israel air force

Israel News for November 30, 2016

Israel Attacks Syria
According to the Syrian government and Arab media sources, the Israeli airfare (IAF) reportedly attacked a Syrian army outpost and a Hezbollah arms convoy not far from the highway connecting Damascus and Beirut early Wednesday. Both attacks were reportedly carried out by aircraft flying over Lebanese airspace. No injuries were reported. The IAF neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

For further reading click here.

At the UN
On the 69th anniversary of the November 29, 1947 UN vote to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) held a special meeting to mark the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” The President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, attended the meeting wearing a Palestinian flag scarf.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, reprimanded Thomson for his undiplomatic fashion statement saying, “It’s unacceptable for the president of the UN General Assembly, whose position is a symbol of neutrality and stateliness, to wrap himself in a Palestinian flag and participate in an event whose sole purpose is to attack and besmirch the State of Israel. This is living, unequivocal proof of the bias against Israel and the slander spread about us at the UN.”

Yesterday the UN General Assembly adopted six anti Israel resolutions including one about Jerusalem’s holy sites that ignores any Jewish connections and another ordering Israel to withdraw from all “occupied territories.

Business as usual at the UN.

For further reading click here.

Turkish Attacks
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday attacked Israel for attempting to pass a law to prohibit Muslim prayers from being broadcast through loudspeakers (at the crack of dawn). Erdogan also accused Israel of “policies of repression and discrimination against our Palestinian brothers” and proclaimed, “it is the common duty of all Muslims to embrace the Palestinian cause and protect Jerusalem.”

Israel and Turkey recently exchanged ambassadors as part of a reconciliation agreement signed by the two countries to normalize relations. Apparently, things are back to normal.

For further reading click here.

Hackers Strike
Major Israeli prime time TV news channels 2 and 10 were interrupted last night with images of Muslim holy sites and images from the recent fires along with the words “Allah is great” written in Hebrew. The interruptions lasted for about 30 seconds and were suspected to have caused by hackers who temporarily took control over the satellite carrying the broadcast. Pro-Palestinian hackers have interrupted broadcasts several times in the past. Police and security officials are investigating.

For further reading click here.

Storms Coming
Now that the fires have been extinguished, the rains are coming. Heavy rain is expected today and Thursday in the coastal regions and in the Haifa area. There is a threat of flooding in the Haifa area. Timing is everything.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 29, 2016

PM Warns Cabinet
PM Netanyahu warned cabinet ministers that passing the “regulations bill”, which would retroactively legalize settlements built on private Palestinian land, would possibly lead to Israel being taken before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. The bill is being spearheaded by the Bayit Yehudi party in order to prevent the evacuation of the Amona outpost, which is schedule to take place on December 25th.

The PM also warned that the bill could provoke outgoing US President Obama to act against Israel at the UN. The Attorney General has already warned that the bill, if passed, would be struck down by the Supreme Court. Instead he presented a compromise by which Amona would be moved to several nearby plots of land for eight months, during which time planning and construction officials would work alongside legal experts to find nearby available land to permanently move the outpost to. At the same time the AG would explore other solutions to deal with land ownership issues. But he stressed that the compromise agreement can only be implemented if the regulations bill does not pass. The compromise agreement will also need to be approved by the Supreme Court.

Bayit Yehudi leaders are pushing forward with the bill. The Amona residents rejected any sort of compromise and have pledged to resist the evacuation.

Meanwhile, 120 senior rabbis have issued a statement calling on the public to come to Amona to passively resist the upcoming evacuation. The rabbis include Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the Bnei Akiva yeshivas, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the chief rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the head of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, the chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, and Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, the head of the Maaleh Adumim yeshiva.

The rabbis wrote, “We call on all those who can to come and stay in the community. Our presences will give strength to the residents and be a clear declaration to the decision-makers that we are with the residents of Amona in every way during this difficult time, and we will continue to be with them until the Regulation Law is enacted, and Amona is saved. If, heaven forbid, the day comes for an expulsion, we urge the public to continue living in the community, and protesting vigorously the destruction of the community, through passive resistance and non-violence.”

The rabbis also called on the PM to assure that the law is passed.

