Israel News for January 29, 2016

U.S. Customs
In 1995, the U.S. Customs Service instituted a regulation requiring that products made in the West Bank and Gaza be marked as such, and not as Made in Israel. The regulation was rarely enforced. Last week the Customs Service released a statement reminding importers of the regulation.

Several pro-Palestinian organizations have recently been making efforts to have the regulation enforced, including The U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation and CODEPINK, which runs a campaign targeting the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava Dead Sea.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told the Forward it doesn’t object to the 1995 legislation. According to the group, the policy doesn’t stigmatize Israeli products, contrary to the EU labeling initiative, but facilitates duty free access to the U.S. market for Palestinian goods.  

Besides the fact that the regulation has gone unenforced, it’s unclear how the U.S. Regulation differs, in practice, from the EU labeling regulations.

Can anyone enlighten us?

For further reading click here.

Anti Artists
Im Tirtzu, the right-wing organization that campaigned against foreign funded left-wing NGOs, has now targeted left-wing authors and artists. The group has named around 100 people involved in Israeli film, theater, publishing and television, including authors Amos Oz and David Grossman, accusing them of being foreign agents disloyal to the state, intent on obstructing the government.

Im Tirtzu director Matan Peleg said, ”Every time the public representatives in the State of Israel try to fulfill the mission they were tasked with by the people in the most legitimate and democratic manner, we encounter an automatic smear campaign from these ‘artists’ who try to portray themselves as enlightened, progressive and those who ‘know better’ than the entire public. The problem is that these people neglect to mention the fact they’re members of ‘plant organizations’ operating with foreign funding and the New Israel Fund against the State of Israel.”

Im Tirtzu, which was once regarded as a fringe group, has developed close ties to members of Netanyahu’s government, particularly the Bayit Yehudi party led by Naftali Bennett.
 
Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the author of the NGO bill and a member of Bayit Yehudi, were quick to distance themselves from Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign.
 
Bennett called the campaign “embarrassing, needless and disgraceful.”
 
Shaked told Army Radio: “It does not serve any agenda and I do not think this is a proper campaign. I do not think these artists who hold salient left-wing views should be considered plants. Not everyone who is on the left should be demonized.”
 
PM Netanyahu also spoke out against Im Tirtzu’s campaign. “I am opposed to labelling as a ‘traitor’ anybody who (holds opposing views to the mainstream). We are a democracy and there are a multitude of opinions.

For further reading click here.

Protective Shield
The Defense Ministry has unveiled the first armored personal carrier (APC) equipped with the Trophy system, which uses radar and missiles to detect and destroy antitank and rocket-propelled grenades fired at it. The APC, called Namer (tiger), will be able to safely transport troops through battlefields.

The Trophy system is already installed on the latest Merkava tanks, and was used successfully during the 2014 Gaza war, saving the lives of countless soldiers.

According to Brig.-Gen. Baruch Matzliah, the head of the Merkava Tank Administration, “The Namer with the Trophy system will form the highest level of protection for IDF soldiers and provide them with defense and a significant advantage on the battlefield.”

The new weapons are also good for the Israeli economy. About 200 factories produce parts for the Merkava and Namer across Israel, most of them located in peripheral areas, employing around 10,000 people.

For further reading click here.

Cheap Flight
Ever been to Cyprus? Beginning on February 14 Tus Airways, Cyprus’s sole airline since the collapse of Cyprus Airways, will operate seven weekly flights to Larnaca (the island’s main international airport) and Tel Aviv. Tus will also operate several weekly flights from Haifa (bet you didn’t even know that Haifa had an airport) and Eilat.

One-way tickets from Haifa to Larnaca will start at €39 and from Tel Aviv to Larnaca from €69, including taxes. Tickets can be ordered through travel agents or on the company website, which will also appear in Hebrew.

While the airline explained that its name, Tus, is an acronym of “The Ultimate Schedule”, we all know that the word means “to fly” in Hebrew. Coincidence?

Who’s up for a Cyprus vacation?

For further reading click here.

Go South
Private houses are rare and prohibitively expensive in most populated areas of Israel, which is why most Israelis live in apartments. But if you’ve got your heart set on having your own home on a little plot of holy land earth, consider going south — to Beersheva.

The National Planning and Building Commission for Preferred Housing Sites yesterday approved a plan for 4,120 housing units in northern Beersheva. Two thirds of the homes will be private housing units. The hope is to bring an economically well-off population to the city.

Although it sounds really far away, Beersheva is only about a 50 minute train ride from Tel Aviv, which is a breeze by NYC standards.

So maybe Beersheva isn’t out of the question after all?

For further reading click here.

Bathroom Confusion
On a flight from Eilat to Ben Gurion today, a passenger had trouble opening the bathroom door. After several unsuccessful attempts other passengers began screaming at him and the crew finally restrained him. That’s because instead of the bathroom door, he was trying to open the emergency exit. No one has to go that badly.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 28, 2016

Terror Attack
A Palestinian, around 18 years old, stabbed a 36 yr. old Israeli man outside a restaurant in a gas station near Giva’at Ze’ev, just north of Jerusalem, yesterday. The terrorist fled the scene but was chased down and caught by a group of civilians, who held him until police arrived and evacuated him in an ambulance. The terrorist was lightly wounded when he was caught.
The victim of the attack was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem in serious condition, with stab wounds to his upper body.

For further reading click here.

