Israel News for May 31, 2016

Terror in TA
A 19 year old soldier was stabbed in the head and upper body by a 17 year old Arab terrorist using a screwdriver. The attack took place near IDF headquarters as the soldier was returning to his home. The terrorist was arrested.

For further reading click here.

Only Son
The IDF has issued a new regulation that impacts the parents of only sons. Parents with only one son have always had the right to prevent them from serving in combat units. In the event that the parents gave their son permission to serve in a combat unit but later decided to change their minds and retract their permission, the IDF was required to retrieve the son from his combat role. If this happened during a war or combat operation, the IDF would have to send a team into combat to retrieve the son (something like what happened in the movie Saving Private Ryan).

During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the IDF had to send forces as far as 2 kilometers into the battlefield on nine separate occasions to bring out soldiers whose parents had changed their minds. To avoid endangering the lives of the soldiers who would need to be sent in to retrieve the sons, the IDF has ruled that parents who permit their only sons to serve in combat can no longer change their minds and retract their permission.

Another new IDF regulation concerns private donations to IDF soldiers. Until now civilians could drive down to an army base or position and donate stuff directly to the soldiers. This was prevalent during Operation Protective Edge. Now all donations will have to go through special centers run by the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (AWIS, also known as Ha’aguda Lema’an Hachayal).

The new regulation is meant to protect civilians from getting too close to the battlefield and also to prevent waste as a result of an overflow of unneeded or unused donations. The donation centers will be able to properly allocate donations to where they are most needed.

For further reading click here.

Arab Peace Plan
In response to the Egyptian president’s call for Israel and the Palestinians to pursue negotiations based on a peace plan proposed by the Arab League, PM Netanyahu said yesterday that, “The Arab peace initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” and that, “We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states on revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002 but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”

The Arab plan demands that Israel return all of the land captured in 1967, but it allows for the possibility of land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s speech came after the official swearing in of Avigdor Liberman as Defense Minister. Lieberman echoed the PM’s remarks saying, “President Sissi’s speech was very important; it creates a genuine opportunity that obligates us to pick up the gauntlet. I certainly agree that there are some very positive elements in the Arab Peace Initiative that will enable us to conduct serious dialogue with our neighbors in the region.”

Lieberman also said that he was in favor of a two-state solution as supported by PM Netanyahu in a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University.

For further reading click here.

Landmark Legal Decision
Tel Aviv Magistrates’s Court Judge Itai Hermelin has ruled that under certain conditions the operation of a brothel can be legal.

Hermelin imposed restrictions on the operations of a Tel Aviv brothel. However, these were subject to the state committing to avoid prosecuting sex workers who use their own apartments or locations that are rented by several women together for the purpose of prostitution, or at a location rented by one woman who then invites other women to share it.

The penalty for operating premises for the purpose of prostitution can be up to five years in jail. But the judges landmark ruling might help women avoid that punishment.

According to Israeli law, prostitution is legal, but organized prostitution in the form of brothels or pimping is prohibited. In other words a prostitute can sell her services on the street, but not in the relative security of an apartment.

In his ruling judge Hermelin wrote, “As long as prostitution is permitted in Israel – with men allowed to buy sex from strangers for money – it is incumbent upon the state to minimize the risks these women face.”

He added that “pushing these women onto the street violates their dignity in an unacceptable manner. As a result, interpreting the law in a way that criminalizes prostitution taking place in a building is unconstitutional and must be rejected.”

Based on testimony heard in the case, Hermelin also harshly criticized the police, writing that, “The attitude of the police was depicted as degrading and harmful, sometimes bordering on violent abuse. There were repeated descriptions of women being chased out of buildings naked during police raids, with abusive language being used by policemen.”

For further reading click here.

Road Trip
If you’re looking to do a road trip from Tel aviv to Beersheva, you might want to make a few interested stops along the way. To check out what there is to see, click here.

Israel News for May 27, 2016

Jerusalem Fires
Apparently as a result of the many Lag B’omer bonfires in the city, several large fires are raging on the outskirts of Jerusalem and are approaching inhabited areas due to heavy winds.

Residents were evacuated from homes in the neighborhoods of Ramot, Gilo, Romema and Abu Gosh. Residents in nearby Mevaseret Zion were told to stay indoors with doors and windows closed.

Eighteen firefighting teams were deployed, as well as a water tank and eight firefighting planes. Jerusalem’s Fire Department has put out a cross-district general call for assistance.

Smaller fires have also broken out in numerous other areas of Israel.

I guess Smokey the Bear never made it to Israel.

For further reading click here.

