Israel News for June 15, 2016

Jerusalem Fire
A large fire is raging in the Jerusalem forest at the entrance to the city near the Givat Shaul neighborhood. The fire is being fought by 35 firefighting units along with eight aircraft. The fire is approaching the main Electric Company power station and is spreading towards the Har Nof neighborhood. Electric Company employees have been evacuated.

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Obama vs Israel
In response to a decision by Congress to increase US military aid to Israel by $455 million, The White House sent Congress a memorandum opposing the new aid package. The additional money was earmarked for anti-missile defense systems.

Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $600 million in funding for fiscal year 2017 – an increase of $113 million from last year and $454 million over President Obama’s request.

According to the Senate appropriations committee proposal, Israel was supposed to receive $270 million for missile defense R&D programs, $62 million for procuring Iron Dome short range missile defense batteries, $150 million for medium range David’s Sling systems, and $120 million for the Arrow 3 long-range missile defense system. Instead, Israel will have to make do with the $150 million in the White House’s original proposal, subject to Senate legislation.

In a “Statement of Administration Policy” released by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, the administration said it “opposes the addition of $455 million above the FY 2017 Budget request for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs.”

AIPAC criticized the White House position saying:

“On a bipartisan basis, Congress has increased funding above administration requests this year, as it has done for well over a decade. These cooperative programs – including the Arrow, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome – are critical for Israel’s defense against a growing array of missile threats and make an important contribution to U.S. missile defense programs. We applaud Congress for consistently supporting these key programs, and urge their full funding in both the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization and Appropriations Acts.”

A large part of the money appropriated for Israel’s missile defense would, in any case, be used for purchasing parts and components made in the US, which is good for the US economy. Israel’s missile defense technology and its practical application in actual combat situations is also extremely valuable for the US. So why is The White House against the increased funding?

Sources in the Israeli government deny that there is any problem and that the White House opposition doesn’t effect the core US military aid. The PM Office issues a statement saying, “In the wake of numerous misleading reports, the Prime Minister’s bureau would like to clarify there has been no cut in American assistance.”

So maybe there’s no real problem after all?

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Hamas Defection
Senior Hamas member Bassam Mahmoud Baraka has defected to Israel from Gaza. He brought with him his wife, children and, more importantly, his laptop and maps displaying at least part of the Hamas tunnel infrastructure. This should be helpful. Kudos to Israeli intelligence for making this happen.

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Herzliya and Shabbat
The Herzliya municipality yesterday decided to institute limited bus service on Shabbat, making it the first predominantly Jewish city to allow public transportation on Shabbat. Until now, the only cities that provided regular public transport on Shabbat and holidays were those with large non-Jewish populations such as Haifa.

The new bus service will be limited to main roads and primarily provide access to the beach, the hospital, the park and the main entertainment district. Buses won’t run through religious neighborhoods.

Israeli law forbids public transportation on Shabbat and holidays in most cities and defines public transport as a service for which the user pays. The new Herzliya bus service will be free, so it does not violate the law.

A poll commissioned last September by the Hiddush organization, which opposes religious coercion, found that 72 percent of Israelis support some kind of public transport on Shabbat, but only 27 percent think cities should offer full bus service; the remaining 45 percent favor a more limited service.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss a bill that would allow any municipality to provide public transportation on Shabbat within its boundaries, and also on intercity roads, but only in minibuses and not through religious neighborhoods.

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Terror Victim Miracle
Assaf Bar, 27, was shot in the head twice in the recent terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. Miraculously, he’s pretty much ok and will soon be released from Ichalov Hospital. Doctors removed one of the bullets but decided to leave the other one in place, since they determined that it posses no danger.

Bar was sitting at the cafe with his girlfriend when he was shot. He recounted, “I saw the terrorists. They sat at a table near us but I did not suspect anything. I was hit first. I was shot in the head at the very beginning of the event, just before paying the bill, a moment before we intended to leave.” His mother died of cancer 3 weeks ago, after a 2 year battle during which he took care of her.

Doctors say Assaf can expect to make a full recovery from his injuries and return to a completely normal life. When asked how he felt, Assaf said, “I’ve got some headaches and hearing problems, but every day I feel stronger and I hope to continue to do so.”
The Director of Neurosurgery at Ichilov Hospital, Professor Tzvika Ram stated, “Assaf is a great example that despite having been shot twice in the head, with lots of luck and the quick and immediate treatment by Dr. Strauss, he stands before you today.” The doctor ended his statement with a joke regarding the bullet (only in Israel), “It won’t bother him at all. It may serve as an amulet and will help stop more bullets.”

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