Israel News for November 16, 2016

Unlikely Opposition
Arab ministers aren’t the only ones opposing the bill just approved by government ministers that would prohibit mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast their call to prayer. Health Minister Yakov Litzman, of the Haredi UTJ party, filed an appeal yesterday to prevent the Knesset from voting on the Muezzin Bill, thereby sending it back to the government for further review. The move will force PM Netanyahu to take a public stance on the matter.

In his appeal, Litzman referred to the similarities between the muezzin calls and the call announcing the beginning of Shabbat. “For thousands of years, different instruments have been used for this purpose, including the shofar and trumpet. With the advancement of technology, loudspeakers are now used to announce the beginning of Shabbat while respecting the allowed volume and in accordance to the law. The bill in its current phrasing, and following the discussions that it will bring on, may harm the status quo, and so in accordance to governmental protocol, this appeal is hereby submitted for further review.”

In other words, Litzman is afraid that the same reasoning for banning the Moslem prayer calls will be applied to banning the pre-Shabbat sirens [ even though a weekly midday siren is quite different than a daily pre-dawn wakeup call ].

Shas (the sephardic haredi party) leader Aryeh Deri has also said that the new bill is unnecessary because there are already existing regulations to prevent excessive noise, which are simply not being enforced. He also brought up the Shabbat siren issue.

Without the full support of the coalition, it’s unlikely that the new Muezzin noise curbing legislation will pass.

For further reading click here.

Coalition Uncertainty
The bill that would allow the State to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land and, in effect, legalize the Amona settlement is due to come up for a preliminary vote in the Knesset, but it is unclear whether the coalition has enough votes to pass it.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon, head of the Kulanu party, has said that he will not support legislation that goes against the ruling of the Supreme Court. Haredi MKs have also indicated that they will only support the bill if they get concessions in other areas. If they don’t vote for the legislation, the opposition could very likely prevail.

The coalition chairman has suggested that the vote be postponed until he has sufficient time to assure that their are sufficient votes to pass the bill, but Naftali Bennet has demanded that the vote take place as scheduled. Bennet is also against any compromises or changes to the legislation. He has also threatened that his Bayit Yehudi party will not support subsequent government legislation if the bill is not fully supported.

PM Netanyahu will not attend the Knesset vote so as not to stir up international reaction. He also did not vote for the bill in the initial Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote. The Attorney General has also said that he will not defend the bill against the Supreme Court’s ruling and which he believes to be against international law.

For further reading click here.

Iran Sanctions
The US House of Representatives, with bipartison support, passed a bill to extend sanctions against Iran for an additional 10 years. The existing sanctions were due to expire on Dec. 31. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee urged the Senate to pass a companion bill. President Obama has said that he will not veto the sanctions extension.

With the sanctions extended, all Trump has to do as President is to stop waiving existing sanctions in order to pull the US out of the Iran deal. Simple.

The only problem is that the five other countries that signed the Iran deal along with the US have are unlikely to stop trading with Iran and impose new sanctions. That would put US companies at a disadvantage, something that doesn’t seem to sit well with Trump. It would also greatly reduce the effect of the US sanctions.

For further reading click here.

Ambassador Exchange
Israel and Turkey have finally exchanged ambassadors, five months after the countries signed their reconciliation agreement. The new Israeli ambassador is 53-year-old Eitan Na’eh, an experienced diplomat who served in Ankara in 1991 as a political affairs officer, as ambassador to Azerbaijan, and was currently serving as deputy ambassador to Great Britain. The new Turkish ambassador, Kemal Okem, is a foreign policy advisor and close confidant of Erdogan.

Israel and Turkey are currently involved in discussions to build a pipeline to transport natural gas from Israel to Turkey and Europe.

For further reading click here.

Israel and France
The Israeli Air Force and the French Air Force recently held two weeks of joint exercises over the skies of Corsica. It is the first time that Israeli pilots have joined their French counterparts in French airspace. The two countries also held joint exercises at the beginning of this year with search and rescue missions as well as a scenario of a naval attack on Israel.

For further reading click here.