General Meetup
As he prepares to take over the job of Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman met with several IDF reserve major generals to assure them that they have nothing to worry about with him at the helm of the Defense Ministry. Liberman will need to put together an operating team with a Chief of Staff before taking office on Tuesday.

There’s a lot of uneasiness throughout the Defense establishment, as well as within much of the Knesset, with Netanyahu’s appointment of Liberman, given that his only military experience was his mandatory 3 year army service during which he reached the rank of corporal. The post of Defense Minister usually goes to a prominent general with extensive military credentials.

Does a Defense Minister need to have practical military experience? The US Secretary of Defense is usually a civilian. So maybe the model can work in Israel too? On the other hand, the military in the US isn’t an integral part of American daily life and the daily security of its citizens, like the IDF is in Israel.

For further reading click here.

Minister Resigns
Minister of Environmental Protection Avi Gabay (Kulanu) announced today that he is resigning from the government in protest to Avigdor Lieberman’s joining it. He reportedly admitted that the appointment of Liberman as Defense Minister was “a step that he couldn’t live with.”

Explaining his resignation Gabay said, “This week, a year after I entered the position, came something that I just couldn’t stomach: Liberman’s appointment to minister of defense, which is in my opinion irregular even in the cynical world of politics. The minister of defense is the most important minister. I urge the Prime Minister to pull himself together and remember that the security is security, and he is relying on people and leadership, not only on tanks and planes.”

Gabby, 49, previously served as the CEO of Bezeq, Israel’s “brick and mortar” phone company, before entering the public sector.

Will there be more resignations in protest of Liberman’s entry into the government?

For further reading click here.

According to senior officials, the Homefront Command is forming civil defense units throughout northern Israel to be prepared in the event of a future conflict with Hezbollah. The Home Front Command is not officially part of the IDF and volunteers do not wear uniforms. Israel Arab citizens are being included in the civil defense units.

For further reading click here.

Elton in TA
As the LAg B’omer bonfires of Meron died out last night, stage lights illuminated Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv for an Elton John concert with 40,000 fans in attendance. Think about it.

To see video clips of the concert, click here.

Israel News for May 26, 2016

Terror Attack
Terrorists threw two Molotov cocktails at two Border Police women near the Ofrit base, located near Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus. The two officers were lightly injured from the fire started by the firebombs.

For further reading click here.

Lag B’omer
Hundreds of thousands of Jews from all walks of life and religious leanings converged on the town of Meron in the Galilee yesterday to celebrate the festival of Lag B’omer at the tomb of the second century Talmudic sage Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai.

Lag B’omer is the 33rd day of the 49 days counted between the second day of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. According to the Talmud, during this period of time in the second century in Israel, 24,000 students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva mysteriously died. One of the reasons given by the Talmud was that their deaths were punishment for their ill treatment of one and other. Whatever the reasons, the students stopped dying on Lag B’omer and so the rabbis turned it into a day of celebration.

But the massive gathering at Meron is primarily in commemoration of the Yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai (also a student of Rabbi Akiva) who is credited in Jewish tradition for authoring the Zohar, the famous cornerstone of the Kabbalah (Jewish mystical teachings).

According to the Zohar, on the day of his death Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai gathered together all of his students, who were the greatest sages of the time, and revealed to them the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah. During this momentous session his home was filled with an intense light, like a fire.

To commemorate this holy and mystical event, thousands of bonfires are lit in Meron and throughout Israel. In fact, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said that most of the air quality monitoring stations noted a rise in particle concentrations due to the many bonfires lit.

The main bonfires in Meron are lit by prominent rabbis including many Hasidic Rebbes. The first bonfire was lit at 8:30 PM last night by the Boyan Rebbe, as has been done for the last 100 years.

In addition to the bonfires, thousands of 3 year old boys are given their first haircut at Meron, following the Kabbalistic tradition performed by the Arizal, one of the greatest expounders of Kabbalah who lived in 16th century Tzfat. Hundreds of hairdressers set up shop in the area to lend a professional hand.

The festivities in Meron continue until nightfall tonight.

May the bonfires and prayers at Meron bring light and peace to the entire world.

To watch the lighting by the Boyan Rebbe at Meron, click here. (Forward the video to the 4 hr. mark)

Temple Mount
Speaking at his swearing in ceremony as a new member of the Knesset, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a longtime Temple Mount activist, called for an end to the ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

Glick took over the seat of former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who resigned after Avigdor Liberman was given the defense portfolio as part of the agreement to bring his party into the government.

