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>Israel Faxx
>JN May 26, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 96

Netanyahu Leaves for China; Arafat for Saudi Arabia

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem), Mark Lavie (VOA-Tel Aviv)

A member of Israel's Cabinet says it unanimously supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his rejection of a US peace plan. As a result, the Palestinians are seeking an Arab summit to take diplomatic action against Israel. Netanyahu left on a previously-scheduled trip to China Monday.

There are several aspects to Israel-China relations. Officials, however, like to talk about economic ties and trade while admitting to political differences. They prefer not to talk about military cooperation and sales.

Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Katsav said the Cabinet supports Netanyahu on the West Bank pullback, and unanimously rejects the US proposal for a 13 percent Israeli withdrawal. Israeli officials say such a withdrawal would endanger Israeli security. Netanyahu's rejection of the US plan has led to a crisis in the peace process, and continuing efforts to find a compromise.

Israeli news reports say there is a new idea on the negotiating table -- an 11 percent withdrawal now and a promise of 4 percent more later. But that would also go beyond what the Cabinet has formally approved. The reports say US mediators want Israel's answer by the end of the week, but there is no official confirmation of a deadline.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia Monday, apparently to seek Saudi agreement for an Arab summit on the peace process. Palestinian officials say Arab countries have agreed to re-examine their relations with Israel if the peace process remains deadlocked.

Israel's closest friends in the Arab world, Egypt and Jordan, are reported to have already agreed to attend such a summit, with possible diplomatic moves against Israel on the agenda.

The idea is to impose a cost on Netanyahu for his refusal to accept the peace plan. Israel says such a move would be counter-productive and that the way to peace is through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, rather than through mediator proposals or international conferences.

Relative to the size of the market, Israel's trade with China is minuscule. Last year, trade totaled $277 million, according to the Israeli Ministry of Commerce. Israel exported a total of $71 million worth of chemicals, fertilizer, electric and electronic products and medical supplies, while importing $206-million worth of machinery, electric supplies, metals, chemicals, rubber, plastic, textiles and footwear.

Government spokesman Moshe Fogel says one goal of the prime minister's trip is to increase Israel-China commerce. "There are different areas in which Israel is looking for cooperation in the economic field with China."

Israel and China have had formal diplomatic relations for only six years, and their foreign policies are often at odds. China tends to support Arab arguments in the Israel-Arab conflict, and Israel is critical of China's record on human rights. Fogel sees this as only part of the picture.

"We don't agree with some of the policies of the People's Republic of China; they don't agree with some of our policies, but at the same time, I think it bodes well for the future that we can find areas, specifically in the economic area, where we can cooperate, and I think these type of ties should be encouraged."

When the Israeli Ministry of Commerce says Israel-China trade totals less than $300 million a year, that is only part of the picture -- the part officials talk about. There have been reports over the past two decades about military cooperation between Israel and China -- unconfirmed reports about billion-dollar deals, with Israel selling China everything from aircraft technology to tank cannons.

After years of denying everything, the Israelis are singing a slightly different tune now. Fogel does not deny that Israel and China have military dealings, but he will not go into specifics.

"I think that Israel, just as any other country that has an indigenous capability of manufacturing weapons, cannot only supply weaponry to its domestic market. It has to look outside. We believe there are certain areas where we can cooperate, specifically in the economic areas, but sometimes also in other areas."

The Israelis insist that, in their dealings with China, they follow the lead of the United States. From time to time, the US has suspected otherwise. There have been charges that Israel illegally transferred US weapons technology to China. But the Israelis say that investigations have never disclosed wrongdoing on their part.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Israel was created as a socialist state and was transformed into a quasi-capitalist nation. Is it possible that Israel is instructing the PRC into how the transformation took place in Israel?)

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

By IINS News Service

The kosher-eating baseball fans in New York City may now join the crowd, while attending a New York Mets or Yankees ballgame. Beginning this season, the Star K catering concern of New York is selling strictly-kosher glatt hot dogs, for those fans who no longer want to just be a spectator at the ball game.

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