For further reading click here.

Rabbi Cleared
Last week the Supreme Court ordered Rabbi Eyal Karim, the incoming IDF Chief Rabbi, to clarify controversial statements that he made in the past before being allowed to take on his new position. The court made its ruling based on a petition submitted by Meretz MKs who accused Karim of making discriminatory statements against homosexuals and women, including permitting rape during war.

Karim submitted an affidavit to the court in which he said that he never permitted rape and that he believed that all people should be treated equally, with dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation. Karim said, “Every rabbi, whether he be a teacher or a public official is required to be capable of retracting and admitting a mistake. I am not afraid to say that I was wrong. I was wrong in that I thought briefly about complicated questions which have more to them than just one halachic (Jewish legal) stance. I was wrong in that I didn’t clarify my words accurately and there were those who were hurt by them. I have already whole-heartedly apologized for this.”

Based on Karim’s statement, the court dismissed the ruling against him and permitted him to take his new position. The Meretz MKs praised the courts intervention saying, “We respect the High Court for standing by its promise to clarify Rabbi Karim’s words, and we respect the decision not to cancel the appointment. We are pleased the judges didn’t reject the petition without reason, and we are sure this ruling was justifiably detailed, and that the verdict will be quoted from in the future.”

For further reading click here.

Kotel Bill
Shas (the haredi sephardic party) has proposed a new bill in the Knesset that would place the southern area of the Kotel under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. The government has already agreed to turn the area in question into an egalitarian prayer space as part of a compromise agreement reached with leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements. The new bill would destroy that agreement, since the Chief Rabbinate would not permit any non orthodox forms of prayer.

The proposed bill prohibits mixed gender prayer services at the site. It also prohibits women from wearing prayer shawls or tefillin, and sets a fine of 10,000 shekels for violators.

Non orthodox leaders have attacked the bill and urged PM Netanyahu to defeat it and uphold the compromise agreement he approved.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 28, 2016

Airstrikes in Syria
The Israel Air Force (IAF) attacked and destroyed a military outpost used by ISIS related militants in the Syrian Golan Heights today. The post was abandoned and no injuries were reported. The attack came in response to an attack on an IDF Golani unit that was training near the border by the militants. The soldiers came under fire from a heavy machine gun and returned fire. Moments later the IAF reported killing all four attackers. Several mortars also fell near the border security fence. The IDF has raised the security alert level all along the Syrian border.

For further reading click here.

Arson Suspected
Israel Police sources are reporting that a significant number of the approximately 90 fires that raged throughout Israel this past week were caused by arson. Police have so far arrested 23 arson suspects, most of whom are Israeli Arabs. It is still unclear how many of those were nationalistically motivated, but investigators believe that the Haifa fires were terrorism. Police are using sophisticated methods to investigate all the fires.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) has proposed a bill in the Knesset to classify the arsonists as terrorists. This would give Israel the right to confiscate and/or demolish their property and strip them of their citizenship. It would also allow the government to compensate the arson victims. The bill has wide support, including that of PM Netanyahu, who promised to bring the terrorists to justice.

The PM thanked PA President Abbas for sending firefighters to assist in battling the fires. The PA sent eight fire trucks and about 40 firefighters. The countries that assisted Israel by sending planes and firefighters included the US, Russia, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Italy, Cyprus and Ukraine.

For further reading click here.

Fire Damage
While the fires that raged throughout Israel over the past five days have been brought under control, the extensive damage caused to forests and parks could take decades to restore.

In addition to the hundreds of homes and apartments destroyed, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) estimates that 11,000 dunams of forests were incinerated, of which 7,500 were in the Jerusalem Hills. Uri Naveh, head of the Nature and Parks Authority Jerusalem district, said that Cafira nature park in the Jerusalem Hills was one of the areas which was entirely decimated by the fires. “This is one of the important nature reserves in the Judean Hills. There are many animals there—deer, foxes, jackals and hyenas. The process of rehabilitating the reserve could continue for years or even decades.” Even trees that are still standing in the area are as good as dead.

