Israel News for May 23, 2018

Terror and Response
Several terrorists crossed into Israel from Gaza yesterday and set fire to an abandoned IDF post before returning to Gaza. The terrorists videod the incident. In response the IDF launched air strikes that destroyed a Hamas terror tunnel and some Hamas boats that were going to participate in an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted about the strike, saying, “The IDF destroyed another tunnel belonging to the Hamas terror group tonight. Attempts to assail Israel from the air, through the fence and below-ground will be met with an iron wall and the IDF’s might.” He added, “It’s good for the heads of Hamas to internalize that their military project is a failure and invest all of their efforts in improving the life of Gazans.”

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New Construction
Around 300 new housing units have been put up for sale and will be constructed in the settlement of Beit El in Samaria (West Bank), near Ramallah. The construction of the homes was approved over 5 years ago. No new housing has been built in Best El over the past 10 years. The new housing units are part of a plan launched by Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon to provide affordable housing. Kahalon is in favor of annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

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The Bunker
Israel’s Security Cabinet has begun holding its weekly meetings in a secure underground bunker in Jerusalem. The bunker, known as the “National Management Centre”, is beneath the government complex in Jerusalem and includes living quarters as well as command facilities. According to reports, the reason given for the new meeting location is to prevent leaks and spying attempts.

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Air Force Revelation
The commander of Israel’s Air Force, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, told foreign air force commanders at a conference in Herzliya that Israel is the first country in the world to use the new F-35 fighter jet in combat. He presented a photo of an Israeli F-35 jet circling over Beirut, saying, “We attacked twice in the Middle East with the F-35—we’re the first in the world to do so.” Israel recently purchased 50 of the new fighters from the US, and have so far taken possession of 10, and are apparently putting them to good use.

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New Conversion Bill
A new bill proposal has been submitted to PM Netanyahu that would make the State, through the rabbinical courts, the only body with the power to perform conversions. The bill would establish a new conversion authority in the Prime Minister’s Office that would be responsible for both civilian and military conversions. The bill would, in effect, prevent the recognition of conversions performed by rabbis not approved by the state authority. That would include Reform, Conservative and even some Orthodox rabbis. The proposal states that, “Conversion performed in Israel will be recognized for the purposes of any law only if it was performed by a rabbinical conversion court under the conversion authority. No legal relevance will be given to any conversion performed in Israel not by the conversion court in the conversion authority.”

Under the new law, all conversions performed abroad by a recognized Jewish community, including Reform and Conservative, would be accepted for legal matters, such as the Law of Return.

The proposed bill is part of an effort to reach some sort of compromise in the conversion debate by removing the power of conversion from the Chief Rabbinate and giving it to the Prime Minister’s Office. The PM would appoint the head of the new conversion authority, which would be independent of the Chief Rabbinate. The rabbinic judges will be appointed by a committee headed by the prime minister or his representative, in which there will be no Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox majority, and the Reform and Conservative movements will have a voice. The new conversions authority will also be able to recognize religious marriages of Jewish converts, which will further weakened the Chief Rabbinate, currently the sole body with such authority. Any appeals about the conversion process will be discussed by a higher rabbinical court, which will be established within the new conversions authority, and its decisions will be final.

The Reform Movement reacted to the proposal with mixed emotions. The movement’s executive-director Gilad Kariv said that “naturally, we do not support the idea of only having one option for conversion in Israel. However, we welcome the full recognition of Reform conversions in the Diaspora and the assurance to converts in Israel who are already citizens and residents that they will be listed in the civil registry as Jews. In addition, we welcome the apparent recognition of the need to drastically minimize the influence of the Chief Rabbinate on conversions, in light of this institution’s strict stance towards those who sought to convert in recent decades.”

It is doubtful whether the Haredi parties will allow the bill to pass, since they are against removing the power over conversions from the Chief Rabbinate, which they in effect control.

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New Embassy
Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes inaugurated his country’s new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. He remarked, “The opening of the embassy holds special meaning, because it expresses the sincere friendship and the brave solidarity between Paraguay and Israel.”

PM Netanyahu responded, “A great day for Israel. A great day for Paraguay. A great day for our friendship. You have not only the support of our government but the profound gratitude of the people Israel.” He added, “You’re an amazing friend to Israel,” Netanyahu told Cartes. “Under your leadership, Paraguay made courageous moves in the international arena and refused to take part in the lies against Israel. It’s time we do a lot more together and increase the cooperation between us. We’ve been discussing water, agriculture, security, and we are doing and want to do more. And we will.”

The Palestinians denounced the embassy move calling it illegitimate and illegal.

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