NEWS BRIEFS

Iranian Missile Threat

Iran is developing ballistic missiles that can reach deep within Europe and is working intensively to develop nuclear warheads, German counterterrorism chief Peter Frisch told The Jerusalem Post on May 28. "They are getting missiles that can reach 3,000 km., and they can reach not only Israel, but Germany," said Frisch. "If they can build atomic bombs and put them in their missiles, this is dangerous for us." Israel has previously warned of a Russian-Iranian programme to develop missiles with a range of 1,500 km by 1999.

Netanyahu's Proposal Causes Stir

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's plan for a final status solution to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, publicised in early June, has drawn a range of reactions--mostly negative. According to his "Allon-Plus Plan", about half of Judea-Samaria would be ceded to the Palestinians, while Israel would retain the security strip along the border with Jordan. Israel would keep Greater Jerusalem, the Etzion bloc of Jewish communities south of the capital, and surrounding areas. The Palestinians said the territory they would get was inadequate, while Jewish residents of Judea-Samaria and some of Netanyahu coalition partners rejected it as too much. The religious Hatzofeh newspaper (June 6) said "Netanyahu's new plan is not much different from the Allon Plan which the national camp rejected at the time, clearly emphasising that it denies the religious and historical right of the Israeli nation to the Land of Israel". In the late 1960s, the "Allon Plan" proposed that Israel would relinquish the main Arab-populated areas of Judea-Samaria to Jordanian political jurisdiction, while retaining under Israeli military control a narrow, thinly-populated strip along the Jordan River, and eastern Jerusalem. The Arabs rejected the proposal.

New-look Labour

Former army chief of staff Ehud Barak left rivals gasping in his wake in Labour party primaries. Barak [left, with runner-up Yossi Beilin] presented himself as former PM Yitzhak Rabin's natural successor, and the opposition's likeliest challenger to PM Netanyahu in future elections.

Netanyahu: We'll Oppose "Anti-Missionary" Bill

PM Netanyahu has undertaken to see that a bill under Israeli Knesset consideration which seeks to outlaw religious literature does not pass into law. In a letter written to an American Christian leader, Elwood McQuaid, Netanyahu wrote on June 3: "It has come to my attention that a bill before the Israeli parliament concerning possession of missionary literature has created a stir among our many Christian friends in the United States The government strenuously objects to this bill and will act to ensure that it does not pass."

Critics of the bill, a private initiative sponsored by two Knesset members, have argued that it is blatantly undemocratic and could lead to state-sponsored religious censorship. The preliminary reading proposed that it be made an offence "to hold, print, copy, distribute or hand out [any kind of literature] in which there is any form of an effort to persuade another to change his religion". Offenders would face a year in jail.

Different Face, Same Rhetoric

In his first press conference since sweeping to victory in late May elections, Iran's president-elect Mohammed Khatami said Israel was the primary source of state-sponsored terrorism. Khatami, hailed by the media as a "moderate", called Israel an "occupying and racist regime" which he said had "imposed its illegitimate domination on the people of Palestine, whether Muslims, Palestinians, Jews or Christians." There would be no recognition of--and no negotiation with--Israel, he said. Palestinian army Brig-Gen Abu-Khalid al-Lahham, who recently returned from Iran, called Khatami a personal friend of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat
(Al Quds, June 9).

Clergyman Praises Iran

Greek Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci of Jerusalem held talks in early June with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati on the question of Jerusalem and "Palestine". Tehran's IRIB Television reported (June 3) that Capucci told the Iranian that "the Muslim people of Iran are revolutionary standard-bearers of humanitarian and moral values" and praised them for their support of "the just struggle of the Palestinian people". A long-time supporter of the PLO, Capucci was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment by Israel for smuggling weapons for the PLO in his church-registered vehicle in 1974. After serving a third of the sentence, he was freed following strong pressure from the Vatican.

Whither Lebanon?

Jews and Christians concerned about the future of the Maronite Christian resistance in the southern strip of Syrian-occupied Lebanon met at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem on June 25 to hear a range of experts on the subject. Calls for a unilateral Israeli army withdrawal from the "security zone" have continued apace, as more lives are lost in Hizb'Allah attacks.


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