Israel News for December 30, 2016

Terrorist Stopped
An Arab woman holding a knife approached soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah. After being ordered to stop several times the soldiers shot and neutralized her, as per IDF rules of engagement. The terrorist was arrested.

For further reading click here.

New Pilots
Israel’s 173rd class of Air Force pilots graduated yesterday in a ceremony that included PM Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot. While the total number of graduates is not published, according to the IAF website 26% of the graduates will be fighter pilots, 23% weapons systems officers, 20% in the transport division, 15% in the transport helicopter division and 12% in the combat helicopter division. There was one female graduate, who will be a fighter pilot. She will be the fourth in the IAF.

IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel told the graduates, “Tomorrow you will become part of a force that operates an advanced network of elite technology, in the air and on the ground, is driven by human spirit and that break unprecedented boundaries. A force that proves, in bold and creative daily operations throughout the Middle East, that the impossible – is possible”.

According to outside sources, Israel has the 4th most powerful air force in the world, with close to 700 combat aircraft.

For further reading click here.

Prayers Needed
Rabbi Ahron Yehuda Leib Shteinmann, considered to be the spiritual leader of the non Chassidic Haredi community, remains in intensive care after being rushed to the hospital in Bnei Brak where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He is 104 years old. The community is being asked to pray for the complete recovery of Ahron Yehuda Leib ben Gittel Faiga.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for December 29, 2016

Kerry Speaks
US Secretary of State John Kerry gave the Israeli government a thorough beating as part of his speech to lay out US parameters for a two-state solution. He castigated the government, which he categorized as the most extreme ever, for thwarting peace by attempting to impose a one state solution through an aggressive and illegal settlement policy.

Kerry set the tone for his address at the outset by saying, “Some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles — even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.”

He went on to give a lengthy description of the Israeli Palestinian crisis in which he equated Palestinian and Hamas terror with Israeli settlements as being obstacles to peace. He claimed that US policy has consistently considered settlement building in “occupied territories” to be illegal and that the Republican administrations of Reagan and Bush (the first) both allowed UN Security Council resolutions similar to the recent one to pass.

Kerry said that based on its policy and values, the US could not in good conscious veto the resolution. He also reiterated that the Obama administration has done more for Israel than any other administration (yup, he said that).

Kerry then laid out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two state solution, non of which are new.

1. A “secure and recognized border between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine,” based on Israel withdrawing from territory captured in 1967, along with land swaps to “reflect practical realities on the ground.”

2. Creation of a Palestinian state.

3. A “fair and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue,” which would include compensation and resettlement. Kerry implied that the international community would fund the compensation, but he wasn’t clear as to where the refugees would be resettled. He did not make reference to a “right of return”, which would allow refugees to settle in Israel. [No mention was made of compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced to leave Arab countries after 1948.]

4. Jerusalem to be capital for both states.

5. An agreement to satisfy Israel’s security needs while ending its military occupation of Palestinian territories.

Finally, Kerry said that both sides must end the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling all normal relations, “To bring closure to this conflict, so that everyone can move ahead to a peaceful future.”

To watch Kerry’s entire speech click here.

Let’s assume that Kerry is right about Israeli settlement policy eroding the possibility of a two state solution and that vetoing the UN security council resolution would have gone against American policy and beliefs. Given that the current administration has less than a month remaining, couldn’t the US have just postponed the vote until after January 20th and avoid having to veto or abstain?

Whether or not the US was involved in creating and pushing forward the resolution (as Israel claims), there is no doubt that if the US requested a postponement, it would have sent a clear signal to the council not to force the vote and it would have most likely been postponed.

Clearly the Obama administration wanted to use the venue of the Security Council to make its point and take a final swipe at the Netanyahu government. But what purpose did it serve, just weeks before a new president will take office? Why did Obama wait until his final days to make the statement he’s been wanting to make for eight years? Judging by the strong bipartisan reaction to the move, its clear that he would not have been able to survive as president had he done so during his substantive time in office.