Naveh warned, “It is not yet over. The wind on the Judean Hills is not the same as that in Tel Aviv. It is very strong on the mountains. The danger is not over and at the moment we expect that it could continue within the next 24 hours and could be even shorter than that.” 
 
To watch a video of the destruction click here.

ElAL Agreement
After weeks of delayed and cancelled flights, El Al has reached an agreement with its pilots to end the labor dispute. According to the agreement the pilots will receive a 7.35% pay raise while agreeing to shorter stays abroad between flights, saving the company the expenses of housing. The pilots will receive financial compensation for this.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 23, 2016

Fires Rage
Hundreds of firefighters continue to battle fires raging throughout Israel. The fires are difficult to control due to extremely dry and unseasonably warm conditions along with strong winds.

One of the most dangerous fires has been raging for several days in the city of Zichron Yaakov. Several neighborhoods in the city have been evacuated and homes and property have been damaged. People will not be able to return home until at least Friday. Fires also are burning in several others areas of the country including near Nahariya, Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. Dozens of people have suffered from smoke inhalation.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted, “It’s beginning to appear—in light of the multiple fire locations—that arson could be the cause of some of the fires. The police and the Fire Department will investigate.” Erdan is deciding whether to ask Greece and Croatia, which whom Israel has cooperation agreements, to send firefighting planes to aid in battling the fires.

To see images of the firefighting and fire damage click here.

Noise Bill Lives
The proposed legislation to prohibit mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast their calls to prayer looked like it would not receive the backing of the Haredi coalition parties because they feared that the new law would also end up banning the sirens used to announce the entrance of Shabbat on Friday afternoons. But a compromise has been reached to include a clause in the law stating that the law would apply only between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and thus, would not effect the Shabbat sirens.

Based on the new clause, Health Minister Litzman of the UTJ removed his appeal, allowing the legislation to come to a Knesset vote this week.

However, a Shas MK has raised objections to the legislation, claiming that it just serves to alienate and annoy the Arab population. He believes that an agreement can be worked out with Arab leaders based on existing anti-noise laws.

Arab Knesset members have condemned the proposed bill and have called on the Arab population to disobey it if it passes. The PA, Jordan and Turkey have also attacked the law.

[Alarm clock manufacturers are expecting a huge boost in sales if the law passes.]

For further reading click here.

Israel Accuses Iran
In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon accused Iran of using commercial airliners, including Mahan Air, to transfer weapons to Hezbollah. The United States has sanctioned the Iranian carrier for providing services to the Quds Force, a special forces unit of the Revolutionary Guard, as well as Hezbollah.

Danon claimed that the Iranians packed weapons into suitcases that went on commercial flights to Beirut and Damascus. He wrote, “It is clear that Iran is still the primary supplier of arms and related material to Hezbollah, in blatant violation of numerous Security Council resolutions. The Security Council must condemn Iran and Hezbollah for the violation of its resolutions.” Danon did not provide any evidence to back up his claim.

For further reading click here.
 

Long Term PM
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, PM Netanyahu has broken David Ben-Gurion’s record as the prime minister who served the longest consecutive term in Israel’s history. Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first PM.

As of Tuesday, Netanyahu had served 2,793 days or seven years and 236 days. That includes three terms in office starting in 2009. Netanyahu also served as PM from 1996 to 1999 (but that doesn’t count for the record). If Netanyahu makes it to the 2019 elections, he’ll be the longest serving Israeli PM ever.

Israel doesn’t have term limits.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 22, 2016

Terror Attack
A Palestinian attempted to stab a security guard at the Qalandiya checkpoint today. The terrorist was shot and wounded before causing any harm.

For further reading click here.

Jewish Demolition
The Supreme Court is discussing whether home demolitions should be applied to Jews convicted of murdering Arabs, based on a petition by the family of a 16 year old youth who was murdered by Jewish extremists in July, 2014. The petition calls for the demolition of the homes of the convicted murderers. If demolitions are meant to deter further acts of terror, then shouldn’t they be applied to both Arabs and Jews equally?

Justice Neal Hendel said, “What does it matter to me if it is an Arab or a Jew?. If we say that we are prepared to employ this policy against a specific group of people and not against another it raises certain problems.”

