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>Israel Faxx
>JN Vol. 10, No. 36, Feb. 27, 2002

Bush Welcomes Saudi Peace Initiative

By VOA News

President George W. Bush has welcomed a Saudi initiative for Middle East peace. Bush phoned Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah Tuesday to discuss the initiative. A White House spokesman said Bush praised the ideas regarding full Arab-Israeli normalization once a comprehensive peace agreement is reached.

But the spokesman also said Bush believes the step towards Palestinian-Israeli peace should be the implementation of proposals already on the table to end the violence.

The Saudi crown prince, who is his nation's de-facto ruler, floated a proposal in The New York Times last week offering Arab diplomatic recognition of Israel and normal relations if it withdraws from all land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, including the Old City of Jerusalem. The crown prince said he was withholding formal presentation of the plan because of recent Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said the Saudi plan contained positive elements and should be encouraged. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, during talks in France, hailed the Saudi initiative as a positive development. He said Saudi Arabia, for the first time, is openly taking the side of the peace process in the Middle East.

Secretary of State Colin Powell described the Saudi proposal as an important step and expressed hope the proposal will be fleshed out in greater detail in the weeks ahead.

But a Saudi newspaper editorial has dismissed Israel's invitation to the crown prince to present his peace initiative in Jerusalem. The Al-Watan editorial marked the first Saudi reaction to an Israeli offer for official visits.

On Monday, Israeli President Moshe Katsav invited Crown Prince Abdullah to Jerusalem to give details about his proposal for Arab-Israeli peace. Katsav also said he would visit Saudi Arabia if invited. Al-Watan called the Israeli suggestion a "maneuver."

The Saudi newspaper said an exchange of visits would occur only to solidify agreements that had been signed, not at the start of an initiative. The editorial said an Arab League leaders summit in Beirut slated for March 27-29 would decide the fate of the initiative.

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's Fatah rejected the peace proposal, revealing much about its own true intentions in the process. Fatah questioned Saudi Arabia's right to "propose initiatives that give up the territories occupied since a time when Palestinian Intifada and resistance are increasing and the 'enemy' suffers a deep strategic crisis." It also complained that the plan "ignores the right of return for more than five million Palestinian refugees."

Arafat Agrees to Resume Security Talks with Israel

By VOA News

Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat said he is ready to resume security talks with Israel, as continuing violence claims more lives. Arafat spoke to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after a meeting with the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Palestinians suspended security talks after Israel announced Sunday that it will continue to keep Arafat confined in Ramallah. Israeli tanks pulled out of Palestinian-ruled areas of Ramallah, but remain deployed around the city's perimeter.

Meanwhile, in violence Monday, Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis near a West Bank Jewish settlement, not far from Bethlehem. And at least 10 Israelis were wounded when Palestinian gunmen opened fire near a bus stop in East Jerusalem. One of the gunmen was killed by Israeli police.

Elsewhere, in separate incidents in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians, including a 16-year-old girl.

Peres Denies France is Anti-Semitic

By Lisa Bryant (VOA-Paris)

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, during a joint press conference in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac, denied that the official position of Israel does not view France as an anti-Semitic nation.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has expressed concern about a wave of attacks on Jewish schools and institutions in France. Last month, an Israeli official called France Europe's most anti-Semitic country, and there are new Israeli efforts to get French Jews to emigrate.

French officials have strongly denied the Israeli charges. And Chirac said Tuesday he was shocked and hurt by the accusations. and that French authorities were quick to crack down on any acts against the Jewish community.

Terrorist's Body Wrapped In Pigskin

Residents of Gush Katif recently took matters into their own hands. Rabbi Yosef Al-Nekaveh said as the residents were evacuating the bodies of three murdered Israelis, they placed pig fat and pigskin on the body of the dead terrorist.

The rabbi said that a "right-wing kibbutznik" had supplied them with the swinish tissues. Arab Knesset members responded with outrage. Ahmed Tibi said, "This is a pig-like act of a man who is not worthy of being a rabbi."

Knesset member Tzvi Hendel said, "If these primitive murderers stuff their brains with nonsense about Paradise and who-knows-how-many virgins waiting only for them, then they certainly believe in the other nonsense that being buried with pigskin blocks their way to Paradise."

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