Israel News for September 3, 2015

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Shots from Gaza
Several shots were fired from Gaza yesterday at Israeli moshav Netiv Ha’asarah. Three homes were hit. Miraculously, no one was injured even though the inhabitants were home. In one of the homes a bullet hit the TV that the kids were watching at the time.

The IDF is sure that the shots came from Gaza, but not so sure that the shots were deliberate. Hamas has a training camp right near the border in the area.

In any case, the air force quickly responded by hitting the Hamas military area where the shots originated from. The IDF said that they hold Hamas responsible for any attacks coming from Gaza and for keeping their side of the border quiet.

Budget Approved
The Knesset yesterday approved the 2015-2016 budget in its first reading with a narrow margin of 57 in favor and 53 against. It still needs to be approved in two additional readings to become law. 

In presenting the budget, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said “this budget includes a significant increase for the social ministries, with an increased budget for education, health, welfare and public security.”

The main challenges Kahlon faced in getting the budget approved were the promises that had been made to individual parties, especially the charedi parties, during the coalition building process. Many of those promises could not be honored within the proposed budget.

Economy Minister Aryeh Deeri of Shas was noticeably absent from the vote and threatened that if his proposal to eliminate all VAT (value added tax) for the poorer sectors is not implemented, his party will vote against the budget in the second and third readings.

One of the largest bones of contention is the size of the defense budget. According to the Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist, it stands at 55 billion shekels, but the political establishment is estimating the final number to be much larger. Any increase in the defense budget is likely to mean cuts in the welfare budget or an increase in the national deficit.

The opposition strongly opposed the budget.

PM Gets Tough
PM Netanyahu is getting tougher on security. In a meeting yesterday regarding the security situation in Jerusalem and on Highway 443, he told the IDF to reassess its standing order on opening fire on stone and fire-bomb throwers.

The current order, which was issued after the Duma attacks, prohibits soldiers from firing at stone throwers unless the soldiers feel that their lives are in immediate danger. The order was meant to prevent increased violence by avoiding Palestinian casualties. That seems to be working. Unfortunately, stone and fire-bomb throwing seems to have increased.

The PM wants the attacks to end. He stressed that his policy is, “zero tolerance for stone throwing and terror.”

As a result of the meeting, two new Border Police companies and another 400 police officers will be added to the existing forces in Jerusalem and additional security will be added along the 443.

Firemen Attacked
A fire broke out in a building in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem last night. Five firefighting units responded. Firemen entered the building and rescued five people, including a mother and her children. They put out the fire. Then the neighborhood came out to attack them with stones. Police forces that were on the scene protected the firefighters from their grateful audience.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. It seems that rescue workers that respond to calls in Arab neighborhoods routinely get attacked. Not very nice.

Charedi Minister
It finally happened, without hell having to freeze over. For the first time in over 50 years, there will be a charedi cabinet minister in the Israeli government.

Yesterday, Yaakov Litzman was sworn in as Minister of Health after a Knesset vote of 83 to 10 in favor of his appointment. Among those who voted for him were opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid, as well as all of the Labor party Knesset members.

Litzman had held the position of Deputy Health Minister in accordance with the charedi position of not accepting government ministerial portfolios based on their ideological objections to secular government in the Holy Land. But when the High Court ruled that he must either become full minister or quit, the Council of Torah sages of his Agudas Yisroel faction gave him the green light to become minister.

After his swearing in Litzman received congratulations from most of the Knesset members. He even got some hugs, but just from the men.

Druze Shortchanged
The Israeli Druze population contributes more than its fair share of combat fighters to the IDF. Many Druze soldiers fought valiantly and were decorated for their service during Operation Protective Shield (Gaza War) last year. Unfortunately, many of their homes aren’t even connected to the electrical grid. That’s caused a group of veterans to return the decorations they received during Protective Shield to protest their situation.

MK Nissan Slomiansky of Bayit Yehudi met with representatives in the Druze town of Dalit Al-Karmel to hear their grievances. He sympathized with their problems, but tried to convince them to keep their commendations.

So the Druze have their ribbons and medals, but still not much electricity.

They deserve better.

Israel News for September 2, 2015

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ISIS and the Israeli
In a totally unexpected turn of events, an Israeli 21 yr old male was apprehended by Turkish police for allegedly attempting to join ISIS forces in Syria.

The man flew from Israel to Crete, then to Izmir, Turkey and then to the Turkish city of Adana. From there he traveled overland to Iskenderun, near the Turkish-Syrian border.

