Mideast Report

JERUSALEM — Israeli officials have agreed to allow American planes to fly over Israel in the event of an Iraqi attack against Jordan.

Concern over such an attack comes in the wake of last week's defections to Amman, Jordan, of two high-level Iraqi officials.

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that the planes would come from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was scheduled to arrive in the port of Haifa this week.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressed doubts that there would be an Iraqi invasion of Jordan. He added that the developments surrounding the defections did not pose an immediate threat to Israel.

"I don't think the issue has any direct effect on Israel," he told reporters at the Knesset.

The United States and Jordan were scheduled to begin joint military exercises at the end of this week near the Iraqi border.

IDF asked to probe 1956 deaths of Egyptian POWs

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Foreign Ministry has asked the Israel Defense Force to investigate the report that Israeli troops killed Egyptian prisoners of war during the Sinai Campaign of 1956.

The ministry's directive came after Egyptian demands for clarification of reports earlier this month in the Israeli media.

Earlier this month, a Jerusalem weekly quoted a retired IDF general as saying that he had killed dozens of Egyptian prisoners of war captured after an Israeli offensive in the Sinai Peninsula during the war.

Retired Gen. Arieh Biro said his troops were stranded behind Egyptian lines with more than 40 Egyptian prisoners when they were given the order to move south in the Sinai.

"I didn't have soldiers to guard them," he reportedly said. "We had to move on to Ras Sudar, so I decided to liquidate them."

Biro's commanding officers at the time were Ariel Sharon, a Likud Knesset member and former defense minister, and Rafael Eitan, a Tsomet member of the Knesset and a former IDF chief of staff.

Israeli cost of living index showing only slight increase

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's cost of living index rose by only two-tenths of a percent in July, with inflation rising by 2.8 percent since the beginning of the year, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Tuesday.

Finance Minister Avraham Shohat welcomed the surprisingly low index and estimated that annual inflation could be the lowest in years, amounting to less than 10 percent.

The government has set a target range of 8 percent to 11 percent annual inflation.

Seasonal drops in the prices of fruits and vegetables, clothing and footwear contributed to the low increase.

European Union will boycott all Jerusalem 3000 events

JERUSALEM (JPS) — The European Union (EU) notified Israel on Friday that it will boycott all Jerusalem 3000 events. The EU noted that the festivities' overwhelming focus on the city's Jewish history gives short shrift to Christian and Muslim connections, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Furthermore, the EU informed Israel that it will withdraw funding for cultural events held in the city if those events are advertised as being in the framework of Jerusalem 3000 festivities.

"The reason for the EU boycott given on Friday was that we did not sufficiently highlight the ethnic diversity in the city," a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

Rabin OKs action against Orient House in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has allowed city officials to take legal action against Orient House, the Palestine Liberation Organization's headquarters in eastern Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert has threatened to shut down Orient House, saying it is illegally used for offices, though it is zoned as a hotel.

After a ministerial meeting Monday, Rabin gave Olmert support to move against Orient House if it continued to ignore demands that it apply for rezoning.