Israel News for January 22, 2016

Hebron Eviction
In a surprise move, Jewish residents of Hebron moved into two empty houses yesterday, located in the Old City of Hebron near the Cave of the Patriarchs.

The residents, comprised of 20 families, assert that they purchased the buildings and proceeded to name them Beit Rachel and Beit Leah, in memory of the two Matriarchs.

Early today, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the families evicted from the houses, claiming that they failed to get required approvals and permits from authorities and thus, “trampled the law”.

Ya’alon said, “The settlements are important to me and I take action [to support them], but I won’t compromise on the law.”

Shlomo Levinger, a spokesman for the families, said that the families have proof of sale and all the necessary legal permits from the civil administration to inhabit the structures.

Several Knesset members criticized Ya’alon’s action. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called on the relevant authorities to “quickly examine the legality of the purchase instead of igniting the spirits by evicting the residents.” He added, “Especially at a time when our enemies are trying to hurt us, and not just physically but also [undermine] our right over the land, it is only right to send a message that we have come home.”

The Bayit Yehudi party issued a statement saying, “Amid a terror wave, the Defense Minister is taking determined, uncompromising and insensitive action to throw Jews out of their homes,” and that he should, “direct the same passion and determination to deal with the Arab terror and illegal construction in the terrorists’ towns.”

Ya’alon responded by calling on the MKs to “restrain their remarks, support the rule of law and avoid encouraging [citizens] to take the law into their hands.”

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Abbas Contact
PA President Abbas told Israeli journalists yesterday that he has tried to make contact with PM Netanyahu but has gotten no response. He claims that during informal meetings between his and the PM’s staffers, the idea of a meeting was discussed and he agreed to the idea. Evidently, the PM didn’t. But that’s just his side of the story.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied Abbas’ claims. “This is an attempt by Abu Mazen (Abbas) to avoid taking responsibility for the lack of negotiations. Even today in Davos, Netanyahu called on Abu Mazen to [resume] negotiations without preconditions.

Abbas said that low-level contacts between the two sides, as well as security coordination, are continuing, but he could not promise that they would do so in the future.

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No Asylum
An investigative report by Haaretz has found that Israel denies the requests of Palestinians who ask for asylum or protection after being sentenced to death by the Palestinian Authority for selling land to Jews. Some of those asking for help have worked for Israel as informers.

A committee for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit in the Defense Ministry, meets once a month to discuss requests by Palestinians who have asked Israel for help, after their lives have been threatened for cooperating with Israel. The process of examining each specific case is long and detailed.

The committee will not deal with Palestinians who sold land to a private person at all, and only deals with cases in which land was sold to a state institution, like the World Zionist Organization or Jewish National Fund.

However, it said that if a Palestinian claims his life is in danger for selling land to a private person and his claims are verified, he would receive “temporary assistance,” although this would be an exception.

Even if the committee does finally decide that the applicant’s life is in danger, the permit he receives does not allow him to work or entitle him to any medical or other assistance.

In 2014 only 3 requests out of 136 were granted. In 2015 just 9 out of 222 requests were approved.

Would more Palestinians agree to sell land to Jews if they were offered protection?

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Shabbat Enforcement
The Jerusalem municipality informed five small grocery stores in the city center that it will begin enforcing Shabbat regulations prohibiting the stores from being open on Shabbat. The city center is one of the areas singled out for strict enforcement of the Shabbat laws. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat claims that political pressure played no part in the municipalities decision to force the store closings, but opponents of the closings feel differently.

Claims that the city center areas contains no synagogues or religious community were dismissed by the municipality. The city’s legal opinion stated,“We reject the claim that this is an area that does not include a large religious population, because the area where the grocery store is located is a passage way between religious and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to houses of prayer and the Western Wall.”

Better stock up on Friday.

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Netanyahu and US
Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, and discussed the impending military aid package Israel stands to receive from the U.S.

In a press interview, Netanyahu praised the aid that the Obama administration has given Israel and Kerry told reporters that the fight between Netanyahu and Obama over the Iran deal is over and that the relationship between the U.S. And Israel remains as close as ever.

So everything is wonderful.

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