In his remarks Glick said, “As long as I’m here, I will do all that is in my power to end the injustice that takes place every day at the holiest place in the world, where police officers are under orders to check whether a 90-year-old Jew is, God forbid, moving his lips or not.”

On the morning before assuming his new position in the Knesset, Glick visited the Temple Mount. But he won’t be doing so again as long as he is a Knesset member, in line with the directive given by the Prime Minister to all government and Knesset members (including Arab MKs) to not visit the Temple Mount.

For further reading click here.

According to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, 3.2 million Jews immigrated to Israel since the founding of the State in 1948. 1.35 million of those Olim have come since 1990, primarily from the former Soviet Union and its satellite states.

Since 1972, 115,195 Jews have made Aliyah from the US. According to the report, the top destinations for American immigrants is Jerusalem, which is home to 29,882 American Olim who arrived since 1972. Tel Aviv was a distant second with 10,620, followed by Beit Shemesh with 6,937, Raanana with 3,717, Haifa with 3,520, Netanya with 3,043, Modiin with 2,006, and Efrat with 1,978.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for May 25, 2016

Done Deal
PM Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman finalized the agreement today that will bring Yisrael Beiteynu, with its six Knesset seats into the government. The PM said, “I welcome Avigdor Lieberman and his faction members as important partners to the coalition. I value his experience, we’ve worked together before for the security and welfare of the people of Israel.”

Referring to past disagreements with Liberman, the PM said, “It’s no secret we’ve disagreed with each other, that’s part of political life. Sometimes, in the heat of the argument, things were said by both of us that should not have been said. Now, we join hands to help Israel march forward.”

He also, once again, called on Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to join the government, “so we can have a broader government, a true unity government that would strengthen the unity among the people.”

For further reading click here.

Not so Fast
But wait, the drama is not over just yet. The new coalition agreement must be approved by the Knesset and by the government, and Bayit Yehudi Leader Naftali Bennett is threatening to vote against it. Bennett is demanding that a special military secretary be added to the cabinet in order to brief ministers on all breaking military issues. His demand comes in the wake of an official report that blamed the cabinet for mishandling Operation Protective Edge and The Second Lebanon War. Bennett claims that the military secretary to the cabinet will prevent those mishandling in the future.

Explaining his demand, Bennett said, “according to the law, the cabinet is the commander-in-chief of the IDF, not the prime minister or the defense minster. My concrete demand is to equip members of cabinet with intelligence and some tools so they could function better. The cabinet military secretary will meet with cabinet members on a regular basis and brief them on what’s happening on each of our borders, what is the situation of the enemy, what acquisitions the IDF is making, and more. We could delve into any important topic with him.”

Sounds like a reasonable request, but MK Yariv Levin, who heads the coalition negotiations on behalf of the Likud, has rejected Bennett’s demand out of hand. “We’re not renegotiating the coalition agreements with any of the partners, including Bayit Yehudi.”

Israel National Security Council chief Ya’akov Nagel was also critical of the demand, explaining that, “”Every minister can receive all the relevant information and receive preparation for the cabinet from members of the National Security Council. Every minister who wanted to – and there were ministers who wanted to – received all the relevant material ahead of cabinet discussions.”

The National Security Council produces a daily intelligence report on ongoing security matters and other issues, and Nagel made clear any minister who wanted to could receive this report and additional information that details the operational plans of the IDF.

Don’t worry, they’ll think of something.

For further reading click here.

B’tselem Complaints
B’Tselem, the watchdog NGO that monitors alleged abuses of Palestinians by the IDF, has announced that it will stop filing Palestinians’ complaints against IDF soldiers with the military justice system. The group claims that its petitions have brought no justice.

In a statement, the NGO said, “The organization does not wish to assist authorities in their attempts to create a false picture of justice being served. B’Tselem has decided to no longer approach the military law enforcement system. This also applies to cases in which soldiers are suspected of violating the law, even with the understanding that Palestinian victims have no other recourse for filing a complaint against those who harm them.”

For further reading click here.

PM is Sephardi
We all know that PM Netanyahu is a master politician, but this goes way beyond anything you could imagine. At a visit to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, the PM announced that based on DNA testing done on his brother, he is part Sephardi.

The Netanyahu family, which is originally from Lithuania and is directly descendant from the Vilna Gaon, has Spanish roots. That’s not exactly “mizrahi”, which is what the majority of Israelis who came from Arab lands are, but it’s close enough to claim dual membership in both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic population.

So who needs a “unity government” when you have a “unity Prime Minister”?

For further reading click here.

Gett Serious
Uber beware. The Israelis are coming after you, with a vengeance. Israeli tax-hailing company Gett (formerly Get Taxi) announced today that it has raised $300 million from German carmaker Volkswagen. This brings the amount raised by the Tel Aviv-based company to $520 million.

