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>PD OCT.4, 1994 V2, #180

Rabin Castigates Golan Settlers

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin says settlers in the Golan Heights must not stand in the way of a chance for real peace with Syria. Rabin spoke to a stormy opening session of parliament in Jerusalem, where he was repeatedly heckled by opposition members who accused him of abandoning Zionist ideals.

Rabin's remarks caused an uproar in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, which on Monday began its winter session. Addressing Israelis sent to live on the Golan Heights, Rabin asked, "If there is now a chance to end the wars, mustn't we take it?" But he added that only satisfactory security arrangements will allow Israel to take the chance of withdrawing.

He promised again that any significant change on the Golan would be presented to the public on a referendum. Public opinion polls show Israelis are almost evenly split over whether Israel should withdraw from the heights.

From the start of his speech, Rabin was heckled by opposition members who accused him of selling out the nation. One right-wing opposition member used a portable stereo system to play a recording of a speech Rabin made two years earlier, when he pledged that Israel would not relinquish the Golan Heights. The member was quickly expelled.

The prime minister declared that the new year may be a year of peace with the Palestinians and Israel's Arab neighbors. He said: in his words, "The telephone is ringing from Gaza, from Jericho, from Amman, from Damascus and Beirut. There is someone on the other end who is ready to talk peace. We were the most determined warriors in battle," Rabin declared, "Now we must prove to be the best at making peace. "

Opposition Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Rabin's speech by saying that Israel's military presence on the Golan Heights is what has prevented war with Syria. He accused the ruling Labor Party of abandoning the principles which had led to the creation of the state. At that point, Rabin and other top ministers then walked out of the chamber, although they later returned.

Rabin had originally planned to turn his speech and the opening of parliament into a vote of confidence for his government, but as a result of internal Labor Party disputes he dropped the proposal.

Peres and Hassan Meet in Washington

By David Borgida (Washington)

Israel and Jordan -- with the help of the United States -- have announced new agreements on joint ventures as they continue to work toward completion of a full peace treaty. The agreements were announced Monday following a White House meeting.

Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and President Clinton met for about an hour Monday, and afterward, they announced a series of Jordanian-Israeli joint ventures on the economy, the environment and on tourism.

Clinton said the new agreements represent what he called the building blocks for the future. "Promoting trade, development and cooperation rather than restraining and hindering normal economic relations should be the hallmark of the new Middle East -- and Jordan and Israel are leading the way."

Just two months ago, in another White House ceremony, Jordan's King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin proclaimed an end to more than 40 years of war between the two countries.

The two countries are still negotiating a full peace treaty, and though there was some speculation it was near completion, talks still remain, with completion believed to be months away. Still, senior US officials say the agreements announced Monday "exceeded US expectations."

These US officials sought to assure reporters after Monday's announcement negotiators seeking this Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty are continuing the process of normalization of relations. And they said the two sides are seeking not just a treaty of peace, a political peace, but a treaty of friendship and cooperation.

Included in the agreements announced Monday are an opening for a new northern border crossing for third party nationals, and the convening of a conference on a possible canal project between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

The United States, according to senior officials here, will provide some financial help for these and other projects -- aid that will amount to thousands, not millions, of dollars.

Negotiators Discuss Palestinian Timetable

By Peyman Pejman (Cairo)

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met in Cairo to discuss a timetable for elections in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The timing of local elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was the main topic on the agenda for the Cairo talks.

Last month, the Palestinian National Authority said it wanted elections held by November. It also authorized Saeb Erakat, who heads the Palestinian team to the Cairo talks, to open nine voter-registration offices.

But, Israel is opposed to elections at that time. The Israeli government says the date is too soon, and accused the Palestinian authority of trying to pressure Israel on the issue.

Israel says it is against the idea because it believes the Palestinian Authority is still unable to properly administer the area, and control the Muslim fundamentalist Hamas group -- which has been attacking Israelis from self-rule areas.

The two negotiating teams also discussed a plan for Israel to complete the withdrawal of its troops from the West Bank. Israel says completing the pull-out from the West Bank will take a long time. It says the task is more difficult than withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and Jericho, because there are more Jewish settlements in the West Bank that need protection from Israeli security forces.

Iraqi Defectors Now in Israel

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

At least 35 former Iraqi soldiers who defected from the Iraqi army in the last two years wound up in Israel, where they were imprisoned as infiltrators. Now, Israel's Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction preventing the state from deporting the men, and requiring the authorities to prove why they should not be granted political asylum.

All of the Iraqis arrived in Israel via Jordan. In each of the cases, the men were picked up by Israeli troops as they were crossing the border and then were thrown into jail. The Israeli Interior Ministry issued deportation orders to all the men, maintaining that an unnamed Arab country is willing to take them in.

The Iraqis petitioned the Supreme Court two months ago, asking to be granted the status of refugees, and given political asylum. They are being represented by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which was asked to help them by the United Nations high commissioner for refugees.

Zvi Rish is the lawyer representing the men in court. He says that as signatory to the International Convention on Refugees Israel is obligated to help the men, although it is unclear whether the state is required to grant them permanent refuge. Rish argues that, at the very least, Israel should grant them temporary shelter and allow them to work, until a country is found which will take them in, and where their lives will not be in danger.

The names of the former Iraqi soldiers have not been published to protect relatives still in Iraq. Many of the men have managed to learn Hebrew while in prison. One man, interviewed on Israel Radio, explained why he and his fellow defectors fled to Israel. "Everyone knows we have had 13 years of war in Iraq and what it is like living there," he says. "I only want to live in a good place -- nothing else -- we are not thieves, we have not traded in drugs, so why are we sitting in prison?"

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the state to explain within 30 days why it should not prevent the expulsion of the Iraqis, whose deportation orders say they must leave the country by 1995.

Syria Says No to Golan Heights Compromise

By Elaine Johanson (United Nations)

Syria says it will not compromise on the Golan Heights. In remarks to the United Nations General Assembly Monday, Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara ignored an Israeli appeal last week for direct high-level meetings -- with the Golan issue still the sticking-point in the peace effort.

The Syrian foreign minister says his government wants peace. But he says it will accept no delays or compromises on the return of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured during the 1967 Middle East war. In his speech at the UN, al-Shara warned the peace process will be endangered if Israel demands too much.

Israel has indicated it might agree to a partial, phased withdrawal from the Golan. Syria wants it done immediately and completely before it would even discuss the possibility of normalizing relations. Syria also wants Israel to withdraw from south Lebanon, where Israel patrols the border to ward off attacks on its northern towns.

The Syrian foreign minister also criticized Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization, both of whom achieved partial accords with Israel. He said neither the PLO nor Jordan -- by making separate deals -- has been able to contribute toward a comprehensive peace.

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