Israel News for November 15, 2016

Court Rules on Amona
Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday ruled against the State’s petition to extend the December deadline to evacuate the settlement of Amona. The State had claimed that it sought to carry out the evacuation peacefully and without incident, but that it was unable to provide alternative living solutions for residents within the next two months, but that it was prepared to carry out the court’s ruling if its petition was rejected.

In explaining the court’s verdict, Chief Justice Miriam Naor said, “we must also not ignore the possible repercussions of not carrying out this verdict in such circumstances. The message it would convey is that it is possible to prevent the implementation of verdicts because the state’s concern of threats and violence, a message that cannot be accepted in a law-abiding nation.”

She added that, “the long time frame given to this evacuation was not made in a void. It reflects past experience, which taught us the government is not quick to carry out rulings ordering the evacuation of illegal construction in Judea and Samaria, and that it more than once failed to meet the deadline set.”

PM Netanyahu did not comment on the court’s ruling. Attorney General Mandelblit pledged to uphold the court’s decision and criticized the ministers who are trying to push through a bill that would allow the government to retroactively legalize the expropriation of private Palestinian land for existing settlements.

Mandelblit said, “There can be no legislating if it is harmful to the High Court of Justice. When the High Court of Justice rules that the state is required to demolish illegal homes, it is for the state to carry out the ruling as is stipulated.” He added, “It is the responsibility of the state to respect the ruling of the High Court. It is easy to accept a ruling that is consistent with our position but we need to accept the ruling of the court even when it isn’t consistent with our positions.”

Amona residents reacted to the court’s ruling by calling a meeting and appealing directly to the PM saying, “It is in your hands to save Amona or, God forbid, destroy it. We were not surprised by the decision by the High Court of Justice. We didn’t pin our hopes in it which is why we are not coming to it with complaints or allegations. You, prime minister, are the first commander and will decide the fate of Amona.” They added, “we will stand here as a wall together with many thousands from all across Israel who will gather here on the day of the evacuation, in God’s city, a wall which we will create in the coming days in order to do all within our power so that Amona will not fall for a second time.”

Palestinian landowners expressed reserved optimism in the court’s ruling.

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State Dept. Troubled
US State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau made a statement regarding the bill that was approved by the government yesterday that would legalize the expropriation of private Palestinian owned land for existing settlements.

She said, “We are deeply concerned about the advancement of legislation that would allow for the legalization of illegal Israeli outposts located on private Palestinian land. This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinion and also break longstanding policy of not building on private Palestinian land.”

She added that the US believes settlements endangered prospects for a two-state solution and Israeli-Palestinian peace and that, “We hope it doesn’t become law.”

The question now is whether the Trump administration will view the issue differently. As a pragmatist, Trump might agree that private land ownership must be respected by government. On the other hand, the land expropriation could be viewed as falling into the category of “eminent domain”, which is a concept that Trump spoke of favorably on many occasions during the campaign.

There’s no question that Trump’s administration will be more favorable towards Israel’s current government and the settlement movement, but exactly to what extent is still an unknown.

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Rivlin in India
President Reuven Rivlin has begun an official state visit to India. He is accompanied by his wife and a delegation of around 40 Israeli companies from the defense, agriculture and water industries, as well as 15 senior Israeli academics.

Calling India a close friend and important ally, Rivlin said, “Israel and India are both countries of innovation and of inspiration. Countries that have ancient traditions, but have built strong and thriving hi-tech economies, and now celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations. This visit is a sign of the strong relations and friendship between our peoples, and I hope will plant the seeds for that friendship to grow closer and closer.“

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El AL Problems
If you’re planning to fly EL AL in the near future, make sure your schedule is flexible. The airline recently cancelled a NY and Beijing flight in an ongoing dispute with pilots who are pressing for better working conditions. El Al claimed that no pilots were willing to fly both legs of the round trip flights. The pilots are seeking more money and less hours. The airlines 600 pilots earn an average of over 80,000 shekels per month.

To read more about the ongoing dispute, click here.

Zika in Israel
According to reports, at least 17 people carrying the Zika virus have entered Israel in recent months. Two cases of the virus have been diagnosed, one in Rishon Letzion and one in Holon. Both municipalities are spraying in the vicinities of the patients’ homes in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Both people were infected outside of Israel.

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Knesset Prayer
In response to a proposed bill that would prohibit the Muslim call to prayer from being blasted through loudspeakers, Arab Knesset Members recited the call to prayer from the podium during a Knesset session. There were reactions from other MKs.

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