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>Israel Faxx
>JN Sept. 19, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 161

Israeli Olympic Medal Hopeful Lands Last Position

Israel Faxx Staff Report

Israel's hope for a gold medal in the swimming competition vanished Monday morning when Eitan Orbach finished in eighth and last place in the men's backstroke finals. His time was 53.72. Orbach had broken the Israeli record for back-stroke swimming in Sydney Sunday, and became the first Israeli swimmer to reach the Olympic finals.

Foreign Minister Sees Peace Breakthrough

By Breck Ardery (VOA-United Nations)

Israel's Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, said Monday that a breakthrough in Middle East peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians is still possible.

In an emotional speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Ben-Ami said negotiations between his government and the Palestinians have turned a "sea into a river." Now, the minister says the question is "do we have the courage and determination to cross it?"

Ben-Ami said Prime Minister Ehud Barak has touched the "outer limits of his options" during negotiations and that both Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat should be mindful of the judgment of history.

"I do not underestimate the dilemmas of Chairman Arafat, the great leader of the Palestinian people, and I know that decisions are not easy for him either. But this is the destiny of leaders to always be prophets without honor. They should not expect the applause of their constituencies. What really matters is the judgment of future generations."

Ben-Ami says Israel has the greatest respect for Islam and its holy places in Jerusalem but he also says Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem are "at the heart of Judaism."

Speaking to reporters after his speech, Ben-Ami said that Israeli-Palestinian contacts are continuing. Although he refused to provide details, he said a number of interesting ideas are being exchanged and that now is the time to "double our efforts."

Barak Rejects Islamic Sovereignty Over Temple Mount

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is rejecting a Palestinian proposal to allow Islamic sovereignty over a key Jerusalem religious shrine holy to Muslims and Jews.

Barak told members of his cabinet that Israel opposes the transfer of sovereignty of an important religious site to any Islamic group, closing the door on a compromise proposal made by Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are currently stalled because of the sovereignty dispute over the shrine known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Haram al-Sharif).

The compound was once the site of the Jewish Temples, and two major mosques mark the place where tradition says the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The Palestinians are insisting on sovereignty over east Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy places. Arafat says the only other option he is willing to consider is to hand sovereignty over the Noble Sanctuary to a group of Islamic countries.

Barak told his cabinet ministers that "Israel not only opposes the transfer of sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians, but completely rules out the possibility of transferring sovereignty to any Islamic body."

The prime minister says that despite ongoing contacts, there have been no worthy developments and no movement in the Palestinian positions regarding the peace negotiations. He says it is still not clear whether the Palestinians are ready to make decisions and conclude an agreement.

Barak has indicated in the past he is open to creative ideas on the sovereignty issue, as long as control is not given to the Palestinians.

Arafat is insisting Israel transfer control of all land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, to the Palestinians.

Both sides are accusing each other of backtracking on verbal compromises reached during the US sponsored summit last July at the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington.

That summit ended with the deadlock over the future of Jerusalem. Negotiators say other major issues remain to be resolved, such as the borders of a possible Palestinian state, the status of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and the future of Palestinian refugees.

Israel and the Palestinians missed a self-imposed deadline earlier this month for reaching an agreement on a final peace accord.

Rabin Vase on Sale -- Once Again

By Arutz-7

The Internet auction site (category: silver) is offering for sale what it calls a "scandalous silver vase" that was given to then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in 1992 by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. The vase, which was considered State property, was originally "traded" by Rabin's widow Leah at HaTzorfim silver factory for other items, and has since changed hands several times. A national scandal arose in 1996 when the vase was first put up for sale, as all gifts to public officials belong to the State - and not to the family of the recipient.

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