Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JPS) — The 1996 state budget finally passed last week, by a vote of 52-36, with five abstentions.

The abstentions came from the Arab and ultra-religious parties, who had struck deals with the government.

The ultra-religious obtained money for their institutions, and the Arabs got an agreement to reduce the property tax on inherited land.

The money will come out of the budgetary reserves, however, and will not increase the overall size of the $55 billion budget.

Two MKs affiliated with The Third Way movement supported the budget, in exchange for additional money for the Golan Heights settlements.

The vote came after a marathon debate that lasted some 80 hours.

Immigration to Israel down by 3.5 percent

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Some 77,000 immigrants arrived in 1995, down 3.5 percent from 1994, the Absorption Ministry spokesman said.

In addition, 14,000 Israelis who had lived outside the country for more than two years returned.

This brings to 609,000 the number of people from the former Soviet Union who have made aliyah (immigrated) since the giant wave of Soviet emigration began in 1989.

On the other hand, the number of Jews from the former Soviet Union who opted to go to the United States dropped dramatically to 18,000 in 1995, compared with 32,900 in 1994 and 35,000 in 1993. The United States has a quota for 40,000 former Soviet Jews.

Israeli income grew by 5 percent in '95

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis improved their standard of living in 1995, earning more money during the year and spending more.

Israel's per capita personal disposable income grew by 5 percent during 1995, while consumer spending grew by 4 percent, according to figures released this week by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Israel's tourism industry also experienced an upswing in 1995, with a 15 percent increase in the number of visitors.

Government panel recommends casinos

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Gavish Committee on Casinos said in a report submitted Monday to the Ministerial Committee on Gambling that there is no reason not to open casinos in Israel.

The report noted that casino-type gambling is already available to most Israelis, in illegal casinos being run in the country's major cities; and in Taba, in gambling ships off Eilat and in Turkey.

The panel urged that a 20-to-30 percent tax be imposed on casino revenue.

Some on the panel recommended casinos be opened in vacation spots like Eilat and the Dead Sea, but police want casinos closer to the center of the country, where they could be better supervised.

Other recommendations include: Only five casinos should open here; they should be independent, rather than located in hotels; there should be age and other restrictions on who can enter casinos.

Israel considering blimps over Golan

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Defense authorities are examining blimps as alternative early- warning systems on the Golan Heights, Israel Television's Channel 1 reported Monday.

The airships are rigid, gas-filled balloons that carry an equipment gondola and are capable of cruising at about 60 miles per hour.

They would replace Israeli army early-warning ground stations on Mt. Hermon.

The U.S. Westinghouse Corpora-tion proposed to develop the dirigibles, which are designed to cruise at an altitude of some 10,000 feet, and carry a payload of some seven tons.

Amir requests transfer to another prison

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Confessed assassin Yigal Amir, awaiting trial for the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, has petitioned Beersheva District Court to transfer him from the city's Ohel Kedar prison to a jail with more humane conditions.

Amir, claiming that he is suffering physical and mental damage, wishes to be transferred to Ramle's Ayalon Prison.

Through lawyer Mordechai Offri, he complained that his cell is not heated and that he suffers from the cold. Prisons Service authorities, he said, refuse to allow him a heater.

The cell at the lock-up was especially prepared for Amir, who is being kept in solitary confinement, and is under 24-hour electronic surveillance.

He also complained meat is being served to him on dairy dishes, in violation of kashrut, and that he is not being supplied with religious texts.

Amir's trial opens at the end of the month. A Beersheba District Court judge will hear his appeal at that time.

Meanwhile, Dror Adani, awaiting trial for conspiracy and other charges relating to Rabin's assassination, was transferred from the Petah Tikva lock-up to Kishon jail in the north.