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>Israel Faxx
>JN Feb. 18, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 28

Netanyahu's American Vacation Ends

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned from his visit to the United States, only to face a host of domestic problems and still more tough decisions in the peace process.

In Israel's pressure-packed domestic politics, sometimes it seems that no prime minister ever has a quiet week. But this week looks to be even tougher than usual for Netanyahu, who faces defections from his ruling coalition and questioning by police investigators.

Akiva Eldar is a political columnist for the respected Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. "Perhaps President Clinton gave him a very good time in Washington. But he will have to pay for that. I mean, he had a great time in Washington, but now it's time to work and there are no free lunches in this area."

Several members of parliament who are part of Netanyahu's coalition have threatened to vote against him on key issues unless he immediately approves the start of construction for a new Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The prime minister supports such projects, but has delayed this one, apparently so as not to anger the Palestinians.

There are concerns the construction could spark renewed Palestinian unrest, as did an Israeli tourism project in east Jerusalem in September. But right-wing politicians are threatening the equally devastating removal of their support if Netanyahu does not go ahead.

While he ponders that dilemma, the prime minister must prepare to be questioned by police investigators this week. The police are investigating allegations that senior officials in his office conspired to manipulate the Israeli justice system.

Columnist Eldar says the scandal and the Jerusalem construction issues will be serious tests for Netanyahu, but he does not believe they will bring his government down -- the threat which is implicit in many of the statements made by his nominal political allies in recent days.

"I don't see the political interests leading to new elections. Netanyahu will not volunteer to call for new elections. He has got no interest. And I think that at the end of the day when his partners in the Likud will have to make their own calculation and to consider the alternative, they will realize that they are much better off with Netanyahu than with new elections." As if such domestic concerns were not enough to keep Netanyahu busy, he also faces key moments in Israel's peacemaking with the Palestinians and Syria. The Palestinians are pressuring him to implement several remaining aspects of existing agreements, including the opening of a Gaza airport. Talks on those issues began Sunday.

In addition, next month Israel is committed to make the first of three further withdrawals on the West Bank, the extent of which Netanyahu must determine with one eye on Palestinian and US reaction and the other on his already dissatisfied right-wing supporters in the Israeli parliament.

Also next month, Israel and the Palestinians are to resume a separate set of negotiations aimed at drafting a final peace treaty. Those talks are to tackle the most difficult Israeli-Palestinian issues, including Palestinian statehood, the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlements.

At the same time, the United States is pressing for renewal of the Israel-Syria peace talks. Netanyahu's Washington trip included some overture to Syria but also some tough talk about Israel's opposition to returning the Golan Heights. Syria has called Netanyahu's comments in Washington a disaster for the peace process.

It is almost never quiet around the prime minister's compound on a Jerusalem hilltop. But this week, the activity should be particularly frenetic and the lights will likely be on particularly late into the nights.

Israeli Training Plan Against AIDS, in Libya

An Israeli educational program against AIDS is being presented in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. The program, called "Youth Learns about AIDS," in Arabic, is based on an Israeli model called "The Immune System and the Disease of AIDS," shown in Israeli high schools since 1987. It was written by Dr. Yinon Shenkar, an expert in preventing AIDS among youth. Its adaptation into an Arabic context was done with the help of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

Two young Libyan doctors from Libya who participated in an international course on education to prevent AIDS were exposed to the Israeli model by instructors in an AIDS project in Jerusalem, who were invited to the course.

"The contact with the participants from Libya was extraordinary," instructor Hani Rozenberg reported. "Wonderful relations were established between us, of study and work. They were enthusiastic about the model developed in Israel and received a version of the training program in Arabic. In a phone conversation with them a week ago, one of the Libyan doctors said he is already using the system to teach in Tripoli."

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