Current Events in the Arab World


The first meeting between US President Bill Clinton and Israel's new Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu failed to do anything for the peace process in the Middle East, but succeeded in affirming the "strategic ties" between the US and Israel. The joint press conference of the two heads of state on July 9th came as a blow to Arab and Palestinian leaders, as well as to the peace camp inside Israel. Netanyahu demanded that Arab parties to the peace process defend Israel's security against terrorism, and Clinton, taking his cue form the Likud, affirmed his indivisible link between peace and security.
Immediate reactions in the region were of discontent with the fact that the US Administration could not extract a renewed Israeli commitment to the Madrid land-for-peace agreement, and thus the peace process was heading for destruction. Palestinians continued to protest Netanyahu's failure to set a date for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Hebron. Netanyahu also conceded nothing on the Golan Heights issue and said that President Assad had to stop terrorist activities in Southern Lebanon before any talks could be held. Netanyahu was evasive on the issue of holding a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. On the settlements issue, Netanyahu forcefully stated that under the Rabin-Peres government settlements grew by 50% and that his government would do no less.
Throughout the press conference, Clinton appeared both conciliatory and desperate. However, Clinton did reiterate that is was very important that there be a reaffirmation of the commitment that Israel has made to Oslo and that it is essential for the new government to keep working with the Palestinians and finally that there should be an attempt to re-engage Syria and to resolve the problem of Lebanon.
The long-running debate over who should have the final word on disputed election results: the Court of Cassation of the People's Assembly was renewed this month as parliament began reviewing court rulings on election appeals. Opposition parties were full of praise for the ongoing work of the Court of Cassation, which has so far invalidated the results of the November 1995 general elections in 78 constituencies. MPs for these constituencies include government ministers and other prominent figures in the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
In its meeting this week, the People's Assembly's Legislative and Constitutional Committee began reviving the Court of Cassation reports. Committee members approved the court's rejection of 45 appeals, but turned down five other reports in which the court said results were rigged. According to Article 93 of the constitution, the Assembly the final say on the Cassation Court's reports on election contests. Many argue that the constitution entrusted the Court of Cassation with investigating elections because it is a neutral body that had the experience and legal authority to judge the voting process. However, the Assembly often ignores this fact and insists that they are not convinced enough to decide that the elections were rigged.
Opposition parties charge that the NDP has traditionally taken advantage of its majority in parliament to reject Court of Cassation rulings, thus preventing the loss of NDP seats. Opposition parties are pessimistic about the prospect that the rulings will lead to fresh elections or a change in the composition of the current People's Assembly.
As the United States threatens to veto the re-appointment of Boutrous Ghali as UN secretary-general, Africa stands firmly behind him. Despite the fact that all of the world's great powers stand firmly behind Boutrous Ghali as the UN secretary-general, the US are reticent about their resolve to oust Boutrous Ghali form the UN. It has become known that the US is working feverishly behind the scenes to find an acceptable African personality to put forward as a candidate against Boutrous Ghali and this will be the only way the US can undermine Ghali in his own African constituency. However, the recent summit meeting in Cameroon of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) endorsed the secretary-general's bid for re-election.
In his visit to Cairo this month, Benjamin Netanyahu held extensive bilateral negotiations with President Hosni Mubarak in which they dealt with many issues concerning a comprehensive peace in the Middle East region. Mubarak declared that these negotiations opened optimistic horizons in the peace process despite their differences in approaches to certain issues. He added in a televised interview that Netanyahu has promised to carry out the Oslo agreements and the Madrid talks and expressed his wishes to continue what already has been accomplished.
In the press conference that was held after their bilateral talks and that was attended by over one thousand journalists, both Egyptian and international, Mubarak: "A just peace is the priority, our aim is to set the environment to proceed with the negotiations on all tracks. There is no other explanation to the principal of land for peace because the decisions and principal have already been signed and recorded." He added that the Palestinian Case is the heart of the Middle East crisis, what was already agreed upon should be executed so that the final status negotiations can go on. He asserted that is necessary to reach a means to protect the rights of Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem. He concluded by denying the principle of a division of Jerusalem.
In his response to the journalists, Netanyahu said, "Egypt is the leader in the peace. My talks with Mubarak were positive and the negotiations with the Palestinians will resume to carry out the Oslo Agreements". He added that 10,000 more Palestinian workers will be permitted to enter Israel as long as they are over thirty years of age and married. The restrictions imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be reduced and he intends to carry out his obligations in Hebron. About the settlements in the West Bank, Netanyahu said that all sides knew about Israel's position concerning that. As for the Israeli presence in South Lebanon, he announced that no agreement has been reached until now.
While Netanyahu was visiting Cairo, tens of lawyers protested in the syndicates throughout Cairo, they burnt the Israeli flag and shouted anti-Israeli slogans. Also, many university professors, political and party leaders and students in the Upper Egyptian governorates protested against Netanyahu's visit.
Egyptian Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, announced in a statement after the visit that the unification of Jerusalem does not mean it will be part of Israel, since East Jerusalem is an occupied territory subject to UN Security Resolution 242.

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