Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has offered the governorship of the Bank of Israel to an economics professor currently teaching at Harvard University.

It was not immediately clear whether Elhanan Helpman, formerly of Tel Aviv University, has agreed to succeed Jacob Frenkel.

After serving nine years in the post, Frenkel resigned Sunday night, effective at the start of the year. Israel's stock markets reacted to Frenkel's announcement more calmly than some financial analysts had predicted.

Speaker of Knesset to meet Dalai Lama

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Avraham Burg, speaker of the Israeli Knesset, plans to meet with the Dalai Lama later this month, prompting dissension from China.

China's ambassador to Israel asked Burg to cancel the meeting, warning it could hurt Jerusalem's growing ties with Beijing. The ambassador raised the matter during a meeting Sunday with Burg, who stated that there is no reason the meeting should be interpreted as conveying an anti-China message.

Settlers try to return to West Bank outpost

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli security forces scuffled with Jewish settlers attempting to reclaim a hilltop outpost in the West Bank.

About 30 settlers returned to Havat Maon, or the Maon Farm, last Friday, according to a spokesman for the forces, which arrested seven settlers who refused to leave the area.

A day later, a group of settlers, hiding near Maon, beat Palestinian farmers with sticks. Four of the farmers were lightly wounded and taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment, the army said.

Baruch Goldstein shrine to come down

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Supreme Court has upheld the army's decision to tear down a shrine at the grave of a Jewish settler who in 1994 killed 29 Muslims praying at Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs.

The judges said last week that keeping the shrine to Baruch Goldstein would send a message of praise for the crime.

Newspaper blames Israel for plane crash

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Egyptian newspaper is blaming Israel for the recent crash of EgyptAir Flight 990.

"I am certain that Israel's fingers are not far away," the editor of the opposition paper Al Wafd wrote in a front-page column.

"When Israel finds an 'Egyptian gift' of 33 Egyptian military officers from all branches on one civilian plane and who just ended their training in the United States, it will not miss this opportunity."

American authorities now suspect one of the pilots purposely crashed the plane.

U.S. Senate confirms Indyk as ambassador

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The U.S. Senate last week confirmed Martin Indyk for a second tour as ambassador to Israel.

Indyk, who is currently serving as the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, was the first Jew to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Extremist sentenced in pig-head incident

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli court sentenced a Jewish extremist to 2-1/2 years in jail for placing a pig's head on the grave of a Palestinian nationalist.

The court last week also gave Avigdor Eskin an 18-month suspended sentence for conspiring to torch offices belonging to Israeli peace activists. Eskin was cleared of charges of plotting to catapult a pig's head onto the Temple Mount.