Obama First
President Obama spoke at an International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony held at the Israeli Embassy in Washington yesterday. As, Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. pointed out in his opening remarks, “This is the first time a sitting president has ever spoken to our embassy.” He called the gesture “a message of friendship.”

Obama spoke out strongly against anti-semitism saying,

“Anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot deny it. When we see Jews leaving Europe… and attacks on Jewish centers from Mumbai to Kansas; when we see swastikas appear on college campuses, we must not stay silent.

When any Jew anywhere is targeted, we must all respond as if we are all Jewish… we must all do what we can… we have a responsibility, and as president I will make sure the US is leading the fight against anti-Semitism.”

The ceremony specifically honored four individuals who saved Jews during the holocaust, declaring them to be among the “righteous of the nations.” One of the four was Tennessee native Master Sergeant Roddie Edwards, who resisted Nazi demands that he identify Jewish U.S. soldiers in the POW camp where he was the ranking non-commissioned officer. Edwards told the Nazi commandant, “we are all Jews here,” even when threatened with death. Edwards’ courage saved around 200 Jewish POWs.

Obama echoed his words by saying that when it comes to anti-semitism, “we are all indeed Jews.” The President also reiterated America’s steadfast and unconditional support for Israel’s security and the unbreakable bond between the two nations.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the date of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.

Watch the video of the entire ceremony here.

Hebron Houses
According to Haaretz, the investigation launched into the ownership of the two houses in Hebron that were occupied by Jewish families who were subsequently evicted by the IDF last week, could drag on for years.

On Sunday, after several cabinet members protested, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the settlers would be allowed to return after the necessary permits were obtained.

Documents submitted to the Civil Administration indicate that the buildings were purchased in 2008 from their owners by the Israel Land Fund, which purchases property from Arabs. In 2012 the houses were transferred to Al-Aydun al-Akarat, a company owned by former Shin Bet agent Assaf Nehmad.

Even if ownership is conclusively proven, the complete registration process required to take possession of the houses could take several years.

For further reading click here.

Jordan Apologizes
Back in December we reported the story of an Israeli family heading to Jordan on vacation who had their religious articles confiscated by Jordanian border guards. The guards claimed that Jordanian law prohibited the possession of Jewish religious articles in the kingdom. The family decided to scrap their Jordanian vacation and stay in Israel.

Yesterday Channel 2 News reported that the Jordanian Foreign Ministry apologized for the incident, but confirmed that entering the kingdom with a tallit or tefillin was prohibited. The Ministry claimed that the ban is in place to protect the safety of tourists.

The apology came after intensive talks between the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Jordan, which started in December after the incident was originally made public by the family in a Facebook post.

For further reading click here.

Palestinian Returns
The Palestinian Authority’s Coordination and Liaison Department has announced that, in 2015, it returned 634 Israeli citizens to Israel who entered PA territory either mistakenly or to deal drugs.

Besides returning lost Israelis, the department also deals with issues relating to Palestinians who want to go to Israel for medical treatment, Palestinian farmers with land in Israeli controlled territory, the entrance of Palestinian paramedics into Israeli controlled areas, and the return of terrorist corpses to their families.

Tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 27, 2016

PM Slams Ban
PM Netanyahu slammed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Ban’s comments yesterday. Ban said that, “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” and that, “it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

While Ban did condemn Palestinian terror, he claimed that “security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.”

Ban warned that,”So-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity.” He also said he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli government had approved plans for more than 150 new homes in “illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

In response, the PM said, “The UN secretary general’s comments give terror a tailwind. There is no justification for terror. The Palestinian murderers do not want to build a country – they want to destroy a country, and say so openly. They want to murder Jews wherever they may be, and say so openly. They do not murder for peace and they do not murder for human rights. The UN has long lost its neutrality and moral power, these comments by the secretary general do little to improve its standing.”

On the bright side, Ban also criticized Palestinian incitement to violence, saying that “incitement has no place, and questioning the right of Israel to exist cannot be tolerated.”

For further reading click here.

Holocaust Remembrance
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. At a special ceremony at the UN General Assembly, Israel will be represented (for the first time) by a Holocaust survivor. Martha Weiss, 81, an Auschwitz survivor, was invited to address the UN by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN. Last year President Reuven Rivlin gave the address.

In another first, US President Barack Obama is expected to attend a Holocaust memorial service at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Two American nationals and two Poles will be recognized as righteous among the nations at the ceremony. This will also be the first time the honor is bestowed in the United States.

In a statement regarding the day of remembrance, PM Netanyahu said, “Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever, for in this period of resurgent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism, it is commemorations like this that remind us all where the oldest and most enduring hatred can lead. Around the world, Jewish communities are increasingly living in fear. We see anti-Semitism directed against individual Jews, and we also see this hatred directed against the collective Jew, against the Jewish state. Israel is targeted with the same slurs and the same libels that were leveled against the Jewish people since time immemorial.”

Netanyahu specifically reprimanded European leaders for not fighting against anti-semitism, saying, ”Even respected Western opinion leaders have become afflicted with hatred for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The obsession with the Jews – the fixation on the Jewish state – defies any other rational explanation.”

He warned, “When a state like Iran and movements like ISIS and Hamas openly declare their goal of committing another Holocaust, we will not let it happen. But Europe and the rest of the world must stand up together with us. Not for our sake; for theirs.”
 

For further reading click here.

