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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     Sept. 18, 1995, V3, #171
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Libya, under intense pressure from other Arab states, has apparently stopped its expulsions of Palestinian workers. Libya now claims that those who have left the country over the last two weeks did so voluntarily. Four busloads of Palestinians about to cross into Egypt were ordered to turn back by Libyan authorities -- apparently signaling an end to the Libyan government's widely-condemned expulsion campaign.

Arafat-Peres Negotiations Continue

By David Gollust (VOA-Cairo)

In Egypt, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO leader Yasir Arafat are engaged in marathon negotiations on the expansion of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank. They have been hoping to be able to initial an agreement that could be signed at White House ceremonies Thursday -- but serious disagreements remain.

The two sides have been engaged in virtually non-stop negotiations since early Sunday at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba. But there has been no breakthrough on the issue blocking the way to the next stage of Palestinian autonomy -- security arrangements for Hebron.

With about 450 Jewish settlers living among more than 100,000 Palestinians, Hebron has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence. It is the site of the tomb of the biblical Patriarch Abraham -- holy to both Muslims and Jews -- where a settler gunned down 29 Arab worshippers last year.

While Israel is committed under a second stage of Palestinian self-rule to pull its forces out of Arab population centers in the West Bank, it has been insisting on a continuing security presence in Hebron because of the settlers.

Israel is reported to have presented new proposals at Taba providing for a phased force withdrawal from most areas of the city -- but calling for an indefinite presence around the settlements and on access routes to them.

Reaction from the Palestinian side has been unenthusiastic. The mayor of Hebron, Mustafa Natche, says Palestinians will reject any formula that will not allow Hebron to be treated like other Arab towns. Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani said the PLO delegation will not be pressured into accepting a bad agreement merely to keep a Thursday date at the White House.

Israeli officials have said if the remaining points in the 300-page draft agreement cannot be resolved quickly and the Thursday target is missed, further negotiations will have to be put off until mid-October because of a series of Jewish holidays.

That could in turn force the postponement of Palestinian elections that officials have hoped could be held before the end of the year. Agreement on phase-two of the autonomy process is already more than one-year behind schedule.

Hebron: The Who, What and Why

By Al Pessin (VOA-Hebron)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are focusing on arrangements for the West Bank town of Hebron as they try to clear the way for the expansion of Palestinian autonomy. The situation in Hebron is particularly complex because some 450 Israeli settlers live in the middle of town, and the city is a center for militants on both sides of the conflict.

Most of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are on hilltops, some in rural areas and some adjacent to Palestinian cities. But the Hebron settlement is in four buildings in the center of the city. Jewish teenagers swagger through town wearing kipot on their heads and automatic rifles over their shoulders, protected by hundreds of Israeli soldiers.

Arab residents resent the inconveniences, the economic costs and the humiliation they feel, being unable to expel the settlers or end the military occupation. And many Hebron Palestinians are, in any case, politically militant -- opposing the decision by the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, to live alongside Israelis. They want to retake all of the land for a Palestinian state.

The Israeli settlers are equally militant, claiming all of the West Bank is Jewish land and the Palestinians can live there only as second-class citizens. The 450 Jewish settlers in Hebron are barely willing to accept the right of the city's 120-thousand Palestinians to live there, the Palestinians are equally insistent that the settlers move out.

Hebron's Palestinian mayor, Mustafa Natshe, wants the Israeli army out of Hebron and the remaining settlers disarmed so the Palestinian police can maintain order. Israel will not accept that, and a series of proposed compromises -- including a partial withdrawal -- have so far been rejected by one side or the other. He says further delays could have dangerous consequences.

The only compromise he is willing to offer is an international force of some sort so the settlers do not have to be protected directly by the Palestinian police. But the settlers will not even hear of such arrangements on what they consider Jewish territory, and some have threatened to form their own defense force and even to attack the Palestinian police if they appear in Hebron. With these two diametrically-opposed viewpoints living side-by-side in Hebron, it is little wonder the issue has been difficult to solve. An Israeli newspaper quoted Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as saying it is like trying to make eggs from an omelette.

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