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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      July 14, 1995, V3, #129
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Ross Does a 1-2 Shuttle to Damascus and Jerusalem

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

US Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross has made an extra trip to Syria on his current mission in an effort to overcome an apparently new problem which is blocking the resumption if Israel-Syria peace talks.

Ross met afterwards with Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then returned to Washington. His hastily-arranged trip earlier Thursday to Damascus came after an apparently new problem emerged from his talks Wednesday in Syria and Israel.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry would not say what the problem is, or how serious it is, but a spokesman says it was presented when Ross returned Wednesday from Damascus. The spokesman says the negotiations with the Syrians are very sensitive and all things must be arranged properly before each stage.

The senior military officers of the two countries met last month, and lower-level military talks were expected to be held soon on the details of security arrangements that would be part of any peace accord.

Rabbi Lau: Ruling to Disobey Orders Could Destroy the Country

The debate stirred up by Wednesday's rabbinic decree continued Thursday as both Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi Yitzhak Lau and Shas leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef condemned the ruling calling on IDF soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate bases in the territories.

Lau rejected the ruling, saying that disobeying orders was inconceivable. The breakdown of discipline is liable to bring about the destruction of the country and the Jewish people.

Yosef, a former Chief Sephardic Rabbi, also strongly attacked the decision and said that if it was not retracted, anarchy and civil war could ensue. Yosef said the decree was not the way of Torah and called on the rabbis of Israel to condemn the ruling.

The Military Rabbinate also weighed in against the ruling, saying illegal orders were not at issue, and that every soldier is obligated to obey commands -- as in all democracies.

The ruling, which was issued by the Union of Rabbis for the Land of Israel, expanded on a previous decree requiring soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced Wednesday that the government's legal counsel would investigate and issue a legal opinion on the ruling.

Editorial Comment

All of the papers comment on the ruling by a group of rabbis for soldiers to disobey orders to dismantle IDF bases and settlements in Judea and Samaria and/or the call by some settler leaders for a campaign of civil disobedience to resist Government policy in Judea and Samaria; two, in light of yesterday's confrontation near the Gush Etzion community of Efrat:

Davar fears that the rabbis' ruling, "is liable to mark the start of a deep rift in the people, and perhaps even the beginning of a civil rebellion," yet points out the rabbis who signed the ruling, "do not now represent the entire spectrum of opinion among religious-Zionist Jews in Israel, including among the settlements."

Ma'ariv says that the rabbis' ruling, "destroys the bridge that religious Zionism has built -- in a labor of generations -- between the secular and Torah worlds," and fear that a crisis is developing which may, "lead to a split in the people, and even bloodshed." The paper says that Likud MK's Binyamin Netanyahu and Benny Begin, "deserve praise for rejecting the ruling on the grounds that it is anti-democratic," and condemn those who would use religious arguments, "to ignite the conflagration of civil war between Jews."

Yediot Ahronot notes that whereas only 15 rabbis signed the ruling, "a larger number of rabbis, and the spokespersons of almost all of the political parties," have registered their disagreement. The paper points out that the situation has hardly deteriorated to the point where, "it is necessary to summon the faithful to the barricades," and, "hopes that the storm of emotions will subside in another day or two, on the condition that those who are behind the initiative do not do anything to rekindle it with excessive provocations."

Ha'aretz praises the police for, "acting determinedly and aggressively," but, "without using excessive force," in (Wedmesday's) confrontation near Efrat, and believes that, "the message from yesterday's events is that the Government will not lose control of the situation." The editors state that the rabbis' ruling, "severely undermines Israel's democratic norms," but remind their readers that, "there are still rabbis who oppose harnessing religious law to a political struggle."

The editors add that Likud Chairman MK Binyamin Netanyahu's quick rebuke of those Likud MK's who believe that merely hinting at violating the law will deter the Government, "will aid in the preservation of democracy and orderly administration in Israel." The paper says that the Government, "must take strict care that the law is respected, and has the responsibility to implement it, even in a politically charged atmosphere," and adds that, "what the Government does now, with reasonable determination, is likely to reduce both the scale and trend of violent confrontation in the future."

Ma'ariv's editors state that, "those who believe that their cause justifies any action and any sacrifice, are dangerous to the public," and believe that, "the sparks of civil rebellion must be extinguished with large firehoses, before the fire spreads."

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