Cyber Attack
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed yesterday that Israel’s Electricity Authority managed to thwart a “severe cyber attack” on its operations this week.

Steinitz said, “The virus was already identified and the right software was already prepared to neutralize it. We had to shut down many of the computers of the Israeli electricity authorities. We are handling the situation and I hope that soon, this very serious event will be over.”

Apparently, terror attacks come in many forms.

For further reading click here.

ISIS Attack
According to the ISIS linked Amaq News Agency, two Israeli Apache helicopters, accompanied by two drones, attacked ISIS positions in the Egyptian town of Sheikh Zuweid in Northern Sinai on Monday night. Several ISIS fighters were killed in the attack. Egyptian media reported that the attack was launched by Egyptian forces. Who do you believe?

In any case, the reports agree that ISIS fighters were killed in an air attack, which is something we can all be happy about.

For further reading click here.

Hamas Washout
The robust rainy season in Israel this year has reaped an unexpected security benefit. According to Palestinian media reports, at least 8 Hamas terrorists were killed when heavy rains caused the tunnel they were digging to collapse, northeast of Gaza City.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza spokesman denied the reports, claiming no bodies were brought to the hospital from the tunnel collapse. On Saturday, the Ministry reported that a Hamas militant was killed in a tunnel collapse in Khan Yunis.

In any case, it’s clear that Hamas is back in the terror tunnel building business. It is estimated that since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas has dug dozens of tunnels of varying lengths. What a surprise.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 26, 2016

Terror Attack
Yesterday two Palestinian terrorists jumped over the security fence of the settlement of Beit Horon, which is located just off of Highway 443 in between Modiin and Jerusalem, and stabbed two women near a grocery store. They also threw three pipe bombs that failed to explode. When they attempted to enter the grocery store to stab more women and children, the cashier, Motti Shalem, blocked them using a large metal shopping cart.

Salem recounted, “the two terrorists came from the direction of the fence, and must’ve breached it and got in. Then they stabbed a woman on the sidewalk, and another at the parking lot, and then tried to enter the store. Me and another guy pushed them back with a supermarket cart, and then they ran, and were shot by the security guard.”

One of the women stabbed, Shlomit Krigman, died of her wounds today. Krigman, 23, was from Shadmot Mehola in the Jordan Valley and lived with her grandparents in Beit Horon. She was laid to rest today in Jerusalem, near the resting place of Dafna Meir, who was murdered by a terrorist last week in Otniel. The other victim, a 58 year old woman, remains hospitalized with moderate wounds.

The attackers were later identified as Ibrahim Alan, from the adjacent West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, and Hussein Abu Ro’ash, from the Qalandiyah refugee camp, north of Jerusalem. One of them had posted on his Facebook page last Thursday that he planned on committing an attack the following week.

For further reading click here.

New Homes
Israeli planning authorities approved the construction of 153 new apartments in West Bank settlements last week, effectively putting an end to an informal construction freeze that has lasted about 18 months. This comes after Jerusalem’s local planning and building commission gave final approval last month for the construction of 891 units in the Gilo neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

Perhaps the Israeli government feels that the U.S. Administration is unlikely to protest during an election year?

For further reading click here.

Misplaced Rain
Israel has been hit with some massive rain storms this year, which should be a good thing for the country’s water supply. Unfortunately, according to The Hydrological Service of the Israel Water Authority, the level of the Kinneret, Israel’s main reservoir, has risen just 21 centimeters, a worrying figure as far as the Water Authority is concerned, especially given data from previous years, in some of which the level of the lake rose about 20 centimeters in just one rainy day.

A senior Water Authority official said,”We are already at the end of January, and the level is only 17 centimeters above the lower red line. That is not good, and it’s concerning. This year, as in the past few years, the main rain systems have been in the center and the south, and the north has simply not had enough rainfall.”

Unless February and March bring lots of rain to Northern Israel, officials say that this will be the third consecutive year that they will declare the Kinneret and the northern region dry.

But don’t get too alarmed just yet. Most of the water that is used in Israeli homes comes from five desalination plants. But still…

For further reading click here.

Uber Israel
Want to try using Uber in Israel? Forget about it, at least for now. But if PM Netanyahu gets his way, you might be able to Uber after all. The PM and Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz are fighting it out about letting the company operate in Israel.

Katz is adamantly against it, claiming that doing so would oblige the government to pay between 8 and 9 million shekels to taxi drivers. He said, “I don’t know where the myth of the strength of the taxi drivers comes from; they are not a strong group. With all due respect, we’re not talking about the vehicle importers. These are people who work, who have to cope with reality, and my job is to enable them to do so on equal terms. Whoever pays for a taxi license can’t have someone coming with their private vehicle to compete with them.”

The PM met with the Uber CEO during World Economic Forum in Davos, and the CEO expressed his criticism of Katz’s position. Netanyahu believes that letting Uber operate in Israel will lower transportation costs for Israeli consumers. He also feels that security concerns related to the possibility of terrorists using Uber as a means of luring victims into their cars are manageable.

The fight continues, while taxi cabs rule…for the time being.

For further reading click here.

Israel Investing
If you’ve always wanted to invest in an Israeli startup but never thought you’d have the means or the opportunity, your prayers might just have been answered. A new crowdfunding site called crowdmii (mii = made in Israel) is making it possible for supporters of Israel to invest in “Startup nation” companies seeking funding.

