Israel News for February 16, 2016

Deadly Accident
A tragic road accident claimed the lives of six passengers when an Egged bus, traveling from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak,  hit a truck parked on the shoulder of Highway 1. According to a passenger on the bus, “The truck driver was standing on the side of the road with the emergency lights blinking. We came at the truck at an absurd speed, the bus driver drove like a maniac in my opinion.” Just moments before the crash two of the passengers, sisters, called their sister and said that the driver was driving like a maniac and was on his cell phone.” Screams were heard before the call was disconnected.

The Egged driver was involved in a similar accident three years ago, when he hit a stationary truck on the same highway. Eighteen passengers were injured in that incident. He is currently under investigation by police.

The bus is part of the “Mehadrin line”, which caters to Ultra Orthodox passengers traveling between Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Many of those killed were prominent members of the community, including the daughter of the Biala (Hassidic) Rebbe. Several passengers were injured, some severely, including a woman slated to be married in three months.

May all the injured have a speedy recovery.

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PA Rejection
During a visit to Japan yesterday, Palestinian Authority (PA) Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki pledged to never again engage with Israel in direct negotiations towards a final settlement saying,“We will never go back and sit again in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

He rejected the idea of an invitation to return to the negotiating table by Israeli President Rivlin, and suggested that ISIS may be poised to take over Judea and Samaria. Malki also sympathized with Palestinian terrorists, explaining that they are trying to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.

So much for diplomacy.

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French Plan
France’s Ambassador to Israel officially presented France’s plan to hold an international summit in Paris to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The French initiative to convene an international peace summit was presented on January 29 in a speech by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the foreign ministry in Paris. Fabius also said that France will recognize the State of Palestine if the initiative fails.

Fabius has since resigned, but his plan has become part of French foreign policy and has already been presented to more than twenty governments including the U.S., England, Germany and Russia. The French presented the plan to the Palestinians, who they say responded very positively.

Israel has responded negatively to the plan, insisting that only direct negotiations with the Palestinians, without any preconditions, can lead to peace. The Palestinians have stated on numerous occasions their refusal to hold direct peace talks with Israel.

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Bnei Akiva Gondar
Bnei Akiva, the popular religious zionist youth organization, has set up a chapter in a camp in Gondar, Ethiopia, where over 6,000 Jews are waiting to immigrate to Israel. The organization’s goal is to run programs to teach children about Jewish and Israeli customs and traditions, in order to ease their eventual absorption into Israeli society. At the same time, Bnei Akiva in Israel is preparing their chapters and participants for an influx of Ethiopian immigrants.

The immigration of the remaining Ethiopian Jews is currently awaiting Israeli government approval, which is expected to take some time due to questions about the Jewish lineage of the Ethiopians.

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Wedding Dance
The Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Rafi Peretz, has run into some potentially serious trouble for dancing at a wedding. In a video taken at the wedding of the son of a former IDF rabbi in Jerusalem, Peretz is seen dancing with Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, who is the head of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the Israeli settlement of Yatzhar and the author of the controversial book “The King’s Torah”, which has been severely criticized for containing content viewed as inciting violence. In the video Peretz, who is wearing his IDF uniform, is wearing Shapira’s hat while Shapira is wearing Peretz’s military beret.

MK Bar Lev of the Zionist Union and a member of the defense committee has requested that IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot take immediate action against Peretz. Bar Lev wrote, “The IDF Chief Rabbi arrived at a wedding in uniform. Therefore, he represents the IDF and ceases to be a private individual.”

The IDF has responded that it will speak with Rabbi Peretz regarding how an officer in uniform is expected to act at public events.

Lesson: You never know who might be videoing you, so beware of your actions, especially when dancing at weddings.

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