Israel News for December 13, 2016

Breaking News
A Palestinian women attempted to ram her car into soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem. After soldiers fired in the air the women emerged from her car holding a knife and screaming “Allahu Akbar”. The soldiers quickly arrested her without any injuries.

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Embassy Move
Kellyanne Conway, a senior aide to Donald Trump, confirmed in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that Trump intends to fulfill his promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv To Jerusalem.

Conway said, “That is very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump. He made it very clear during the campaign, Hugh, and as president-elect I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly.”

Presidents Bill and Clinton and George H. W. Bush both promised to move the embassy during their campaigns but then backed down during their presidency. But Conway expressed confidence in Trump’s ability to follow through on his promise saying, “It is a great move. It is an easy move to do based on how much he talked about that in the debates and in the sound bites.”

In 1995 Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move but included a presidential waiver that lapses every six months. Each president since then has exercised the waiver, with President Barack Obama doing so as recently as last week. The waiver requires that the president assess that moving the embassy would pose a national security risk to the United States.

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Israel Gets Aircraft
Israel yesterday received the first two F-35 stealth fighter aircraft to be sold to any country outside of the US. The aircraft cost $110 million each and are first of 50 planes Israel has ordered at a total cost of $5 billion. That will come out of the $38 billion military aide package Israel received from the US, and go right back into the US economy.

While the F-35 is not faster and cannot carry more missiles and bombs as the F-15 and F-16 jets that Israel currently flies, it can fly undetected. Israel generals call that a game changer, since it will allow the aircraft to be mostly invisible to enemy aircraft and ground-based antiaircraft batteries.

Israeli officials say the F-35 will be used for all its air force missions, including in possible future confrontations with Iran and the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

The F-35s were greeted by PM Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and senior IDF officers, MKs, businessmen and other officials.

Netanyahu thanked the US administration for its staunch commitment to Israel security and added, “Our long arm has now become longer and mightier.” He also said, “I want to be clear: Anyone who thinks of attacking us will be attacked. History has taught us that only strength brings deterrence, only strength brings peace and respect.”

Carter reiterated that Israel is the first country to receive the aircraft and said, “Together, we will dominate the skies. With the turmoil in the region, we’re more dedicated to Israel’s security today than ever before.”

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New Kotel Bill
A new bill has been submitted to the Knesset, which would place the entire Kotel area under the jurisdiction of the Chief Rabbinate and prevent any form of prayer that does not conform to Orthodox practice. The bill is supported by the Ultra Orthodox parties along with some members of Bayit Yehudi and Likud.

The bill would destroy the compromise agreement reached by the government and the non Orthodox Jewish movements to form an egalitarian prayer space at the southern end of the Kotel, near Robinson’s Arch. It would also impose a fine of around $2,500 or a six-month prison sentence on participants in egalitarian prayer services or on women who use a tallit or tefillin.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky slammed the bill saying, “This bill makes a mockery of all the efforts made by recent governments to ensure that the Western Wall is a place that unites, rather than divides, the Jewish people. This bill’s passage would have grave consequences for the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Based on the Prime Minister’s strong personal commitment to strengthening the Israel-Diaspora relationship, it is my fervent hope that this damaging bill will be summarily dismissed by a majority of the coalition and of the Knesset.”

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PM Trip
PM Netanyahu embarked today on a two day visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The PM remarked, “These are two large and significant countries in the Islamic world and our goal is to strengthen diplomatic, security and economic relations with them.” Both countries have vast natural resources.

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Snubbing Sweden
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but Israeli leaders will not be around to meet her. Wallström has become famous for her pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel comments, and the government is letting her know that they won’t stand for them.

Wallström asked to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with other Israeli ministers but the official response she received was that the Israeli officials could not fit her into their schedule. The Swedish foreign minister decided to go ahead with her planned visit and meet with officials in the Palestinian Authority.

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