Crowdmii CEO Assaf Luxembourg said, “Israel-supporting organizations and communities around the world praise Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship, and are looking for ways to integrate them in their advocacy and Israel-support efforts. We call on them to embrace our campaigns and show not only how Israel helps the world, but also how the crowd can take an active part.”

Check out the site to see the companies and the innovative products and services they’re developing. Be a part of the startup nation!

http://crowdmii.com

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Israel News for January 25, 2016

PM Defends DM
PM Netanyahu defended Defense Minister Ya’alon’s eviction of Jews from two houses in the Old City of Hebron that they moved into last week. The PM said that if, “anyone bought an apartment in the Muqata compound in Ramallah (seat of the Palestinian Authority) no one would expect the IDF to protect him so he could live there.”

The Jews claim to have purchased the houses legally, but the Defense Minister claims that they did not follow legal procedures and get the authorization required to take possession of property.

Several Likud and Bayit Yehudi MK’s attacked Ya’alon, prompting the leaders of the coalition parties to establish a ministerial committee in charge of “improving coordination between the government, the security establishment and the settlements’ leadership on construction in the settlements.” The committee will include Ya’alon, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, and will function as an “advisory body” in settlement-related matters.

For further reading click here.

TV Incitement
The Shin Bet has announced that the 15 yr. old terrorist who murdered Dafna Meir in Otniel last week was motivated to carry out his attack by incitement on Palestinian television, which presented Israel as “the killer of Palestinian youngsters.”

The Shin Bet issued a statement saying, “The severe consequences of the attack show once more the seriousness of the threat posed by the Palestinian media’s wild incitement against the State of Israel and Jews, which influences lone-wolf attackers to commit murder and carry out serious terror attacks.”

The suspect’s father said, “If I would have known I would have prevented this and even handed him in. I hope it turns out he is innocent.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the teen committed the murder after a falling out with his father and deciding to either become a martyr or get arrested and be sent to jail.

Deputy Defense Minister Tipi Hotovely continues to speak out strongly against Palestinian incitement that she claims is financed in large part by funds received from foreign governments. In an Wall Street Journal op-ed, Hotovely called on the international community to condition its funding of the PA on a close inspection of whether or not it will stop inciting terror and funding the families of terrorists. She has reiterated her views in meetings with European foreign ministers.

Hotovely recently published figures showing that the PA continues to fund terrorism and support terrorists, both by broadcasting programs inciting terror, and actively financing the families of terrorists, with the relatives of those who succeed in murdering Israelis receiving a larger reward.

For further reading click here.

IAF Strikes
Israeli jets struck a Hamas-affiliated target inside Gaza early today in retaliation for a rocket fired at Israel last night. The rocket landed in an open area near the Gaza border causing no injuries or damage. While there were no group has yet to claim responsibility for the rocket attack, Israel holds Hamas responsible for everything that happens in Gaza.

For further reading click here.

Building Enforcement
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has approved recommendations to increase enforcement of planning and construction laws and regulations, with a special emphasis on the Arab and Druze communities.

Planning officials within the Arab community say that there are some 50,000 houses in Arab communities that have no construction permits.

Arab Knesset members lashed out at the new initiative, even threatening violence. MK Basel Ghattas said: “We have been working for years to freeze demolition orders to arrive at an arrangement regarding construction that is not according to the law, but the authorities ignore this demand.”

Ghattas warned that if the government pursued this course, “the outcome will be very severe for both sides. We have no interest in violent conflict between the Arab minority and the state, but if this policy continues, it will come. The state…makes itself the enemy of the Arab citizens with its own two hands.”

For further reading click here.

Close Call
Israel’s plans to export billions of dollars worth of natural gas to Egypt almost unraveled when an Italian exploration company discovered a massive Egyptian gas field last August. But fear not. The company’s original output estimate for the field has just been cut in half. Too bad for Egypt, but good news for Israeli gas exports.

Ring Returned
One bride-to-be is counting her blessings, and probably being a bit more careful with her jewelry.

On Thursday, the young woman in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Geula neighborhood, who is set to get married next month, placed her diamond engagement ring in her pocket while emptying her trash into a receptacle on the street.

There was also a small, empty food bag in her pocket which she also discarded, and the ring allegedly fell into the bag before she threw it into the dumpster. When she searched for her ring in her pocket, it wasn’t there.

Just her luck a garbage truck had just emptied the dumpster. The woman realized what had happened and immediately alerted the driver to the problem.

After a search on the street failed to locate the ring, the truck – with the approval of the municipal authorities – was taken to a city warehouse and emptied to enable the family to search for the ring. The family then sent out a notice asking members of the public to help them with their search.

The searchers didn’t end up finding the ring. It turns out that a Jerusalem man, who wishes to remain anonymous, had already found the ring on the street on Thursday, but didn’t hear about the search until after Shabbat. When he did, he immediately contacted the family and returned the ring.

Mazal Tov!!

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 22, 2016

Hebron Eviction
In a surprise move, Jewish residents of Hebron moved into two empty houses yesterday, located in the Old City of Hebron near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The residents, comprised of 20 families, assert that they purchased the buildings and proceeded to name them Beit Rachel and Beit Leah, in memory of the two Matriarchs.

Early today, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the families evicted from the houses, claiming that they failed to get required approvals and permits from authorities and thus, “trampled the law”.

Ya’alon said, “The settlements are important to me and I take action [to support them], but I won’t compromise on the law.”

