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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     May 17, 1995, V3, #91
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Arabs Want UN Condemnation of Israel

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo)

Arab League Secretary-General Esmet Abdel Meguid is in Morocco to talk with King Hassan about organizing an Arab summit to unify Arab response against Israel's latest land confiscation in east Jerusalem. Arab states have condemned the decision and are lobbying for a tough resolution in the UN Security Council.

Abdel-Meguid says he is gathering support for a mini-summit of the Arab League to reconfirm Arab and Islamic rights to Jerusalem. Arab states are furious over Israel's confiscation of what they say is Arab land in east Jerusalem and want to unify their response. Arab leaders have condemned the action as a violation of international law and the 1993 Palestinian Autonomy deal.

The opposition press in Egypt calls on Arab states to stop any efforts to normalize relations with Israel. Earlier in the week, Jordanian politicians warned that the Israeli action could damage bilateral relations in spite of the peace treaty signed last year.

The explosive issue of Jerusalem's final status is not supposed to be put on the negotiating table before next year. But the Palestinians complain that Israel has been slowly changing the city's demographics by increasing the Jewish population in traditional Arab areas.

Israel sees the Holy City as its undivided capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli-Syrian Talks in Deep Freeze

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin says talks with Syria are, in effect, frozen, and Israel's chief negotiator with Syria has denied reports that the United States is trying to break the deadlock with a proposal of its own.

Rabin told a committee of the Israeli parliament Tuesday he will not accept Syria's demand for equal security arrangements on each side of their border. Rabin said if Syria does not change its position there will be no progress toward peace.

Israeli officials say they cannot remove or reduce forces in as large an area as Syria can because Israel is so much smaller than Syria. But Syria's foreign minister said in Washington Monday Israel must do so because its armed forces are so much stronger than Syria's. On Tuesday, the Syrian government newspaper

criticized earlier comments by Rabin, in which he said Israel wants
peace with Syria  but  not  at what he called "any price."  The
newspaper called that remark a continuation of "Israeli obstinacy."

Meanwhile, Israel's chief negotiator with Syria has denied reports that US officials have given Syria a proposal of their own for bridging the gap on security arrangements. Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich told Israeli army radio there is no such proposal.

Sinai Border Divides Palestinian Families

By Laurie Kassman (Rafah, Sinai)

Next Monday, the first four of 70 Palestinian refugee families will cross the border into Gaza near the north Sinai desert town of Rafah to return home after spending some 13 years stranded on the wrong side of the border. Ever since Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, more than 4,000 Palestinians from Gaza have been living in the (so-called) Canada Refugee Camp on the Egyptian side of the border, waiting to be repatriated. Their story is one of bureaucratic and political snags and a lack of money.

A barbed-wire fence and 40 meters of no-man's land have separated Egypt and Israel since the 1979 peace treaty. The border split the Sinai town of Rafah in two. Nearly 5,000 Palestinian refugees were stranded in Egypt.

The Palestinians were moved to Canada Camp in 1971 when the Israeli military destroyed their homes to widen the streets of Rafah. Israel then controlled the Sinai (and all of Rafah), and simply moved the Palestinians to the other side of town. After the new border fence went up in 1982, they were told they would return to Gaza in six months.

Israel promised to provide land and Egypt pledged to pay each family $12,000 to help build new homes in Gaza.

Ron Wilkinson, spokesman for UNRWA -- the UN relief agency that deals with Palestinian refugees -- says a lack of money and political will stalled the mission from the start.

The agreement stipulates that families cannot move until their new homes are built. Some say $12,000 compensation is not enough. Many families borrow or try to do most of the work themselves.

Each week the head of the family is allowed to cross the border with two family members to work on the houses. The 70 families now scheduled to move this month started the process more than a year ago.

The next batch of 35 families will not be allowed to start their processing until the 700 people in this group all have been resettled.

Twenty-seven-year-old Ibrahim teaches English in the camp school while he waits for his family's turn to go home. He knows it will be hard to find work in Gaza but he is tired of living in what he calls a waiting room. Ibrahim and his extended family of 20 are not on the list yet and he does not know when his time will come.

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