Elyakim Rubinstein, vice president of the court, said, “It is said that in Arab society there are more supporters and that the deterrence will be infinitely stronger. But still, since there are extremists in Jewish society that have done these kinds of terrible things, even if the deterrence is carried out on the assumption that it will influence a small number people, it will still save lives.” He added, “If five attackers in the Jewish society planned five separate attacks and three of them are deterred from doing so because they don’t want to lose their homes, we have achieved something.” 

The State differentiated between the propensity for terror in the Arab population and an isolated incident in the Jewish population. But Justice Zvi Zilbertal rejected the argument saying, “If it’s possible to prevent one murder through preventative action, will they do it only after 20 murderous attacks are be carried out? When we’re talking about human life, it is not the quantity that counts.”

For further reading click here.

Court Blocks Rabbi
Based on a petition by Meretz, the Supreme Court has postponed the inauguration of the IDF’s new Chief Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim until he provides the court with a clear explanation regarding his positions on women serving in the IDF, homosexuality and other seemingly controversial statements he made. Chief Judge Miriam Naor, said, “We want to hear what he has to say. What his position was then, what it is now and if he has changed his mind.” To read more about R. Karim’s background and his positions, click here.

The Chief Rabbinate condemned the courts decision. A forum of former IDF rabbis also condemned the court, saying “This is a bad decision that will be remembered as disgraceful. There’s no end to Meretz’s abuse of any Jewish characteristic in the IDF. In a biased manner, they took the rabbi’s words out of context and distorted them. It’s very regretful that the High Court’s judges are cooperating with these elements who seek to weaken the military rabbinate while also weakening the entire IDF.”

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) showed his full support for the rabbi, saying, “Dear Rabbi Karim, don’t allow this attempt to silence you and don’t go back on halachic rulings you believe in.”

For further reading click here.

Forest Fire
Hundreds of residents of Neve Shalom, near Latrun, have been evacuated from their homes following a forest fire raging in the area. The fire broke out overnight Monday and rapidly spread due to strong winds in the area. There are no reported injuries thus far. 140 firefighters along with aircraft are battling the blaze.

Warnings against lighting fires in open areas have been issued throughout the country, due to the extremely dry conditions, unseasonably warm weather and high winds.

For further reading click here.

PM Forbids Trump Contact
The Prime Minister has issued a directive prohibiting ministers from having any contact with Trump’s advisors or team. This comes after Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel met with a number of Trump advisors. Bennett attended an event of the Zionist Organization of America in NYC on Sunday, where he allegedly spoke with several Trump advisors.

For further reading click here.

Food Labeling
The Ministry of Health’s “Committee for Regulation to Promote Healthy Nutrition” has submitted its food labelling recommendations. The new regulations require food manufacturers to mark food products containing high levels of sugar, salt or fat with a red warning label. Food manufacturers will also be required to state the number of spoons of sugar in each food product, and will be prohibited from advertising products marked as unhealthy to children. The new regulations do not cover fast food restaurants.

According to Ministry of Health figures, Israel has one of the highest rates of sugar consumption in the world. It ranks second in diabetes mortality among men and third among women (behind Mexico and Turkey). Israeli children consume more sweetened beverages than children in America (over 10% more).

Israel also has one of the world’s highest rates of salt consumption, almost double the recommended maximum quantity, and even higher among children.

The new regulations are set to take effect in 2018. The Health Ministry hopes that companies will use the next year to try and improve the quality of their products.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 21, 2016

Jerusalem Construction
The Jerusalem zoning board will meet this week to discuss plans for building 500 homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, located in East Jerusalem. The initial plan was approved two years ago by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee, but was later suspended due to pressure from the U.S. With high hopes for the new Trump administration, the city is revisiting many of the building projects that were frozen over the past few years.

The Ramat Shlomo project will be built on Jewish owned land between the Jewish neighborhood and the Arab neighborhood of Shoafat. But private Palestinian land will be expropriated for roads and public parks. Opposition has also come from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel which claims that the land slated for the new construction is important for biodiversity and is home to fallow deer, hyraxes and bird nesting grounds.

For further reading click here.