Shlomo Levinger, a spokesman for the families, said that the families have proof of sale and all the necessary legal permits from the civil administration to inhabit the structures.

Several Knesset members criticized Ya’alon’s action. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called on the relevant authorities to “quickly examine the legality of the purchase instead of igniting the spirits by evicting the residents.” He added, “Especially at a time when our enemies are trying to hurt us, and not just physically but also [undermine] our right over the land, it is only right to send a message that we have come home.”

The Bayit Yehudi party issued a statement saying, “Amid a terror wave, the Defense Minister is taking determined, uncompromising and insensitive action to throw Jews out of their homes,” and that he should, “direct the same passion and determination to deal with the Arab terror and illegal construction in the terrorists’ towns.”

Ya’alon responded by calling on the MKs to “restrain their remarks, support the rule of law and avoid encouraging [citizens] to take the law into their hands.”

For further reading click here.

Abbas Contact
PA President Abbas told Israeli journalists yesterday that he has tried to make contact with PM Netanyahu but has gotten no response. He claims that during informal meetings between his and the PM’s staffers, the idea of a meeting was discussed and he agreed to the idea. Evidently, the PM didn’t. But that’s just his side of the story.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied Abbas’ claims. “This is an attempt by Abu Mazen (Abbas) to avoid taking responsibility for the lack of negotiations. Even today in Davos, Netanyahu called on Abu Mazen to [resume] negotiations without preconditions.

Abbas said that low-level contacts between the two sides, as well as security coordination, are continuing, but he could not promise that they would do so in the future.

For further reading click here.

No Asylum
An investigative report by Haaretz has found that Israel denies the requests of Palestinians who ask for asylum or protection after being sentenced to death by the Palestinian Authority for selling land to Jews. Some of those asking for help have worked for Israel as informers.

A committee for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit in the Defense Ministry, meets once a month to discuss requests by Palestinians who have asked Israel for help, after their lives have been threatened for cooperating with Israel. The process of examining each specific case is long and detailed.

The committee will not deal with Palestinians who sold land to a private person at all, and only deals with cases in which land was sold to a state institution, like the World Zionist Organization or Jewish National Fund.

However, it said that if a Palestinian claims his life is in danger for selling land to a private person and his claims are verified, he would receive “temporary assistance,” although this would be an exception.

Even if the committee does finally decide that the applicant’s life is in danger, the permit he receives does not allow him to work or entitle him to any medical or other assistance.

In 2014 only 3 requests out of 136 were granted. In 2015 just 9 out of 222 requests were approved.

Would more Palestinians agree to sell land to Jews if they were offered protection?

For further reading click here.

Shabbat Enforcement
The Jerusalem municipality informed five small grocery stores in the city center that it will begin enforcing Shabbat regulations prohibiting the stores from being open on Shabbat. The city center is one of the areas singled out for strict enforcement of the Shabbat laws. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat claims that political pressure played no part in the municipalities decision to force the store closings, but opponents of the closings feel differently.

Claims that the city center areas contains no synagogues or religious community were dismissed by the municipality. The city’s legal opinion stated,“We reject the claim that this is an area that does not include a large religious population, because the area where the grocery store is located is a passage way between religious and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to houses of prayer and the Western Wall.”

Better stock up on Friday.

For further reading click here.

Netanyahu and US
Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, and discussed the impending military aid package Israel stands to receive from the U.S.

In a press interview, Netanyahu praised the aid that the Obama administration has given Israel and Kerry told reporters that the fight between Netanyahu and Obama over the Iran deal is over and that the relationship between the U.S. And Israel remains as close as ever.

So everything is wonderful.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 21, 2016

PA Security
The head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service Majid Faraj stated in an interview with Defense News that Palestinian security agents have thwarted 200 potential terror attacks against Israel and arrested more than 100 Palestinians.

He confirmed that security cooperation between PA security services and Israel will continue, in order to prevent further chaos and to stop extremists, including ISIS members, from entering the country.

While warning about the danger from religious extremists, Faraj estimated that 90 percent of the Palestinian public is opposed to organizations such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra.

He also stressed the importance of maintaining the Palestinian Authority and preventing its collapse, claiming that its collapse would allow extremist groups to fill the vacuum and gain control.

For further reading click here.

Security Council
The Palestinian Authority is diligently lobbying to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and declaring them illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.

The Palestinians have been talking to current Security Council members France, Spain and Egypt to draw up and support the resolution. Israeli diplomats are worried that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius might try to advance a pro-Palestinian UN resolution as one of the last things he does before leaving office in a few weeks. France already inserted a clause in a recent EU resolution distinguishing Israel from the West Bank, calling for the consideration of taking action in the Security Council in an effort to formulate a multilateral approach to the peace process.

The big question mark is what the U.S. position will be. While Israel has always relied on the U.S. to veto anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council, Israeli officials are worried that President Obama, in his final year in office, might choose not to veto, given his outspoken criticism of Israeli settlement policy.

On the other hand, the Palestinians are sure that America will either veto, or pressure other countries from voting for, any resolution in their favor. In recent years the U.S. Has either vetoed or helped defeat several resolutions viewed as anti-Israel.

During an election year in the U.S., it seems highly unlikely that Obama would hold back the veto and risk jeopardizing Democratic chances at winning the presidential election.

For further reading click here.