Gett was founded in 2010 and offers a range of transport and courier services in 60 cities worldwide including New York, London, and Moscow.

So a German company is funding an Israeli startup to compete against an American company with a German name. Next time you need a cab, consider going with the Israelis. And don’t worry, you most likely won’t get an Israeli driver – – unless you’re in Israel.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for May 24, 2016

Terrorist Neutralized
A female terrorist attempted to stab Border Police officers at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem yesterday.

According to the investigation report, at around 2:30 p.m. an Arab woman drew the suspicion of Israeli forces at the checkpoint, who called on her to stop. When she did not heed their instructions and continued approaching, officers fired in the air, as per protocol. She then drew a knife and ran towards them. Officers opened fire, fatally wounding the terrorist. Paramedics confirmed her death soon after. No officers were harmed.

For further reading click here.

Returning Bodies
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed police today to stop returning the bodies of terrorists to their families for burials. The decision comes after last night’s funeral of terrorist Alaa Abu Jamal, which turned into a pro-terror rally and incitement when 200 East Jerusalem residents crowded outside the cemetery calling out “Allahu Akbar” and “In blood and spirit we will avenge you, shahid.” Border Police prevented the crowd from entering the cemetery.

Abu Jamal had been an employee of the Bezeq phone company when he ran over pedestrians at a Jerusalem bus stop with his car, and then exited his vehicle and hit his wounded victims with an ax, killing 60 year old Rabbi Yishayahu Krishevsky.

The police had delayed the return of the bodies of East Jerusalem terrorists for six months, until the families signed agreements to hold the funerals at night with a small number of participants, in order to avoid the funeral stunning into venues of incitement.

Explaining his decision, Minister Erdan said, “I was just shown the outrageous images from the funeral last night in East Jerusalem, in which the conditions set by the police were violated and the commitments made by the families were broken. The terrorists’ families lied to the High Court of Justice. It’s a shame the High Court believed them and pressured the police to return all the bodies by Ramadan.”

For further reading click here.

Egyptian Peace Summit
While the French are working on their peace summit that will not include the Israelis or Palestinians, the Egyptians are quietly working on their own peace initiative meant to bring both parties together.

In the last few days the Egyptians have been pushing hard to organize a summit between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who will lead the summit in Cairo.

Al-Sisi said on Egyptian television, “I say to the Israelis and ask the Israeli leadership to allow the broadcast of this speech at least once or twice. There is a real opportunity for peace even if in the short term there is no real basis given the conditions in the region.”

Maybe France should leave peace in the Middle East to the people that actually live there and understand how to get things done in that part of the world?

For further reading click here.

Open Door
With coalition talks with Yisrael Beiteynu still in process, PM Netanyahu told the opposition, at a special Knesset meeting commemorating Theodore Herzl, that he was still open to forming a unity government with them. Responding to opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s claim that Netanyahu had closed the door on a unity government the PM said, “I haven’t closed the door. The door is open. There is still an opportunity to unite the nation. There is an opportunity for national reconciliation. I call upon you and your members not to miss this opportunity, and to join the national effort.”

The deal bringing Yisrael Beiteynu into the government was supposed be signed and sealed already, but Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon is preventing the deal from closing by refusing to commit the funds necessary to fulfill the party’s demand to increase the pensions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Kahalon insists that he has already proposed a plan to increase pensions of the elderly across the board and that he will not discriminate by favoring any one group.

Yisrael Beiteynu leader Avigdor Liberman claims that his pension condition is a deal breaker, and that he will not join the government without it being fulfilled. But sources in Likud are saying today that Liberman has, in fact, accepted Kahalon’s proposals and that a final deal is imminent.

For further reading click here.

Electric Road
The Tel Aviv municipality has installed a strip of “electric road” which can charge electric cars as they drive on it. The strip of road in northern Tel Aviv is part of a trial being conducted by startup ElectRoad, which has developed technology designed to power and charge vehicles by means of cordless power transfers as they drive.

Oren Ezer, the entrepreneur behind ElectRoad, said the process of turning a road into a “smart road” is relatively simple, despite the complicated-sounding nature of the technology. Grooves are carved into the asphalt and a chain of copper loops inserted. The chain is connected to a power converter at the side of the road.

Electric cars fitted with the company’s technology have contacts fitted onto their undercarriage that receive electricity when driving over the smart road. The smart road is designed to give the vehicles enough energy to power them, as well as to charge their batteries.