France Gives Up
The French have reportedly decided to cancel their planned international Middle East Peace Summit, which was supposed to have been held in Paris without the participation of either Israel or the Palestinians, due to the new US administration set to take office. They don’t think the Trump administration would be too enthusiastic about the summit that even the Obama administration wasn’t keen about attending.

Israel has been vehemently against it, or any peace initiative that doesn’t include direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are disappointed with France’s withdrawal from the process and are quite nervous about the incoming Trump administration.

For further reading click here.

Chilean Snub
An annual charity event sponsored by the Diplomatic Spouses Club in Chile was held yesterday at a Palestinian club in Santiago (the capital). Because of the venue, the wife of the Israeli ambassador to Chile, Michal Hayat, was not invited. She was the only wife of an ambassador to be excluded.

Hayat protested to the head of the Diplomatic Spouses Club, claiming that her exclusion was a complete violation of the diplomatic code and that the organization was in effect supporting the boycott against Israel. The heads of the Chile Diplomatic Spouses Club apologized, but stressed that it was too late to change the situation and that the event would go ahead as planned.

Many wives other wives of ambassadors from Western countries including the US, Germany and most European countries did not attend the event in protest.

In a letter to the diplomatic corps in the country, Ambassador Hayat wrote: “Our exclusion from the traditional charity event, because of political reasons, stands in stark contrast to the accepted diplomatic code. Those who attend the event will be giving their support to ugly and inappropriate politicization of an organization whose charter determines is a-political, independent, and without religious characteristics.”

Chile has a large Palestinian community which actively supports the BDS movement.

For further reading click here.

Officer Demoted
An IDF officer in the Armored Corps was demoted and relieved of his command by a military tribunal for fleeing the scene of a terror attack second lieutenant in October. The second lieutenant was captured on video fleeing from the scene of the attack on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, during which 2 people were shot and killed. The office was armed and in uniform at the time.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit released a statement shortly after the verdict was announced saying, “The investigation revealed that the officer did not attempt to engage the attacker and acted contrary to what is expected of him in a situation such as this,” the statement read. “Therefore it was decided that he be dismissed from his position.”

For further reading click here.

Yeshiva Funding
The government yesterday approved an additional 48 million shekels of funding for yeshivas, bringing the total government funding for this year to 1.17 billion shekels ($302 million). In 2014 the budget was 564 million shekels ($146 million) due to cuts during Yair Lapid’s (Yesh Atid) term as finance minister. The budget does not include monthly stipends given to married yeshiva students (kollel).

Much of the increase in budget over the past two years stems from Haredi coalition demands to increase funding for foreign yeshiva students studying in Israeli yeshivas. While in the past such students received just 60% of the funding native Israeli students received, non-citizen yeshiva students now get 95% of the amount provided for Israelis. Many of these students, especially in the Religious Zionist sector, remain or return later to make their homes in Israel.

For further reading click here.

Safety Survey
The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has released the results of a comprehensive survey on the personal security of Israeli citizens. When asked, “Do you feel safe walking alone in your neighborhood at night?”, 81% of respondents over the age of 20 said that they feel very or completely safe. The breakdown between genders was 90% for men and 72% for women. Citizens in the north and in Judea and Samaria felt the safest walking alone at night (85-88%), while citizens in the Jerusalem District felt the least safe (73%).

Jerusalem residents felt the least secure walking alone after dark of all the major cities, with only 71% of Jerusalem residents responding that they felt secure walking alone at night. In other cities, such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Letzion, Ashdod, Petach Tikva, Netanya, and Beersheva, between 78-80% of residents felt that they felt safe walking alone at night.

Jerusalem residents also felt the least secure in general, with 81% of respondents in the Jerusalem area saying that they felt safe. Residents of Judea and Samaria felt the most secure (89%).

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 18, 2016

Attack Thwarted
Kosovo police announced yesterday that they prevented a slew of simultaneous terror attacks by ISIS against various targets including the Israeli national soccer team. The team played a qualifying game in Albania on Saturday.

For further reading click here.

Settlement Solutions
Due to the controversial nature of the bill currently making its way through the Knesset, that would legalize the Amona outpost, the Attorney General and Justice Minister are examining other possible solutions to achieve the same effect but that would not go against the ruling of the Supreme Court and would not stir up international condemnation.

