Israel News for December 18, 2015

Gaza MIA
The family of Oron Shaul, who was killed in Operation Defensive Shield in 2014, has asked PM Netanyahu and the IDF to reclassify Oron as missing in action from his current status as killed in action with an unknown place of burial. The request comes days after the family asked Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya to provide more information about their son. Hamas had claimed in 2014 that they had captured him alive, but Israel soon after confirmed he had been killed. Oron’s mother pleaded with Haniya saying, “I want to believe you, just give us clear evidence of my son Oron’s condition”.

The request to reclassify Oron’s status stems from ambiguity in the IDF report regarding Oron Shaul’s status. Oron’s mother said that she understands from the report he was not killed, so his status should be changed. She said they waited quietly for a year and a half for the politicians and the security establishment to do their work, but in light of the lack of progress she feels it’s time to try a new course of action to bring Oron home as quickly as possible.

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Israel Turkey Relations
An Israeli official revealed yesterday that Israel and Turkey have reached an understanding that could lead to the restoration of ties between them.

Relations between the two countries broke down in 2010 after the Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American. Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths and agreed to compensate the victims’ families under a U.S.-brokered arrangement in 2013. But the 2014 Gaza war derailed efforts to restore full ties.

The Israeli official said Turkey would waive legal claims against Israel over the raid and that the countries would upgrade diplomatic ties by returning ambassadors. Turkey will ban a Hamas leader said to be based in Turkey from operating from the country.

The “understanding” was reached between Israel’s incoming Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the Turkish Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu. It still needs to be approved by both governments.

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Gas Deal Signed
PM Netanyahu, who is also the Economy Minister, signed the natural gas development agreement after months of debate and controversy. The agreement gives a small consortium of energy companies sole rights to develop the massive Leviathan natural gas reservoir.

Opponents claim that the deal will primarily benefit the energy companies and cost the Israeli people hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues. But the PM believes that the agreement is the only way to develop the massive reserves and that it will greatly benefit the country.

In his speech at the signing the PM said, “This gas is environmentally clean, will lower the cost of living, and give us billions of shekels for our needs. I am giving gas to Israel and its people.” He also said, “the gas was given to us as a gift from God and will transform us into an energy superpower.”

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China Love
Israeli-Chinese relations just got a lot warmer (and it has nothing to do with Jewish love of Chinese takeout). Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing has donated $130 million to build the first Israeli university in China.

The cornerstone for the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT) was laid in Shantou yesterday. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by thousands of guests including former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis, and Technion President Peretz Lavie.

Shimon Peres had this to say: “The establishment of a Technion campus in China is one more proof that Israeli innovation is breaking down geographic borders. China is one of Israel’s major partners in technology and hi-tech and more than 1,000 Israeli companies are active in China. I hope that the economic cooperation between the two countries will continue to expand, as both countries have much to share with, and learn from, one another.”

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Foreign Workers
Back in September we reported that Israel was planning to bring in 20,000 Chinese construction workers in an effort to reduce housing prices. But the two governments have not been able to reach an agreement to regulate the rights, employment conditions and compensation of the Chinese, so the workers haven’t been able to come to Israel.

Not to fear. Israel has come up with an alternative source of foreign construction workers: Moldova. The former Soviet republic, sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania, seems to have a lot of men willing to go just about anywhere outside of Moldova to find work — even to Israel.

Avigdor Yitzhaki, head of the housing department in the Ministry of Finance, plans to bring 2,000 Moldovan construction workers to Israel. He’s also speaking with Romania and Ukraine about getting some of their workers too.

Integrating Eastern European workers into Israeli society will be a lot easier than doing so with Chinese workers, given the great number of Russian speaking Israelis (and their love of Eastern European cooking). But it could also create an assimilation problem if the men get too “comfortable” with the natives.

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Skver Park
The Skver Rebbe will be embarking on a three week visit to Israel at the end of the month. To facilitate his Jerusalem visit, the municipality will destroy a public park near a Skver synagogue in order to put up a tent where the rebbe will be able to hold court. But before you get all heated about it, the deal is that his Hasidim will foot the bill for rebuilding the park after he leaves. (Ok, I thought it was interesting)

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Wild Goose Chase
Niv Asraf, the 22 year old Israeli who faked his own kidnapping, and his accomplice were slammed with a 625,000 shekel lawsuit. Back in April, Asraf decided to disappear in order to make his ex-girlfriend, whom he had recently broken up with, worry about him. While Asraf hid in the Hebron area, his friend informed the police that Asraf had disappeared after walking towards an Arab village to try and get help for a flat tire.

Over 1000 soldiers, special forces and police officers mounted a search for Asraf. According to the lawsuit the two planned the hoax in detail, which misled the security forces and public for the eight hours it took for the case to be solved. The prosecution claims the actual damages were far worse than the 625,000 shekels claimed in the suit.

After getting notified about the lawsuit, Asraf was rushed to the hospital. Makes sense.

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Supermodel Busted
Supermodel Bar Rafaeli and her mother were arrested on charges of tax evasion yesterday, but were released after posting bail. They had to surrender their passports and are barred from leaving Israel.

The charges are primarily related to Rafaeli’s overseas income totaling millions of shekels and a celebrity discount she received when purchasing an apartment. Rafaeli claims that she was not a resident of Israel when she earned the foreign income, and therefore is not liable to pay taxes on it.

Regarding the discount — wouldn’t you give Bar Rafaeli a discount?

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