Israel News for May 4, 2017

Trump and Abbas
President Trump met with PA President Abbas in Washington yesterday for the first time. Abbas described the meeting as positive and said that “we build hopes on it.” He said he believes the Trump administration can play an important role as a mediator — “What is needed is to bring the two parties together, to bring them closer and then to facilitate things between them.” Abbas also said that he is prepared to meet with Israeli PM Netanyahu and suggested the Israeli leader is avoiding such talks. “We had planned to meet in Moscow, but he didn’t show up,” Abbas said, referring to Russian efforts several months ago to set up such a meeting.

Trump expressed optimism but did not reveal any specifics of his peace making plans.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said during a press briefing at the White House that Trump had conveyed his deepest concern that the PA was paying money to families of Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism, adding that this problem had to be solved.

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German Controversy
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is scheduled to visit Israel on Sunday, and Israel wants assurances that he will not follow his Foreign Minister’s lead and meet with left wing groups like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. But the German President has declined to make any promises about whether he will or will not meet with the groups.

Despite their concerns and Steinmeier’s noncommittal stance on the matter, Israeli officials believe that he will show the appropriate sensitivity and refrain from meeting the groups, knowing that it could serve as a prelude to yet another diplomatic conflict with Israel—something that Steinmeier, an experienced diplomat, will probably aim to avoid.

Steinmeier is set to meet Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin during his visit, and is planning to give a speech at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also set to visit Givat Haviva and meet with Jewish and Arab children.

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Draught Year
According to data from the Israel Meteorological Service data, Israel has entered a drought year, with the year’s rainfall at only about 70% of the yearly average.

The shortage of water in the Kinneret is causing an increase of salt levels in the water and could lead to environmental degradation and render the water unusable for irrigation or drinking. Forecasts for future years shows a continual decline in painful, so the situation will probably not get any better on its own.

The Water Authority is contemplating a plan to pump tens of millions of cubic meters of desalinated water into the Kinneret to prevent it from drying up. But since the water would lack basic minerals, more research is needed to conclude what sort of effect it could have on the lake and the local fauna and flora.

The Water Authority has almost completely halted drawing any water from the lake for drinking.

Almost all of the drinking water in Israel comes from desalinization plants.

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Territorial Building
Israel has high hopes that the Trump administration will take a much more positive stance towards building in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). But according to recently released government statistics, even before Trumps election, housing starts in the territories in 2016 were 40% higher than in 2015.

In 2016, there were 2,630 building starts of homes in Judea and Samaria, up 40% from 1,884 in 2015, and 1,572 in 2014, although below the 2013 peak of 2,874. In 2016, 5% of all building starts in Israel were in Judea and Samaria.

There are now 420,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, 4.8% of Israel’s overall population. The largest cities are Modiin Illit (65,000), Beitar Illit (50,000), Maaleh Adumim (38,000), and Ariel (19,000).

Will 2017 be an even bigger year for housing starts across the Green Line?

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Manners Please
Israelis are not commonly known for their manners, but that might soon change thanks to the Cafe Cafe restaurant chain. The chain will be offering a cup of coffee for 6 shekels instead of the normal 8 shekels for customers who say “please” and “thank you” when ordering. So you save money for being polite. That could actually work, even in Israel!

Founded in 2001, Cafe Cafe is one of Israel’s largest chains of cafes, with 157 branches deployed nationwide. Owned by Nimni and Mickey Teal, the chain includes other brands, such as Lechem Erez, Lechem Basar, the Fresh Kitchen chain, and the Caspi chain of restaurants.

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