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>Israel Faxx
>JN Dec. 26, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 236

Iran: U.S. Controlled by Zionists

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated on Iranian state-run radio, that the United States is "under the spell of the Zionists. The Zionist regime (Israel) is only part of the Zionist network that is controlled by capitalists in some countries around the world, including the United States."

All Ye Faithful Deserts Bethlehem

By Mark Lavie (VOA-Tel Aviv)

Christmas Day in Bethlehem finds the Palestinian city on the West Bank hoping for peace -- not just for Christmas but for business as well. Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, is back to normal. On Christmas Eve, it was packed with thousands of people. Now it's a parking lot again. Tour buses are arriving, bringing pilgrims and tourists to the city where Jesus was born. But Bethlehem merchant George Baboul says even though the city is crowded, he isn't selling much.

"It was very bad. Because most of the Manger Square here, the people were not Christians, you never find two percent who are Christians, the rest are Muslims, they came from Hebron, and they did some problems."

The church on Manger Square filled with worshippers Christmas morning. Most were local Palestinian Christians. The people here agree. Until there is peace and stability in the Middle East, many tourists will prefer to go somewhere else -- even on Christmas.

No Change in Israel's Nuke Policy

By Arutz-7 News Service

There has been no substantive change in Israel's nuclear policy or in its operational approach, as claimed by US officials who were quoted extensively in a recent newspaper report.

"That policy remains stable despite threats by Israeli leaders to take action against Iran if it acquires long-range surface-to-surface missiles and weapons of mass destruction."

An article published in the International Herald Tribune (Dec 19) noted that Israeli leaders had recently hinted that Israel might deploy its nuclear weapons in a "launch-on-warning" mode if and when Iran targeted it with missiles.

The paper quoted the head of Israel's atomic energy commission, Gideon Frank, as saying that Israel could only "give up its nuclear capability when it reaches a 'utopia' with its neighbors of the order of Argentina and Brazil." But Frank told Ha'aretz there had been "no change" in Israel's nuclear policy.

Year-Ender: West Bank '97

By Al Pessin (VOA-Hebron)

It has largely been a year of stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, except in the West Bank town of Hebron, which in January became the last of the Palestinian cities to gain autonomy. The autonomy was delayed because several hundred Israeli settlers live inside the city, and Israel held onto that area as a result.

Israeli soldiers block the road which passes in front of Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs -- a site holy to Muslims and Jews. The soldiers first say only Jews can go through, not foreigners and certainly not our Palestinian interpreter. Later, they say we can go through, but without our car or interpreter. We turn back.

The incident is indicative of the tension in this part of Hebron, near the cave and the compounds where Israeli settlers live. While life in much of the city appears normal, turn the wrong corner and you face an Israeli checkpoint and must prove you have the right to pass. For Palestinians, the result is often negative, and they describe their experiences as humiliating.

Hebron's Palestinian mayor, Mustafa Natche, says autonomy has improved life in his part of the city, but across the checkpoints things are as bad as ever.

The mayor says there cannot be real peace in Hebron until the settlers and the Israeli troops leave the city. The settlers' spokesman, David Wilder, says that will never happen.

"We've been told many times that there won't be peace in Hebron until there are no more Jews in Hebron. And we have no intentions of leaving. And we have no doubts that they will do whatever they have to do in order to try to see us out."

The fate of Israeli settlers, including those in Hebron is to be negotiated in the next and final phase of the peace process. But Israel's right wing government says it does not intend to remove any settlers even in a final settlement. Meanwhile, each side accuses the other of continuing unprovoked attacks.

In a way, Hebron is a microcosm of the West Bank -- Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled zones side-by-side, continuing friction and violence, and economic problems caused by Israeli security closures and peace process delays which stifle investment. But it is also a microcosm of the possibilities of the peace process -- self-rule for the Palestinians, a change of atmosphere and improved business, at least for some.

And in spite of the current nearly year-long deadlock in the peace process, Dandis says, he still hopes it can bring more positive changes to Hebron and the whole West Bank, and perhaps even Palestinian statehood -- but he says about half of his friends have given up that hope.

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