Israel News for September 21, 2015

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Stones and Punishments
There’s no question that there will soon be a mandatory minimum sentence for stone throwers. The only questions are how long will the regulation last for and how long will the sentences be.

The PM and the Justice Minister want the mandatory minimum sentence regulation to be in force for at least 3 years and sentences to be set at 5 years. The Attorney General wants the regulation to be in place for a temporary one year trial period and the actual sentences to be set at 2.5 years.

Either way, it’s bad news for stone throwers and hopefully good news for the general public, if the mandatory sentences succeed in dissuading people from their deadly stone throwing activities.

We can live with name calling, but the sticks and stones need to go.

Dirty Cop
The Israeli Police force has suffered from a multitude of scandals that have tarnished its reputation and eroded the public’s trust in it. Now there’s more.

Eran Malka, a former top officer in the Israel Police’s anti-corruption investigation unit, Lahav 433, was sentenced yesterday to eight years in prison, after admitting to passing on sensitive information about investigations to attorney Ronel Fisher in return for bribes.

According to the plea bargain signed by the police investigations unit with Malka’s defense attorneys, Malka will hand over all the information he has and testify against former commander of the police’s Central District, Bruno Stein, and the former head of the Tel Aviv State Attorney’s office, Ruth David, who were allegedly involved in the bribery scheme. (More scandals anyone?) In return, Malka will get to keep his pension.

Malka expressed regret and noted that he had been captivated by Fisher’s charm. He said that he had considered suicide and asked for mercy for himself and his wife and children.

The Judge said, “The damage he caused is twofold: both direct damage to specific investigations, some of which have been postponed, but mainly to public confidence in the purity of the investigation and the investigative process. There is both immediate damage and future damage.”

Chinese are Coming
PM Netanyahu has announced plans to bring in 20,000 Chinese construction workers to help build new housing, as part of his effort to reduce housing prices by increasing supply.

Israel’s construction sector currently employs 216,000 workers, including 37,000 Palestinians and 6,000 foreigners, 3,700 of whom are Chinese. The Chinese workers are currently brought into Israel under private contracts between Israeli and Chinese companies. Now the two governments are working on creating an official agreement to regulate the rights, employment conditions and compensation of the Chinese. The agreement hasn’t yet been completed, but the workers will still be brought in.

According the Finance Ministry, the work pace of Chinese workers currently building high-rises in Israel is 50% faster than that of Israelis and Palestinians.

The question here is whether the presence of 20,000 Chinese males will affect the social structure in Israel. The country already has thousands of African foreign workers living primarily in Tel Aviv, and that experience hasn’t been positive for the Israelis in the Tel Aviv neighborhood where most of them are concentrated. Will the Chinese experience be different? The government seems to think so. Or maybe the need and increased productivity is enough to trump the social consequences? The desire of Israelis for more affordable housing is probably the overriding factor in getting the PM the support he needs to bring over the Chinese workers.

On the bright side, the quality of Chinese food in the country is bound to improve, big time.

Startup nation
Looking to invest in a startup? International accounting and consulting firm Delloite just released their annual survey ranking the countries whose startups investors prefer to invest in. Guess who ranked first? The US. Ok, guess who ranked second? Israel!

Commenting on the results, Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications Industry leader Tal Chen said, “This is the fourth straight year that Israel is rated in second place after the US in the level of confidence among foreign investors, compared with investments elsewhere in the world. Not only is the level of confidence in Israel higher than in other countries examined, other than the US, but if the investors’ level of confidence is examined in comparison with the major US markets (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and Silicon Valley), Israel comes second only to Silicon Valley.”

Asian investors, headed by those from Japan and China, have recently been increasing their interest and their investments in Israeli startups, and that is expected to continue and grow.

The Startup Nation continues to thrive.

Sodas for Syrians
Israeli company Sodastream International Ltd. (Nasdaq: SODA) has been under constant pressure from the BDS movement for having had their major manufacturing plant located in Ma’aleh Adumim (West Bank). The public relations effect of the pressure forced Sodastream to relocate their plant to the Negev, near the Bedouin town for Rahat, which resulted in many Palestinians losing their well paying jobs. Not a great outcome for BDS.

Now the company announced that it would be willing to help absorb up to 1,000 Syrian refugees by giving them jobs at the plant and helping them settle in Rahat.

Rahat has a population of 55,000 and is the largest Bedouin town in the world. At present, 30% of the 1,100 workers in SodaStream’s nearby factory are residents of Rahat.

The PM has repeatedly said that Israel will not allow Syrian refugees into Israel, so Sodastream’s offer isn’t really practical, but it does make for some nice PR and a slap in the face of their BDS opponents. Maybe.