Supermarket Suit
A class-action suit for 450 million shekels ($113.4 million) was filed yesterday with the District Court in Haifa against Shufersal, the massive Israeli supermarket chain, claiming that the chain discriminates against Israeli Arabs by not allowing them to buy from its online store.

The suit was filed by two Israel Arab residents of towns in northern Israel who claimed that they were not allowed to shop in the chain’s online store because their addresses were beyond the store’s distribution area. In other words, Shufersal does not deliver to Arab areas. They also claim that Shufersal delivery vehicles drive through Arab towns on their way to make deliveries to residents in Jewish towns.

The plaintiffs, together with experts in the field, analyzed the chain’s distribution area maps and the range of possible criteria that could have guided Shufersal in setting the distribution areas, such as distance from the branch, size of the community or type of community. They assert that there was no economic or marketing criterion that could explain the distribution, other than the ethnic character of the community.

Shufersal stated:”Shufersal provides service to the entire population of Israel irrespective of religion, race or sex. We have yet to receive the lawsuit, and when it is received we will respond through legal proceedings.”

For further reading click here.

Exodus Flag
The Silversteins, two Jewish brothers from Chicago who own a real estate company, have purchased, at auction, the flag that flew over the “Exodus” ship. The Exodus carried 4,500 holocaust survivors from France to Palestine in 1947. On its way to Palestine the ship was attacked by British destroyers and in a battle waged on its decks three passengers were killed, with dozens more injured. When the ship anchored in Haifa the would-be immigrants were arrested and deported back to Europe. The unfortunate event helped sway international public opinion to support the establishment of Israel.

The brothers paid $147,000 for the flag, which they subsequently donated to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The Silversteins, along with the director of the museum, drew comparisons between the Exodus story and the current refugee crisis and said that they hoped that the flag would serve as a reminder to the world not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Reactions from Israel were not so positive. Yad Vashem commented, “we regret that an item connected to the state’s history has been removed. It’s too bad it didn’t go to a suitable museum in Israel.” The comparison between the holocaust survivors on the Exodus and today’s Syrian refugees was also viewed as inappropriate.

For further reading click here.

Russian Sanctuary
You might think that hell has actually frozen over when you read this: Vladimir Putin has invited European Jews to come to Russia to flee anti-semitism. Yup, you heard right. The Russian president met with members of the European Jewish Congress at the Kremlin and heard Dr. Moshe Kantor, the congress’ president, speak about growing anti-semitism in Western Europe.

Kantor said, “The situation of the Jews in Europe is the worst it has been since the end of the Second World War. Jews are again living in fear and there is a very real prospect of an exodus of Jews from certain parts of Europe. There are more Jews who are escaping from France, which is thought to be very safe, than from the war in Ukraine.”

Putin responded, “They can come here. During the Soviet era Jews would leave, but now they can come back.”

You think anyone will take up his offer?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 20, 2016

Hezbollah Cell Busted
The Shin Bet arrested five Palestinians from the Tul-Karem area of the West Bank for planning to commit a terror attack. The five were part of a cell that got their orders from the son of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah via email. They also received $5,000 from Nasrallah Jr., which they used to purchase a gun that they planned to use in the attack.

The Shin Bet claims that Hezbollah’s “133 unit,” which recruits in the Middle East and Europe, has failed in its attempts to build terrorism networks in Israel. This incident is an exception.

For further reading click here.

PM Supports Ban
Speaking during a Knesset session commemorating the 67th anniversary of the legislative body’s creation, PM Netanyahu said that he would not hesitate to prohibit Palestinian workers from entering Jewish settlements as part of Israel’s war against terror.

He said, “We have a strong desire to maintain our and the Palestinians’ daily life, but we will not hesitate, if necessary, to ban the entry of Palestinian into [Israeli] towns. Our goal is to restore calm, coexistence and one day peace.”

The IDF commander of the Judea and Samaria division issued a temporary order banning Palestinian workers from settlements. The order does not include industrial parks, and will be reviewed on a daily basis.

For further reading click here.

Must Read
Occasional we reach out to you with one simple request: please help us get this newsletter to more readers by sharing it with your friends, relatives, coworkers…anyone you think will appreciate it. We’ve found that the most effective way to share is to forward this email with a short personal note recommending that the person subscribe.

As you already probably know, IsraelAM is a personal project that my wife (Natalie) and I (Arnie) have taken on, because we feel it’s a valuable way to help people stay informed about and connected to Israel. We spend a lot of time each day creating IsraelAM, and we don’t have a marketing budget — so we rely on you to help us spread the word. By sharing, you’re also helping Israel. We appreciate your help!

Herzog Solution
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) spoke at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv yesterday. He said that the two-state solution was impossible to realize under current conditions, and presented a new plan in which several Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would be severed from the rest of the city and the separation barrier in the West Bank would be built to encompass all of the settlement blocs.

He said, “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible. They over there and we over here; we’ll erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that’s possible now. You exist there and we exist here. Ariel Sharon did the right thing when he put up the fence that prevented the infiltration of suicide bombers, but he didn’t finish the job. We want to finish it, to complete the barrier that separates us … Israel must part from Netanyahu so that it becomes possible to part from the Palestinians.”

Herzog blasted PM Netanyahu and PA President Abbas for denying that a third intifada was imminent. He added that there will be no progress under Netanyahu since he’s made “a pact with the extreme right wing.”

