Mideast Report

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PARIS (JTA) — King Hassan II of Morocco has lent his firm support to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, saying that the Middle East peace process would be in danger if his Labor Party lost Israel's May 29 national elections.

"We must pray to prevent disaster. The risk of a change of majority [in Israel] does not — and this is an understatement — augur well for the peace process," Hassan told the French daily Le Figaro in an interview published this week.

Peres has a slim lead in the polls over hardline Likud rival Benjamin Netanyahu in the race for prime minister.

A considerable number of Israeli voters are still undecided.

Hassan's country is viewed by the West as an anchor of stability in a region that has become a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism.

Likud, Labor play new election tunes

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israel's upcoming elections have gone MTV.

The Likud Party revealed a campaign jingle and accompanying video clip Sunday, to counter a Labor tune.

Overhauling its campaign style, the Likud this year is aiming at young voters with a soft, almost wistful folk-pop song promising "a quiet peaceful tomorrow" and "peace with security," and calling Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu "a young leader."

"This is not a jingle, it's a song," Likud's Limor Livnat said.

Ironically, the more dovish Labor Party's jingle maintains a march-like beat and promises a "strong Israel with Peres," an Israel at the "start of the road" toward peace, where "tomorrow begins today."

Recent polls give Prime Minister Shimon Peres a 5 percent lead over Netanyahu. But with some 7 percent of the voting public described as uncommitted, the May 29 vote could still go either way.

Labor Party mutes its 1992 platform

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Labor Party has approved a platform that no longer rules out the creation of a Palestinian state.

Voting recently to change the party's 1992 platform, which expressly opposed Palestinian statehood, party members also withdrew a 1992 statement that the Golan Heights is crucial for Israel's security, even in times of peace.

But the Golan regional council head, Yehuda Walman, succeeded in passing an alternative clause stating that Labor recognizes the Golan as an area of "national importance."

Dovish Minister Yossi Beilin failed to replace a clause declaring the Jewish settlements in the Jordan River Valley crucial to Israel's security with a more generally worded statement.

Labor's decision to alter its position on Palestinian statehood came a day after the Palestinian National Council voted overwhelmingly to revoke the anti-Israel portions of its charter.

Palestinians arrest 2d most wanted

JERUSALEM (JPS)– The Palestinian Authority's security force has arrested the second-most-wanted member of the military wing of Hamas.

The P.A.'s General Security Apparatus, headed by Amin Hindi, arrested Adnan Ghoul, 38, on April 22. Since he is suspected of being a senior planner of bomb attacks, Ghoul's arrest is the most significant so far in the war against radical Islamic suicide bombers.

Ghoul is responsible for the Islamic Jihad bombing at Beit Lid in January 1995 that killed 20 soldiers and a civilian; the Kfar Darom bombing last April that killed six, and a double-bombing at Kissufim Junction south of Gaza.

Ghoul was involved in both Islamic Jihad and Hamas attacks and was one of the key links between the two groups. His arrest could shed light on the extent to which the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad act independently of the political wings.

Jerusalem poorer, new report claims

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jerusalem's population is becoming poorer as well as more fervently religious, according to a report on the capital released this week.

The report, prepared by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, found that 33.9 percent of children in Jerusalem lived below the poverty line in 1994, compared with the 22.8 percent national figure.

The report also described Jerusalem as one of the poorest cities in the country, with the 1993 average monthly wage totaling about $1,200, compared with $1,400 in Tel Aviv and $1,470 in Haifa.

The study found that during the past five years, some 26,000 residents left Jerusalem. Many of those who left were young, educated professionals; this trend contributed to the city's increasingly Orthodox character, the study found.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that the way to keep Jerusalem's young, secular population from moving elsewhere is to bring more industry and jobs to the city.

U.S. defense giant signs deals in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — McDonnell Douglas Corp. has reportedly signed deals worth $400 million with Israeli defense contractors.

The vice president of business development for the St. Louis-based aerospace firm said the company is looking for long-term partnerships with defense contractors, instead of just purchasing Israeli products.

Three years ago, McDonnell Douglas pledged to buy $780 million in Israeli goods to help offset the cost of its $2 billion sale of F-15I jets to the Israel Defense Force.