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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 17, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 69

Jewish Prisoners on Passover

Prison Service Commissioner Amos Azani told the Chief Rabbis that some 1,000 out of 6,500 Jewish prisoners will be allowed to be home for the Passover seder with their families, and that 66 central seders will be held in Israeli prisons throughout the country. He also told the Chief Rabbis that the number of newly-observant Jews among the prisoners is growing, and that 200 of them are presently being held in special wings in four different prisons.

Closure on Judea and Samaria Follows Terror Warnings

Warnings of likely terror attacks within Israel brought Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai to declare a complete closure on Judea and Samaria (but not Gaza). Arab residents are not permitted to enter Israel except for medical emergencies, nor are Jewish residents permitted to enter Palestinian-controlled areas. The IDF has also announced very stringent hitch-hiking regulations for soldiers.

The U.S. Department of State issued a public announcement for travelers to Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, quoting a March 21 message from the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Consulate General in Jerusalem concerning travel to Israel, Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

According to the message, officials are "taking note of heightened tension at the present" and reminding U.S. citizens "that the potential for violence in the area remains high."

The statement says that although U.S. citizens have not specifically been targeted for attack, Americans have been killed in past terrorist actions in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

In particular, the embassy warns that terrorist attacks have frequently taken place on Sunday morning and at rush hours, and that violent attacks have involved passengers on buses and at bus stops. The embassy says the U.S. government has received no information of any impending terrorist action.

The statement strongly advises Americans to "avoid large crowds and political demonstrations, and not remain in an area where a demonstration or altercation appears to be developing."

Tension has been high in the region since March, when Israel began construction on a controversial housing project for Jews in east Jerusalem.

Scandal May Result in Netanyahu's Indictment

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli police investigators have recommended that the state prosecutor indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of fraud and breach of trust in a scandal involving the trading of political favors for leniency in the case of a political ally accused of corruption. Such a recommendation could be politically devastating for Netanyahu.

The recommendation, contained in a secret police report, has been confirmed by the minister of public security, who is in charge of the police, and by Netanyahu's personal lawyer, who contends the attorney general and the chief state prosecutor have doubts about it.

Those two officials have the final say on who to indict, but even if they do not charge Netanyahu, such a recommendation from the police could be politically devastating. Several parties could leave his coalition, forcing new elections. If prosecutors do indict the prime minister, he would have to suspend himself from public office for the duration of the trial, which could be several years.

The public security minister says the police investigators have also recommended indictments against Justice Minister Tsachi Hanegbi, the leader of the Shas party, Arieh Deri, and the prime minister's chief of staff, Avigdor Leiberman. All those allegedly involved have denied there was any such conspiracy, and the prime minister has called stories of the affair "nonsense."

The 995-page police report was submitted to prosecutors Tuesday at the end of a 12-week investigation of allegations that the prime minister appointed a political ally to be attorney general in January as part of a conspiracy involving political favors and abuse of the judicial system. Press reports charge that the man, Roni Bar-On, was to give Deri lenient treatment in a corruption trial in exchange for the Shas party's continued support for Netanyahu's government. The issue before the government at the time was the partial withdrawal from the West Bank town of Hebron.

Bar-On resigned after one day on the job amid widespread criticism he was not qualified to be attorney general. Now, the fate of the Netanyahu government could rest with the man the prime minister appointed to succeed Bar-On as attorney general, Elyakim Rubenstein, one of the most widely respected lawyers in Israel.

Uri Zohar to Host TV Show

Rabbi Uri Zohar, a former top Israeli comedian who became religiously observant some 20 years ago, has signed a contract to host 13 hour-long weekly talk shows on Israel Television. The late-evening shows will begin after Lag BaOmer, and will feature interviews, politics, social issues, as well as comedians and singers. Zohar will write, direct, and act in skits on the shows. Israel Television, according to the contract, has the right to cancel the show after three weeks.

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