As Kerry clearly stated in his speech, there are already similar resolutions “on the books” against settlements, and this latest one will most likely not change anything in practice. So the only thing gained was an opportunity for Obama to take his parting shot at Israel and stain his legacy in the minds of many Americans.

Response to Kerry
PM Netanyahu lashed out at Kerry’s speech, calling it biased against Israel and blaming Kerry for blaming the failure of the peace process primarily on Israel. The PM said, “Israel does not need to be lectured about peace by foreign leaders.”

Netanyahu also said, “The entire Middle East is going up in flames, entire countries are toppling, terrorism is raging and for an entire hour the secretary of state attacks the only democracy in the Middle East. Maybe Kerry did not notice that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christmas can be celebrated in peace and security. Sadly, none of this interests the secretary of state.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Mr. Kerry’s speech by calling on Israel to freeze housing construction in order to restart negotiations. He said, “The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, and agree to implement the signed agreements on the basis of mutual reciprocity, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations.”

Republican and Democratic members of Congress criticized Kerry’s speech and displayed strong bipartisan support for Israel.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, “Secretary Kerry’s speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration. At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.”

Democratic Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Mr. Kerry’s speech “gratuitous” and “wrong” and said, “There doesn’t seem any purpose to this other than to embarrass Israel. It just pained me to watch it.”

Germany, France and Great Britain all praised the speech. What a surprise.

Reaction from the Arab world can be summed up by a statement from Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates, who said, “At the last five minutes of the hour, apparently Kerry and Obama are showing some courage to stand up to Israel, but it is coming too late in the game. It is after the fact. They should have shown this amount of political courage four years ago, if not eight years ago.”

To watch PM Netanyahu’s full response to the Kerry speech click here.

Oh No
In a much more disturbing development, Gap stores will be closing in Israel. Apparently, the prices were just a bit too high for Israeli tastes. No, the closings have nothing to do with Obama, the UN resolution or John Kerry’s speech.

For further reading click here.

Video Clip
To watch PM Netanyahu giving a Hanukkah lesson to the young children of employees of the Prime Minister’s Office click here.

Israel News for December 28, 2016

Secret Leaked
An Egyptian news backed by the government has published a secret report, apparently leaked by Palestinian officials, documenting a December 12th meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and a Palestinian delegation headed by senior PLO member Saeb Erekat in Washington.

According to the report, Kerry and Rice told Erekat that the Obama administration was prepared to cooperate with them in the Security Council given that the resolution against Israeli settlements was a “balanced” one. Kerry and Rice were reportedly both severely critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of wanting to destroy the possibility of a two-state solution.

Kerry said that he could present ideas for a possible permanent solution on the condition that the Palestinians would endorse them upon their publication. Rice was critical of Kerry’s plan, since she felt that incoming president Donald Trump was categorically reject it. She called Trump dangerous and said that she was convinced that he would stick to everything he said during the campaign relating to settlements and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Kerry and Rice then asked the Palestinians how they would respond if the US embassy was moved. Erekat responded that they was annul their recognition of Israel, dismantle the PA and place responsibility of administrating the West Bank on Israel, and enlist Arab and Muslim countries to help move the embassy out of Jerusalem.

Kerry and Rice advised the Palestinians not to take these drastic actions, since they would just be viewed by Trump as provocative. Instead, they told the Palestinians to prevent terror attacks, which harm their negotiating position. They also advised them to seek the help of Jewish businessman Ronal Lauder in order to establish a connection with Trump.

Finally, Kerry and Rice asked the Palestinians to keep their meeting secret.


For further reading click here.

Kerry Speech
John Kerry is scheduled to speak at the State Department today at 11am EST. He will discuss the US abstention and the accusations made by Israel that the Obama administration drafted and forced the resolution to a vote. Kerry is expected to lay out the administration’s vision of a two-sate solution. What the repercussions of that will be is unknown. Another UN resolution?

In a related event, the Jerusalem municipal council has cancelled a meeting this morning during which it was expected to approve the construction of 490 housing units in the Ramot and Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem. The meeting was cancelled at the request of the PM.

For further reading click here.

