Israel News for November 8, 2016

Housing Crash
The real estate market in Israel is one of those things that seems to keep going up perpetually, regardless of anything else happening in the country. It’s become practically impossible for young families, or not so young families, to purchase a home. Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon has been working on fixing the situation by increasing the supply of new homes by making it easier for construction companies to build and by taxing real estate investors.

Now one Israeli think tank has released a report predicting a massive real estate crash as a result of too much supply and a withdrawal of investors from the market. It doesn’t say when the housing crash might happen, but when it does, it will have a severe impact on the Israeli economy.

According to the report, “Even if falling prices make it easier for families interested in buying a home, it will seriously harm the construction industry and households that have invested their savings in buying homes for investment. Property developers have bought land and taken on long-term debt based on home prices remaining high for the long term. Declining prices are likely to push many of them into bankruptcy and to fire employees. In this scenario, property investors will see a big part of their paper profits disappear and their rental income is likely to fall.”

The math is simple: in two years, at the current rate of construction, there will be significantly more new housing units than the expected demand for them. As a result of increased taxes, investors will pull out of the market, thus further decreasing the demand. While that might be good news for new home buyers, existing owners and investors will see their equity erode.

But for the time being, the prices of homes keep on rising.

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Rabbis Get Tough
A rabbinical court has confiscated the US passport of a 60 year old Hasidic real estate mogul, preventing him from leaving the country until he “persuades” his son to provide a divorce (Get) to his (the son’s) estranged wife. The son lives in the US and works with and is supported by his father.

According to the court documents, the wife suffered a stroke on a visit to Israel with her husband in 2005. Shortly after, the husband returned to the US. His wife and their two children stayed in Israel and she became an Israeli citizen. The court says the husband has ignored her request and a court ruling for a divorce as well as another ruling demanding that he pay alimony.

The father was in Israel last year on a family visit when he was summoned to the court, told to hand in his and his wife’s passports and barred from leaving the country. He was later sentenced to 30 days in prison for contempt of court.

The rabbinical court argued that by providing his son with a job and stipend, the father was responsible for his son’s intransigence. His lawyers argued he is being used as leverage to pressure his son and are appealing to the Supreme Court. They also claim that he fired his son and has tried to persuade him to give the divorce. Advocates for the wife claim that the husband, who has a girlfriend, spends his time in his home in Brooklyn and a luxury apartment near Miami, which are both owned by his parents.

The husband told an interviewer last year that he would grant the divorce on the condition that his two children would return to the US. The wife is now in her mid 30’s.

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv requested that the court return the father’s passport, but the rabbis rejected the request and called the embassy’s involvement in the case “unacceptable and intolerable.”

Don’t mess with this rabbinical court.

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Security Sweep
Security forces arrested nine suspects in a sweep of several East Jerusalem neighborhoods last night. The individuals are suspected of throwing of Molotov Cocktails, rocks, the launching of fireworks and firing bullets into Jewish neighborhoods nearby.

The IDF also closed down two weapons factories in the West Bank overnight.

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Wedding Gunfire
The IDF is cracking down on Arab wedding halls and other venues where guns are fired during wedding celebrations, which is an old Arab custom). It closed one wedding hall near Jerusalem today, after reports of gunfire at a wedding there on Sunday.

A senior official in the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said that “By acting in advance to prevent gunfire, we reduce the impact of illegal weapons, reduce the potential for lethal disaster and demonstrate better governance.”

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France Rebuffed
Israel has rejected a French invitation to attend an international Middle East peace conference to be held in Paris later this year. In June of last year the French held a preliminary conference which included representatives from the UN, EU, US and major Arab countries, but did not include the Israelis or Palestinians.

Israel maintains its position that only direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians can lead to peace.

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Interpol Rejects
As a result of intensive diplomatic efforts by Israel, INTERPOL, the International Criminal Police Organization, has rejected the Palestinian application for membership. Israel feared that Palestinian access to the organization’s sensitive intelligence information could very likely fall into the hands of terror groups.

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