Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The Israeli Treasury and representatives of the disabled reached an agreement Sunday, ending a 37-day protest strike outside the Finance Ministry.

The agreement consists of a $20 million sum to be granted in 2000 and an additional $15 million in 2001. The additional funds will be added to the monthly stipends given to those deemed "seriously disabled."

The Treasury's initial compromise proposal had suggested spreading the $35 million payment over three years, but the government committed to procuring the means to pay it out over two years.

Representatives of the disabled viewed Sunday's agreement as a major achievement. Although the basic monthly stipend for the disabled will remain $375, more disabled people will be eligible for double stipends and families with disabled children will receive increased monthly allowances.

Fewer Israelis step under the chuppah

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Fewer Israelis are getting married and those who do are waiting longer to tie the knot, according to the latest statistical survey published this week by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

According to the report, 38,000 couples wed last year, with the average age of grooms 26, and brides 23.

The divorce rate remains relatively low compared to other developed countries, with about 10 percent of couples divorcing in the first 10 years of marriage.

Other findings: Israel's population stands at 6.169 million people, with 79 percent Jewish, 14.9 percent Muslims, 2.1 percent Christian, 1.6 percent Druze and 2.1 percent undefined. The Jewish population in the West Bank and Gaza totals 172,200.

Report says soldiers smuggling narcotics

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Dozens of Israeli soldiers serving in southern Lebanon are reportedly smuggling drugs into Israel.

As much as three tons of heroin are smuggled into Israel across the Lebanese border each year, with soldiers making up to $10,000 for each 2 pounds they smuggle into the Jewish state, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.

Russian ads offer varied illegal services

JERUSALEM (JTA) –Advertisements in Israeli Russian-language newspapers offer illegal services.

The services include the arrangement of entry visas, work permits, Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return and the so-called basket of immigrant services.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported Monday that Interior Minister Natan Sharansky has asked for an investigation.

Israeli army to call women to reserves

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli army plans to call up women for reserve duty.

Israel Radio reported Monday that the new policy would initially apply to women serving in the air force, intelligence and home front command.

Women usually do not serve as reservists, with the exception of soldiers in anti-aircraft units, who can be called up until the age of 27, unless they are pregnant or have children.

Lebanon violence grows dramatically

JERUSALEM (JTA) — October was the most violent month in 17 years for Israel and its allies in southern Lebanon, according to a U.N. official.

Militants attacked Israeli troops and the South Lebanon Army 280 times last month, said U.N. spokesman Timur Goksel. U.N. sources told Reuters that the rise in attacks indicates competition between rival Muslim groups Amal and Hezbollah.

General predicting full Golan pullback

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The man likely to become Israel's chief negotiator with Syria if peace talks resume said Israel will have to give up all of the Golan Heights to make peace with Damascus.

Former Gen. Uri Saguy was quoted in an Arabic-language Israeli newspaper as saying that Syria would "not get less than what Jordan or Egypt got," referring to land Israel gave back to these countries after peace treaties were reached with them.

Ayatollah lashes out at American Zionists

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iran's supreme religious leader blasted his nation's reformers as "either simpletons or traitors" during a fiery anti-Western speech marking the 20th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's speech, which also lashed out at "Zionists" as the "main policy-makers of America," could impact the case of 13 Iranian Jews who were arrested earlier this year on charges of spying for Israel.

The case's outcome could hinge on the outcome of an ongoing tug-of-war between Iran's hard-line and more moderate elements.