Israel News for May 2, 2016

Court Shutdown
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the shutdown of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem until the committee that appoints dayanim (rabbinic court judges) makes seven permanent appointments to the court.

The rabbinical court, which serves as the final court of appeals in the religious court system, is composed of nine judges including the two Chief Rabbis and two other permanent judges, who have just announced their retirement from the court. Judges to the court are supposed to be appointed by an 11 member committee led by Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz. With the retirement of the two permanent judges, who were also members of the nominating committee, the majority of the remaining nine members of the committee are non Haredi.

To avoid the appointment of non Haredi judges, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who is the official head of the court, has been exercising his right to appoint temporary judges (all Haredi) to one year terms without the approval of the committee. The recent Supreme Court ruling has voided those temporary appointments and ordered that permanent appointments must be made in order for the court to function.

So now Steinitz is trying to broker a compromise agreement between the Haredi and non Haredi factions of the committee to enable the seven judges to be appointed. The traditional compromise relating to appointments has always been for each religious part on the committee to appoint two judges, which would mean two for Shas (Haredi), two for UTJ (Haredi) and two for Bayit Yehudi (non Haredi). The seventh judge would be appointed by Steinitz in consultation with the Prime Minister.

However, the non Haredi members of the committee are viewing their current majority as an opportunity to break the traditional Haredi control over the court and appoint more moderate judges not only to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, but also to several regional rabbinical courts which have openings.

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Unity Rumors
Rumors leaked from reliable Likud sources recently have indicated that the Likud led government would be open to creating a unity government with the opposition Zionist Union faction. According to the sources, Zionist Unity leader Issac Herzog would get the coveted Foreign Minister position (currently held by the PM) and other Zionist Union Knesset members would get cabinet posts and other senior positions in the new government.

The only catch is that the current government would demand that its policies be retained and that the right wing Bayit Yehudi party remain in the government. Those are demands that the Zionist Union will find difficult to accept. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Bayit Yehudi would withdraw from the government if a unity government with Zionist Union is formed.

For now, both Herzog and his co-leader Tzipi Livni have rejected the idea of a joining the current government. But in politics (especially in Israel), you never know.

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Small Business
Israel might be considered heaven for high tech startups, but it’s pretty darn close to hell for small businesses. According to the World Bank’s annual 2016 Doing Business survey, Israel ranked 53 out of 189 as a place for conducting business. That was three places lower than last year. Among 37 developed countries in the survey, Israel ranked 34th, right behind Moldova. Only Turkey, Greece and Luxembourg ranked lower. Singapore was the top-ranked country, with the United States coming in seventh.

The Doing Business report measures how easy it is for a local entrepreneur to open and operate a small- to medium-sized business, tracking rules and regulations for such things as dealing with starting a business, construction permits, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders and labor market regulations.

Among the factors used by the World Bank, in most cases Israel ranked much lower than its overall ranking of 53. It ranked eighth for protecting minatory investors, but 56th for starting a business; 96th for dealing with construction permits; 103rd for paying taxes; and 127th for registering property, which the report said required an average of six procedures taking 81 days, and at a cost equal to 8.3% of the property’s value.

In March Prime Minister Netanyahu named a ministerial committee to deal with what he called excessive regulation, and the government has taken steps to slash red tape. The PM said, “We are commencing a major battle against excessive regulation and bureaucracy in Israel. The beneficiaries will be Israeli consumers and businesses.”

It’s about time for Israel to shed its old fashioned, socialist inspired web of regulations, bureaucracy and red tape and become the kind of place where all businesses can flourish.

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Gaza Blast
The world got a bit safer yesterday when an Islamic Jihad terrorist was killed in an explosion in Gaza that sources claim was “work related.” Any guesses on what he was working on?

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More Oil
According to a report just published, new drilling in the Dead Sea area has discovered oil reserves estimated to be between 7 and 11 million barrels. The oil was first discovered in 1995 but was not removed due to the low cost of oil at the time. The companies holding the drilling license plan to begin developing the field in the near future.

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