Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Former Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky, who is heading the immigrants' rights party Yisrael Ba'aliya, said Tuesday he is not going to endorse a candidate for prime minister.

"I am not a rebbe, and I do not intend telling people for whom to vote," Sharansky said, noting that supporters of both contenders have joined Yisrael Ba'aliya.

Sharansky said that some 450,000 of the immigrants who arrived in the past five years have the right to vote.

Pollsters have predicted that his party would receive six Knesset seats "or maybe even more," Sharansky said.

However, their surveys did not include some 200,000 veteran immigrants who, he said, will vote for Yisrael Ba'aliya.

More newspapers shut down in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Israeli newspapers closed this week after attempts to save them through a merger failed.

Davar Rishon folded Tuesday, saying it was unable to attract investors who would keep it in operation.

Founded about 70 years ago by the Histadrut labor federation as Davar, the paper emerged from closure last year in a new format as Davar Rishon, with veteran journalist Ron Ben-Yishai serving as editor.

The paper announced its own demise Tuesday in a front-page column by Ben-Yishai titled "We Tried."

Davar Rishon tried but failed to merge with the Israeli daily business newspaper Telegraph, which closed Monday after sustaining losses of some $16 million in three years of operation.

Observers attributed the Telegraph's demise to a lack of advertisers and an inability to compete in a market dominated by the Israeli business paper Globes.

During the past three years, Hadashot, a tabloid, and Al Hamishmar, published by the kibbutz movement, also closed. Israel now has three major dailies: Yediot Achronot, Ma'ariv and Ha'aretz.

Top Palestinian says charter only `frozen'

JERUSALEM (JPS) The Palestinian National Covenant has not been amended, only "frozen," according to an internal report by a branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A document by the Research and Thought Department of the Al Fatah in Ramallah late last month, acquired by the rightist Israeli group Peace Watch, takes a negative view of the decision to amend the covenant.

"The text of the Palestinian National Covenant remains as it was," the publication states, "and no changes whatsoever were made to it. This has caused it to be frozen, but not annulled."

Yigal Carmon, a former anti-terror adviser to Likud and Labor prime ministers, held a press conference with Yehoshua Porat, a pro-Likud academic, to publicize the Fatah report.

In a move widely hailed as a change to the Palestinian charter calling for Israel's destruction, the PNC in April voted 504-54 to "change the covenant by canceling articles contravening the letters exchanged between the PLO and the government of Israel."

First Israeli born in Jordan's capital

JERUSALEM (JTA) — For the first time since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in October 1994, an Israeli has been born in the Jordanian capital.

Daniel Harel was born Friday of last week at a leading maternity hospital in Amman.

He is the son of Ze'ev Harel, an administration officer at the Israeli Embassy in Amman.

Israeli hospital eyed for Azerbaijan city

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel has signed an agreement with Azerbaijan to establish a state-of-the-art hospital in Baku, the capital of the former Soviet republic.

The pact was signed by Health Minister Ephraim Sneh and his Azerbaijani counterpart in Geneva, where the two attended a meeting of the World Health Organization.

The initiative to establish the hospital follows Sneh's visit to Azerbaijan last year, when the two countries signed a medical cooperation agreement.

Sheba Hospital in Israel will be responsible for the instruction and information given to local medical teams in Azerbaijan.

Police arrest youth for pirate broadcast

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Police arrested a 16-year-old Tuesday who operated a pirate Tel Aviv radio station that closed Ben-Gurion Airport for four hours on Monday, when its transmissions jammed air traffic control frequencies.

The youth, described by police as a "nice, intelligent boy from a good home" cooperated fully, and said he just wanted experience in a radio station. He has no criminal record.

Police said they'd release him on bail after questioning, but are still searching for the station's owners, whose identity is known to police.

Pirate radio stations, meanwhile, resumed broadcasting. A station calling itself Radio Center broadcast on Monday evening, and there were more illegal transmissions in the morning, flight controllers and airport officials said.