Israel News for September 3, 2015

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Shots from Gaza
Several shots were fired from Gaza yesterday at Israeli moshav Netiv Ha’asarah. Three homes were hit. Miraculously, no one was injured even though the inhabitants were home. In one of the homes a bullet hit the TV that the kids were watching at the time.

The IDF is sure that the shots came from Gaza, but not so sure that the shots were deliberate. Hamas has a training camp right near the border in the area.

In any case, the air force quickly responded by hitting the Hamas military area where the shots originated from. The IDF said that they hold Hamas responsible for any attacks coming from Gaza and for keeping their side of the border quiet.

Budget Approved
The Knesset yesterday approved the 2015-2016 budget in its first reading with a narrow margin of 57 in favor and 53 against. It still needs to be approved in two additional readings to become law. 

In presenting the budget, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said “this budget includes a significant increase for the social ministries, with an increased budget for education, health, welfare and public security.”

The main challenges Kahlon faced in getting the budget approved were the promises that had been made to individual parties, especially the charedi parties, during the coalition building process. Many of those promises could not be honored within the proposed budget.

Economy Minister Aryeh Deeri of Shas was noticeably absent from the vote and threatened that if his proposal to eliminate all VAT (value added tax) for the poorer sectors is not implemented, his party will vote against the budget in the second and third readings.

One of the largest bones of contention is the size of the defense budget. According to the Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist, it stands at 55 billion shekels, but the political establishment is estimating the final number to be much larger. Any increase in the defense budget is likely to mean cuts in the welfare budget or an increase in the national deficit.

The opposition strongly opposed the budget.

PM Gets Tough
PM Netanyahu is getting tougher on security. In a meeting yesterday regarding the security situation in Jerusalem and on Highway 443, he told the IDF to reassess its standing order on opening fire on stone and fire-bomb throwers.

The current order, which was issued after the Duma attacks, prohibits soldiers from firing at stone throwers unless the soldiers feel that their lives are in immediate danger. The order was meant to prevent increased violence by avoiding Palestinian casualties. That seems to be working. Unfortunately, stone and fire-bomb throwing seems to have increased.

The PM wants the attacks to end. He stressed that his policy is, “zero tolerance for stone throwing and terror.”

As a result of the meeting, two new Border Police companies and another 400 police officers will be added to the existing forces in Jerusalem and additional security will be added along the 443.

Firemen Attacked
A fire broke out in a building in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem last night. Five firefighting units responded. Firemen entered the building and rescued five people, including a mother and her children. They put out the fire. Then the neighborhood came out to attack them with stones. Police forces that were on the scene protected the firefighters from their grateful audience.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. It seems that rescue workers that respond to calls in Arab neighborhoods routinely get attacked. Not very nice.

Charedi Minister
It finally happened, without hell having to freeze over. For the first time in over 50 years, there will be a charedi cabinet minister in the Israeli government.

Yesterday, Yaakov Litzman was sworn in as Minister of Health after a Knesset vote of 83 to 10 in favor of his appointment. Among those who voted for him were opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid, as well as all of the Labor party Knesset members.

Litzman had held the position of Deputy Health Minister in accordance with the charedi position of not accepting government ministerial portfolios based on their ideological objections to secular government in the Holy Land. But when the High Court ruled that he must either become full minister or quit, the Council of Torah sages of his Agudas Yisroel faction gave him the green light to become minister.

After his swearing in Litzman received congratulations from most of the Knesset members. He even got some hugs, but just from the men.

Druze Shortchanged
The Israeli Druze population contributes more than its fair share of combat fighters to the IDF. Many Druze soldiers fought valiantly and were decorated for their service during Operation Protective Shield (Gaza War) last year. Unfortunately, many of their homes aren’t even connected to the electrical grid. That’s caused a group of veterans to return the decorations they received during Protective Shield to protest their situation.

MK Nissan Slomiansky of Bayit Yehudi met with representatives in the Druze town of Dalit Al-Karmel to hear their grievances. He sympathized with their problems, but tried to convince them to keep their commendations.

So the Druze have their ribbons and medals, but still not much electricity.

They deserve better.