Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Histadrut chairman Haim Ramon said Tuesday he will not run against Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres for the party leadership next year and is returning to Labor unconditionally, together with his allies Amir Peretz and Shmuel Avital.

"Today it is clear that nothing can be as it has been in the past," Ramon told a press conference.

Late Tuesday night, Peres and Ramon met to discuss which cabinet post Ramon would receive. Ramon also made it clear that he would do everything to help Peres win the election.

"I don't believe anyone in the party will challenge Peres' leadership," said Economics and Planning Minister Yossi Beilin, a close friend and supporter of both Peres and Ramon. "Today, Peres is the indisputable leader of the party, and anyone who challenges him will make a laughingstock of himself."

Ramon, Peretz, and Avital broke off from Labor to run against it in the Histadrut elections less than two years ago, and won a sweeping victory. Although they officially remained Labor members, they were negotiating with Yitzhak Rabin over the terms of their return to the party.

Ramon said he would continue fighting for open primaries and the extension of Labor's membership census — due to close next month — to enable more people to join the party.

Weizman gathers support for Peres

JERUSALEM (JPS) — President Ezer Weizman was expected to ask Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres Wednesday evening to form the new government, after consulting with the small Knesset factions.

Weizman met with delegations from the various parties from morning to evening Tuesday, and all of them asked him to confer the premiership on Peres.

Labor whip Ra'anan Cohen said of Peres: "He was Yitzhak Rabin's partner and will follow in his footsteps."

Peres says peace facing `fragile chapter'

JERUSALEM (JPS) Acting Prime Minister Shimon Peres, standing on a hill over the Green Line amid heavy security, told reporters Tuesday that the peace process was going through a very fragile stage now that redeployment is under way close to the center of the country.

"This is a very fragile chapter with very great political and security sensitivity," he said.

Peres praised the Israeli army's smooth withdrawal from Jenin "six days ahead of time" on Monday and said the question was now how to shape the future borders, even if they are temporary. "The question is whether there has to be separation," Peres said.

"But usually our security forces will be along the line. What means they will prefer — fences, guards or walls or another system of relations — we will have to weigh very carefully."

He hinted that future withdrawals would be conditional. "We told the Palestinians that we intend to draw all the necessary conclusions from the first attempt to realize the agreement," he said.

Before the end of this month, the IDF is scheduled to withdraw from Tulkarm and Kalkilya, both on the Green Line close to the heartland of Israel.

High court rethinks jailing without trial

JERUSALEM (JPS) — In what could be a major turning point in the treatment of criminal defendants, the Supreme Court Sunday ruled the courts must reinterpret all laws relating to holding prisoners without trial.

"In a democratic country, which has placed the statement: `Human rights in Israel are based on the recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life, and the fact that he is free' at the head of its constitution, imprisonment without trial must take place only in exceptional and special cases," wrote the court's president, Justice Aharon Barak.

"Remands are not an investigatory tool…and are not an advance on the sentence," added Justice Tova Strasberg-Cohen. "If previously, the public interest, which authorizes limiting human freedom, was the foremost thing in our minds [when considering a remand]…today, it is man's fundamental right to liberty that is first and foremost in our eyes."

The ruling was in response to the case of Imad Ganimat, who was indicted for car theft in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court and held until trial on the grounds that car theft is a "national plague."

The remand was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided 2-1 to overturn it. Because of the importance of the issues raised, however, it then ordered a rehearing before an expanded panel of seven justices.

Barak, former court president Meir Shamgar, and Justices Eliezer Goldberg, Eliahu Mazza, Mishael Cheshin, Dalia Dorner, and Tova Strasberg-Cohen agreed unanimously that designating a crime a "national plague" was not sufficient to justify jailing without trial.

Israel's population will top 6 million

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's population may top 6 million by the year 2000 if current growth rates continue, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, which issued its annual statistical abstract Sunday.

The population of Israel last year stood at 5.6 million, with 81 percent comprised of Jews.

The population grew by 140,000 people, similar to the growth in 1993 and 1992.

New justices named to Supreme Court

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two new justices have been appointed to Israel's Supreme Court.

The Committee on Judicial Appointments announced this week that Dorit Beinish, state prosecutor, and Ya'acov Tirkel, Beersheba District Court president, would be named to the court.

They are taking the seats of recently retired court President Meir Shamgar, and of Justice Dov Levine, who is expected to resign next month.