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>Israel Faxx
>JN Jan. 14, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 7

Israel Asks Muslim Clerics to Tone Down Sermons

Israeli security officials have asked members of the Waqf -- the Muslim organization that administers the Temple Mount -- to temper their preaching at Friday prayers during Ramadan. Israel complained of incitement during prayers on the first Friday of the fast-month, saying the clerics had encouraged terrorism. Up to 200,000 Muslims attend Friday prayers at the Temple Mount mosques in Jerusalem's Old City during Ramadan.

Cabinet Prepares for Netanyahu's US Trip

The Israeli Cabinet meets Wednesday and Thursday to prepare the ground for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming trip to the US, where he will have to show progress on plans to cede further territory to the Palestinians.

The two main thrusts of the talks will relate to the scope and timing of the next Israeli withdrawal; and Israel's demands of the Palestinian Authority before it will carry out the pullback.

Wide differences remain over the size of the withdrawal: Israel offered to relinquish a further six to eight per cent of remaining Israel-controlled territory in Judea-Samaria; the PA is calling for around 40 per cent; the US says it expects a double-digit figure.

Israel has linked its willingness to carry out a withdrawal -- any withdrawal -- on the PA's honoring of Oslo commitments thus far unmet. Yediot ahronot reports that the four main demands are: the amendment of the PLO covenant to remove clauses calling for Israel's destruction; the dismantling of terror organizations operating in PA areas and transfer of wanted terror suspects to Israel; the reduction of the bloated PA "police force" to the numbers specified in signed agreements and the removal of terrorists from the force; and a halt to official PA activities in Jerusalem (which are illegal).

Netanyahu wants the withdrawal to follow a five-month waiting period, during which PA compliance of the accords would be monitored. He will present Israel's pre-redeployment requirements to US President Bill Clinton at the White House January 20. Netanyahu has also asked Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai to accompany him, and so to present a united front in the talks.

Meanwhile PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who will also meet Clinton later this month, has warned that the intifada (violent uprising which began in 1987 and was called off with the signing of the Oslo accords) would resume if Israel did not meet PA demands concerning the Israeli withdrawal.

The Israeli cabinet wants to nail down its security demands of the PLO, amid warnings by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu guerrillas may attack Israel before he meets President Clinton next week. "We are getting various signs of terrorist organizations planning to try to carry out attacks in Israel close to my trip to Washington, and we are taking steps accordingly."

Since the weekend Israeli troops and police have been on high alert because of fears of suicide bombings in urban areas or ambush shootings against West Bank settlers.

Hamas Cells Raided By Israelis and Palestinians

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli and Palestinian security forces report carrying out separate raids on hideouts of the militant Palestinian group "Hamas," where terrorist attacks were being planned.

The Palestinian Security Services say they confiscated 700 kilograms of explosives at a Hamas bomb factory in the autonomous West Bank city of Nablus. One Palestinian official described the large stash as "enough to blow up all of Israel."

Just a few hours before the Palestinian announcement, Israel said it had arrested several Hamas activists in still-occupied areas of the West Bank. Israel says information from those activists led to the bomb factory raid in Nablus, but the Palestinians say they had been investigating the site for some time. An Israeli statement says the Hamas cell had carried out several minor roadside attacks, and was planning larger operations in Israeli cities and settlements.

A concerted Palestinian crackdown on terrorism is the key condition Israel has set before it surrenders more territory to Palestinian control.

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