Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared to change her defense against accusations that she sat silently by while Suha Arafat accused Israel of using poisonous gas against Palestinians.

The first lady said last week, when she announced her intention to run for a U.S. Senate seat from New York, that she did not immediately respond because she did not want to cause an "international incident." Clinton previously suggested that she did not respond immediately because the comments were not as harsh in the English translation she had heard.

Health chief says homosexuals should get treatment for 'defect'

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An uproar over remarks by Israel's health minister about gays and lesbians overshadowed a special Knesset session to mark World AIDS Day on Wednesday.

Health Minister Shlomo Benizri, of the fervently religious Shas Party, drew an angry reaction for saying he would set up "closed wards" for gays and lesbians to treat "this genetic and mental defect."

Knesset member Yehudit Naot of the secular Shinui Party responded that "ignorance" is not a value.

Israeli Arab protest in Jerusalem over budget erupts into violence

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israeli Arab leaders vowed this week to intensify their protest campaign over the financial plight of local councils in Israeli Arab communities, following a demonstration in Jerusalem that erupted into violence.

Israeli Arab members of the Knesset — including Ahmed Tibi, who was hospitalized after the incident on Wednesday of last week — accused police of beating them with batons and using unnecessary force. Tibi was sent to the hospital by the Knesset doctor for injuries he sustained to his hand and head during the demonstration.

More than 2,000 Israeli Arab demonstrators, mostly heads or representatives of Israeli Arab villages, gathered outside the Prime Minister's Office to demand the government increase budgets for Israeli Arab localities throughout the country.

Activist breaks hand when police force group from West Bank hill

JERUSALEM (JPS) — A group of 30 activists was forcibly removed from the West Bank hilltop site of Nokdanim near Bethlehem on Tuesday by police and security forces.

During the fracas, 18-year-old activist Tamar Parnasi's hand was broken. Nineteen protesters were detained for questioning and later released. It was the second time in a week that the group attempted to establish an encampment at the site.

Police spokesman Rafi Yafe said that on Tuesday morning police asked the group to leave the area willingly. When they refused, he said, the site was declared a closed military zone and police evicted the group, most of whom passively resisted.

President Clinton signs budget bill with $2 billion in Wye-related aid

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Clinton has signed a $385 billion budget bill that includes nearly $2 billion to help Israel and the Palestinian Authority implement last year's Wye agreement.

The bill also has nearly $3 billion in annual aid to Israel. During Monday's signing ceremony, Clinton again called on Congress to pass tougher hate crimes legislation that was stripped from the bill.