If the electric road works, it will mean that electric car batteries can be smaller and much less expensive, since they’ll be able to be recharged automatically, while driving.

For further reading click here.

Bibi Netanyahu

Israel News for May 23, 2016

PM Holds Posts
Just because the PM has welcomed Yisrael Beiteynu into the government, moving it further to the right and providing it with a safer (67 seat) majority in the Knesset, does’t mean that he’s given up on the hope of bringing Issac Herzog and the opposition into the government too. To retain his bargaining power, the PM is holding on to his positions as Foreign Minister, Communications Minister, Economy Minister and Regional Cooperation Minister, in the event that he can use them to persuade the opposition to join his coalition.

Members of the opposition have said that there is no way they’d ever join the government, especially after Israel Beiteynu’s inclusion, but stranger things have happened in Israeli politics. So the PM continues to be the busiest man in government, and the potential for a future negotiation remains alive.

For further reading click here.

Coalition Deadlock
The negotiations to finalize the coalition deal between Yisrael Beiteynu and the government continue, with the issue of pensions remaining unsolved.

Yisrael Beiteynu is demanding that the pensions of retired immigrants from the former Soviet Union be increased. The Finance Minister is refusing to budget the extra money for that, claiming that doing so would discriminate against the elderly who are not from the former Soviet Union.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon says that he is working to create a plan whereby all elderly in Israel would get pension increases. But Yisrael Beiteynu head Avigdor Lieberman is standing firm in his demand as a precondition for bringing his party into the government. Blackmail?

The PM called for a meeting today between the two sides to break the deadlock, but no progress was made. So the drama continues.

For further reading click here.

PM Rejects French
In a meeting with France’s Foreign Minister in Jerusalem today, PM Netanyahu (who is also Israel’s Foreign Minister) rejected the French proposed and sponsored Middle East peace summit. The PM told the French FM that direct, face to face, talks between himself and PA leader Abbas are the only way to reach a peace agreement.

The peace conference, which is scheduled for June 3, is meant to be attended by world leaders who will try to come up with a peace plan, without the attendance of either the Palestinians or the Israelis at the conference. PA President Abbas is in favor of the conference.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for May 20, 2016

Terror Averted
A 16-year-old Arab resident of the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem was arrested Thursday afternoon for planning to carry out a stabbing attack at the Damascus Gate of the Old City.

Police and Border Guard officers noticed the suspicious youth near the light rail station in Beit Hanina. The young terrorist boarded the bus in Shuafat and made his way toward Damascus Gate. Security forces boarded the bus after him, and after searching him discovered a knife. He was arrested and taken in for questioning where he admitted his plan to carry out a stabbing attack against police officers.

For further reading click here.

Coalition Bargaining
Israel Beyteinu and government officials are hard at work finalizing the terms of the agreement that will bring the Russian immigrant based party into the government. As part of the agreement party leader Avigdor Liberman will become Defense Minister and the party will also get the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and some other less major positions.

According to sources involved in the negotiations, there is no disagreement over the positions that were offered to Yisrael Beiteinu. What remains is to find the additional money to fund the line items that are part of the party’s conditions for joining the government and to draw up an agreement amenable to both sides. The main items that need funding  are the increased pensions for immigrants from the former Soviet Union and for mortgages for these immigrants that cover 90 percent of a home’s purchase price.

Yisrael Beyteinu will give the government a 67 seat majority in the Knesset, instead of the 61 seat majority the government currently holds. Sources are confident that the agreement will be finalized later today.

For further reading click here.

Ya’alon Resigns
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, deciding not to wait for the official agreement between Israel Beyteinu and the government to be finalized, announced today his resignation from his job as Defense Minister and from the Knesset. The PM offered Ya’alon the prestigious job of Foreign Minister, but Ya’alon declined.

Ya’alon wrote on Facebook, “I notified the prime minister this morning that following his conduct in the latest developments and in view of the lack of trust in him, I am resigning from the government and the Knesset and taking time out from political life.”

US State Department spokesperson John Kirby remarked,”We appreciate Mr. Ya’alon’s leadership and partnership as defense minister and we look forward to working with his successor. Our bonds of friendship are unbreakable, and commitment to the security of Israel remains absolute.”

But Ya’alon isn’t done with politics just yet. Speaking at a press conference a short time following his resignations, Ya’alon said, “I have no intention of leaving public and political life in the state, and in the future I will return to contend for the nationalist leadership of the State of Israel.”

Replacing Ya’alon in the Knesset will be the next person on the Likud party list, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, the prominent US born Temple Mount activist who survived an assassination attempt in 2014.

