Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Noa Ben-Artzi, the granddaughter of Yitzhak Rabin who gave a heart-rending eulogy at his funeral, has reportedly received a $1 million advance for a book on her relationship with the slain Israeli prime minister.

Ben-Artzi, 18, who will write under the name Noa Rabin, will include a call for Middle East peace in her 200-page book, it was reported.

According to accounts from New York, Alfred A. Knopf purchased distribution rights from the French publishing house Robert Laffont, which initiated the project.

The Rabin family denied reports that Ben-Artzi had signed a contract or received $1 million, the Israeli daily Ma'ariv reported.

"She heard about the proposal. But today is the 30th day since her grandfather's murder," the paper quoted the family as saying Tuesday. "It is not a day to even relate to such inquiries."

But the book deal was confirmed by Marek Halter, a French writer and friend of the Rabin family, who said he will work with Ben-Artzi on the book, to be published in French and English in the spring.

"I have known Noa for many years," he said. "We went with my publisher to Israel to talk about [the idea for a book] with Noa, and the family accepted."

Halter added that Ben-Artzi's book would not be a memoir, but a portrait of the generation of young Israelis of which she is part.

Israel issuing bonds for $200 million

JERUSALEM (JTA) — In an effort to "diversify its financing after the era" of loan guarantees, Israel will float $200 million in bonds in the United States this week, said Finance Ministry spokesman Eli Yosef.

Yosef said the $200 million in bonds would be printed in the United States and marketed to investment banks and financial institutions.

Israel recently arranged a $250 million loan from some 43 banks, which put up the money in a variety of currencies.

There were no details regarding who would sell the bonds, or what the interest rate would be.

Israel receives $1.8 billion dollars in military aid and $1.2 billion dollars in economic aid annually from the United States, both via grants.

The United States also agreed in 1992 to guarantee $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel to fund housing and economic development for former Soviet immigrants.

Peres tries to deflate Knesset windbags

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Sunday started making drastic cuts in his government's expenditure of hot air.

Peres, adopting an idea that had come up during the administration of Yitzhak Rabin, employed a chess clock at Sunday's Cabinet meeting to limit each minister's remarks to five minutes.

Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had been annoyed with ministers' tendency to be long-winded, with meetings dragging on until late in the afternoon.

Peres had also expressed his annoyance with the phenomenon and decided to do something about it after forming his government.

Knesset turns down no-confidence vote

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's government has withstood the first no-confidence motion brought against it since Shimon Peres became prime minister.

In a 53-48 vote, with five abstentions, the Knesset on Monday defeated the motion, which was submitted by the Likud Party after a report issued last week cited a rise in poverty in Israel.

In his remarks, Likud faction leader Moshe Katsav accused the government of being directly responsible for a growing gap between the rich and poor.

Social Affairs Minister Ora Namir of Labor conceded that the government needed to do more to deal with rising poverty in Israel, adding that it was time to provide direct assistance to the neediest members of Israeli society.

Namir admitted a government program to stem poverty has so far proven unsuccessful.

One in eight Israelis lived below the poverty line in 1994, the National Insurance Institute announced last week.

According to the institute, 671,500 people lived under the poverty line — defined as those with a monthly income of less than $780.

The statistics showed that 23,000 more people lived in poverty than the previous year. Some 42 percent of those under the poverty line were children.

Siamese twins stable after being separated

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A pair of Siamese twins born Sunday were separated in an operation at the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petach Tikva that same day.

The baby girls were connected at the abdomen, and shared a digestive system and urinary tract, Israel Television reported.

The babies were in critical but stable condition Monday, and doctors are optimistic about their survival, though they will require additional operations.

There have been only six previous reports of Siamese twins joined by their intestines and urinary systems; four sets survived. This was reportedly the first successful separation of Siamese twins in Israel.

Baby you can drive my tank, army says

JERUSALEM (JTA) — He can't yet walk, but he has already been called up by the army for reserve duty — as a driver.

For Elihu Ben-Shoshan, crawling is more his speed these days, preferably with a pacifier firmly planted in his mouth.

Nevertheless, an Israel Defense Force order recently arrived in the mail at his Carmiel home, ordering him to show up for duty as a driver in a month.

"I burst out laughing, I couldn't believe it," his mother, Michal Ben-Shoshan, told the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot. "What, they've started drafting babies into the army?"

The IDF said in response that thousands of similar orders are issued weekly, and such a mistake in the paperwork is possible.