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As Unrest in Territories Subsides, Israel Mulls Relations with Arabs

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Relative calm descended on Israel Tuesday as Arab rioting subsided and Arab shops, businesses, factories and schools reopened and municipalities again provided public services following a general strike Monday by Israel’s Arab citizens.

But Israelis are clearly disturbed by the almost total shut-down of the Arab sector for 24 hours and the scattered incidents of violence that accompanied the strike. Politicians and political analysts here were assessing the effects of the strike and considering the increasingly strained relations with Egypt after almost two weeks of Palestinian rioting in the administered territories.

The relative calm was attributed partly to bad weather and partly to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s declaration that the security forces will use “every available legal means” to enforce law and order in Israel and the administered territories.

Rabin, who returned from a visit to the United States late Monday night, Tuesday visited the Gaza Strip, where disturbances continued. The Israel Defense Force reportedly killed another Palestinian in Gaza and two more died in hospitals from wounds received in earlier clashes with soldiers. The unofficial death toll of Palestinians in the administered territories is now 22.

The IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Tuesday that 19 Arabs were killed and 164 wounded in clashes with security forces since Dec. 9.

SOME SEE RADICALIZATION

Israeli Jews are troubled mainly by the powerful demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinians in the territories by the 750,000 Israeli Arab citizens. According to some analysts, Monday’s events indicated the radicalization of Israeli Arabs and a trend toward greater involvement in the struggle of the Arabs in the territories against the Israeli occupation.

Some saw the calm as an indication that the strike was a singular event expressing the frustrations of Israeli Arabs, after which the local population returned to business as usual.

This seemed to be borne out by the chairman of the National Committee of Arab Mayors, Ibrahim Nimer Hussein, who said the strike should not be seen as an indication of growing alienation among Israeli Arabs. He said the violent demonstrations Monday in Nazareth and Umm El-Fahm were marginal and “under the circumstances, understandable.”

Rabin told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport Monday night that the spread of unrest to Jaffa, Ramle and Lod in the heart of Israel created problems for the future.

“We have to cope with it, and every legal measure — legal from Israel’s point of view — is justified to put an end to it,” he said.

The unrest also spread Monday to the Bedouin population in the Negev. Druze on the Golan Heights, for the first time, expressed solidarity with the Palestinians.

Israel meanwhile has come under strong international criticism from friends and foes alike for its handling of the disturbances in the territories.

“We have to make clear to friendly countries such as the U.S., the European countries and to Egypt that violence cannot be tolerated — the way the Egyptians will not tolerate violence by their students or by mobs when it takes place in Egypt,” Rabin told reporters.

His emphasis on Egypt reflected Israelis’ growing concern over serious new strains in their relations with the only Arab nation that has a peace treaty with Israel.

FIVE EGYPTIAN PROTESTS

Egypt has delivered five formal, and successively more forceful, diplomatic protests to Israel since the disturbances in the territories began more than two weeks ago. The Israeli ambassador, Moshe Sasson, has been repeatedly summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Giza, outside Cairo, to receive admonitions over Israel’s behavior. He has informed Jerusalem that feelings are running high in Egypt and relations with Israel are growing increasingly tense.

Abdel Wahab Darousha, an Arab member of the Knesset for the Labor Party who is currently in Cairo, told the Israeli newspaper Davar Tuesday that he does not think Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be able much longer to resist pressure by the hard-line Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization to recall his ambassador in Tel Aviv for “consultations” or make some other symbolic demonstration of displeasure toward Israel.

Egypt recalled its Israeli envoy in September 1982, following the Sabra and Shatila refugee-camp massacres, and relations between Israel and Cairo remained frozen for more than three years. Israeli officials fear a serious deterioration if Mubarak takes the same action now.

Rabin told reporters Monday night that Israel is “ready to solve the conflict” between itself and Jordan and “Palestinians who are not declared members of the PLO” at negotiations.

‘SUFFERING WILL BE INCREASED’

“If they believe that through terror and violence they are going to achieve (anything)… we must make it clear to them that they will not achieve (anything)… Their suffering will be increased instead of creating conditions that allow them to live peacefully,” Rabin said.

Monday’s general strike in the territories paralleled the one in Israel, and it was felt by the construction and textile industries in Israel, which employ Arab workers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Production was “slowed” at the Polgat textile plant in Kiryat Gat because several hundred Arabs from Gaza stayed away from their jobs.

Some factory managers in Israel were said to be considering hiring workers from overseas instead of Arabs from the territories.

(Also contributing to this report was Tel Aviv correspondent Hugh Orgel.)

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