If the Israeli economy were a patient, doctors wouldn’t know whether to release it with a clean bill of health, keep it overnight for additional tests or simply prescribe vitamins to perk it up a little. That’s how confusing the symptoms are at the start of 1999.
# Israel’s economy last year grew just 1.9 percent, down from 2.4 percent in 1997 — the slowest rate in the decade, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Jerusalem — Yosef Begun, one of the more high-profile Soviet refuseniks of a decade ago, shook his head and whispered, “We’re forgotten heroes.”
Begun, a former electrical engineer who spent 17 years as a refusenik — 10 in prison and in exile — now lives here at the age of 66 on 2,600 shekels ($650) a month. The poverty level in Israel is 2,500 shekels.
Even before new elections were a certainty this week, Labor Party posters touting their chief, Ehud Barak, began appearing in Israel reading: “One Israel for everyone and not for the extremists.”
Barak, a former army chief of staff who once served as foreign minister, has already hired American media gurus, including James Carville, who gained prominence helping Bill Clinton to the White House. It is clear from Labor’s new slogan that it will portray Netanyahu as too closely aligned with right-wing extremists.
Tel Aviv — A revolution of sorts is taking shape in Israel. First it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise two years ago to wean the country of American foreign aid. Then last month he surprised many North American Jewish federation leaders with his pledge to spend Israeli tax dollars to subsidize educational trips to Israel for every Jew age 15 to 26.
Now, a newly created Israeli philanthropy is planning to spend some of the money it raises here to support Jews in distress overseas.
Jerusalem — Calling it a “breakthrough for political life in Israel,” Communications Minister Limor Livnat last week hailed the election of the first woman as mayor of a major Israeli city and vowed: “This is only the beginning.”
The Israeli cabinet met again Wednesday to finally ratify the Wye peace accords. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attached conditions that could delay full implementation of the land-for-peace agreement hammered out with American help.
One of the conditions is an understanding that the entire peace process could be ended should Palestinian President Yasir Arafat unilaterally declare a Palestinian state next May, as he has promised to do.
Jerusalem — Agnes Hirschi said she felt “quite ashamed” at the standing ovations she recently received in Israel at every stop at which she was introduced. “It’s not for me,” she said of the applause, “it’s for my father. I wish he could be here. I hope he can look [down] from heaven and see it somehow.”
Just four days after the Palestinian Authority pledged cooperation with Israeli security forces, its intelligence services arrested two men Tuesday who reportedly confessed to the murder of a yeshiva student in the West Bank city of Hebron just a day earlier.
Palestinian officials said they were expecting Israeli authorities to be just as vigilant in arresting the person who stoned to death an elderly Palestinian in an apparent revenge attack shortly after the murder of the student, Danny Vargas, who worked as a security guard in Hebron.
Sarah Bouhel, a 24-year-old Israeli soldier, froze when she saw a Palestinian at the Beersheva Central Bus Station Monday morning pull out a hand grenade and toss it about 12 feet from her.
“I was in shock,” she recalled. “I didn’t think he would throw it. The soldier I was standing with saw I couldn’t move, so he took my hand and pulled me, shouting at me to run. In the middle of the run, there was a big blast and we fell. I fell on my stomach because of the blast.”
What the Israeli government is calling the largest merger in the country’s history will bring together two “premier” telecommunications companies that are expected to have a combined annual revenue next year of $1.5 billion.
ECI Telecom Ltd. and Tadiran Telecom are joining in an effort to challenge bigger competitors.