Israel News for November 21, 2016

Jerusalem Construction
The Jerusalem zoning board will meet this week to discuss plans for building 500 homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, located in East Jerusalem. The initial plan was approved two years ago by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee, but was later suspended due to pressure from the U.S. With high hopes for the new Trump administration, the city is revisiting many of the building projects that were frozen over the past few years.

The Ramat Shlomo project will be built on Jewish owned land between the Jewish neighborhood and the Arab neighborhood of Shoafat. But private Palestinian land will be expropriated for roads and public parks. Opposition has also come from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel which claims that the land slated for the new construction is important for biodiversity and is home to fallow deer, hyraxes and bird nesting grounds.

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France Gives Up
The French have reportedly decided to cancel their planned international Middle East Peace Summit, which was supposed to have been held in Paris without the participation of either Israel or the Palestinians, due to the new US administration set to take office. They don’t think the Trump administration would be too enthusiastic about the summit that even the Obama administration wasn’t keen about attending.

Israel has been vehemently against it, or any peace initiative that doesn’t include direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are disappointed with France’s withdrawal from the process and are quite nervous about the incoming Trump administration.

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Chilean Snub
An annual charity event sponsored by the Diplomatic Spouses Club in Chile was held yesterday at a Palestinian club in Santiago (the capital). Because of the venue, the wife of the Israeli ambassador to Chile, Michal Hayat, was not invited. She was the only wife of an ambassador to be excluded.

Hayat protested to the head of the Diplomatic Spouses Club, claiming that her exclusion was a complete violation of the diplomatic code and that the organization was in effect supporting the boycott against Israel. The heads of the Chile Diplomatic Spouses Club apologized, but stressed that it was too late to change the situation and that the event would go ahead as planned.

Many wives other wives of ambassadors from Western countries including the US, Germany and most European countries did not attend the event in protest.

In a letter to the diplomatic corps in the country, Ambassador Hayat wrote: “Our exclusion from the traditional charity event, because of political reasons, stands in stark contrast to the accepted diplomatic code. Those who attend the event will be giving their support to ugly and inappropriate politicization of an organization whose charter determines is a-political, independent, and without religious characteristics.”

Chile has a large Palestinian community which actively supports the BDS movement.

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Officer Demoted
An IDF officer in the Armored Corps was demoted and relieved of his command by a military tribunal for fleeing the scene of a terror attack second lieutenant in October. The second lieutenant was captured on video fleeing from the scene of the attack on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, during which 2 people were shot and killed. The office was armed and in uniform at the time.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit released a statement shortly after the verdict was announced saying, “The investigation revealed that the officer did not attempt to engage the attacker and acted contrary to what is expected of him in a situation such as this,” the statement read. “Therefore it was decided that he be dismissed from his position.”

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Yeshiva Funding
The government yesterday approved an additional 48 million shekels of funding for yeshivas, bringing the total government funding for this year to 1.17 billion shekels ($302 million). In 2014 the budget was 564 million shekels ($146 million) due to cuts during Yair Lapid’s (Yesh Atid) term as finance minister. The budget does not include monthly stipends given to married yeshiva students (kollel).

Much of the increase in budget over the past two years stems from Haredi coalition demands to increase funding for foreign yeshiva students studying in Israeli yeshivas. While in the past such students received just 60% of the funding native Israeli students received, non-citizen yeshiva students now get 95% of the amount provided for Israelis. Many of these students, especially in the Religious Zionist sector, remain or return later to make their homes in Israel.

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Safety Survey
The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has released the results of a comprehensive survey on the personal security of Israeli citizens. When asked, “Do you feel safe walking alone in your neighborhood at night?”, 81% of respondents over the age of 20 said that they feel very or completely safe. The breakdown between genders was 90% for men and 72% for women. Citizens in the north and in Judea and Samaria felt the safest walking alone at night (85-88%), while citizens in the Jerusalem District felt the least safe (73%).

Jerusalem residents felt the least secure walking alone after dark of all the major cities, with only 71% of Jerusalem residents responding that they felt secure walking alone at night. In other cities, such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon Letzion, Ashdod, Petach Tikva, Netanya, and Beersheva, between 78-80% of residents felt that they felt safe walking alone at night.

Jerusalem residents also felt the least secure in general, with 81% of respondents in the Jerusalem area saying that they felt safe. Residents of Judea and Samaria felt the most secure (89%).

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