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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 27, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 73

Bush, Sharon Discuss Mideast Crisis

By Deborah Tate (VOA-White House)

President Bush has telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss the situation in the Middle East. The call came as two Israeli officials prepared to meet with members of the Bush administration in Washington next week.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says Bush and Sharon "discussed ways of securing peace in the region." Fleischer would not elaborate on the 10-minute call, which the president made from his ranch outside Waco, Texas, or say whether the president reiterated his call for the parties to exercise restraint.

As the spokesman put it, "Mr. Bush believes very strongly the only way to secure a lasting peace in the Middle East is for the violence first to stop. The president understands how difficult it is to engage in securing an agreement while there is bloodshed in the streets."

Bush made the telephone call as Israel marked 53 years of independence and as the Bush administration signaled it would step up diplomacy in the region.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, testifying before Congress Thursday, said the administration was working quietly behind the scenes to try to curb the violence in the Middle East and revive peace talks.

Toward that end, the White House announced that Bush would meet with Israeli President Moshe Katsav at the White House on May 30. Next week, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will meet with Powell and other U.S. officials.

Bush has already met with Sharon. But he has yet to invite Palestinian Authority chief Yasir Arafat to the White House. The president has put most of the responsibility for the violence on Arafat, and has indicated he wants to see a reduction in the bloodshed before a meeting with the Palestinian leader is arranged.

Earlier this week, Bush met with Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and assured him of his administration's commitment to the peace process. Several Arab leaders had expressed concern the United States was not engaged enough in the process, and feared there could be greater violence in the region as a result. Bush reiterated the United States would seek to "facilitate peace" not "force peace."

Israelis Celebrate Under Tight Security

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israelis celebrated Independence Day under tight security due to continuing clashes with the Palestinians. Prime Minister Sharon marked the day as Israelis marked the 53rd anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state,

Medical officials in the Gaza Strip said a Palestinian farmer working in a citrus grove was killed by gunfire from an Israeli army position. An Israeli army statement said the man was shot as he tried to cross the border. Health officials said another Palestinian died in an Egyptian hospital of wounds sustained during a clash with Israeli soldiers earlier this month.

The deaths came the day after an explosion killed four Palestinians in Gaza. Palestinians blamed Israel for the blast. An Israeli army spokeswoman denied any knowledge of the incident.

As Israelis celebrated Independence Day, the mood was dampened by fears of terrorist attacks. Soldiers and police stood watch in major cities, and many Israelis said they would avoid public celebrations. Israel also tightened its blockade of the West Bank and Gaza for the holiday.

Israel said the measure was needed for security reasons, but Palestinians said it amounted to a collective punishment that was strangling their fragile economy.

Palestinians call the birth of Israel their "Nakba," or catastrophe, because hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled their homes in the fighting that accompanied the creation of the Jewish state.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is expected to visit Cairo on Sunday to discuss a joint Egyptian-Jordanian initiative designed to reduce the violence and restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Peres is then scheduled to travel to the United States for meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top officials.

Palestinians are supporting the initiative, with cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath saying, "it might be a crack in the wall of darkness." Israel says modifications are needed before the plan can be used as a basis for negotiations. More than 485 people, mostly Palestinians, have died since the wave of violence began last September.

Israeli Humor
Virtual Jerusalem

Mama: "What do you think of Nazis?"
Papa: "They should all put their boots on backwards and get a bloody nose when they walk into themselves."

During the early part of the Hitler regime, prior to the infamous "Final Solution," German Jews taught their children to conform, outwardly, to Nazi customs, for the sake of survival.

One such Jew was teaching his young son how to conduct himself when eating in a restaurant where he might be observed by others. "When saying the blessing," he reminded the youngster, "the correct form of grace is 'Thank God and the Fuehrer.'"

"But suppose the Fuehrer dies?" queried the boy. "In that case, my son,"the father explained, "you just thank God."

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