Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Israel and the Palestinians have reached an "understanding" that Israel will free all 1,650 Palestinian security prisoners once the two sides agree on an outline for a final peace treaty, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday before leaving for this week's round of negotiations in Washington.

Hesitant to call it an "agreement," Erekat said no Israeli prisoners would be released until the peace framework agreement was signed. Likewise, Yossi Beilin, Israel's justice minister, would not make a final promise to release all of the Palestinian prisoners.

"Once there is a permanent solution [to the conflict], the issue of the prisoners will be dealt with differently than in the interim period," Beilin told reporters.

For now, Israel's position remains that prisoners involved in killing Israelis will not be freed, according to a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Press strikers scuffle with security guards

TEL AVIV (JPS) — Nine people were lightly injured last weekend in a brawl between striking Yediot Achronot press workers and security guards that the publishers hired to safeguard distribution of the Ramat Gan-based newspaper, Tel Aviv police said.

Both strikers and guards were injured, according to police, who arrested 18 people.

Management claims the workers are striking to prevent them from utilizing modern technology to produce the paper. The union claims this is an excuse to simply try to destroy the union. Negotiations between the two sides are still frozen.

McDonald's flips out over Shabbat rules

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Young Israeli Jews should be allowed to flip burgers for McDonald's on the Sabbath, according to a newspaper advertisement taken out by the company's Israeli franchise.

"Stop capitulating to Shas or Israel will turn into Iran," read the copy in Yediot Achronot, referring to the fervently religious party that is part of Israel's governing coalition.

The managing director of McDonald's Israel, which operates several non-kosher and kosher restaurants in the Jewish state, estimates that he has paid $20,000 in fines for employing Jewish teenagers on the Sabbath, the ad said.

Fiction writer earns Israeli Orange Prize

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Linda Grant, a columnist with Britain's Guardian newspaper, won the Orange Prize for fiction for "When I Lived in Modern Times," a novel set in Tel Aviv as Israel was established.

The prize was created in 1996 to promote women writers.

Meanwhile, at a kickoff for a women's book week in Jerusalem, President Ezer Weizman said he hopes one day to read about a woman's depiction of her experiences as an air force pilot.

Weizman is known for previous statements suggesting women should be "knitting socks."

Police nab smuggler second time around

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Russian police reportedly detained an Israeli man who attempted to smuggle 100 Greek Orthodox religious icons on a flight from Moscow to Tel Aviv.

Customs officers were stunned by what they called the "impudence" of the smuggler, who packed the icons in simple cardboard boxes.

Two years ago, the same man was detained for smuggling icons and Russian military decorations but was subsequently released.