Mideast Report

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JERUSALEM (JPS) — Two Israelis were wounded Wednesday night, one gravely, when Palestinian gunmen fired at them near Otniel in the southern Hebron Hills.

Israel Radio reported that in a subsequent shootout, one gunman was killed, a second wounded, and a third fled the scene under pursuit.

The attack occurred shortly after 10 p.m. near Otniel, said Amir Kitron, deputy head of the Mount Hebron Regional Council.

One of the Israelis wounded was transferred by helicopter to a Beersheva hospital. The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

Netanyahu criticizes colleague for publicizing Arafat's number

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is criticizing his former cabinet secretary for reading aloud Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's telephone number at a news conference last week.

Danny Naveh's speech at the launch of the Likud Party's election campaign prompted hundreds of calls by Israelis to Arafat's office. Meanwhile, Naveh was forced to change his home phone number after an adviser to Arafat, Dr. Ahmed Tibi, read out Naveh's phone number during an interview.

Prime minister threatening to annex parts of West Bank

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to annex sections of the West Bank if the Palestinians declare statehood on May 4.

Netanyahu also reportedly told his cabinet that "some circles" in Egypt may have recommended to Palestinian Authority leader Arafat that he not declare a Palestinian state before the May 17 elections.

The Arabs apparently hope the government will change, Netanyahu said, "on the assumption that Arafat will then be able to create a Palestinian state and divide Jerusalem without any serious Israeli opposition."

U.S. won't play a major role in final-status talks, envoy says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United States may play a smaller role when Israel and the Palestinian Authority launch final-status talks, according to the U.S. Middle East envoy.

"Permanent status is not something that should be mediated," Dennis Ross said this week during a meeting at the Tel Aviv-based Peres Center for Peace.

"They must learn to live together."

Israel's attorney general appeals ruling on kibbutz's Shabbat work

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's attorney general has weighed in on a case that recently ignited religious-secular tensions.

On Sunday, Elyakim Rubinstein appealed a district court ruling allowing a kibbutz store to operate on the Sabbath. In his appeal, Rubinstein said the judge's interpretation of the labor law barring work on the Sabbath was erroneous.

Israeli law bars citizens from working on the day deemed by their religion as the Sabbath. For most Israelis, this is the Jewish Sabbath.

But in his ruling, the judge said that a cooperative association such as a kibbutz is free to determine its own day of rest.

The ruling in favor of Kibbutz Tzora, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, elicited strong protests from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of Israel's religious political parties.

Netanyahu charged that the ruling implied kibbutz members are somehow not a part of the Jewish people.

Rabin's assassin asks courts to end solitary confinement

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yitzhak Rabin's assassin petitioned an Israeli court last week to move him from solitary confinement and ease other prison conditions.

Yigal Amir, who is serving a life sentence for the 1995 assassination of Rabin, also asked to move to a jail with other religious inmates and to meet once a month with his brother.

Knesset committee votes to lift Deri's parliamentary immunity

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee voted this week to lift the parliamentary immunity of Knesset member Aryeh Deri.

The move, made at Deri's request, makes it possible for the attorney general to decide whether to indict Deri on charges of fraud and breach of public trust relating to past posts he held in the Interior Ministry. Deri is the political leader of the fervently religious Shas Party.