Whereas Netanyahu is supported by those who want to annex Judea and Samaria, Herzog wants to keep the Jewish areas but separate in full from the Palestinian ones. He wants to separate totally Arab neighborhoods from Jerusalem, which is against the view of the right wing and the PM that Jerusalem must remain united, including all of the surrounding Arab areas. Herzog said, “Issawiya is not and won’t be part of Israel’s eternal capital. Neither is the refugee camp in Shoafat. We’ll separate from them. We’ll build a wall. Terrorists won’t have access to Jews.

Doesn’t sound so bad when you put it that way.

For further reading click here.

Ethiopian Women
In December of 2012, an investigative report was published that included testimony from 35 women immigrants from Ethiopia who claimed that they had been required to receive birth control shots as a condition for the processing of their requests to come to Israel. The main accusations were leveled against the Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution
 Committee and the Health Ministry.

Prodded by several female Knesset members, the State Comptroller Joseph Shapira launched an investigation into the allegations in 2013. The investigation recently ended and Shapira concluded that “no evidence could be found for the claims raised that shots to prevent pregnancy were administered to Ethiopian women under pressure or threats, overt or covert, or in any way that was improper.”

Shapira had harsh words in his statement about the attitude of Israeli society to Ethiopian immigrants, which he said contributes to their sense of discrimination. He said one reason for this sense was that they feel they are not masters of their own fate, desires or dignity.

He wrote, “It is our obligation as a democratic and progressive society to fulfill the obligation to human dignity and liberty, as the Basic Law says to ensure equality as determined in the Declaration of Independence.”

For further reading click here.

Trump to Jerusalem
In an interview with the Brody Report, Republic presidential candidate Donald Trump said that he was 100% in favor of moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed in 1995 with overwhelming support in the House and Senate, called for the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to take place no later than fiscal year 1999. But it has been waived by every president since them, citing U.S. national security concerns.

Whether Trump would be different, if he makes it to the Oval Office, is anyone’s guess. But if you believe what he says, then there’s hope: “We have a president that I think is the worst thing that has ever happened to Israel. But I will be backing it very strongly. They’re our best ally. They’re our best ally in the Middle East. They’ve really been loyal to us. We have not been loyal to them.”

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 19, 2016

Terrorist Captured
Early today security forces arrested Moras Adais, a 16 year old Palestinian, for murdering Dafna Meir in Otniel on Sunday. Adais was arrested at his home in a village near Otniel and has no previous record of terror activity. It appears he acted alone, like most of the “lone wolf” terrorists in this recent wave of terror. His father told the Palestinian media that he fully supports his son’s actions, saying “I am proud of my son”.

Adais was not employed as a laborer and presumably snuck into Otniel. The settlement is fenced only in the forested area between one of the large yeshivot and Highway 60, from which terrorists infiltrated in the past. In other parts of the settlement there is no fence, but only electronic measures such as motion detectors and security cameras.

The PM and Defense Minister visited Otniel today and paid a Shiva call to the family of Dafna Meir. They blamed the Palestinian Authority for inciting violence and the international community for using a double standard vis a vis Israel.

Meanwhile, PA President Abbas said in a message to Palestinians that he was opposed to any violence and that “the resistance will continue through peaceful means, and we will not call for anything else.”

For further reading click here. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4754849,00.html

Workers Banned
Starting today, Palestinian laborers have been temporarily banned from working in settlements. The IDF said this was not a “collective punishment” against the workers, but that it was necessary in order to maintain order and to better supervise the workers inside the settlements. The fear is that other attackers might try to imitate the two recent attacks that occurred in Otniel and Tekoa.

According to army statistics, around 120,000 Palestinians are employed by Israelis, legally or illegally, both within and beyond the Green Line.

For further reading click here.

EU vs Israel (again)
The Foreign Ministers of the EU passed a resolution yesterday requiring that all agreements between the European Union and Israel must “unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”

The resolution states that,“The EU and its Member States are committed to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements products. The EU expresses its commitment to ensure that – in line with international law – all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. This does not constitute a boycott of Israel which the EU strongly opposes.”

The resolution condemned Israeli settlement activities, calling them illegal under international law and a threat to a two-state solution, and urged Israel “to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts erected since March 2001, in line with prior obligations,” adding that, “Settlement activity in east Jerusalem seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states.”

Believe it or not, the language of the resolution was supposed to be much tougher against Israel, but a coalition of smaller EU members, including Greece, Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic, blocked the language from inclusion. The tougher language was formulated by France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.

On the bright side the resolution called on all parties (meaning Israel and the PA) to “condemn attacks when they occur.” THat’s something that the Palestinians have not done.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that even though the drafts were softened, the EU “continues to employ a double standard with Israel, while ignoring the PA’s responsibility for the diplomatic stalemate as well as its incitement which is feeding the wave of terrorism.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said the conclusions published by the foreign ministers of the European Union continued a problematic line of attempts to intervene in Israel’s sovereign affairs.

For further reading click here.

U.S. Ambassador
Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) conference in Tel Aviv, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro criticized Israeli settlements and Israel’s lax law-enforcement against settlers in the West Bank.

Shapiro said, “Too much Israeli vigilantism in the West Bank goes on unchecked,” and that “there is a lack of thorough investigations… at times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank – one for Jews and one for Palestinians.”

Shapiro supported the two-state solution as the only way of preventing Israel from turning into a bi-national state, and noted the American administration’s concern and displeasure with Israel’s settlement policies.