The first solution would be to declare the settlers “protected persons” in an area considered by international law to be a war zone. This would give Israel the authority to carry out operations in the territories to protect the interests of the settlers, including the expropriation of land. The Palestinians are already classified as “protected persons.” The classification was created by the Geneva Convention to protect the local population in an area under occupation, giving the occupier the right to act only for security reasons or for the benefit of the “protected persons.” Applying it to Israelis living in the territories would be a stretch. It would also implicitly acknowledge that the West Bank is occupied territory.

The second solution would be to implement a compensation plan like the one used in Cyprus that was accepted by the international courts. Cyprus was divided between the Turks and Greeks in 1974. In 2005 a system was implemented to set compensation for the assets of people who were left in the other part of Cyprus following the division. To obtain compensation, a person had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the asset was owned by them in 1974, that they were forced to abandon it due to circumstances beyond their control, and that no one else had any ownership claim on it. This solution would allow the government to take ownership of the privately owned land while compensating the proven owners.

The third solution would be to move Amona to adjacent plots of land that have been classified as abandoned property. That would entail evacuating the current settlement.

Government officials have said that moving the settlement to the adjacent land is the most realistic solution in the case of Amona and similar cases. The Attorney General is expected to present his recommendation soon.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 17, 2016

Settlement Building
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has expressed his belief that Israel must coordinate its settlement building activities with the US administration. While he is optimistic about a new Trump administration, he remains cautious and advises waiting to see what the new president does when he actually takes office. He claims that failing to coordinate with the US has led to failures in the settlement building movement. He said, “We need to wait for the new administration and to establish policies with them together. We have to make agreements with them. No one is in our pockets.”

Lieberman said yesterday that he has received messages from members of Trump’s close circle of advisors urging Israel to only build within existing settlement blocks and refrain from building new settlements at the present time. Settlement leaders as well as Right Wing ministers, including Naftali Bennet and Tzipi Hotovely, have attacked Lieberman’s position and have expressed extremely optimistic hopes that the new Trump administration will give Israel a free hand in West Bank and settlement related issues.

For further reading click here.

Bill Passes
The legislation to retroactively legalize settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land, including Amona, passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset. Finance Minister Moshe Kulana, who had indicated that he would not support the bill because it went against the Supreme Courts recent ruling that ordered the evacuation of Amona, ended up supporting it after meeting with PM Netanyahu.

The bill would allow settlers to live on private Palestinian land while compensating its owners financially. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has repeatedly stated that he would not defend the bill against a challenged in the High Court, because it contradicts international law.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog described the bill as the “Knesset’s bill of horror” and called on all Knesset members to oppose the bill, saying that “never before in the country’s history has the Knesset voted in total contradiction to the law of the land and international law.”

The bill must still pas two more readings and votes in the Knesset to become law. Education Minister Naftali Bennet, who is spearheading the bill, said, “Just as we succeeded in this vote, we will succeed in the future – with tenacity, with faith and in cooperation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the other parties in the nationalist camp.”

For further reading click here.

Jerusalem Demolitions
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has reiterated his previous promise to demolish Arab homes in East Jerusalem that are built on privately owned Jewish land if the settlement of Amona is evacuated. The mayor initially revealed his intentions in a letter to the Attorney General after the Supreme Court ruled that the settlement could not exist on privately owned Palestinian land. The mayor explained that he would have no choice but to apply the court’s ruling to hundreds of Arab families living in homes built on private Jewish land. The city has already requested 14 demolition orders.

For further reading click here. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.753589

Obama Considering
A senior White House official has revealed that President Obama is considered the possibility of supporting a UN resolution against settlements or in favor of a Two-State solution. The official said Obama would inform President-elect Donald Trump before making any such move.

For further reading click here.

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Israel News for November 16, 2016

Unlikely Opposition
Arab ministers aren’t the only ones opposing the bill just approved by government ministers that would prohibit mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast their call to prayer. Health Minister Yakov Litzman, of the Haredi UTJ party, filed an appeal yesterday to prevent the Knesset from voting on the Muezzin Bill, thereby sending it back to the government for further review. The move will force PM Netanyahu to take a public stance on the matter.

