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>>JN April 27, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 78

Are Israeli-Palestinian Talks On-Track?

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Middle East mediator Dennis Ross is back in the region for a series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials -- as they prepare for an important round of talks in London next Monday.

Ross has been working for more than a year to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a series of issues -- most importantly: further Israeli withdrawals on the West Bank and Palestinian security measures. The problems he has encountered remain, but with the London meetings arranged by British Prime Minister Tony Blair coming up, there is some hope for movement.

The Palestinians say the coming week, or so, could either be a new start for the peace process or could mark its final collapse. Israel refuses to put such dramatic definitions on any round of talks, but there are some indications of a possible new willingness to compromise.

As always, the difficulty is in the details, and it is Ross' job to try to work out those details as he renews his familiar Gaza-Jerusalem shuttle.

Editorial: Israel Independence Anniversary

By the Voice of America

Israelis are celebrating a half century of independence. In a message of congratulations, President Bill Clinton pointed out that Israel arose in May 1948 "from the seeds of the diaspora and the ashes of the Holocaust."

While Jews had long dreamed of returning to their biblical homeland, the Zionist movement that led to Israel's creation began in the 19th century. In 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration. That document promised to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, which had come under British control in the First World War. In 1946, after the Second World War, the area east of the Jordan River became the Kingdom of Jordan. And in November 1947, the United Nations proposed that the smaller area west of the Jordan River be partitioned into Jewish and Palestinian states...

When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, the first country to recognize it was the United States. Some advisers had urged President Harry Truman to wait before recognizing the new nation. But as President Clinton said, Truman "had a deep understanding of the suffering and dreams of the [Jewish] people from biblical times through modern times. He saw the moral imperative in supporting a Jewish homeland."

Over the last 50 years, as President Clinton said, "Israel has seen blood and tears. But there have also been extraordinary triumphs -- making a once barren desert bloom, building a thriving democracy on hostile terrain, winning battles and now waging the most important struggle of all, the struggle for a lasting and secure peace." President Clinton said he is "proud that America and Israel have been -- and will remain -- the closest of friends and allies. America wishes [Israel] a joyous celebration and a peaceful and prosperous future."

Netanyahu; Allies Could've Stopped Auschwitz Killing

By IINS News Service

Addressing the participants of the March of the Living at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the allied forces could have stopped the murder of Jews if they only would have bombed the rail-lines leading to the camp.

"The actions of this place could have been stopped in one bombing raid. They knew. Why did they not destroy this place?" Netanyahu said.

About 7,000 Jews from around the world were among those taking part in the march that has been held annually at Auschwitz since 1988 in memory of the Six Million Jews killed by the Nazis.

At Birkenau, where the names of thousands of murdered Jews were read out, Netanyahu said: "With a trembling heart I tread on this cursed ground of Auschwitz and Birkenau where the spilled blood of the victims cries from every crack. With heavy heart and bowed head, but with an upright back, because the Israeli flag flies behind me. One million children were killed here, one million mothers and fathers, our mothers and fathers, our uncles and aunts who we never knew. From where you are now - look how the blue and white flag flies here. And in the middle the Star of David. But, unlike your own yellow badge, it is no longer a symbol of shame.

"The actions of this place could have been stopped in one bombing raid. They knew, why did they not destroy this place? Because in those days this flag had no state. The Jewish people had no army of its own to protect its rights. From the ashes and sacrifice of this place the State of Israel arose and the people of Israel now have a home, a flag and an army."

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