Israel News for January 11, 2016

Close Call
Police today deployed large forces and set up numerous checkpoints in the Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot areas in the south after receiving intelligence of an impending terror attack by a Palestinian woman from Beit Sira in the West Bank. Police arrested a man in Kibbutz Erez, near the Gaza border, who she was allegedly in contact with. After interrogating him police determined that the woman had not succeeded in getting past the barrier separating the West Bank from the rest of the country. The alert was lifted.

In an unrelated incident today, a Palestinian who attempted to stab soldiers at a checkpoint near Jenin in Samaria was shot and wounded. No soldiers were hurt.

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Terrorist Funeral
Police are refusing to release the body of the Tel Aviv terrorist, who was shot and killed on Friday, to his family for burial, fearing that radicals will turn the funeral into a pro-terror demonstration, which is against the family’s wishes. Police want to avoid a repetition of a terrorist funeral last week in the northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, in which hundreds of armed Hamas terrorists marched and fired automatic weapons in the air, as thousands of people chanted and waved knives and machetes.

Regarding the investigation into the Tel Aviv attack, police have arrested a relative of the terrorist from his hometown of Arara for aiding him in fleeing from Tel Aviv. Police suspect that there may have been as many as twenty people in the town who either helped or knew the terrorist’s location but did not report him to authorities. The investigation continues.

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Arson or Accident
A fire broke out last night in a building that houses the office of human rights group B’Tselem, in Jerusalem. B’Tselem’s offices were empty when the fire broke out. At first the fire department said that they suspected arson as the cause of the fire. That triggered statements by B’tzelem and Peace Now blaming the right wing and the government for inciting against the left. Upon further investigation, the fire department today believes that the fire was caused by an electrical failure in the office electrical system. The investigation is still ongoing.

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Deri Returns
Yesterday the cabinet unanimously approved the appointment of Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Shas Ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, as Minister of the Interior. The position is the same one that Deri held 22 years ago before he was forced to resign over corruption charges. He was subsequently found guilty of bribery and served 22 months in prison.

Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid had proposed a bill last May, which would have barred anyone convicted of a serious criminal offense from serving as an MK, cabinet minister or mayor. However, the coalition voted the bill down.

Deri had been serving as Minister of Economy until several months ago, when he resigned to allow PM Netanyahu to take over the portfolio and approve the natural gas deal. He then became Minister of Galilee and Negev Development.

The Prime Minister congratulated Deri and said that he is faced with two main tasks – preventing illegal migrants from entering Israel and deporting those already in the country, as well as changing the borders of local councils in order to distribute municipal taxes in a more just manner.

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Fare Cut
The cabinet today approved a bill proposed by Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee Aryeh Deri to reduce public transportation fares by the amount of VAT. In other words, the rates will be cut by 17%. The state will subsidize the cut by transferring NIS 650 million annually to the public transportation operators. In addition, the bill will prevent future changes in fares resulting from changes in VAT.

Prime Minister Netanyahu commented on the fares cut, saying, “After we cut electricity and water prices and introduced reform in food, we are now lowering public transportation prices, which also has clear social significance. Those using public transportation tend to be more economically disadvantaged – this is a significant relief for them.”
Deri added, “Cutting VAT on public transportation means fulfilling the commitment I took on myself in the election campaign, and will save poor families and those without cars thousands of shekels. This is a major reduction that will be brought up for quick passage by the Knesset in order to make sure that it is not canceled in the coming years.”

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