Israel News for February 3, 2016

PM Defends Jews
PM Netanyahu firmly rejected derogatory statements against non-Orthodox Jews made by government ministers and members of the Knesset in the wake of this week’s approval of the opening of a new section of the Western Wall for non-Orthodox worship.

He said, “I reject the recent disparaging and divisive remarks by ministers and members of Knesset about Reform Jews. Reform and Conservative Jews are part and parcel of the Jewish people and should be treated with respect.”

Netanyahu called the agreement, “a historic compromise that ensures that the Western Wall will continue to be a source of unity and inspiration for the entire Jewish people. This is the government’s policy. This is my policy.”

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Herzog and Kerry
MK Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition, met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome today. This was the fourth time the men have met in the last six months.

Herzog spoke to Kerry about his plan to unilaterally separate Israel from the Palestinians by basically building a barrier between Israel proper and the West Bank. The barrier would encompass the large Jewish settlement blocks along the new border. Herzog’s plan dismisses the two-state solution based on mutual negotiation and agreement, which has been the cornerstone of recent U.S. foreign policy related to Israel.

Herzog told Kerry, “Israel cannot wait for long negotiations. Our citizens are murdered and we must make a process of separating (from the Palestinians) which will be the realistic basis for the vision of two states which I believe in with all my heart as the only solution to the conflict.”

Herzog’s plan also calls for the formation of a regional security committee consisting of Egypt, Jordan and Israel, along with other Arab states, that would jointly fight radical Islamic terror. He pressed Kerry to advance the establishment of the committee before President Obama leaves office.

Kerry seemed to express interest in Herzog’s ideas. Will the U.S. administration do anything to rock the boat during an election year? Not a chance.

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Annexing Territories
A new poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute has found that 45% of Jewish Israelis are in favor of annexing the entire West Bank (Judea and Samaria), as opposed to implementing a two-state solution proposed by most Israeli politicians including PM Netanyahu (sometimes).

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI‎), established in 1991, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in Jerusalem. Its goals are to formulate policies and initiate reforms to strengthen democratic values in Israel, and it is nonpartisan and generally liberal.

Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, directors of Women in Green (WiG), which works for the application of Israeli sovereignty in the region, warmly welcomed the poll results, saying, “The conclusions arising from the results of the poll are that the People of Israel have stopped apologizing, giving in and dancing to the music and tune of Israel’s and the world’s leftists. The People of Israel say clearly: the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.”

On the other hand, apparently 55% of Jewish Israelis aren’t in favor of annexing the territories, or at least not all of them. So when the ballots are counted, that potential two-state solution might very well become a reality.

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Tunnel Collapse
If anyone doubted that Hamas was back in the business of building terror tunnels in preparation for attacks on Israel, the events of the past couple of weeks should clarify the facts for them.

Yesterday, two Hamas terrorists, including a field commander, were killed when the tunnel they were working on collapsed. Last week, seven Hamas members were killed in another tunnel collapse caused by intense rain. Today Hamas stated that such incidents would not deter them from continued work on, and use of, the tunnels.

Still skeptical?

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Holy Tax
The Israel Tax Authority recently released a document which defines the taxation of income received for services provided by rabbis, kabbalists, circumcisers, cantors, and rabbinical courts, such as conducting weddings, performing circumcisions, conducting prayers, kabbalistic gatherings, giving blessings, consultations, distribution or sales of talismans, holy water and various other items of religious significance, and kashrut services.

Just because you didn’t ask for the payment, but got it as a show of appreciation for your service (basically a tip), doesn’t mean it’s not income. The regulation states that it is sufficient that money was received in exchange for a service to make it liable to tax, even if the service provider did not demand payment and even if there is no social norm of payment for the service in question. Giving money as an expression of gratitude on an emotional level or as charity, as long as it is not connected with provision of a service, will be considered a gift that is not liable to tax.

So from now on religious functionaries will have to keep accounts, file returns, declare assets, and all that fun stuff that ordinary folks do. Bummer.

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