In his appeal, Litzman referred to the similarities between the muezzin calls and the call announcing the beginning of Shabbat. “For thousands of years, different instruments have been used for this purpose, including the shofar and trumpet. With the advancement of technology, loudspeakers are now used to announce the beginning of Shabbat while respecting the allowed volume and in accordance to the law. The bill in its current phrasing, and following the discussions that it will bring on, may harm the status quo, and so in accordance to governmental protocol, this appeal is hereby submitted for further review.”

In other words, Litzman is afraid that the same reasoning for banning the Moslem prayer calls will be applied to banning the pre-Shabbat sirens [ even though a weekly midday siren is quite different than a daily pre-dawn wakeup call ].

Shas (the sephardic haredi party) leader Aryeh Deri has also said that the new bill is unnecessary because there are already existing regulations to prevent excessive noise, which are simply not being enforced. He also brought up the Shabbat siren issue.

Without the full support of the coalition, it’s unlikely that the new Muezzin noise curbing legislation will pass.

For further reading click here.

Coalition Uncertainty
The bill that would allow the State to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land and, in effect, legalize the Amona settlement is due to come up for a preliminary vote in the Knesset, but it is unclear whether the coalition has enough votes to pass it.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon, head of the Kulanu party, has said that he will not support legislation that goes against the ruling of the Supreme Court. Haredi MKs have also indicated that they will only support the bill if they get concessions in other areas. If they don’t vote for the legislation, the opposition could very likely prevail.

The coalition chairman has suggested that the vote be postponed until he has sufficient time to assure that their are sufficient votes to pass the bill, but Naftali Bennet has demanded that the vote take place as scheduled. Bennet is also against any compromises or changes to the legislation. He has also threatened that his Bayit Yehudi party will not support subsequent government legislation if the bill is not fully supported.

PM Netanyahu will not attend the Knesset vote so as not to stir up international reaction. He also did not vote for the bill in the initial Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote. The Attorney General has also said that he will not defend the bill against the Supreme Court’s ruling and which he believes to be against international law.

For further reading click here.

Iran Sanctions
The US House of Representatives, with bipartison support, passed a bill to extend sanctions against Iran for an additional 10 years. The existing sanctions were due to expire on Dec. 31. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee urged the Senate to pass a companion bill. President Obama has said that he will not veto the sanctions extension.

With the sanctions extended, all Trump has to do as President is to stop waiving existing sanctions in order to pull the US out of the Iran deal. Simple.

The only problem is that the five other countries that signed the Iran deal along with the US have are unlikely to stop trading with Iran and impose new sanctions. That would put US companies at a disadvantage, something that doesn’t seem to sit well with Trump. It would also greatly reduce the effect of the US sanctions.

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Ambassador Exchange
Israel and Turkey have finally exchanged ambassadors, five months after the countries signed their reconciliation agreement. The new Israeli ambassador is 53-year-old Eitan Na’eh, an experienced diplomat who served in Ankara in 1991 as a political affairs officer, as ambassador to Azerbaijan, and was currently serving as deputy ambassador to Great Britain. The new Turkish ambassador, Kemal Okem, is a foreign policy advisor and close confidant of Erdogan.

Israel and Turkey are currently involved in discussions to build a pipeline to transport natural gas from Israel to Turkey and Europe.

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Israel and France
The Israeli Air Force and the French Air Force recently held two weeks of joint exercises over the skies of Corsica. It is the first time that Israeli pilots have joined their French counterparts in French airspace. The two countries also held joint exercises at the beginning of this year with search and rescue missions as well as a scenario of a naval attack on Israel.

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Israel News for November 15, 2016

Court Rules on Amona
Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday ruled against the State’s petition to extend the December deadline to evacuate the settlement of Amona. The State had claimed that it sought to carry out the evacuation peacefully and without incident, but that it was unable to provide alternative living solutions for residents within the next two months, but that it was prepared to carry out the court’s ruling if its petition was rejected.

