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>Israel Faxx
>JN Dec. 22, 1997, Vol. 5, Bo. 233

Egypt Stockpiling Unconventional Weaponry?

By IINS News Service

Israeli intelligence sources report Egypt is producing and storing the lethal VX nerve gas, in a manufacturing facility near Cairo. Jane's Foreign Report weekly stated Egyptian military exercises have Israeli military officials concerned over the possibility that Egypt might make a move in the Sinai, to coincide with a major deterioration in the peace process with the PA. The report is based on the type of military exercises being carried out.

Netanyahu-Arafat Exchange Words

By Mark Lavie (VOA-Tel Aviv)

Israel's Cabinet Sunday continued its debate about how much West Bank land to turn over to the Palestinians, in accordance with an interim peace agreement. But the debate has been overshadowed by remarks by the Israeli prime minister, claiming the entire West Bank for Israel.

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks "dangerous." Netanyahu said he will not stop expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, despite Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's call for a suspension in construction there.

Netanyahu also laid Israel's claim to the West Bank. "We do not have a body of water separating Judea and Samaria, the West Bank from Israel proper. It is part of Israel proper. It is in the center of the country. It is our back yard."

Netanyahu said the West Bank is the source of the Jewish people and Jewish religion. It is not a new position. He and his backers believe all of the biblical Land of Israel, including the West Bank, belongs to Israel -- regardless of agreements committing Israel to handing over large parts of the West Bank to Palestinian civilian control.

The Cabinet Sunday continued its discussion of how to carry out that commitment. There is no enthusiasm for the commitment -- Netanyahu inherited the agreements from Israel's previous, more moderate government.

Speaking in Jerusalem, Netanyahu gave voice to his deepest beliefs. Beyond the technicalities of implementing an interim agreement with the Palestinians, he rejected the common belief Israel is just a foreign occupier in the West Bank and has no business being there. "Well first of all we should be there. It is our country. It is our land. It is our patrimony."

Arafat, visibly angry, said the Palestinian people would maintain their grip on the land. He said "We will free the land from Israeli occupation. The Palestinian state we create will have Jerusalem as its capital, and we will not allow the Israelis to turn it into a Jewish city."

Nachum Manbar Trial

By IINS News Service

Attorney Amnon Zichroni, who is defending Nachum Manbar, says he now has proof that Israel sold "civilian chemical materials" to Iran as late as 1995.

Manbar stands accused of selling materials to Iran, which he knew would be used to manufacture non-conventional weaponry. Zichroni maintains that he can now document the Ministry of Trade officials were also involved in sales to Iran, up to 1995.

The trial is taking place behind closed doors, due to the sensitive nature of the documentation being presented. According to Zichroni, his client is being charged with endangering the security of the state.

Chaya Peri, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry was quoted in a Dow Jones report as saying the ministry did not deal with Iran. "It does not trade with, buy from, or sell to Iran."

Ministry Contemplates Western Wall Tunnel Closure

By IINS News Service

In a move geared to prevent Jerusalem's homeless from sleeping in the Western Wall Tunnel, officials in the Ministry of Religious Affairs are contemplating closing off large sections of the tunnel adjacent to the Western Wall.

Since winter has hit Jerusalem, more and more of the city's homeless have made the Western Wall tunnel their shelter at night, to protect them from the elements.

Israel Will Confiscate Weapons from Israelis Supporting Terror

By IINS News Service

Israeli officials have committed themselves to confiscate weapons being held by Israelis who support or are connected in any way to terror activities against Arabs or the PLO Authority.

This was one of the clauses included in last week's agreement signed between the Israeli General Security Service (GSS/Shin-Bet) and its PA counterpart.

Security officials point out this is the first time that Israel has made such a commitment to a foreign body and which also permits the foreign body the right to express its opinion to Israeli authorities regarding the subject. Should a dispute arise between facts concerning individuals, the CIA will arbitrate between Israeli and PA security officials.

The CIA officials who attended the meeting last week composed a 13-article agreement, which details the measures to be taken to combat terrorism and the basis for the understanding between the two sides.

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