Diplomatic Drama
What happened in the hours before the UN Security Council vote last Friday? PM Netanyahu called New Zealand’s Prime Minister to try and get him not to continue sponsoring the resolution. New Zealand was one of the four countries to push the resolution after it was withdrawn by Egypt. The other countries were Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela.

In his conversation with the New Zealand PM, Netanyahu is reported to have said, “This is a scandalous decision. I’m asking that you not support it and not promote it.” He added, “If you continue to promote this resolution from our point of view it will be a declaration of war. It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences. We’ll recall our ambassador to Jerusalem.” New Zealand ignored his “request”.

Western diplomats have revealed that Great Britain played a major role in the drafting of the resolution, by softening it to make sure it would be acceptable to the US. They claim that the British encouraged New Zealand to push forward with the resolution despite the pressure against it. The UK also worked with the Palestinians and the Gulf States to lobby for the resolution.

A few hours before the vote Netanyahu called Russian President Putin to ask him to help prevent the vote. Less than an hour before the vote the Russian UN ambassador unexpectedly asked for a postponement of the vote until after Christmas, claiming that more discussion was required and that the vote was happening much too quickly. His request was rejected.

So it looks like the Russians were the only ones to at least make an effort to stand with Israel this time around. Of course, they voted for the resolution.

For further reading click here.

Hanukkah Treat
In our attempt to share videos to help inspire you or just brighten up your Hanukkah, we couldn’t not share this viral hit from the singing group The Maccabeats as they apply their unique twist to the award winning Broadway musical Hamilton. To watch the video click here.

Israel News for December 27, 2016

More to Come
The US abstention in the recent UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement beyond the “green line” might not be an isolated incident.

Israel claims to have information that US Secretary of State John Kerry will outline parameters for a two state solution and a Palestinian state in a speech which he will deliver at an upcoming French sponsored Middle East Peace Summit in Paris scheduled for January 15th, five days before Obama leaves office. Those parameters would then be brought before the UN Security Council and passed before January 20th.

A senior Israeli official said, “The Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council spoke about information to the effect that what is planned is that the foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris will make a summary decision that will be adopted by the Quartet and by the UN Security Council before January 20. Israel believes this is an operative plan and the assumption is that the Americans are leading it all, together with the French.”

The senior official said that Israel fears that Kerry’s speech will include American principles for resolving the core issues of borders, refugees, security arrangements and Jerusalem. 

All this hasn’t stopped PM Netanyahu from lashing out at Obama and accusing him of in effect plotting against Israel. The PM said, “The Obama administration made a shameful, underhanded move.” He is obviously confident in the policies he expects from incoming president Donald Trump. But the US directed anger is unprecedented. The PM went so far as to summon the US ambassador for a meeting while the ambassadors of the countries that voted for the resolution were called in for reprimands at the Foreign Ministry.

While many Israelis might not be in favor of continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank, almost all Israelis agree that Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital and must remain undivided. The inclusion of eastern Jerusalem in the UN resolution is a deal breaker, and the fact that the US allowed the resolution to pass is extremely hard to swallow. The possibility that Obama might take further action against Israel in his remaining few weeks as president is even more troubling.

Incoming president Trump has made it clear that he will do things much differently, but how much damage can the Obama administration do before that happens?

PM Retaliates
PM Netanyahu is expected to announce later today that he will cut off all Israeli aid to Angola in response to that countries vote in favor of the anti-Israel Security Council resolution. Angolan diplomats had promised Israel that Angola would abstain from the vote. To add insult to injury, when the Angolan ambassador was called to Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to get reprimanded, his illegally parked car got ticketed by police.

Israel has also stopped aid to Senegal and recalled its ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand. Both countries sponsored the resolution.

In addition, the PM has ordered Israeli officials not to meet with representatives of any of, or travel to, the countries that voted for the resolution including the UK, France and Russia. The PM cancelled a scheduled visit by the Prime Minister of Ukraine to Israel. In response the Ukraine called in the Israeli ambassador to the country and reprimanded him.

Will Israeli snubbing of major world powers really hurt these countries, or could it backfire and end up hurting Israel even more?

