Israeli Arab Cabinet Member Says Peace Is Not Imminent

            ALTHOUGH Prime Minister Ehud Barak has declared his readiness to sign a final peace agreement with the Palestinians in one year, one member of his cabinet is not so optimistic.

            Deputy Foreign Minister Nawaf Massahla, speaking at a dinner for Shaare Zedek Jerusalem Medical Center held at the Plaza Hotel, said it would take longer to achieve a settlement.

“I hope during Barak’s four-year term we will find the permanent solution between us and the Palestinians.”

            Massahla, an Israeli Arab who has been a member of the Knesset since 1988, sits on the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

            He was optimistic about the chances of a settlement with Syria: “I believe that by the end of this year we will start to negotiate with Syria.”

            As for Israel’s relations with Jordan, prospects are looking up. He cited two projects that Israel signed.

One project will connect “all the electricity and energy of Jordan with Israel.” Companies in South America and Europe are investing the $700 million in the project.

            Another enterprise is aimed at combining two separate airports in the south into a joint Eilat-Aqaba airport.

            I asked Vernon Jordan, a Washington attorney and confidant to the President, if he was going to help Hillary Rodham Clinton in her New York campaign for the senate.

            “I’m not here to talk politics,” he said. “I’m here to talk about Shaare Zedek. I came because of my friendship with Paul Miller.”

            Menno Ratzker, president of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek, presented Miller with the Jerusalem Humanitarian Award. Miller is executive vice president and general counsel of Pfizer, Inc., a client of Jordan’s law firm.

             Jordan told about his first trip to Israel in January 1967 with 10 other black Americans. While playing basketball in Jaffa, he fell, but made the basket. Back at the hotel, his wrist began to swell. His friends took him to the home of an Israeli doctor. After being treated, Jordan and his friends sat in the living room and shmoozed with the doctor and his wife until 6 in morning.

            “I have never forgotten the warmth and care in that home that night,” Jordan said.


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