In explaining the court’s verdict, Chief Justice Miriam Naor said, “we must also not ignore the possible repercussions of not carrying out this verdict in such circumstances. The message it would convey is that it is possible to prevent the implementation of verdicts because the state’s concern of threats and violence, a message that cannot be accepted in a law-abiding nation.”

She added that, “the long time frame given to this evacuation was not made in a void. It reflects past experience, which taught us the government is not quick to carry out rulings ordering the evacuation of illegal construction in Judea and Samaria, and that it more than once failed to meet the deadline set.”

PM Netanyahu did not comment on the court’s ruling. Attorney General Mandelblit pledged to uphold the court’s decision and criticized the ministers who are trying to push through a bill that would allow the government to retroactively legalize the expropriation of private Palestinian land for existing settlements.

Mandelblit said, “There can be no legislating if it is harmful to the High Court of Justice. When the High Court of Justice rules that the state is required to demolish illegal homes, it is for the state to carry out the ruling as is stipulated.” He added, “It is the responsibility of the state to respect the ruling of the High Court. It is easy to accept a ruling that is consistent with our position but we need to accept the ruling of the court even when it isn’t consistent with our positions.”

Amona residents reacted to the court’s ruling by calling a meeting and appealing directly to the PM saying, “It is in your hands to save Amona or, God forbid, destroy it. We were not surprised by the decision by the High Court of Justice. We didn’t pin our hopes in it which is why we are not coming to it with complaints or allegations. You, prime minister, are the first commander and will decide the fate of Amona.” They added, “we will stand here as a wall together with many thousands from all across Israel who will gather here on the day of the evacuation, in God’s city, a wall which we will create in the coming days in order to do all within our power so that Amona will not fall for a second time.”

Palestinian landowners expressed reserved optimism in the court’s ruling.

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State Dept. Troubled
US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau made a statement regarding the bill that was approved by the government yesterday that would legalize the expropriation of private Palestinian owned land for existing settlements.

She said, “We are deeply concerned about the advancement of legislation that would allow for the legalization of illegal Israeli outposts located on private Palestinian land. This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinion and also break longstanding policy of not building on private Palestinian land.”

She added that the US believes settlements endangered prospects for a two-state solution and Israeli-Palestinian peace and that, “We hope it doesn’t become law.”

Commentary
The question now is whether the Trump administration will view the issue differently. As a pragmatist, Trump might agree that private land ownership must be respected by government. On the other hand, the land expropriation could be viewed as falling into the category of “eminent domain”, which is a concept that Trump spoke of favorably on many occasions during the campaign.

There’s no question that Trump’s administration will be more favorable towards Israel’s current government and the settlement movement, but exactly to what extent is still an unknown.

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Rivlin in India
President Reuven Rivlin has begun an official state visit to India. He is accompanied by his wife and a delegation of around 40 Israeli companies from the defense, agriculture and water industries, as well as 15 senior Israeli academics.

Calling India a close friend and important ally, Rivlin said, “Israel and India are both countries of innovation and of inspiration. Countries that have ancient traditions, but have built strong and thriving hi-tech economies, and now celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations. This visit is a sign of the strong relations and friendship between our peoples, and I hope will plant the seeds for that friendship to grow closer and closer.“

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El AL Problems
If you’re planning to fly EL AL in the near future, make sure your schedule is flexible. The airline recently cancelled a NY and Beijing flight in an ongoing dispute with pilots who are pressing for better working conditions. El Al claimed that no pilots were willing to fly both legs of the round trip flights. The pilots are seeking more money and less hours. The airlines 600 pilots earn an average of over 80,000 shekels per month.

To read more about the ongoing dispute, click here.

Zika in Israel
According to reports, at least 17 people carrying the Zika virus have entered Israel in recent months. Two cases of the virus have been diagnosed, one in Rishon Letzion and one in Holon. Both municipalities are spraying in the vicinities of the patients’ homes in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Both people were infected outside of Israel.

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Knesset Prayer
In response to a proposed bill that would prohibit the Muslim call to prayer from being blasted through loudspeakers, Arab Knesset Members recited the call to prayer from the podium during a Knesset session. There were reactions from other MKs.

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