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely remarked today in an interview that she thinks that the Prime Minister is mistaken in ordering the snubbing of diplomats and cancelations of diplomatic visits. Instead she said that Israel should be meeting with these diplomats to explain Israel’s position. Likud members lashed out at Hotovely for criticizing the PM and called for her resignation or dismissal.

For further reading click here.

Investing in North
Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Minister of the Interior, and Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee Aryeh Deri have presented a plan for boosting the economy and raising the standard of living of Israel’s northern region. Under the plan, government ministries and the Jewish National Fund will invest around NIS 15 billion. A large chunk of the money will go to infrastructure projects. Other projects include improving the public health system, strengthening local government, and raising the standard of school and higher education.

Kahalon said, “We are determined to bring the same standards as are considered the norm in the center of the country to the north as well. The distance from the center of Israel must not mean gaps in services to citizens. It is impossible to speak of a single society without solving once and for all the problem of the link between distance from the center and social gaps. After years of investment in the center and the Negev, the north’s time has come. I am certain that this plan is a large step in the direction of realizing these aims.”

For further reading click here.

Believe it or Not
This isn’t directly Israel related but since it’s the third day of Hanukkah…there’s an obscure Hassidic custom to disrupt the lighting of the menorah in the synagogue by throwing towels and other stuff at the lighter in order to make it clear that the synagogue lighting is only a custom and does not fulfill the actual mitzvah, which can only be done in the home. To watch this in action click here.

Israel News for December 26, 2016

UN Vote
On Friday the UN Security Council voted 14-0 to condemn Israeli settlement building in the West Bank. The resolution, which was withdrawn by Egypt after pressure from Israel and Donal Trump, was reintroduced by Venezuela, New Zealand, Malaysia and Senegal. In an unprecedented move, the US did not use its veto power, allowing the resolution to pass. Israel had feared the Obama would take action against Israel in the UN in his final days in office, and this is exactly what happened.

Senior Republican leaders lashed out at Obama’s decision to abstain from the vote. Donald Trump vowed that things would be much different after he takes office.

Ambassador Samantha Power explained the administration’s vote this way: “Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity…. President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned – publicly and privately – that the absence of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk, and threaten Israel’s stated objective to remain both a Jewish State and a democracy … This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the hope of a two-state solution if they continue on their current course.”

But while the Obama administrations claims that it was just voicing its opposition to the building of new settlements, the reality is much different.

According to the text of the resolution, “any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” 

That means that everything built in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall plaza, is illegal. It also means that all the Jewish neighborhoods located in “East” Jerusalem, and the roads leading to Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, are illegal.

Did Obama not fully understand the contents of the resolution, or does he truly believe that Israel has no right to any property located over the “Green Line”, including the Western Wall (which is clearly over the line)?

PM Netanyahu remarked, “Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”

Apparently the Obama administration wasn’t such a friend after all. Quite a goodbye gift from the outgoing president. Best of luck to you too.

For further reading click here.

Israel Reacts
In the wake of the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, Israel has taken action against the UN and the countries that voted against her.

Israel will cut its $8 million of funding to the UN and also work to cancel appointments of anti-Israel UN officials and impede the functioning of UN relief agencies operating in the West Bank and Gaza who are anti-Israel. Israel is hoping that the Trump administration and its new pro-Israel UN ambassador Nikki Haley will help facilitate its moves.

PM Netanyahu also summoned the ambassadors of the 14 countries who voted for the resolution for a “talking to” and ordered Israeli officials not to hold meetings with representatives of those countries, including England, France, Spain, Japan and Russia.

For further reading click here.

Special Rep
Donald Trump has appointed Jason Greenblatt, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, as special representative for international negotiations, with a focus on Israel-Palestinian peace talks, trade agreements and the diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba.

Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew and Yeshiva University graduate, has said that he believes in a two-state solution as long as it is reached through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and not imposed by the UN or any other foreign element. He also firmly believes that settlements are not an obstacle to peace.

