NEWS BRIEFS:

The New Israeli Cabinet

Ehud Barak (One Israel) - Prime Minister, Defense Minister and acting Minister of Agriculture

David Levy (One Israel/Gesher) - Minister of Foreign Affairs

Shimon Peres (One Israel) - Minister for Regional Cooperation

Shlomo Ben-Ami (One Israel) - Minister for Internal Security

Yossi Beilin (One Israel) - Minister of Justice

Haim Ramon (One Israel) - Minister in the Prime Minister's Office for Jerusalem, government reform and liaison with Knesset

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (One Israel) - Minister of Communications

Dalia Itzik (One Israel) - Minister for Environment

Avraham Shohat (One Israel) - Minister of Finance

Yossi Sarid (Meretz) - Minister of Education

Ran Cohen (Meretz) - Minister of Industry and Trade

Yitzhak Mordechai (Center party) - Minister of Transportation

Natan Sharansky (Yisrael B'Aliyah) - Minister of Interior

Eli Yishai (Shas) - Minister of Labor and Social Affairs

Shlomo Benizri (Shas) - Minister of Health

Eli Suissa (Shas) - Minister for National Infrastructure

Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) - Minister for Religious Affairs

Yitzhak Levy (National Religious Party) - Minister of Construction and Housing

Palestinian Watch

* The Palestinian Authority continued its efforts to prevent settlement building by banning businesses from providing services and materials to Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria. Arab residents must submit the names of Palestinian builders, truckers and other companies serving the Yesha communities. The PA Legislative Council will then take legal action against violators.

* Over ten thousand Palestinians converged on Nablus on June 25 for a Hamas rally marking the prophet Muhammad's birthday. Sheik Hamed al-Beitawi, grand mufti of Nablus, warned against giving the Jews "even one iota of Palestine." Leading Hamas sheik Ahmed Yassin has made veiled threats since Ehud Barak's election to renew suicide bomb attacks to foil peace efforts. In June, Hamas reportedly planned to poison sources of Israeli drinking water.

* Israel's Civil Administration charged the PA with breaking its Oslo water commitments by using more water connections into the Hebron area than mutually agreed.

* Palestinian Deputy Mayor of Hebron, Kamal Dweik, declared the entire Tomb of the Patriarchs (Cave of Machpelah) to be a mosque and not a synagogue. Should all of Hebron be ceded to the Palestinians, the PA will not allow Jews and Christians to pray there. The site is one of the holiest in Judaism.

Anti-Semitism in the US

Arsonists targeted three synagogues (2 Reform, one Orthodox) in Sacramento, California on June 18, causing millions of dollars in damage and destroying priceless books on Jewish history. Two brothers, Benjamin and James Williams, are being held as suspects, and may be linked to the murder of a gay couple as well. The brothers are members of the World Church of the Creator, a growing anti-Semitic, white supremacist organization.

On July 2, another man with links to the group, Benjamin Smith, went on a shooting spree in the Chicago area, wounding six Orthodox Jews as they left Friday Shabbat services. Two Koreans were injured and Ricky Byrdsong, a black former basketball coach at Northwestern University, was killed in similar attacks the same weekend. Smith killed himself two days later while being pursued by Illinois police.

The attacks come as the ranks of hate groups are mushrooming, as recruiting efforts utilize the latest technology to promote their message. In 1995, there was only one "hate site" on the Internet, but that number has exploded to 2000 today, according to monitoring groups.

Grapes of Wrath Resuscitated

Outgoing Defense Minister Moshe Arens decided to boycott the Grapes of Wrath monitoring committee, declaring the understandings "have no significance or value whatsoever." The Barak government, however, resumed participation in the monitoring committee two weeks later, saying Israel must adhere to this interim arrangement until a final settlement is reached with Lebanon.

An Eye on Washington

* The US Senate unanimously passed a bill concerning American victims of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel. Since Oslo was signed in 1993, 12 Americans have been killed by Palestinian terrorists. The bill requires the State Department to provide Congress with regular reports on US investigations regarding the terrorist suspects, most of who are walking free in PA autonomous areas or serving in PA security forces. The bill also requires the State Department to explain why the US has not offered rewards for the capture of the terrorists. The US House of Representatives now takes up the legislation.

* The Senate rejected a request by the Clinton Administration ("due to the high costs of the Balkans War") to cut Israel's foreign aid by a larger amount than requested by Israel. Israel sought a net $60 million decrease in US aid in the next fiscal year, with another $60 million in economic aid to be transferred to the military budget.

* Britain restored diplomatic relations with Libya in the wake of Muamar Gaddafi's hand-over of two men suspected in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, but the US is in no hurry to follow suit. Libya will remain on the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring states until it makes restitution to victims' families, admits guilt in the affair, cooperates in the investigation and trial of the two Libyans and ends its support of terrorism.

Iranian Students Take to the Streets

In the largest demonstrations against the Islamic regime since the Iranian revolution in 1979, students protested the July 9th storming of a student hostel at Tehran University. The protestors demanded the resignation of the national police chief for ordering the raid. The street protests again have pitted reformists in the government, led by President Mohammad Khatami, and conservatives who control the police, judiciary and media. Security forces arrested over 1400 students. At least two died and twenty were seriously injured in the crackdown.

Meanwhile, attempts to obtain the release of 13 Jews accused of spying for Israel have been rebuffed by Iran. It has announced the trial will be held in an Islamic court, at an unspecified date. Iranian Jewish sources in Israel and the US fear another wave of arrests may have occurred, and that the original arrests may have been triggered by rivalries between competing Jewish business communities in Iran.


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