Israel News for September 4, 2015

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Jews Attacked in Hebron
Five Chassidic yeshiva students visiting Israel from America decided to pray at the Ma’arat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron yesterday. They used Waze for driving directions. Unfortunately for them, Waze doesn’t always take politics into account when it gives directions. In Israel that can be deadly. The directions took them into an Arab area of Hebron, where they were attacked by rock throwers.

The five found refuge in the nearby home of Fayez Abu Hamdia for about 40 minutes until IDF forces rescued them. Two of the men were injured. Their car, along with some of their personal possessions, was torched.

According to IDF data, last year 538 Israelis found themselves in Area A (PA controlled) of the West Bank and were returned by Palestinian security personnel.

Upshot 1: Check your Waze directions when traveling near Arab areas.

Upshot 2: High five to the Arab man who saved the men from the mob. There is hope for a better future.

Upshot 3: The terror needs to end.

Funding with a Catch
If you want government funding for your cultural institution or program, you’ll need to follow the new regulations released by Israel’s Culture and Sports Ministry. That means you won’t be allowed to: deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic nation, incite terror, violence or racism; express support of an armed struggle or acts of terror by enemy states or terror organizations against the State of Israel, present Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning, and defame state symbols, like the flag. If you do any of these the state can decide not to fund you.

Makes a lot of sense. Why should the State of Israel fund organizations that work against it? At least that’s what Culture Minister Miri Regev believes, which is why she created the regulations. The Attorney General seems to feel differently. He doesn’t think it’s legal to condition state funding on cultural content.

When the government attempts to enforce the new regulations and withhold funding, they’ll have to get approval from the Attorney General. That means the case will probably end up being decided by the courts. Business as usual in Israel.

Tax Collectors on Fire
It looks like Israel’s tax collectors are performing their jobs amazingly well. In July and August, tax collections were 5 billion shekels above projections. What is the government going to do with all that cash? No, they aren’t going to give it back. But they are going to lower taxes.

PM Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced yesterday that they would drop the VAT (Value Added Tax) from 18% to 17% and the corporate tax from 26.5% to 25%.

The PM said, “I think this will help growth. I think it will give us exactly the encouragement that the economy needs when we hear of a global slowdown and a slowdown here. We want an engine for growth and lowering taxes is one means to do so.”

The Bank of Israel is not happy. It wants to raise taxes, fearing that the current surplus is just a one time event stemming from higher home sales or increased capital gains. It would rather use the extra cash to pay down national debt. “A reduction in VAT will make it tough to stand by fiscal targets in coming years and is not consistent with tax policy that aims at achieving long-term goals,” the central bank said.

Kahalon’s response to the central bank’s fears is simple: if tax collection slows down, we’ll call a “do over”. But for now, live for the moment!

Israeli Fences for Sale
Israel isn’t involved in the tragic refugee crisis unfolding in Europe, but it might play a part in helping the Europeans control it. According to an exclusive Reuters report, Hungary and Bulgaria have made inquiries into purchasing the kind of security fence that Israel built along its 143 mile border with Egypt. They would install the fencing along their northern and western borders, to prevent migrants from crossing into Germany and other Western European countries.

Bulgaria has already built a security fence on their border with Turkey, and Hungary is completing one on their border with Serbia. But the Israeli designed fencing will be taller, more fortified and contain sophisticated electronic defenses.

Frontex, the EU agency responsible for border management, is opposed to fences and has made clear the European Union will not help member states finance them.
“When you talk about the management of migratory flows, the fence itself is not the solution, just as border control is not the panacea for migration flows,” said spokeswoman Izabella Cooper. “You have to stabilize the countries of origin from which the refugees flee.”

Destroying ISIS would go a long way in stabilizing Syria and Iraq and stemming the flow of refugees, but the Europeans don’t seem eager to send troops in to get the job done. Instead, they’ll spend their Euros building fences and dealing with refugees.

PM Claims US Support
Despite losing the battle to nix the Iran nuclear deal, PM Netanyahu told participants at a pre Rosh Hashanah reception at the Foreign Ministry yesterday that, “the overwhelming majority of the American public sees eye-to-eye with us on the danger emanating from Iran.” The statistics don’t exactly back him up.

According to a Sept. 1 Reuters poll, 30 percent of Americans were in favor of the agreement, 30.7 percent against it, and 39.4 percent were undecided. If you break that down along political lines, about 60 percent of republicans oppose the deal while only 19 percent of non-Republicans are against it.

So really, the PM should have said that the majority of Republican Americans see eye to eye with him. Is that what he meant, or is he engaging in some wishful thinking?