NEWS BRIEFS

Sharon's Near-return

Veteran Israeli soldier and politician Ariel Sharon almost made a come-back in July, only to be stymied by domestic and foreign opponents. Sharon, Infrastructure Minister in PM Binyamin Netanyahu's cabinet and considered a "hawk", was to have been promoted to the Finance portfolio and, more significantly, to the premier's "inner cabinet", which makes security policy. However, hostility from cabinet colleagues and, reportedly, the insistence of the US ambassador Martin Indyk, put paid to that. Wrote Sidney Zion in the New York Daily News: "In the new affair of Arik Sharon, Clinton sent in Martin Indyk to do the dirty work--the last thing America wants in this effort to make peace in the Mideast is Sharon" (July 14). Another pundit, Joseph Frager, likened the incident to the blatant interference in Israel's 1996 elections by US President Bill Clinton, who came out firmly behind candidate Shimon Peres. He opined that, by keeping Sharon out, Clinton hoped to split the Israeli right, and so boost Labour's future election chances.

A Judenrein Judea-Samaria

Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO distributed leaflets in Judea-Samaria on July 9 calling on Jewish residents to abandon the area. The leaflet, written in Hebrew, declared that the evacuation of Jewish "settlers" from their homes would prevent the outbreak of war.

Prince Embraces Islam

The Prince of Wales has called for a better understanding of the Muslim faith and has urged the West to learn from Islam, Christian News reports (June 2). Addressing a private conference of religious, civil and business leaders in Sussex, Charles-- who takes regular advice on Islamic issues and has strong sympathies with the Muslim faith-- said Islam had "an important message for the West". He called for the recruitment of more Muslim teachers in UK schools, to promote "understanding".

'Don't demonise Islam'

Addressing an international conference entitled "Islam and the Western world" in Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in early July that Islam had replaced the former Soviet Union as the perceived chief enemy of the west. He called on western countries to stop relating negatively towards the Islamic movement. Ironically, his appeal came in the same week as the Arafat-appointed Islamic mufti of Jerusalem called Jewish settlers "sons of monkeys and pigs" and called on Muslims to destroy the US. "The Muslims say to Britain, France, and all the infidel nations that Jerusalem is Arab. We shall not respect anyone else's wishes regarding her. The only relevant party is the Islamic nation, which will not allow infidel nations to interfere," the mufti ranted.

Hebron Violations

The Palestinian Authority has been guilty of many and serious infringements of the accord under which 80 per cent of Hebron was ceded to Arab control in January, according to an Israeli government report issued on July 20. In March, April, June and July, the PA had organised violent unrest in the divided town--going so far as to pay demonstrators a daily fee to riot--and failed to take measures to stop rioters from moving towards Jewish enclaves, the report said. Other violations included the deployment of 1,500 PA policemen in Hebron, almost four times the permitted 400. The policemen were furthermore armed with weapons forbidden by the Hebron Protocol.

Congress Acts

The US House of Representatives on July 30 adopted an amendment suspending US aid to the Palestinian Authority for three months. Some lawmakers had been growing increasingly angry in recent months about Yasser Arafat's failure to meet his commitments in terms of signed Israel-Palestinian agreements. That feeling grew with the scandal of the death penalty against Arab land dealers for selling land to Jews; the arrest of four PA policemen en route to carrying out a terror attack against Israeli civilians; and reports of massive financial mismanagement in the self-rule administration. Sponsored by Jim Saxton, the amendment makes aid to the PA after the three-month hold period contingent upon a presidential report on efforts being made to have the PA comply with specific aspects of the Oslo accords. Among other conditions, US President Bill Clinton will have to provide Congress with a copy of the "amended" PLO Covenant. Said Saxton: "Arafat and his friends [were] ... getting away with terrorism and getting rich all at the same time--until tonight."

Cape Town Muslims Run Amok

Jews in Cape Town have expressed fears that their community could become the target of extremist Muslim groups following the firebombing of a Jewish bookstore and the home of a prominent businessman. A synagogue and Jewish retirement home received bomb threats. The incidents came in the wake of a violent march on the Israeli embassy by Muslims protesting the dissemination by an Israeli woman in Hebron of handbills depicting Mohammed as a pig. (The posters also drew violent reactions from Muslims as far afield as Bangladesh, Kenya and Turkey, as Islamists used the incident to stir up crowds.) Some South African Christians and Jews are alarmed at the growing influence of Muslims there.

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