Mideast Report Israels top attorney tenders resignation

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Michael Ben-Yair gave no reason for his decision when submitting his letter of resignation to Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

Ben-Yair was appointed three years ago by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

In recent months, he came under criticism by some in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who said his decisions were politically motivated, and biased towards the views of the former Labor government.

Ben-Yair opposed the appointment of Ya'acov Ne'eman as justice minister in the Netanyahu government, and subsequently recommended the criminal investigation that is currently under way against Ne'eman, who has since resigned from the Cabinet.

Jerusalem official killed in car crash

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Deputy Mayor Shmuel Meir, an outspoken city leader for the past decade, was killed Tuesday when an oncoming truck swerved into his van east of Jerusalem.

Meir, 42, among the most well-known figures behind the effort to settle Jewish families in the capital's Arab neighborhoods, was pronounced dead at the scene. His companion in the car, Ateret Cohanim settlement group head Matti Dan, was moderately injured.

Police detained the driver of the truck, a U.N. vehicle, and charges will likely be filed against him, a police spokesman said.

"Shmuel Meir was a courageous fighter for the unity of Jerusalem, which was the most important thing for him," Mayor Ehud Olmert said Tuesday night, at a memorial service at City Hall.

Settlers meet Arafat for business talks

JERUSALEM (JPS) — At least seven different groups of Jewish settlers are holding talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat or his advisers, according to a participant in a meeting with Arafat Tuesday.

The participant, who asked to remain anonymous, said he has met with Arafat on four different occasions.

The source said that the talks are centering on Israeli-Palestinian business deals, but are also dealing with other issues, such as overall cooperation between settlers and Palestinians.

He said European Community economic cooperation for joint business deals is one of the issues on the table.

The source would neither confirm or deny that one of the joint ventures being discussed is a soft drink plant in Hebron.

Palestinian guard shoots prisoner

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian detainee was fatally shot by a guard in a Palestinian jail where he had been held for almost two years without trial, Palestinian officials said.

The death of Rashid Fityani, 25, brings to 10 the number of Palestinian detainees killed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's security forces since the 1994 start of self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Amnesty International this week issued a report critical of the Palestinian Authority's treatment of prisoners.

Palestinian police said Fityani was killed during an argument with a guard at a jail in the West Bank town of Jericho. The guard was arrested and faces trial, police said.

Israel, Jordan sign new trade pact

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel and Jordan have signed an agreement to enable the direct transport of goods between the two countries.

Until now, commercial goods had to be transferred between trucks at border crossings.

The accord, signed Monday in the Jordanian capital of Amman, came after months of negotiations.

It does not include provisions for goods shipped between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Tel Aviv shutdown on Shabbat is urged

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Thousands of ultrareligious Jews converged this week on Israel's secular capital, Tel Aviv, demanding that the "city that never sleeps" turn the lights out Shabbat.

The ultrareligious Agudat Yisrael Party organized the Wednesday rally to demand the closure of Tel Aviv's numerous movie theaters, bars, cafes and other entertainment places from sundown Friday until the end of the Sabbath.

The demonstration came after a survey was published by the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot showing that 47.2 percent of Israelis feel that growing polarization between secular and religious Jews will ultimately lead to civil war.

Two-thirds of Israel's 4.6 million Jewish citizens define themselves as secular, while one-third call themselves observant. Some 500,000 Jews are ultrareligious.