Israel News for June 22, 2016

Red Alert
When rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel, residents hear a “red alert” siren. Now residents will hear the “red alert” in the event of an active tunnel discovery. The only difference is that in addition to the siren, residents will also receive an SMS message saying, “Due to terrorist digging, residents are requested to go into their homes and switch off the lights until further notice.” An IDF official noted that, “it’s important that the civilians understand that not every alarm means terrorists have penetrated into Israel.” Good to know.

For further reading click here.

PM Tricks
Back in November of 2015, PM Netanyahu appointed Dr. Ran Baratz to be the head of PR at the Prime Minister’s Office. But because of Baratz’s tendency to post negative Facebook messages relating to public figures including Israeli President Rivlin, Barak Obama and John Kerry, his appointment was opposed by many ministers and officials.

To make it official, the Civil Service Commission, which has the last word in the matter, refused to approve Baratz’s appointment. But did that stop the PM? Of course not.

To get around the hurdles before him, Netanyahu has made Baratz a senior consultant in the Prime Minister’s Office with a salary of just 5% below what he would have made as PR director. He’ll also be performing the same duties including formulating PR strategy, writing speeches, and assembling briefings.

The current PR and media director Boaz Stempler will continue in his position, although it’s unclear how both he and Baratz will function together, since they pretty much have the same job.

The reaction from government officials: “The Prime Minister is making a mockery of civil service rules, and sending ministers a message that says they can act just like him.”

So, two salaries for one job and the PM wins again. Gotcha.

For further reading click here.

Believe it
In 2013 Police Commander Ilan Mor was found guilty of sexually harassing two subordinate junior female police officers. Mor reached a plea bargain agreement with the Justice Ministry and was fined 4,000 shekels and reprimanded by an internal Police tribunal.

Soon after his conviction, Mor was sent to study at the prestigious National Security College, which also trains senior staff in Mossad and the Shin Bet security service. He was then appointed as head of the traffic police.

But wait, it gets better. Mor was recently appointed to be the Israel Police representative in the US. That was just too much, even for Israel. Hundreds of civilians wrote letters of protest to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Zazim, a nonprofit organization campaigning for social and political change, launched a campaign against the appointment.

Yesterday the police announced that Mor met with Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and declined the posting on “family and medical grounds.” Alsheich accepted Mor’s position but asked him to remain with the police force.

So Mor, a convicted sex offender continues to be commander of Israel’s traffic police. Believe it.

For further reading click here.

Arab Poverty
According to new data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, 82 percent of East Jerusalem’s 300,000 residents lived below the poverty line in 2014, up from 76% in 2013. In 2006 the poverty rate was at 66%. The general poverty rate in Israel is 22% and the poverty rate in Jerusalem is 48%.

Reasons offered for the huge poverty rate in East Jerusalem include the separation barrier, which cuts Jerusalem off from the West Bank impeding commerce between the two areas. Another cause is thought to be the surge of violence that began in 2014, which cause a drop in tourism and loss of jobs.

However, some officials claim that flaws in the polling mechanism are adding to the increased poverty numbers. They say that the sample size is too small and many residents refuse to take part in the survey. Nevertheless, there’s still a huge poverty rate in East Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem municipality says it has launched several projects aimed at improving the situation, including setting up professional training centers and hiring 20 additional social workers to cover East Jerusalem.

“There’s been an improvement in the welfare and education systems, and I hope that within two years, we’ll see results,” said Boni Goldberg, head of the city’s social services department.

For further reading click here.

Fighter Unveiled
American aircraft maker Lockheed Martin will present the first of 33 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets to Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Leiberman and Israel Air Force (IAF) chief of staff Brigadier General Tal Kelman in Fort Worth, Texas today. The aircraft is called “Adir” or mighty in Hebrew.

The F-35, with its stealth abilities and the most advanced avionic systems, is viewed by Israel’s defense establishment as Israel’s plane of the future. Israel will be purchasing an additional 17 planes, making 50 in total.

Price of each plane: $85 million. Price to fly the plane for 1 hour: $35,000.

Israel’s first two F-35s will be flown to Israel by US pilots on December 12 2016. The following day, Israeli pilots will fly the aircraft in Israel’s skies. More aircraft will follow after Israeli pilots undergo training in the US.

For further reading and to see video of the new plane, click here.

Civilian Heroes
Citations were presented to 13 Israeli civilians who risked their lives to fight terror, by the Shaurat Hadin organization. To read their stories click here.