Israel News for May 16, 2017

Kotel Not Israel
According to a Channel 2 news report yesterday, sources close to the Prime Minister asked that Netanyahu and an Israeli TV crew accompany Trump to the Kotel. The Americans (based in the US Consulate in Jerusalem) refused, claiming that the visit was a private one, not an official visit.

A senior US official also said, “This is an area that is in dispute, the Western Wall is not Israeli territory and is located in the West Bank.” This infuriated the Israelis and caused an uproar in the Israeli press.

In response to the comment, a White House spokesman told reporters, “These comments, if true, were not authorized by the White House. They do not reflect the U.S. position, and certainly not the President’s position.”

But the fact of the matter is that, while clearly insensitive, the comments do reflect the US position that east Jerusalem is not officially part of Israel but is disputed territory. That’s why the US embassy isn’t located in Jerusalem and why US administration officials visiting the Kotel on official state visits are never accompanied by Israeli government leaders.

The Trump administration has yet to change that US policy, and apparently isn’t going to. But since Trump is known for his spontaneous statements, you never know what might happen during his upcoming Israel visit.

So while Trump might be the best friend Israel has ever had, and the US continues to defend Israel in the UN, the US policy that considers the Old City and yes, the Western Wall, as disputed territory and not part of Israel remains in place.

For further reading click here.

New Ambassador
President Rivlin today accepted the credentials of David Friedman, the new US Ambassador to Israel. The Israeli president welcomed Friedman, his family, and staff to Israel and congratulated him on his new position saying, “I’m happy to welcome you and your dear wife to Israel, to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, and I’m welcoming you, not only as the President of Israel, but also as a Jerusalemite – seventh generation. I know you have been to Israel many times before. But this time you are an ambassador representing the United States of America, Israel’s greatest and most important ally.”

Rivlin also stressed that, “It is time for the whole world to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of the State of Israel.”

Friedman then headed to his office at the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

To view a video of the ceremony click here.

Time to Kill
Housing Minister Yoav Galant has called for the assassination of Syrian President Assad. He said, “The reality in which people are executed in Syria, being hit deliberately by chemical weapons, their bodies being burned, something we haven’t seen in 70 years, we are crossing a red line and it is time to eliminate Assad, literally.”

For further reading click here.

Rabbinic Conviction
Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, 76, was convicted of issuing fake rabbinic credentials to 1,500 police and security services employees, who used them to apply for pay raises. He was first indicted in 2012. Sentencing has not yet been set.

For further reading click here.

Wrong Turn
An Israeli family of six (parents and 4 kids) were driving in the West Bank (Samaria) on their way to Modiin Illit when got lost and suddenly found themselves driving through the Arab village of Bir Zeit near Ramallah. [It’s a small country, so getting lost and ending up in an Arab village can easily happen.]

In the words of Ayelet Cohen (the mother):

“It was nearly 1am, the kids were asleep in the back seat and the village seemed to never end. At some point, there was no cell reception either. I was terrified the whole time for the safety of the children. We eventually managed to call the police.
“The police told us not to get out of the car and to continue driving back and forth for almost 40 minutes. Inside the car, there was a sense of tension and fear. All of a sudden, four cars came speeding up and blocked the road.
“I was sure they were going to lynch us. A lot of young Arabs came out of the cars and started banging on our car and my husband told them he was on the line with the police. They then opened our car doors and took us to the (Palestinian) police and they spoke Arabic. They took our phones and drove us to the Palestinian police station. At this stage, I had no idea where we were going at all.”

Thankfully, Israeli forces had already contacted Palestinian security forces. The Palestinian police transported the Cohens to a Ramallah checkpoint where they were released back into Israeli territory.

For further reading click here.

Cheap Airfare
Icelandic low-cost airline WOW Air will soon begin flights from Tel-Aviv to Reykjavik for $99 and from Tel Aviv to New York, Boston and Montreal (via Reykjavik) for $149. The fares don’t include luggage, which will cost you about $50 per bag. The fares are also only starting prices, and could be higher depending on the flight date.

Any competition in the Israel flight market that might lower the sky high airfares is welcome.

For further reading click here.