Speaking to Army Radio on Friday morning, Glick said that “I regret the departure of Ya’alon. He is a moral man and an asset to the people of Israel and the Likud.”

Regarding his new Knesset position click remarked, “I pray to God that He give me good counsel and accompany me as an emissary for the nation of Israel, to sanctify the name of Heaven and to increase peace and light in the world and work to unify the nation of Israel.”

For further reading click here.

To Life
If you’re looking to live longer, then you should seriously consider moving to Israel. According to a report on worldwide life expectancy recently released by the World Health Organization, Israel ranks number 8 on the list.

In 2015 the average world life expectancy was 71, which is 5 years linger than it was in 2000, when the report was last compiled.

Japan has the highest overall life expectancy, at 86.8 years, while Switzerland has the highest male life expectancy of 81.3 years.

The life expectancy in Israel is 80.6 for men and 84.3 for women. That’s ahead of the US, where life expectancy is 77 years for men and 81.6 for women. Israel is also ahead of Canada and most of Europe.

The shortest life expectancy in the world is in Sierra Leone, where women on average only live to about 51 years of age, and men to about 59.

L’chaim, to life!

To view the entire list, click here.

Israel News for May 19, 2016

Forget Unity
Remember all that talk about the PM forming a potential unity government by bringing opposition leader Issac Herzog and his left wing faction’s 24 Knesset seats into the government? Forget about it.

Instead of forming a broad based coalition which would have created a centrist government with a large majority, the PM has decided to push the government even further to the Right by bringing Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beyteinu party into the government.

Yisrael Beyteinu currently has six Knesset members, which would boost the government’s razor thin majority of 61 seats to a little less thin 67 seats. That’s not huge, but it’s enough to give the government a bit of breathing room to push through its more controversial bills that might not garner 100% coalition support.

Avigdor Liberman formed Yisrael Beyteinu in 1999 to create a platform for Russian immigrants who support a hard line in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. He has previously served as Foreign Minister, from 2009 to 2012 and again from 2013 to 2015, and is known for his staunchly Right wing positions.

In order to bring Liberman into the government, the PM has offered him the job of Defense Minister. That means current DM Moshe Ya’alon is out. That doesn’t come as a big surprise to Ya’alon, who has been embroiled in tensions with the PM over his statements defending the freedom of IDF officers to speak their minds, even if those words are against government policies. The PM didn’t like that very much.

Ya’alon was also attacked by Naftali Bennett and the Bayit Yehudi party for not being tough enough against the Palestinians or supportive enough of the settler movement. Bayit Yehudi officials were quick to comment on the new coalition deal, “Bogie’s (Ya’alon) going, and that’s for the best. It’s been a year of tremendous damage to the IDF. A year of abandoning soldiers, a year of terrible army culture. Bogie needs to go home, and he’s going…Lieberman’s entering (the coalition) will make the government the most right-wing government in history, and that’s good. A full right-wing government could reach a full term.”

While Naftali Bennett and many Likud members are thrilled about Liberman getting Ya’alon’s job, many in Netanyahu’s party are not. Ya’alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff and Likud member, is highly respected by party members. Furthermore, the idea of taking the job of Defense Minister away from a decorated general and giving to a politician without any military experience beyond his mandatory IDF service, during which he attained the rank of corporal, is tough to swallow. Apparently, Netanyahu is willing to do whatever it takes to strengthen his current Right wing government and implement his policies.

But don’t cry for Ya’alon just yet. Sources say that the PM is considering offering him the coveted job of Foreign Minister, which the PM has been holding on to for last few years just in case a situation arises where he needs to give the job away in order to make a deal. Now that’s foresight. Ya’alon’s associates have said that he would accept such an offer.

In addition to the Defense Ministry, Yisrael Beyteinu will get the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, which makes sense since most of the immigrants to Israel in recent years are from the former Soviet Union.

As Defense Minister Liberman will likely be able to achieve one of his other demands for entering the government: the death penalty for terrorists. Netanyahu has previously blocked the law, but that will probably change now.

But Liberman will not get everything he wants. He is expected to set aside his campaign for a law allowing for common-law marriage, reform in Jewish conversion and a tougher law to draft Haredim into the Israel Defense Forces, in order to hold together the coalition and keep the Ultra-Orthodox parties in the government.

The opposition is obviously up in arms about the appointment of Liberman as Defense Minister. Any possibility of Herzog joining Netanyahu in a unity government are now pretty much history.

The final coalition deal is likely to close on Friday. You never know what can happen until then?

For further reading click here.

