Israel News for October 16, 2015

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Joseph’s Tomb Attacked
About 150 Palestinians set fire to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) yesterday. The tomb of the Jewish biblical figure contains a synagogue where Jews regularly come to pray. The fire caused extensive damage to part of the synagogue and the surrounding area. Palestinian security forces who arrived at the scene pushed back the mob and put out the fire. Thankfully, no Jews were present.

During the second intifada in 2000, Palestinians drove IDF troops from the tomb, ransacked it, painted the dome green and dedicated it as a mosque. Israel subsequently took back the tomb and renovated it.

PA President Abbas condemned the attack on the tomb calling it “irresponsible”. Israeli ministers and Knesset members across the political spectrum decried the attack. The IDF will begin repairs on the tomb immediately.

Jewish holy places under Arab rule don’t have a history of benevolent treatment (remember the Jewish Quarter under Jordanian rule?). Looks like things haven’t changed.

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Terror vs. Economy
The current wave of terror could have a strong negative impact on the already fragile Israeli economy.

According to a study conducted by the Makor Rishon newspaper, the recent wave of terror attacks could cost Israel 10.5 billion shekels if it lasts for two months. If it transforms into a long term intifada or an escalation on the Gaza border the cost will run much higher.

The economic hit will be most felt in tourism and foreign investments, which are most susceptible to the security situation. Domestic spending in Jerusalem and other large cities has already dropped, as it has in Arab towns across the country as Jewish visitors stay away.

Economists fear there could be an economic chain reaction with an increase in defense spending combined with a decrease in income from taxes that could lead to an increased deficit and government debt.

Government spending on welfare and education will be drastically cut as the defense budget is increased. Unemployment could also rise.

So far the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) remains relatively unaffected by the recent wave of terror. Whether it will stay that way could depend on the duration of the current spate of violence. The index rose in both Operation Protective Edge (2014) and Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), both of which lasted under two months, whereas it fell 200 points during the two years of the second Intifada (2000-2002).

On Tuesday, when there were three deaths, share prices fell drastically, but that was due at least as much to declines in Europe as to the attacks that day

Many TASE companies, including the bluest of its blue chips, are little affected by what happens in Israel because most their business is done overseas.

If worrying about their safety wasn’t enough, now Israelis need to worry about how this terror spree might harm their economic future.

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Excessive Force
At a daily press briefing on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Israel has a right and responsibility to protect its citizens.

He added: “Now, we have seen some – I wouldn’t call the checkpoints this – but we’ve certainly seen some reports of what many would consider excessive use of force. Obviously, we don’t like to see that, and we want to see restrictions that are elevated in this time of violence to be as temporary as possible if they have to be enacted.”

His comment about “excessive use of force” raised an uproar of protests from the PM, Defense Minister and other government officials and ministers. The PM remarked, “What do you think would happen in New York if you saw people rushing into crowds trying to murder people? What do you think they would do? Do you think they would do anything differently than we are doing?”

Yesterday, Kirby clarified his remarks saying, “I want to be very clear that we have never accused Israeli security forces of excessive force with respect to these terrorist attacks.” So what then was he referring to when he clearly indicated that Israel was using “excessive force”?

Based on videos and photos of recent incidents, it looks like the police have been careful to protect neutralized terrorists from any bystanders. But when an attacker is brandishing a weapon and is in the midst of an attack, or is deemed to be a clear danger to civilians, the police have a duty to stop them without endangering their own lives.

Compared to law enforcement standards in other countries, including the US, it seems like the performance of the Israeli has been equal or better.

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Terrorist Bodies
As part of a slew of new security measures in response to the ongoing wave of terror, the Security Cabinet approved Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s proposal not to return the bodies of Arab terrorists killed while conducting attacks.

The decision was applauded by Simcha Goldin, father of Hadar Goldin, the soldier who was killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Shield and whose body is believed to be help by Hamas as a bargaining chip.

He said, “For too many years the State of Israel has enabled the moral injustice which allows the bodies of terrorists killed during attacks to be returned to their families who bury them as heroes in glorious funeral processions.” He added, “We must remember that Hadar and Oron [Shaul] remain captive in Gaza, and their bodies have not been brought to Israel for burial.”

The Cabinet is also considering Erdan’s suggestion to bury terrorists at cemeteries belonging to the IDF that are located at the extreme edges of the country, where terrorists have in past been buried.

Will these measures stop potential terrorists from carrying out attacks? If there’s a chance that they will, then it’s worth trying.

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Home Destruction
The families of seven terrorists involved in attacks over the last few months received notice from the IDF that their homes would be demolished.

The process of destroying the homes of terrorists as a punitive measure could take months to implement. On Wednesday the security cabinet shortened the process significantly.

Ten days ago homes were destroyed in East Jerusalem belonging to the terrorists who attacked the synagogue in Har Nof and the terrorist who killed using an excavator.

Homes set for destruction include those belonging to the Henkin murderers and the terrorist who murdered R. Nehemiah Lavi and Ahron Bennet in the Old City.

This could be what pushes parents to keep a tighter watch over their children and dissuade them from carrying out acts that would put their family homes at risk. It might even make the young people themselves think twice before making their families homeless.

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Lapid Blasts Left
Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party, blasted the Left for remaining silent in the face of PA President Abbas’ lies regarding the 13 year old terrorist who is recovering in Hadassah Hospital but who Abbas claimed was killed by Israeli police.

Lapid echoed PM Netanyahu’s response to Abbas’ statements, calling them incitement and lies. He added that because of their silence, the Left has shown that they have “lost their way”. He added that, “Jewish blood will not be Hefker (free for the taking)”

There might be hope for a unity government after all.

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