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>JN Oct. 17, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 178
Tourism Dropping Rapidly
Tourism industry officials report that as a result of the Arab
violence throughout Israel, tourism has dropped 30 percent in the
past two weeks, with increasing notifications of cancellations.
Tourism officials believe the current trend due to US State
Department and British Foreign Office travel advisories will
continue into next year. Officials report that domestic travel is
also down, particularly vacation resorts in the north.
Summit Under Way at Scuba Vacation Paradise,
Clinton Delays his Return to America
By Scott Bobb (VOA-Sharm El-Sheikh)
President Bill Clinton has "indefinitely postponed" his departure
from the Middle East peace summit, continuing efforts to broker an
agreement between top Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
At the opening of the summit, Clinton urged Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat to "move
beyond blame" and end violent confrontations that have all but
scuttled the peace process.
Foreign ministers at the emergency Middle East summit in the former
Israeli resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, now part of Egypt, are trying to
draft a document aimed at ending the violence between Palestinians
and Israelis. The negotiations came during a day of intense
summitry that has been marred by a resurgence of the violence the
meeting is seeking to stop.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President Bill Clinton held
separate -- but what were called substantive -- meetings Monday
evening with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian
leader Yasir Arafat.
Members of the various delegations told reporters they were trying
to bridge considerable differences and a climate of distrust
between Palestinian and Israeli delegations following weeks of
violence in which more than 100 people have been killed.
Palestinian delegates are insisting that Israel withdraw its troops
from recently occupied areas and accept an international inquiry
into what caused the violence. Israeli delegates say they will
accept only a commission of Israeli, Palestinian and American
Israeli spokesman Nachman Shay said a ceasefire agreement would
make the summit a success. But he said there are no plans to resume
the peace negotiations at this meeting.
"We need confidence. We would like to renew the confidence between
us and the Palestinians because so much of that was lost in the
last three weeks. And we would like to go and work back with our
neighbors, with the Palestinians, on peace and to really foster
peace between us and them."
Mubarak opened the summit warning there is a risk of the violence
spreading across the Middle East if the leaders do not find a way
to stop the clashes.
The Egyptian president called on the leaders not to allow
desperation and chaos to take over and destroy what has been
achieved with so much difficulty. Clinton said the summit should
end the violence, agree on ways to ensure it never happens again,
and to restart the peace negotiations.
"The future of the peoples involved here and the future of the
peace process and the stability in the region are at stake. We
cannot afford to fail here."
Clinton said the parties must move beyond blame and focus on
disengagement and confidence-building measures in order to rebuild
the bonds of trust.
Clashes Continue, Palestinians Blame Israelis
By Meredith Buel (VOA-Bethlehem, West Bank)
As world leaders met in Egypt in an effort to end more than two
weeks of violence between Israel and Palestinians, clashes have
again erupted across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hospital
officials in Bethlehem said at least two people were dead and
dozens injured in clashes that in recent weeks have killed about
100 people, mostly Palestinians.
Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus' birth, looks like a war
zone with Palestinian protesters hurling rocks and Israeli soldiers
firing back with tear gas and rubber coated metal bullets. The
smell of tear gas hangs heavy in the air, and most restaurants and
shops are closed.
Bethlehem depends on tourism to keep its economy going, but large
buses loaded with Christian pilgrims are being turned away at an
Israeli checkpoint at the town's main entrance. The streets leading
to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity are virtually
deserted as worried residents remain inside. Except for where the
clashes are taking place, Bethlehem has the look of a ghost town.
There were reports of violence throughout the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, including exchanges of live fire between Israeli soldiers
and Palestinian gunmen. The violence and the Israeli army's closure
of the territories are taking a major toll on the Palestinian
Bethlehem is the main tourist attraction in the Palestinian
territories. The Palestinians and western donors spent $200 million
to prepare the town for numerous events designed to coincide
with the new millennium.
The spokesman for the Bethlehem 2000 project, Miguel Murado, says
many events have now been canceled because of the fighting. "It is
a very sad thing. It is terrible. It will have, for sure, affects
in the flow of tourists coming to Bethlehem and the image of
the Palestinian territories. But I don't think this is really,
although this is very painful, and we worked very hard in this
field and for us is really very, very sad. But I don't think this
is the worst of all. The worst of all is the effect on the
Palestinian people in Bethlehem themselves."
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