Israel News for January 29, 2016

U.S. Customs
In 1995, the U.S. Customs Service instituted a regulation requiring that products made in the West Bank and Gaza be marked as such, and not as Made in Israel. The regulation was rarely enforced. Last week the Customs Service released a statement reminding importers of the regulation.

Several pro-Palestinian organizations have recently been making efforts to have the regulation enforced, including The U.S. Campaign to End Israeli Occupation and CODEPINK, which runs a campaign targeting the Israeli cosmetics company Ahava Dead Sea.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told the Forward it doesn’t object to the 1995 legislation. According to the group, the policy doesn’t stigmatize Israeli products, contrary to the EU labeling initiative, but facilitates duty free access to the U.S. market for Palestinian goods.  

Besides the fact that the regulation has gone unenforced, it’s unclear how the U.S. Regulation differs, in practice, from the EU labeling regulations.

Can anyone enlighten us?

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Anti Artists
Im Tirtzu, the right-wing organization that campaigned against foreign funded left-wing NGOs, has now targeted left-wing authors and artists. The group has named around 100 people involved in Israeli film, theater, publishing and television, including authors Amos Oz and David Grossman, accusing them of being foreign agents disloyal to the state, intent on obstructing the government.

Im Tirtzu director Matan Peleg said, ”Every time the public representatives in the State of Israel try to fulfill the mission they were tasked with by the people in the most legitimate and democratic manner, we encounter an automatic smear campaign from these ‘artists’ who try to portray themselves as enlightened, progressive and those who ‘know better’ than the entire public. The problem is that these people neglect to mention the fact they’re members of ‘plant organizations’ operating with foreign funding and the New Israel Fund against the State of Israel.”

Im Tirtzu, which was once regarded as a fringe group, has developed close ties to members of Netanyahu’s government, particularly the Bayit Yehudi party led by Naftali Bennett.
Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the author of the NGO bill and a member of Bayit Yehudi, were quick to distance themselves from Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign.
Bennett called the campaign “embarrassing, needless and disgraceful.”
Shaked told Army Radio: “It does not serve any agenda and I do not think this is a proper campaign. I do not think these artists who hold salient left-wing views should be considered plants. Not everyone who is on the left should be demonized.”
PM Netanyahu also spoke out against Im Tirtzu’s campaign. “I am opposed to labelling as a ‘traitor’ anybody who (holds opposing views to the mainstream). We are a democracy and there are a multitude of opinions.

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Protective Shield
The Defense Ministry has unveiled the first armored personal carrier (APC) equipped with the Trophy system, which uses radar and missiles to detect and destroy antitank and rocket-propelled grenades fired at it. The APC, called Namer (tiger), will be able to safely transport troops through battlefields.

The Trophy system is already installed on the latest Merkava tanks, and was used successfully during the 2014 Gaza war, saving the lives of countless soldiers.

According to Brig.-Gen. Baruch Matzliah, the head of the Merkava Tank Administration, “The Namer with the Trophy system will form the highest level of protection for IDF soldiers and provide them with defense and a significant advantage on the battlefield.”

The new weapons are also good for the Israeli economy. About 200 factories produce parts for the Merkava and Namer across Israel, most of them located in peripheral areas, employing around 10,000 people.

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Cheap Flight
Ever been to Cyprus? Beginning on February 14 Tus Airways, Cyprus’s sole airline since the collapse of Cyprus Airways, will operate seven weekly flights to Larnaca (the island’s main international airport) and Tel Aviv. Tus will also operate several weekly flights from Haifa (bet you didn’t even know that Haifa had an airport) and Eilat.

One-way tickets from Haifa to Larnaca will start at €39 and from Tel Aviv to Larnaca from €69, including taxes. Tickets can be ordered through travel agents or on the company website, which will also appear in Hebrew.

While the airline explained that its name, Tus, is an acronym of “The Ultimate Schedule”, we all know that the word means “to fly” in Hebrew. Coincidence?

Who’s up for a Cyprus vacation?

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Go South
Private houses are rare and prohibitively expensive in most populated areas of Israel, which is why most Israelis live in apartments. But if you’ve got your heart set on having your own home on a little plot of holy land earth, consider going south — to Beersheva.

The National Planning and Building Commission for Preferred Housing Sites yesterday approved a plan for 4,120 housing units in northern Beersheva. Two thirds of the homes will be private housing units. The hope is to bring an economically well-off population to the city.

Although it sounds really far away, Beersheva is only about a 50 minute train ride from Tel Aviv, which is a breeze by NYC standards.

So maybe Beersheva isn’t out of the question after all?

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Bathroom Confusion
On a flight from Eilat to Ben Gurion today, a passenger had trouble opening the bathroom door. After several unsuccessful attempts other passengers began screaming at him and the crew finally restrained him. That’s because instead of the bathroom door, he was trying to open the emergency exit. No one has to go that badly.

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