Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Family members of Jonathan Pollard are battling over a move to win Israeli citizenship for the convicted American spy.

Esther Zeitz, who married the jailed naval analyst in prison, believes Pollard's chances for a pardon by President Bill Clinton would improve if Israel granted him citizenship.

But Pollard's sister, father, and several long-time supporters vehemently disagree.

"The issue now is not getting him [Israeli] citizenship; the issue is getting him out of prison," sister Carol Pollard told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

"Israeli citizenship will not be helpful to Jonathan at this time," said Seymour Reich, president of the American Zionist Movement and former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "It will hurt him."

Polls shows Arafat losing support in Gaza

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Support for Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat dropped sharply among Gazans this month, according to a poll which attributes the change to disappointment with the emerging terms of the redeployment agreement.

The poll showed that support for Arafat across the territories declined from 55 percent to 49 percent, after rising steadily from 44 percent last November. The drop was much sharper in Gaza, from 64 percent in May to 52 percent.

Support for the proposed agreement on elections, redeployment and transfer of authority won the support of 56 percent, compared with 66 percent for the Oslo accords. Support for the agreement in Gaza was even lower, at 50 percent. Among the young and educated a majority opposed the proposed agreement.

In fact, 80 percent of those polled said they do not trust Israel. Support for Fatah also decreased from 49 percent to 43 percent.

2 IDF officers lost in plane collision

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Israel Air Force officers were missing and presumed lost after their F-16 warplane collided with another F-16 just off the coast of Nahariya early Tuesday morning.

Lt. Col. Rami Shlomi, 36, a squadron leader from Mishmar Ha'emek, and Lt. Yuval Binyamin, 24, failed to eject from their plane after the collision.

The crew of the second jet fighter bailed out safely into the sea and were picked up by a navy rescue craft.

The commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Herzl Bodinger, set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the incident.

He told reporters that the cause of the accident clearly seemed to be human error by one of the pilots.

The two planes were not engaged in any difficult maneuvers when the collision occurred, Bodinger said.

The accident came just hours after eight soldiers were hurt in an explosion during a training exercise in the Negev near Yeroham.

Two Israeli hikers killed at Wadi Kelt

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two young Israelis were shot and killed Tuesday at Wadi Kelt, a popular hiking spot located between Jerusalem and Jericho.

Oren Shahor of Ra'anana and Ohad Bachrach of Beit El, both in their 20s, were hiking in the area and had stopped to eat. They were apparently fired upon from some distance; one was subsequently attacked with a knife as well.

The two victims had been known to be carrying side arms at the time — but these were gone by the time their bodies were found.

Wadi Kelt is one of the most impressive spots in the Judean Desert, about a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem. For years it has been a popular hiking area, particularly for Jerusalemites, but also for other visitors from throughout the country.

Maj. Ilan Biran, the commander of the central region, which includes the West Bank, said the killers were probably members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement or another militant group opposed to the peace process.

Government sources said the killers were clearly intent on disrupting the peace process at this delicate time — when large Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams are meeting virtually around the clock in an effort to conclude an agreement for implementing the second phase of Palestinian self-rule before a July 25 deadline.

Barak, Beilin take seats on Cabinet

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli Knesset has approved Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's nomination of Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin and former Israel Defense Force chief of staff Ehud Barak to fill seats in his Cabinet.

Beilin is the new minister of economic affairs and planning. Barak will head the Interior Ministry.

Knesset member Eli Dayan is expected to replace Beilin as deputy foreign minister.

Shimon Shetreet, who left the Economics Ministry, will remain minister of religious affairs.

Barak, 53, who stepped down as the IDF's top officer at the start of the year, joined the Labor Party on Sunday, before the Labor Party Central Committee endorsed his nomination.

He replaces David Libai, who will continue as justice minister.

The move marked what Barak described as "the first step in my civil and political life."

Many observers see Barak, 53, as Rabin's chosen successor.