While Greenblatt admits that he has no professional foreign policy experience, that doesn’t seem to bother him or Trump. Judging by the development in the peace process over the last 20 years, it doesn’t seem as though the experienced diplomats have done such a great job. Perhaps the lawyers and businessmen can do better? The next US presidents is doubling down on that belief.

Greenblatt is expected to start shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah soon after the inauguration to try and restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

A Teaneck resident and father of six, Greenblatt visits Israel often with his family and has even written several Israel travel guides. Greenblatt is also a loyal reader of this daily email newsletter. We wish him the best of luck in his new position and are confident that he will apply his staunch support for Israel and his negotiation skills to achieve great things.

For further reading click here.,7340,L-4898600,00.html

Rebbe Lights
If you need some inspiration when saying the blessings over your Hanukkah menorah, this might help. To watch how the Rachmastivka rebbe does it, click here.

Israel News for December 23, 2016

No UN Vote
The UN Security Council vote on an Egyptian sponsored resolution to condemn Israeli settlement building in the West Bank was postponed indefinitely after Egypt abruptly withdrew their proposed draft.

According to Western officials, the Obama administration was prepared to allow the US to abstain from the vote, allowing the resolution to pass. This was confirmed by US officials. The Israelis found out about this and implored the White House to veto the resolution.

When they felt that the US would still abstain, they reached out to Trump, who tweeted his Facebook post that said:

“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed.

As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.
This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

Earlier in the year, when referring to negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Trump told CNN, “I don’t like the United Nations getting involved in the negotiation. This has to be a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This has to be that. You can’t force a deal down the throats of both but you know it will be a bad deal for Israel if they do that. So … if the United Nations forces a deal, I would veto that deal immediately.”

Israel put a lot of pressure on Egyptian president al-Sisi, who then spoke with Donald Trump. Egypt then withdraw the draft resolution. An Egyptian spokesman said, “The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement.”

Trump also attempted to convince the White House to veto the resolution.

The resolution can still be submitted for a vote by another country. New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal had expressed interest in the resolution and will be meeting today to decide whether to push for a vote.

There was no comment from the White house or State Department regarding the United State’s planned abstention.

For further reading click here.

Terrorists Captured
The Shin Bet has busted a terror cell with more than twenty Hamas terrorists from across the West Bank. The cell, based around Nablus, was recruiting and training terrorists to carry out suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa. The cell established a bomb-making factory in Nablus and acquired M-16 assault rifles. Most of the terrorists have previously spent time in Israeli prisons.

A Shin Bet spokesman said, “The Shin Bet investigation unearthed a well-organized, structured Hamas cell. Had it not been discovered, it would have carried out grave terror attacks. Thanks to excellent intelligence and operational activities of Shin Bet and IDF forces, the cell was discovered in time. This investigation reveals, once again, the efforts that Hamas is investing into creating terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria to carry out attacks against Israelis.”

For further reading click here.

Amona Extension
The Supreme Court has accepted a government petition and granted a 45 extension to the scheduled Dec. 25th evacuation of Amona. The new date is Feb. 8, 2017. The court stressed that “this is a final and last extension, even if no alternative solution is found.”

Amona residents welcomed the decision saying, “Now, the responsibility is entirely on the state and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who committed to erect in the next 45 days homes on the mountain for the residents of Amona, and preserve the town. The ball is in their hands.”

The government plans to relocate most of the families to a nearby plot of land on the same mountain. Some of the families will be relocated temporarily to housing near Ofra.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for December 22, 2016

UN Vote
The UN Security Council is scheduled to vote today at 3:00pm on a resolution calling for an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement building on what it considers to be “occupied Palestinian land”.

The resolution, submitted by Egypt last night, demands that Israel, “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. It says that the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”, and expresses grave concern that continuing settlement activities “are dangerously imperiling the viability of a two-state solution”.

The Un Security Council has 15 members. The resolution requires 9 votes to pass, but can be vetoed by any of the councils five permanent members including the US, Russia, France, England or China.

Israel is urging the US to veto the resolution. PM Netanyahu tweeted late last night, “The United States should veto this anti-Israel resolution.”