Meat Law
According to Israeli law, all meat imported into the country requires the kosher certification of the Israeli Rabbinate. That means no non-kosher meat can be legally imported into Israel. A number of Arab Israeli businesses are demanding an exemption from laws prohibiting the import of non-kosher meat, and have brought their case to the Supreme Court.

The claimants in the case argue that the law constitutes religious coercion, forcing Israel’s Arab citizens to abide by Jewish religious law.

The suit was filed by Sawsan Zahar, a lawyer for Adalah, a leftwing Arab Israeli NGO. The claim was made on behalf of Ahmed Afnadi Inc., a meat store from the village of Kfar Kana.

Zahar noted that similar exemptions had been issued with regards to other laws, citing the example of pork farms which are permitted in towns with a majority of Christian Arabs.

Makes a lot of sense. Why should Arabs be force to eat kosher meat, and pay more for it?

For further reading click here.

Iron Dome at Sea
The IDF has installed the Iron Dome anti-missile system on a navy missile boat. In a recent test the ship, sailing 20 miles off the Israeli coast, successfully shot down three dummy missiles out of the sky.

To watch a video of the successful test, click here.

Israel News for May 18, 2016

Unity Swings Right
While PM Netanyahu continues to negotiate with left wing opposition leader Isaac Herzog to bring the opposition faction into a unity government, he has begun talks with right wing Yisrael Beyteinu leader Avigdor Liberman for the same purpose.

The PM invited Liberman to discuss joining the government after Liberman laid out his conditions for joining at a press conference this morning. His conditions are: the defense ministry, the imposition of the death penalty for terrorist murderers, and pension reforms.

Liberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu party’s six Knesset seats would modestly boost the government’s current razor thin 61 (out of 120) seat majority. The party’s right wing agenda is also agreeable to most of the government’s current coalition partners. Liberman, a former ally of Netanyahu, turned down the PM’s offer for him to join the government in 2015.

Bringing Yisrael Beyteinu seems like an easily achievable and obvious move to strengthen the government, but apparently the PM would ideally like to form a unity government with the left. Whether that is possible is still up in the air. But the negotiations with Herzog are continuing.

This is getting interesting.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Convicted
The Tel Aviv District Court today convicted Nur al-Din Abu Khashiyeh for murdering IDF First Sergeant Almog Shiloni in November of 2014. The court ruled that the murder was premeditated, not spontaneous. Besides the abundant evidence, the court relied on Khashiyeh’s own testimony, in which he said, “It’s true that I murdered Almog Shiloni. I wanted to take his weapon and spray everyone because of what your rabbis are doing in al-Aqsa. I wanted to keep going, kill everyone on the street, continue everyone’s job. I murdered him. I planned to murder him.”

The demolition order which had been issued for Abu Khashiyeh’s house was thrown out a year later by the Supreme Court, because the judges ruled that the long delay in carrying out the demolition—11 months from the day of the attack— was not reasonable and would therefore not lead to the deterrence sought.

For further reading click here.

Ettinger to be Released
Prosecutors told the Lod District Court that Meir Ettinger, the grandson of Meir Kahane who is being held by the Shin Bet under administrative detention, will be released at the end of the month, and that an administrative order will be issued to restrict the people he can make contact with and the places he can reside in.

Ettinger was detained following the murder of the Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village of Duma last July, and was placed in administrative detention for six months. His detention was later extended by another four months.

For further reading click here.

Egyptian Support
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared his support on Tuesday for the French initiative to hold a Mideast peace conference later this year. He called on Israel and the Palestinians to seize what he described as a “realistic” and “great” opportunity to reach a peaceful settlement to their decades-old conflict.

Al-Sisi used the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty as an example to emulate, saying that if Egypt could make peace with Israel, so could the Palestinians. He said, “I say to our Palestinian brothers, you must unite the different factions in order to achieve reconciliation and quickly. We as Egypt are prepared to take on this role. It is a real opportunity to find a long-awaited solution.”

PM Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog both welcomed Al-Sisi’s remarks. The PM said, “I welcome Egyptian President El-Sisi’s remarks and his willingness to make every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us and the Palestinians and the peoples of the region. Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region. I appreciate President Al-Sisi’s work and also draw encouragement from his leadership on this important issue.”

Palestinian Authority President Abbas also welcomed the Egyptian President’s remarks, saying, “Egypt has always been an anchor for the Palestinians, and its support of an international push will greatly aid the effort to lead to a comprehensive settlement that will include at its core the foundation of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.”

So basically, everyone wants peace. And yet…
For further reading click here.  

