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>Israel Faxx
>JN July 15, 1999, Vol. 7, No. 128

81-Year-Old Charged with Raping 70-Year-Old Blind Victim

By IsraelWire

An 81-year-old resident of Hadera is being charged with the rape of a 70-year-old blind woman. The case is being heard in the Tel Aviv District Court. The prosecution added that following the attack, the assailant did not return the victim's clothing and therefore, she was unable to find them.

Barak Meets Today with Clinton

By David Gollust (VOA-White House)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is in Washington for talks Thursday with President Clinton. The administration is hoping to see momentum in Middle East peace-making renewed after the near-stalemate under former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The talks are described as get-acquainted sessions but will be intense, with two days of meetings and an unusual overnight stay by the two leaders at the Camp David presidential retreat. US officials are optimistic about peace prospects under Barak, but lukewarm about his proposal to by-pass the Wye River interim agreement and going straight to final-status negotiations with the Palestinians.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart says both sides would have to accept the idea: "Our government would have no objection if both parties agreed that they could move forward. Without both parties agreeing, we believe that both parties should implement the components of Wye that they agreed to."

Palestinians want the US brokered Wye deal fulfilled, including an Israeli withdrawal from another 13 percent of the West Bank, before opening final-status talks.

Barak surprised some officials with pre-departure comments that he favors downgrading the heavy mediation role the United States has played in the Middle East peace process.

Lockhart says the administration sees nothing negative in the remarks, and has no intention of trying to impose the terms of a settlement on the parties:

"We believe that our traditional role is to facilitate and to try to play the role as a broker. But it's up to the parties to come to an agreement. I think our role at times has become more hands-on, particularly recently, as the level of mistrust between the parties grew. But it's certainly our hope, and I think there's some early evidence, that the parties can build a relationship of more trust where we can play the traditional role that this government has normally played."

US officials have made no secret about their satisfaction over Barak's election victory in May, and their optimism about progress in peace-making with Barak after three years of virtual stalemate under Netanyahu.

U.N. Meeting Focuses on Alleged Israeli Human Rights Violations

By Paula Wolfson (VOA-Capitol Hill)

A controversial UN sponsored meeting is prompting shouts of protest on Capitol Hill. The session -- which opens Thursday in Geneva -- will focus on alleged Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza. Many lawmakers see the meeting as a sign of Israel's mistreatment by the United Nations.

The impending conference struck a raw nerve in the House of Representatives. Members of the International Relations Committee called a hearing on the matter. And despite their political differences on other issues, they all condemned the Geneva meeting.

Steve Rothman, D-NJ, summed up the feeling on the panel. "It is no secret that the UN has been plagued by a virulent strain of anti-Israel fever ever since Israel was born and ever since the UN began. The UN has presented itself to the world as a bastion of equality -- except when it comes to the State of Israel.

State Department officials told the committee they are doing all they can to block the meeting, but they indicated they are having little luck convincing others to join in a boycott.

Nebraska Republican Doug Bereuter says it may be time for the United States to try some new tactics at the United Nations. He says maybe there are steps Congress can take to resolve one problem: Israel's inability to find a home in any of the regional groupings at the UN.

Other committee members warned that the United Nations' treatment of Israel could make it more difficult to convince US lawmakers to pay America's arrears to the world body.

Earlier this week, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution stressing its objections to the UN meeting. The gathering was ordered by the General Assembly in February. The session was called under the auspices of the fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the treatment of civilians in occupied territories.

Originally, it was thought the meeting might result in some sort of sanctions, or at least provide a lengthy forum for condemnation of Israel. Now, there are indications the session may be quite brief, and could be restricted to a few hours of formal remarks and a joint written statement.

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