Hawara terror

Israel News for December 31, 2015

Terror Updates
A Palestinian rammed his car into soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus today. One soldier was lightly injured. The terrorist was shot and killed.

Two Palestinian boys, aged 12 and 13, were seen wandering around downtown Jerusalem yesterday evening . Their behavior aroused suspicions of passersby and police who stopped them for questioning. The police officers noticed they had their hands in their pockets so they searched the boys and found knives in their possession. Under questioning the boys admitted that they were planning to carry out a terror attack in the area.

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Israeli ISIS
In a recording released this past weekend, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi threatened to perpetrate attacks against “the Jews in Palestine”. He might have some resources in place inside Israel.

According to the Shin Bet, ISIS is making some inroads among Israeli Arab youths. Last week a 19 year old resident of the Bedouin town of Hura in Southern Israel was arrested in a raid on a Hamas cell in East Jerusalem that was planning suicide attacks. The man also admitted to be an ISIS supporter.

Two months ago, another Hura resident, Muhannad al-Okbi, carried out a shooting attack in Be’er Sheva’s central bus station in which an Israeli soldier was killed.

Over the past year, two other Hura residents were found to have ties to ISIS. Othman Abu Kian, a medical resident who worked at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, traveled to Syria about a year ago to fight for ISIS and was killed in battle. In July, four teachers from Hura – also members of the Abu Kian clan – were arrested on suspicion of disseminating ISIS propaganda.

Israeli Arabs from the north have also been arrested on suspicion of involvement with ISIS in recent months. In October and November, five Nazareth residents were arrested on suspicion of undergoing weapons training in preparation for carrying out attacks inspired by ISIS.

In November a cell affiliated with ISIS was uncovered in Jaljulya after one member went to Syria to join the ISIS branch on the Syrian Golan Heights. And last week, two residents of villages near Nazareth were arrested for being in contact with ISIS. They had gone to Turkey in May to join the group’s fighters in Syria, but changed their minds at the last minute.

Security officials aren’t overly concerned about ISIS in Israel just yet, but if ISIS continues to make inroads into the Israeli Arab community, there could be much to fear.

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Arab Budget
Yesterday the government unanimously approved a 10 to 15 billion shekel budget to be used for Israeli Arab municipalities over the next five years. The money will be allocated primarily to education, transportation, housing, culture and sports.

Approval had been delayed when several Likud ministers, including Culture Minister Miri Regev and Science Minister Ofir Akunis, raised objections to the plan because it does not include benefits to municipalities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations. Despite the objections, cities with mixed populations such as Ramle, Lod, and Acre will not benefit from the initiative.

In a statement the PM said, “This is a significant addition meant to assist minority populations and to reduce gaps.” Arab legislators cautiously welcomed the initiative, but said it falls short of fully addressing the community’s needs.

Yousef Jabareen, an Arab Knesset member, said the plan was a step in “the right direction.” But he said, “it does not address all the socio-economic needs of the community and falls short of bridging the historical gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel.” He also said that Arab lawmakers had lobbied for an investment twice as large as the amount reportedly approved.

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Empty Tax
Starting in 2016, Jerusalem’s municipal property tax rate for apartments remaining empty nine or more months of the year will be doubled to NIS 223.56 per sq.m. per year. That means that the tax on an empty 100-sq.m. apartment will be NIS 22,356 per year.

According to the municipality, there are 9,000 apartments in Jerusalem that are empty by the municipality’s definition: “an apartment that is unused at least nine months of the year.” The municipality determines that by examination the apartment’s electricity and/or water bills.

The extra high property tax is meant to encourage absentee owners to rent out their apartments, which would increase the housing supply available for young couples and families. The municipality says that it will use the tax revenue to promote cheap housing for young couple and families in the city.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, “Doubling the municipal property tax on empty apartments is an important tool for adding thousands of apartments for young families in Jerusalem. Young people are the oxygen of Jerusalem. Adding thousands of empty apartments to the market will dramatically increase the supply of rental apartments for young people, and cause a decrease in rents in the city.”

The Tel Aviv municipality is planning to follow Jerusalem’s lead by doubling their “empty nest” tax rate too.

Given that most of the empty apartments tend to be owned by foreign owners as vacation destinations, a few thousand bucks a year in tax probably won’t compel them to rent them out. But it’s a good idea in theory, and you never know.

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Banned Novel
Israel’s Education Ministry has banned a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. The move comes even though the official responsible for literature instruction in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers.

The book, “Gader Haya” (translated as “Borderline”) by Dorit Rabinyan, published in Hebrew year and a half ago, tells the story of Liat, an Israeli translator, and Hilmi, a Palestinian artist, who meet and fall in love in New York, until they part ways for her to return to Tel Aviv and he to the West Bank city of Ramallah. The book was among this year’s winners of the Bernstein Prize for young writers.

The Education Ministry said, “Professionals discussed the topic of including the work in the curriculum. After carefully examining all the considerations, and after weighting the advantages and disadvantages, the professionals decided to not include the work in the curriculum for five-unit literature studies,” referring to advanced literature classes.

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