Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Inflation totaled 7 percent last year, the lowest annual rate since 1969, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday of last week.

The December consumer price index dropped 0.3 percent, the second successive month in which prices fell. The drop confounded economists, who thought there would be no change in the index, or a slight increase.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the low consumer price index, saying that "the efforts of the government and Bank of Israel to reduce inflation are bearing fruit. Most of the economic targets the government set last year were realized and even surpassed."

Celebrations were cut short, however, when within three hours of the announcement, Treasury Director-General Shmuel Slavin announced his resignation, amid what the Finance Ministry described as "professional differences of opinion."

Israeli survivors seek voice in restitution

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Holocaust survivor groups in Israel are complaining that world Jewish organizations are not representing their interests in restitution negotiations.

Moshe Zanbar, the head of the umbrella organization for survivors in Israel, said recently that in the ongoing efforts to obtain restitution, the voice and needs of the survivors themselves has been lost.

He said that of "350,000 survivors in Israel, 10 percent are in a difficult economic situation. We feel obligated to help them."

Zanbar was joined at a news conference by representatives from various Israeli Holocaust survivor groups, of which there are 29.

They maintained that such organizations as the World Jewish Restitution Organization, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel have been very involved in restitution efforts, but that survivor groups in Israel had been excluded from those efforts.

New phones quell Shabbat hang-ups

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Some observant ministers in Israel's Cabinet have recently begun installing Sabbath-friendly telephones in their homes.

The need for such a phone, which can be used with minimal desecration of the Sabbath, was underscored during last year's failed attempt by Mossad agents to assassinate a Hamas political leader in Jordan, according to Yediot Achronot.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, who is observant, was telephoned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Sabbath and asked to leave immediately for the Jordanian capital of Amman.

After the incident, Rubinstein turned to the Institute of Technology and Halachah in Jerusalem, which had developed an emergency telephone.