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, said on Israeli Army Radio: “In a few hours we will receive the answer from our American friends. I hope very much it will be the same one we received in 2011 when the version was very similar to the one proposed now and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Susan Rice, vetoed it.”

Danon said nothing would change on the ground if the resolution passes. But he said it could spur Palestinians to seek international sanctions against Israel and impede any return to peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

The fear in Israel is that Obama will use his last days as president to express his disapproval of Israel’s settlement policies by ordering the US to abstain from the security vote.

For further reading click here.

Berlin Victim
One of the twelve people killed in this weeks terrorist attack in a Berlin outdoor market was positively identified as Daliya Elyakim, 60, from Herzliya. Her husband Rami was seriously wounded in the attack and is being treated in a German hospital. Elyakim’s body will be flown to Israel for burial.

President Reuven Rivlin said, “It is with great sadness that I received word of the death of Daliya Elyakim caused as a result of the terrible terror attack in Berlin. I send my condolences to the family who is at this moment at the bedside of Rami, Daliya’s husband. He too was seriously injured in the terror attack, and we are praying for his swift and speedy recovery.”
He added, “We remain united and determined against murderous terror which is attacking every corner of the world. We will fight extremism and hate with all of our strength.”

For further reading click here.

A little Oil
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Budget Approved
The Knesset today voted 60-48 to approve a nearly 1 trillion shekel ($260 billion) budget for the next two years. PM Netanyahu believes that a two year budget will provide greater stability for the government than an annual budget.

The largest budget item is defense spending, which is over $18 billion per year. Israel’s economy is expected to grow nearly 3 percent in 2016 and as much as 3.5 percent in 2017, while the jobless rate is very low at 4.5 percent.

Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlom welcomed the enactment of the new budget: “The budget passed today is a social budget that does not discriminate. The budget helps all parts of society, neither right nor left, or center. It is a budget of growth, reducing social gaps, increasing public expenditure, reducing taxes and continuing the momentum of all the government ministries with a stress on the social ministries.”

On the flip side, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog said, “The Israeli government has tonight passed a budget which brings no good news for citizens. The budget is a harbinger of a difficult year for working families, young people, the elderly, for those who have not been dealt with kindly by fate and those unable to threaten and extort.”

For further reading click here.

No Trees
Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shalom Amar sent a letter to hotels in the city saying, “As the secular year ends, we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha and that therefore it is clear that no one should erect [a tree] in a hotel.” The rabbis also reminded hotels that it was inappropriate to celebrate the new year on January 1.

Hotels that disregard the rabbinate’s directives might risk incurring some bad karma, but they cannot lose their kosher certification, thanks to Supreme Court protection.

Earlier this week the rabbi of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa told Jewish students to avoid entering the student union building on campus, where a Christmas tree was erected.

Rabbi Elad Dokow called the Christian tree a pagan symbol and said, “Halacha clearly states that whenever it is possible to circumvent and not pass through a place where there is any kind of idolatry, this must be done. So one should not enter the student union if it’s not necessary to do so.”

The Technion said that Rabbi Doklow was expressing his own personal opinion and not the policy of the institution. It said, “The union, it goes without saying, celebrates all the Jewish festivals and, concurrently, it allows students from other religions to express themselves with respect and tolerance. The different festivals are celebrated in a range of ways, including, in this case, a Christmas tree beside the Hanukkah menorah.”

For further reading click here.

Israel News for December 21, 2016

Trump Policy
Becky Norton Dunlop, a senior official in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, participated in a tour of the West Bank this week along with some Republican members of Congress and members of the EU.

Dunlop said, “Anyone who comes and visits Judea and Samaria sees that it is an inseparable part of the State of Israel,” and that, “As an American citizen, I empathize with the Israeli people who want to settle on their entire state, to expand their communities and their homes, and they should have safe places to raise their children.”

She also remarked, “During the visit we saw that Arabs living in Israel are completely able to work together with their Israeli neighbors. The international community has to take note of what is really happening here instead of listening to the mainstream media which doesn’t report the news but rather invented things. They need to focus on what is really happening here in Judea and Samaria.”