The man’s family, who had been in contact with him throughout his journey, figured out that something was very wrong with their boy and contacted the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for help. The MFA alerted the Israeli embassy and consulate in Turkey, who then asked the Turkish authorities for help. The Turks found the man and returned him to his family, who had flown to Turkey. The man and his family returned to Israel on Monday.

Why in the world would an Israeli Jew want to join ISIS? The MFA has implied that the man was mentally imbalanced, which is really the only answer that makes any sense. The good news in all of this is that Turkish and Israeli authorities worked together, which is a hopeful sign that relations between the two countries are warming up again.

Flags at the UN
Last week we reported about a resolution drafted by the Palestinian mission to the UN permitting observer states to fly their flags alongside member nations at the UN headquarters in New York City. The Palestinians had explicitly included the Vatican, the only other observer state, in their resolution hoping that doing so would pressure the General Assembly to approve it.

The Vatican protested their inclusion in the resolution, even though they recognize the State of Palestine. So the Palestinians rewrote their resolution, removing the Vatican, and are now seeking General Assembly approval to allow non-member observer states to raise their flags.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor is urging UN leaders to reject the resolution. He wrote letters to the UN secretary-general and the General Assembly president accusing the Palestinians of “attempting to swiftly change longstanding U.N. tradition in order to score political points.”

The United States is on Israel’s side. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, “We continue to believe that Palestinian efforts to pursue statehood or endorsements of statehood claims through the U.N. system that are outside of a negotiated settlement … (are) counterproductive,” adding that this includes raising the flag.

A spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters yesterday that the U.N. will abide by whatever the General Assembly decides.

Despite the usual support the Palestinians get at the UN, in this case the UN leadership doesn’t seem too eager to anger their host nation, the US, by raising the flag of a state that it doesn’t recognize, in its largest city, which also happens to have the largest Jewish population and be very pro Israel. That might be going too far, even for them.

Gay Pride Report
The special committee investigating the gay pride parade stabbings last month submitted their final report to Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan yesterday. The report recommended reprimanding the police commander of the Jerusalem district, Moshe Edri, and dismissing three senior officers.

Erdan accepted the committees recommendations and will decide whether to take even harsher steps and dismiss additional officers.

Charedi vs. Charedi
For the first time ever, the state prosecutor has indicted a charedi man for assaulting a charedi soldier. The incident took place two weeks ago when a soldier serving in one of the charedi integration programs in the IDF went to a shul with his father in a charedi neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The soldier, in his army uniform, ran into 34 year old Ahron Tavi Korlansky, who proceeded to yell derogatory phrases at him. He also began inciting the other men praying in the synagogue. When several of them joined him in his verbal assault, Korlansly approached the soldier and began punching him in the chest and trying to grab his beret from his shoulder. When the soldier’s father tried to help his son, the men punched him too.
Korlansky also shouted threats and derogatory remarks at police officers who arrived at the scene and at the officers who questioned him at the police station.

Quite a piece of work. Hopefully he only represents a tiny fringe of extremists in the charedi community. Unfortunately, many in the community share his views, although they would not express them violently.

PM’s Dietary Dilema
Officials from the Charedi UTJ party are furious at the PM’s alleged dietary habits.They claim that Netanyahu ate at a non-kosher restaurant on his recent visit to Italy, which is totally unacceptable for the leader of the Jewish state. The established tradition is that Israeli ministers and diplomats do not eat non-kosher food at official or public events.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Netanyahu “was invited to a restaurant by the Italian prime minister (Matteo Renzi), but he did not eat forbidden foods.”

This isn’t the first time that the PM has caught flack over his kosher dining habits. Last year he was accused of eating at a non kosher restaurant with billionaire supporter Sheldon Adelson in New York City and at an exclusive seafood restaurant in New Jersey.

But in Netanyahu’s case, walking and talking like a duck doesn’t necessarily make him a duck. Several Orthodox Israeli officials were also at the Seafood restaurant with the PM, and no one is claiming that they ate non-kosher. So just being in a non-kosher venue doesn’t mean that he actually ate there. Maybe he just had a salad.

Let’s give the PM the benefit of the doubt. That seems like the kosher thing to do.

Shops Get Smashed
Running a retail business is hard enough as is. Getting your shop smashed by oncoming traffic makes it almost impossible. In three separate incidents over the past couple of days, drivers have lost control and smashed their vehicles into store fronts.