The Prime Minister’s Office rejected Shapiro’s allegations of double standards and issued a response saying,”the ambassador’s statements, on the day when a mother of six who was murdered is buried, and on a day when a pregnant woman is stabbed – are unacceptable and wrong. Israel enforces the law on Israelis and Palestinians. The onus for the stalemate in the diplomatic process is the Palestinian Authority, which continues to incite and refuses negotiations.”

Apparently, having a Jewish U.S. Ambassador is not such a great thing for Israel.

For further reading click here.

Heritage Cartel
It has become tradition for Israeli high schools to organize heritage trips to Poland to teach students, close up, about the Holocaust. The logistics behind the tours go like this: The Education Ministry publishes tenders for tour companies to fly the high-schoolers to Poland. Six companies apply. Each school can then bargain with the six to negotiate the lowest price. The reality of the situation turns out to have been much different.

Following a months long investigation, the police uncovered price fixing between the six companies to eliminate any competition. Great for the companies, but a rip off for the schools and students. Police raided the offices of the six companies yesterday and confiscated property and assets. Homes of some of the company executives were also searched. Suspects were arrested, including several CEO’s and high ranking executives.

Shame on the companies for taking advantage of kids trying to learn more about the Holocaust. How low can you go?

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for January 18, 2016

Terror Attacks
Michal Froman, a pregnant 30 year old Israeli woman, was stabbed and wounded by a 17 year old Palestinian in the settlement of Tekoa, in Gush Etzion today. The attack occurred in a warehouse, and the terrorist was shot and wounded by another Tekoa resident. Froman is the daughter-in-law of the former chief rabbi of Tekoa, who died several years ago. Her unborn child was not harmed in the attack.

For further reading click here.

Yesterday, a Palestinian terrorist broke into the settlement of Otniel in Samaria, and stabbed Dafna Meir, a 39 year old nurse and mother of six, to death in front of her home. Meir fought with the terrorist to protect the three of her children who were in the house at the time. The terrorist succeeded in fleeing the scene and the IDF is searching for him. Palestinian workers are being banned from the area.

Meir was survived by her husband, Natan, and six children, two of whom they raised as adoptive parents. Meir was a licensed nurse who specialized in various aspects of gynecology, including the pertinent Jewish law. She operated a clinic in Otniel, and was a nurse at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva.

Hundreds attended her funeral this morning including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and opposition leader Isaac Herzog. May her memory be a blessing.

For further reading click here.

Netanyahu Bargains
Last week we reported on PM Netanyahu’s support of the NGO transparency bill sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that would require NGOs that receive more than half of their funding from foreign governments to report that fact and for their representatives to wear identifying tags while in the Knesset. The law has been criticized by the U.S. and EU countries as being undemocratic and discriminatory against left-wing organizations, which are the primary beneficiaries of foreign governmental funding.

Yesterday the PM stating in a cabinet meeting that, while he continued to support the law, he thought that the tag wearing requirement was unnecessary and should be dropped. He did, however, propose to make the law apply to NGOs who receive even 1 shekel of foreign government funding — not just more than 50% of their funding.

The Ministry of Justice released the following statement in response: “The proposal brought forth by the prime minister that transparency would be imposed on NGOs receiving funding from foreign nations from the first shekel in exchange for dropping the provision requiring the wearing of identifying tags will be looked into positively by the Minister of Justice.”

For further reading click here.

Messianic Editing
Students and parents in the Givatayim suburb of Tel Aviv got a taste of the messianic age this weekend when the municipality distributed to schools a poster-sized photo of the Western Wall, which did not include the Dome of the Rock in the background. The Moslem shrine was evidently edited out of the photo.

One angry mother of a high school student posted the photo on Facebook. That caught the attention of the mayor, who ordered an immediate investigation into the matter. Meretz MK Michal Rozin denounced the poster’s distribution in schools on her own Facebook page and promised to demand an explanation from Education Minister Naftali Bennett.

The image of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount without the Dome of the Rock has stirred controversy in the past. Slightly over four years ago, the military rabbinate published materials for Hanukkah that included the doctored photograph. The IDF Spokesman’s Office said at the time that the educational packet included a photo meant to illustrate Jerusalem during the period of the Second Temple, when the golden dome had not yet existed.

It’s ok to dream once in awhile, no?

For further reading click here.

More Gas
An Israeli exploration group reported on Sunday that it has discovered another large natural gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast. The field is in deep water about 60 miles off the coast and near the border with the economic waters of Gaza. Confirmation of the existence of the gas will require drilling at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Added to the existing offshore gas discoveries, the overall energy outlook for Israel is looking pretty bright. So maybe choosing Israel over Saudi Arabia wasn’t such a bad move after all?

For further reading click here.

Found Money
Last week, a Belz yeshiva student found a small bag containing 130,000 shekels (over $32,600) in cash at a bus station in Haifa. He decided to stay put and wait for the owner so he could return it to him. He waited for almost a half hour until the owner, who happened to be secular man who wasn’t very fond of Haredim, arrived. Surprise!
The man wrote on Facebook, “Until the moment I finished counting, I could not believe I had found my money and had it all back (I ‘was’ so ‘anti-Orthodox’ up until now). I wanted to give him a nice sum, but he absolutely refused to accept, and said that it was his mitzvah.”

Kiddush Hashem, big time. Who says we don’t report nice stories?

For further reading click here.

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