Her statements do not necessarily represent the policies of the incoming president, but they definitely seem to reflect the mood in Trump Tower.

For further reading click here.

Amona Evacuation
The State has petitioned the Supreme Court for a 45 day extension of the Amona evacuation order, which is currently set for December 25th, in order to implement the compromise agreement reached with the residents to move most of them to an adjacent plot of land on the same mountain. The other residents will be moved to a location near Ofra until permanent housing can be provided.

PM Netanyahu met with Amona residents over the weekend and shocked them (and everyone else) when he said that he understood what it means to lose a home since he and his family were kicked out of the Prime Minister’s residence after he lost the 1999 election to Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu said, “I understand what it means to lose a home. After the 1999 elections, with zero warning, me and my family were simply kicked out of the house on Balfour Street. Just like that, with all of our belongings, we were just thrown into the street. We had to go to the Sheraton Plaza Hotel, it felt terrible.”


In response to the PM’s remarks Ehud Barak tweeted, “He completely lost it. ‘Uprooted from his home’? By the electorate’s votes. I was there. It took him six weeks to pack up and evacuate. Difficult? It’s time for another time.”

At least one settler leader who was at the meeting said that the PM never mentioned the name of a hotel and that his remarks were taken out of context in order to slander him. He said that the PM did not insult the residents of Amona but that he empathized with them.

The Prime Minister’s Office has not responded to the report.

For further reading click here.

Prison Visits
The Knesset House Committee has approved a proposal submitted by Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information Gilad Erdan to limit the ability of MKs to visit security prisoners. The proposal comes in the wake of allegations that MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) smuggled cell phones to security prisoners when he visited them.

According to the new proposal, MKs who wish to visit security prisoners will have to coordinate their visits with the Knesset speaker, House Committee chairperson and State Control Committee chairperson.

In addition, only certain members of the coalition and the opposition will be permitted to visit security prisoners, and those MKs will be physically searched before entering the prison. 

National security trumps MK immunity.

For further reading click here.

Conflict in Arad
In recent years the ultra-Orthodox population of the southern city of Arad has grown to almost 20% of the city’s total population. The Gur (or Ger) Hasidim make up overwhelming majority of the Haredi population. In 2014 they occupied the main Ashkenazic synagogue in the city, forcing the Chabad rabbi to move his services to a local Chabad school.

The Mayor of Arad, Nissan Ben Hamo (who is secular), petitioned the court to remove the Hassidim from the synagogue, claiming that they took control of the synagogue without permission and that they are impeding other worshippers from praying in the shul. The request was granted, but was subsequently appealed. A final ruling is still pending.

Secular residents of Arad, led by the mayor, are unhappy with the Haredi presence in the city and the associated change in the city’s existing character or “status quo”. Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, also a Gur Hasid, is representing the Hassidim and has called for the Haredi community to support them with protests.

Yesterday thousands of ultra-Orthodox residents demonstrated in Bnei Brak. Similar protests are planned for Ashdod and Jerusalem in the coming days.

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israel terror attacks

Israel News for December 19, 2016

Terror Shooting
Terrorists shot and wounded an Israel man as he was driving between the settlement of Ofarim and the village of Abud in the Binyamin region of the West Bank early today. The man was lightly wounded in his face from glass shards but was able to continue driving until he reached a nearby military post. Last week terrorists shot at a car in the same area, but no one was injured. Security forces are searching for the terrorists.

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Arms Factory
In an overnight raid, IDF forces uncovered a massive arms factory under an apartment building in Hebron. The factory produced assault rifles and other weapons used in terror attacks.

To view photos click here.

Hamas Attack
Earlier today shots were fired at IDF forces near the border of the southern Gaza Strip. There were no reports of injuries or damages. Shortly after, IDF tanks fired at Hamas positions in Gaza.

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Arab MK Suspected
Police have decided to question Arab Joint List MK Basel Ghattas for allegedly smuggling cell phones to Palestinian security prisoners to which he has access. Members of the Joint List defended Ghattas and accuse the government and police of trying to destroy him.

