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News Briefs II

Netanyahu Relaxes Fiscal Controls

Los Angeles Times

After more than two years of tight fiscal control over the Israeli economy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that it is time to loosen the economic reins and boost spending on popular social programs.

The decision is not sudden, the prime minister insists. And it has nothing to do with his battle to win re-election May 17, he says.

But Israeli opposition leaders and political commentators said Tuesday that Netanyahu's recent reversals supporting legislation to provide free nursery school for 3-year-olds, for instance, and rejecting a proposal to cut benefits to senior citizens are blatant election-year economics. And they're crying foul, charging that Netanyahu, who acts as his own finance minister, is trying to buy votes.

"He is changing his policy totally from positions that he took only two or three months ago," said senior Labor Party legislator Avraham Shohat, who served as finance minister under the previous, Labor Party-led government. "The cost is going to be billions of shekels to the state, only because he wants to be elected again."

The subject was the topic of the day Tuesday for many Israeli radio talk shows, with callers hotly debating the merits of candidates trying to pour money into an election-year economy. But not many appeared to believe that the promised benefits will actually materialize.

U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Over Israeli Airline Security Search


The Supreme Court Tuesday threw out a lawsuit brought against El Al Airlines by a New York woman who claimed she suffered emotional trauma from a security search by airline personnel.

In an 8-1 opinion, the court sided with the Israeli government-owned airline and ruled that an international treaty, known as the Warsaw Convention, governs air carrier liability for international flights and bars state court claims such as that brought by Tsui Yuan Tseng, a hospital clinical nutritionist .

She sued the airline over an incident on May 22, 1993, when she checked in for a flight to Tel Aviv. She said she was taken to a security area and treated as a "high-risk" passenger, confined for more than an hour, questioned and touched inappropriately by a female security officer who searched her. No contraband was found, and she was allowed on the plane.

Tseng later testified that the search caused her to be "emotionally traumatized and disturbed" throughout her vacation and that she required medical and psychiatric treatment upon her return.

She sought $5 million in damages in her state court suit. The airline got the case moved to federal court, where a U.S. District Court judge dismissed it, saying the Warsaw Convention precluded such claims. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held, however, that she could sue under state law because the treaty applied only to bodily injury.

The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday reversed the circuit court. "We hold today that a passenger may not recover damages under another source of law when the convention excludes recovery," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said for the court.