiations between the sides are scheduled in Washington from Oct. 27-31.

On the agenda for Washington, according to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, are PA demands for Israel not to take unilateral steps that will affect the final status of the territories, implementation of further Israeli redeployment, security cooperation against terrorism and completing the work of nine committees currently discussing issues relating to previous agreements.

Netanyahu voiced optimism before Ross arrived, but stressed there would be no let-up in the battle against terrorists "who seek our annihilation."

Speaking to Israel Radio, Netanyahu promised a "war to the death" against terrorist group: "The only way to fight terror -- there is no other way -- is to strike at it incessantly, every place, in order to sap its capabilities and undermine its belief it will achieve its aims."

Arafat's Quivering Lip: Photographers Warned Off

By ICEJ News Service

Media cameramen and photographers operating in the Palestinian Authority areas have been warned against taking close-up footage or photographs of PLO chairman Yasir Arafat.

According to the Israel Internet News Service, the order is believed to relate to Arafat's deteriorating health, which has been evident by facial tremors. The PLO has reacted angrily to media reports on his health, and speculation about a possible successor.

After fainting during an Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo on Sept. 19, Arafat, 68, said he feared he would not live until his 70th birthday, Time magazine reported.

An Egyptian foreign ministry official told Reuters Arafat had fainted during a heated exchange, while Israel's Channel 2 TV reported that he was stricken with a severe muscular disorder.

Conversion Law Row Reaches a Head

By ICEJ News Service

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week he would support a controversial legislative proposal which would recognize within Israel only conversions conducted by Orthodox religious authorities.

The bill, which has caused a storm among Conservative and Reform Jews in the US and elsewhere, was initiated by Orthodox political parties and passed its first reading in April.

Efforts are meanwhile continuing to find a compromise acceptable to the various Jewish movements. But Netanyahu said Friday he would support the conversion bill even if a compromise was not reached.

Further proposed legislation, which seeks to deny Reform and Conservative Jews representation in municipal religious committees in Israel is scheduled to be brought to the Knesset Oct. 27 for its first reading.

Israel Radio reported that Rabbi Amiel Hirsch, a Reform movement leader in the US, said that every decision by the Israeli government that denies the rights of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements will be viewed by US Jews as a direct attack on their Jewish identity. "We are entering a very difficult time with the prime minister and his government," he said.

Yassin: "Israel Must Disappear'

By ICEJ News Service

Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, recently released from a life sentence in Israel for terror-related crimes, has told a Swedish newspaper that "Israel must disappear." Yassin said a "two-state solution" -- the widely promoted view that Israel and an independent Palestinian Arab state should exist side-by-side -- was not acceptable.

The newspaper quoted Yassin as saying that even a small Israel located in Tel-Aviv was unacceptable to him. Yassin opposes the Oslo process, aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Israel freed him as part of a deal to have Jordan return two Mossad agents caught in Amman while trying to assassinate a Hamas official whom Israel had linked to recent suicide bombings in Jerusalem.

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