In the latest incident, yesterday in Hadera, a bus hit several cars before plowing into a store on a main street. The day before that, in two separate incidents, cars ended up crashing into a restaurant and retail shop.

Are Israeli drivers that bad, or are they just a tad too eager to get their shopping done? It might just be a bit of both.

Israel News for September 1, 2015

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Fighting in Jenin
IDF, Shin Bet and Police counterterrorism forces entered the West Bank Arab town of Jenin last night to arrest Ba’saam Alsaudi, a senior Islamic Jihad commander. Palestinian sources say that the forces surrounded his house and destroyed it. They were fired upon and there was a shootout. Hamas claims that two of its operatives were arrested. One Israeli soldier was wounded in the shootout. At least four terrorists were killed.

Increased Security
PM Netanyahu told ministers in a weekly cabinet meeting that the IDF and police force will increase security in the wake of an escalation in terror attacks in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. He said, “We will augment our forces and expand our fortification of vehicles in order to preserve the security of Israel’s citizens.”

On the subject of police, the PM also expressed his support for Gal Hirsch, the Public Security Minister’s nominee to head up the Israel National Police. Netanyahu said, “Gal Hirsch is the right person at the right time. He was a moral and ethical officer, he has great abilities to make change and contribute to the strengthening of the Israel police and the strengthening of law and order in the state.”

Hirsch is being investigated by the attorney general for alleged money laundering and other business improprieties. No evidence has so far been found against him.

Egypt, Fish and Tunnels
Israel isn’t the only country bent on destroying Hamas tunnels coming out of Gaza. This week the Egyptian army began a project to construct 18 fisheries along their 9 mile border with Gaza. The fisheries will grow mullet fish and shrimp. More importantly, the water will make digging tunnels impossible and cause the existing ones to flood.

Some Gazan smugglers are already installing water pumps to suck the water out and keep their tunnels operating. But it seems like just a matter of time before the twenty tunnels currently in operation get shut down, putting an end to smuggling and terrorist movement across the border.

Maybe Israel should consider creating fish farms along its border with Gaza? Salmon and whitefish might just solve Israel’s Gaza border problems.

Israeli Tunnel
Speaking of tunnels, Jerusalem police have uncovered the entrance to a 30 meter long tunnel in the yard of an East Jerusalem house adjacent to the Rockefeller Museum, just outside the Old City. The museum contains a major collection of artifacts from archaeological digs conducted during the British Mandate period.

Museum officials don’t seem to think that the purpose of the tunnel was to steal artifacts, but the police are investigating the possibility. They’ll keep digging until they figure it out (sorry for the tunnel humor).

Where there’s Smoke
Smoking seems to be on the rise in the Palestinian Authority, but PA tax coffers aren’t benefitting. Neither is the Palestinian run Jerusalem Cigarette Company. That’s because huge quantities of cigarettes are being smuggled in from Jordan every day, bypassing PA customs officials.

Most of the cigarettes are smuggled in by women, who strap them to their bodies, and delivered by Israeli taxis, which can’t be searched by PA authorities.

The Jordanian made cigarettes cost half as much as those made in the PA. According to one report, the smuggling is costing the PA over $100 million in lost revenue. Sales at the Jerusalem Cigarette Company have dropped significantly too. The instances of lung cancer can’t be too good either, but that’s just our guess.

Charedim Must Not Discriminate
One of the most prestigious charedi girls seminary will need to be a bit less discriminatory in their acceptance practices. The Jerusalem district court has ordered the seminary, Hayashan, to accept 21 girls into its ninth grade class that they had previously rejected. Most of the girls are from Sephardic families.

The story began when the 21 girls were rejected from enrolling in the school, even after the Jerusalem Municipality insisted that they be accepted. The school’s headmaster, Rabbi Levin, denies allegations of discrimination against Sephardim and claims that the girls just do not have the qualifications required by the school.

Aryeh Deri, the head of the Shas Sephardic-Charedi party, warned against a repeat of the discrimination case in the charedi town of Emanuel. In that case there were two girls schools, one primarily for Ashkenazim and one for Sephardim. Some Sephardic parents sued because their girls were denied acceptance to the Ashkenazic school. The case caused lots of strife and infighting within the charedi community. No one in the community wants that to happen again.

Rabbi Levin says that he will fight the court’s ruling claiming that it has no right to meddle in the affairs of the charedi education system.