Law School Religion
Before last year’s Hebrew University Law School annual gala, some students requested that a mechitza (partition) be erected to allow religious women to dance separately — women only. Following a protest, the request was denied. This year the matter was put to a vote by the Hebrew U. law students’ union. The vote was 176 in favor and 211 against.

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) wrote to Hebrew U President Menahem Ben-Sasson, saying that not allowing the partition was “secular coercion and the exclusion of women. As a religious woman I was shocked at reports that senior faculty members were considering boycotting the event and even withdrawing its funding if the women’s request was granted. The female students are asking that their religious worldview be respected and allow them to be part of the social fabric in their lives as students. They are, of course, not demanding that their religious lifestyle be forced on others.”

Religious Jewish women aren’t the only ones getting a raw deal. The annual gala is scheduled to take place during Ramadan, which means that religious Muslim students will not be able to attend. There are no plans to change the date of the event.

For further reading click here.

Go Navy
The Israeli Navy participated in a joint Nato sponsored exercise with the US and Greek navies in the Greek Islands. To watch a video and see photos of the Israeli navy in action, click here.

Israel News for May 17, 2016

Unity Talks
PM Netanyahu met with opposition leader Isaac Herzog at the PM’s residence on Sunday night to try to reach an agreement that would allow Herzog and his Knesset faction to join the government. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is considered to be a close confidant of the PM on the issue, said, “I met with the prime minister today and he told me that the contacts regarding [a] unity [government] are proceeding. He is serious about expanding the government.”

Sources say that Herzog is pressing the PM for more and better jobs for his colleagues as a prerequisite for joining. Specifically, the cabinet portfolios of Justice, Communications and Culture, which are currently held respectively by Ayelet Shaked, the PM and Miri Regev, are all considered to be targets which the left wing faction want. It seems unlikely that Netanyahu will agree to giving them up, since doing so would be seen as an attack against his right wing principles and supporters. Education Minister Naftali Bennett has made it clear that his Bayit Yehudi party would leave the government if party member Shaked was removed from her position as Justice Minister.

Zionist Union MKs who have met Herzog over the past few days say he is hiding the details of the pending agreement with Netanyahu and has refused to tell them what portfolios or other achievements will be part of it. Many of them say that they would refuse to join a unity government. They’re not alone in their opposition. According to a recent poll by Channel 2 News, a majority of Israelis are not in favor of the formation of a unity government.

All this doesn’t seem to matter to the PM and Herzog, who continue to move forward with their own negotiations. As they say, politics creates strange bedfellows.

For further reading click here.

French Initiative
The French initiative to hold a Middle East Peace Summit in Paris at the end of this month has been put on hold because US Secretary of State John Kerry is unable to make it on the proposed May 30th date. The goal of the summit is to relaunch talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, with France taking over the lead broker position, which is a role they claim the US is not fulfilling, particularly ahead of the US presidential elections.

Israel objects to the initiative, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressing that the only way to advance a true peace between us and the Palestinians is by means of direct negotiations between us and them, without preconditions,” adding that “any other attempt only makes peace more remote and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict.”

Is the inability of Kerry to attend a deliberate attempt to scuttle or at least indefinitely postpone the summit, as a show of support for Israel before the elections, or is it just an honest scheduling conflict?

For further reading click here.

Gaza Fishermen
The Shin Bet has released information about the arrest of a Gazan fisherman back in April, who revealed that he, along with other fisherman, were smuggling weapons into Gaza by sea. The fisherman revealed how over a prolonged period he had personally helped smuggle weapons, ammunition, rocket-making equipment and other military equipment via sea into Gaza, on behalf of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

This news comes on the heels of Israel’s recent expansion of the zone off the Gaza coast in which fisherman are permitted to operate within.

For further reading click here.

Bedouin Funding
A government committee, headed by PM Netanyahu, has voted to spend around 900 million shekels ($240 million) to develop and strengthen Bedouin communities in northern Israel over the next four years. The Bedouin serve in the IDF and pay taxes.

According to a statement released by the government, the program is meant to make the communities more economically and socially resilient, with improvements to local infrastructure, schools, and increased welfare services.

Netanyahu said, “There is no reason that an entire population which contributes to the state should not receive support in education, infrastructure, law enforcement, and personal security. I know that people are suffering, and it doesn’t have to be this way; in the 21st century people need to be able to live.”

The PM added, “I want to see [Bedouin] young men and women integrate into society, into the economy, and in education, and in everything else.”

For further reading click here.

Startup Showcase
In honor of Israel’s 68th birthday, the website highlighted 10 Israeli innovations that have “impacted the world for the better or are in the process of changing our lives forever.”

To check them out, click here.