Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JPS) — Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a clear lead in a theoretical leadership contest against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, after near parity in recent weeks, according to a July 3 Gallup poll.

The poll, conducted after the furor over Netanyahu's releasing an Israel Defense Forces position paper on ceding the Golan, also indicates credibility problems for Rabin and points to a large majority against withdrawing from the Golan.

A representative sample of 508 adult Israelis was interviewed for the poll, and its margin of error was 4.3 percent.

Asked how they would vote in a contest for the premiership between Rabin and Netanyahu, the respondents gave Netanyahu 44.5 percent of their support and 37.1 percent to Rabin. The rest were undecided. This puts Netanyahu's lead well above the margin of error.

Those questioned were asked if they believed Rabin's claims that he was unaware of what was written in the position paper. Only 18.2 percent believed Rabin, with 68.4 percent saying they did not believe him. The rest were undecided.

In the final question, those surveyed were asked how they would vote in a Golan Heights referendum if it were held now. Only 26.5 percent said they would support yielding the Golan, while 65.2 percent said they would oppose a deal that meant giving up the heights. The rest were undecided.

Vanunu granted better jail conditions

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Mordechai Vanunu was granted better jail conditions Tuesday by the Beersheba District Court but his request to end his solitary confinement was rejected.

Vanunu, convicted of releasing Israel's nuclear secrets, appeared briefly at the courthouse as police tried to hide him from reporters, even sending a decoy van to the building before Vanunu arrived in a second vehicle.

After a three-hour session, Judge Zvi Segal accepted the state's recommendations in his jail conditions which included allowing a personal computer in his cell, lowering the grill that separates him from family members during weekly visits and two telephone calls a month, monitored by jail officials.

Vanunu's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman's plea on ending solitary confinement was postponed until September.

Israeli women earn 58% less than men

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Discrimination against women appears to be worst in the employment arena, where they earn only 58.1 percent of what their male counterparts take home, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ora Namir said on Tuesday.

Namir was presenting a report by the ministry's economic planning authority on wages. According to the document, women employed in the civil service earn some 58.9 percent of men's salaries, while those in the private sector earn 59.5 percent for equal jobs.

Namir, with other Knesset members, submitted a bill to equalize men and women's salaries when she entered office some two years ago. The discrimination derives from the various benefits, including car expenses, overtime, shifts and telephone bills.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the plenum, was reformulated and is now being prepared for second and third readings.

Lifespan of Israeli men is world's 2nd longest

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The life expectancy of Israeli males is 75, the second highest in the world only to Japan. Life expectancy for women, 79, is 10th in the world, and equal to Western European countries.

The data was released late last month by Health Minister Ephraim Sneh.

Residents in north forced into shelters

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Violence from southern Lebanon is continuing to escalate, forcing residents of northern Israel into bomb shelters.

Katyusha rockets fired by the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah slammed into northern Israel before dusk Sunday, causing brush fires but no casualties.

Hezbollah said the rocket firings were in retaliation for an attack Saturday in which artillery fired by an Israeli tank killed two girls in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiya.

Israel's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, said Saturday's shelling had been a mistake.

"Yesterday we fired at the wrong place in Nabatiya, but that happens in the kind of war we are fighting there," Shahak told Israel Television on Sunday.

The Israel Defense Forces ordered people in the Upper Galilee into air raid shelters on Sunday– just 30 minutes before the latest rocket attack. Israel Radio reported that 27 rockets struck the Galilee.

Gen. Barak to join Rabin's Cabinet

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Former Israeli army chief of staff Ehud Barak is expected to join the Cabinet next week, following the Knesset's expected approval on Monday of his appointment.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Labor Secretary-General Nissim Zvilli decided Tuesday to convene the party's central committee on Sunday to approve Barak and Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin's ministerial appointments.

The Cabinet will convene Monday to approve the appointments, which will be brought to the Knesset for a vote later that day.