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>Israel Faxx
>JN Oct. 17, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 178

Tourism Dropping Rapidly

By IsraelWire

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 members.

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 economy.

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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