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>Israel Faxx
>JN July 8, 1999, Vol. 7, No. 123

Syrian Peace Talks on the Burner

By Scott Bobb (VOA-Jerusalem)

The government of Syria says it is ready to resume peace talks with Israel as soon as possible. The remarks issued by the Syrian Foreign Ministry Wednesday were in response to a call by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to end hostile relations between the two countries.

Syria offered to resume peace negotiations with Israel at the point they were ended, and said it would match every step toward peace made by the Israeli government.

In his inaugural speech Tuesday night, Barak called on all Arab leaders to join him in making peace in the region once and for all. In remarks directed at Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, Barak said they were tough and bitter enemies on the battlefield. But he said the time has come to build a peace that will ensure the future and security of their peoples, their children and their grandchildren.

Israeli government spokesman Moshe Vogel says despite the positive response by the Syrian government, he expects talks between Israel and Syria to be long and hard. "It's going to take both sides, both the Syrians and the Israelis, to move this thing forward."

Hebrew University political scientist Avraham Diskin believes a Syrian peace agreement will be more difficult than a Palestinian one because, he says, of Syria's insistence on the return of all the Golan Heights. "It all depends on territorial compromises and also on the security arrangements to which the Syrians might, after all, agree. But it will be more difficult."

No announcement has been made on formal contacts between the Syrian and Israeli governments. These are expected to begin more quietly and at lower levels than those with other Arab neighbors.

Rabin Memorial Foundation Money Used in Barak Campaign

By IsraelWire

According to a report in the daily Globes financial newspaper, millions of dollars that were donated to the "Rabin Alliance" non-profit organization, a registered charity in the United States, were used in the campaign to elect Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The transfer of funds according to the report took place about one-year ago.

Despite being a member of the board of the Rabin Alliance, Yuval Rabin, son of the late prime minister, was denied access to financial records despite repeated requests. One of the board members of the Rabin Alliance who played a key role in the prime minister's election is attorney Doron Cohen, Barak's brother-in-law. It was reported that Cohen refused to comply with requests by Rabin to review financial records and other documents, which provided a detailed accounting of the organization's activities.

Bridegroom Runs & Brother Fills In

By IsraelWire

The bridegroom reportedly got cold feet and fled shortly before he was scheduled to marry. His brother, not wishing to offend the bride, filled in and married her. The incident took place recently in an Arab village in northern Israel and is blamed for causing a feud between two families.

The groom, who is a member of a prominent family, decided not to tell his parents of his decision not to go through with the wedding. The last minute, while final preparations for the wedding feast were underway, the bridegroom fled, not wishing to offend the honor of his family by announcing he was backing out.

The parents decided the younger brother would fill in. The older brother, the original bridegroom, has still not returned home.

Arab Prisoner Complains: Tortured by Music

By IsraelWire

An Arab prisoner complained in court that his interrogators torture him with music. Nasser al-Atrash, 43, was arrested June 24 on suspicion of conspiring with an enemy organization, and of committing security offenses. Al-Atrash was held by the GSS (General Security Service/Shin-Bet) for eight days and will be held for an additional seven days by order of the Ashkelon Magistrate's Court.

Al-Atrash's lawyer appealed to the Beersheva District Court to order Al-Atrash released. He claimed that his client was brought to interrogation with his eyes covered and his hands and feet cuffed, and that between interrogation sessions he was not able to sleep because of music played at high volume.

The GSS opposed the request for release, and denied Al-Atrash's charges. They said that background music is played, by at normal volume, in order to keep prisoners from exchanging messages. In response to the appeal, the court ordered Al-Atrash released from custody.

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