Ghattas recently made the following statement after the death of Shimon Peres: “Let us remember in his death his true essence as a tyran. He was directly responsible for various atrocities and war crimes which he committed against us…He is completely covered with our blood.”

PM Netanyahu issued a statement saying, “If these suspicions against MK Ghattas are true, then this constitutes a serious offense against the security of the state and citizens of Israel. Whoever harms state security will be severely punished and will not be allowed to serve in the Knesset.” 
Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman said, “Just more proof that the Joint List is a list of spies and traitors. From Azmi Bishara to Basel Ghattas to the Marmara representative Hanin Zoabi and the rest of their friends—we will continue to act so that not only are they no longer part of the Knesset, but so they are not citizens of the State of Israel.”

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Amona Will Move
Amona residents have accepted a compromise agreement to move to an adjacent plot of land, thus avoiding their forceful evacuation. The cabinet approved the agreement and allocated 130 million shekels to implement it. Each family will receive around 1 million shekels as compensation.

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Katsav Released
Former President Moshe Katsav, 72, who was convicted of rape and other sexual acts and is serving a seven year prison sentence, has been granted parole after serving five years. Women’s groups including several female MKs blasted the decision.

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Hit Squad
Last Thursday a Hamas terrorist engineer who specialized in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was assassinated in Tunisia. Reports from various sources blamed the hit on the Mossad. Yesterday the Tunisian government issued an official statement blaming the assassination on foreign elements. The Mossad made no comment.

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Israel News for December 16, 2016

Trump’s Ambassador
Donald Trump announced yesterday that he would appoint his longtime attorney and recent Israel advisor David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel. Trump said that Friedman, “has been a long-time friend and trusted advisor to me. His strong relationships in Israel will form the foundation of his diplomatic mission and be a tremendous asset to our country as we strengthen the ties with our allies and strive for peace in the Middle East.”

Trump also stated that, “The bond between Israel and the United States runs deep, and I will ensure there is no daylight between us when I’m President. As the United States’ Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman will maintain the special relationship between our two countries.”

Friedman stated that he would work tirelessly to “strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

Trump promised during his campaign that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His close advisors have reiterated that he plans to follow through on his promise.

Friedman is a supporter of the settlement movement and has advocated for the annexation of the West Bank.

Education Minister Naftali Bennet tweeted, “I wish success for David Friedman, the US ambassador-elect to Israel. He is a great friend to Israel.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzip Hotovely said, “The expressed intention to appoint Friedman is very welcome news for Israel. His positions reflect the desire to strengthen the standing of Israel’s capital Jerusalem at this time and to underscore that the settlements have never been the true problem in the area.”

Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid remarked, “I look forward to working with the new US ambassador, a close friend of Israel, David Friedman, in the proper place for his office – our capital, Jerusalem.”

On the flip side, the left wing J Street lobby wrote on its Facebook page that it is “vehemently opposed” to Friedman’s appointment, calling the move “reckless” and saying that Friedman “lacks any diplomatic or policy credentials.”

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami tweeted, “Trump’s pick of Friedman for Israel Amb is anathema to values that underlie U.S.-Israel relationship. We’ll fight this with all we’ve got.”

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More Permits
Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant will bring up for cabinet approval a proposal to increase the quota for Palestinians workers in Israel by 22,000. The proposal has been coordinated with the Ministry of Defense.

In addition to increasing work permits, the proposal also substantially eases regulations governing the employment of Palestinian workers. It will also implement a system to ensure that Palestinian workers get the pay they are entitled to, on the books.

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Surprise Inheritance
According to a report by Israel’s Channel 2 news, the owner of the King Solomon hotel chain who recently passed away left millions of dollars to his employees.

Gilbert Luzon, whose holdings included hotels in Jerusalem and Tiberius, stated in his will that employees who had worked at his hotels for at least five years would receive inheritances of $1,000 for every year they worked for him. Employees who worked for five years would receive the minimum of $5,000, and inheritance would go up for each year of seniority.

“He spent more than $2 million,” one employee said. “Some people who have been washing dishes for 20 years would get $20,000. Everyone thought it was like winning the lottery.”

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