Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials criticized South African President Nelson Mandela this week for condemning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration as "narrow and chauvinistic."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called on South Africa and other nations "to refrain from unilateral, incorrect attacks against the Israeli government." Mandela's criticism came at a summit meeting of the 113-nation Non-Aligned Movement.

Israeli workers end strike over wages

JERUSALEM (JPS) The Histadrut and the government signed a 1998 wage agreement Monday morning, ending a two-day general strike, with both sides declaring they had achieved their goals.

Under the agreement, all public sector workers will receive a retroactive wage raise on Oct. 1.

The deal came after the Histadrut, an umbrella group for various labor unions, declared an expansion of the strike to Ben-Gurion Airport.

Hours later, workers began to return to their jobs. The strike kept 300,000 public sector workers away from their jobs.

The increase amounts to a wage raise of slightly more than 1.5 percent and comes in addition to the 0.5 percent cost-of-living increase.

Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman said the agreement "opens a new page" in work relations in Israel, based on mutual trust.

"We learned from past mistakes, I hope that this new agreement will also lead to an agreement in 1999 based on mutual respect and a preservation of real wages," he said.

Israeli schools open after teachers' strike

JERUSALEM (JPS) — It may have taken until just before school bells sounded Tuesday morning, but the weeklong school strike came to an end with a signing ceremony at 6:30 a.m.

Both teachers union and treasury officials appeared pleased with the agreement, which gave all the teachers a 1.9 percent wage increase, and provides additional payment for principals and teachers performing administrative functions.

In addition, the agreement resolved the thorny matter of payments to faculty who accompany school trips. Teachers will now receive $65 per day for trips requiring at least one overnight stay, $105 in the second year and $131 in the third year.

Education Ministry officials said the teachers would have to make up the lost school days from their vacation days.

About 1.5 million pupils attend and 130,000 teachers work in Israeli schools.

Fire on army truck with missiles probed

JERUSALEM (JPS) The Israeli army last week ordered an inquiry into a fire aboard an army truck that was carrying anti-tank missiles and a gas container as it traveled in the Golan Heights.

There were no casualties in the incident. The driver and escort on the truck managed to jump clear. No civilians were hurt. The incident raised serious questions about the transport of potentially lethal armaments near populated areas.

An army spokesman said the cause of the fire was unclear.

Israel and Egypt may get less U.S. aid

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly has approved next year's annual foreign-aid bill.

For the first time since the 1978 Camp David Accords, the 1999 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act reduces aid to Israel and Egypt.

In line with an Israeli proposal, the bill gives the Jewish state $50 million less than its traditional $3 billion in civilian and military aid. The House appropriations committee plans to take up its version of the bill next week.