Israel News for September 9, 2016

No Preconditions
Last week we reported that Russian President Putin had invited both PA President Abbas and PM Netanyahu to meet for direct talks in Moscow. Abbas had seemingly accepted the offer, marking a departure from his ongoing policy of rejecting any direct talks with Israel. This was viewed as a potential breakthrough, but now it looks like it might have been a bit premature. Sources say that Abbas has placed preconditions on the talks, and that’s unacceptable to Israel. Now the Palestinians are claiming that Israel has rejected the offer to meet in Moscow.

At a press conference in the Netherlands, PM Netanyahu addressed the issue saying, “I am ready to meet with Abbas at any time without preconditions for direct talks. It’s something I’ve said a hundred times and I’m repeating it here. I’m not picky about the place, it can be in the Netherlands or in Moscow, no problem. It can certainly be Moscow. I’ve said that to President Putin and I’ve said it to the Russian envoy Bogdanov.”

“The main question is if Abbas is ready to meet without preconditions. We hear conflicting versions. Just yesterday, a Palestinian spokesman made it clear that they are willing to meet, but they have conditions such as the release of prisoners and they want to know in advance what the results of the talks will be. If Abbas wants to meet without preconditions for direct talks, I am ready anytime. I’ve been calling on him to do it for seven years, so if he agrees, there could be a meeting.”

For further reading click here.

Body Found
Rescuers have found the fifth body in the rubble of the building parking garage that collapsed this week in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the Labor and Welfare Committee of the Knesset held an emergency session on Thursday with the CEO of the construction company that built the structure.

Kulanu MK Elie Elalouf, the committee chairman, said, “The committee sadly foresaw this. We held seven hearings on the situation. We saw that there is serious negligence in the construction sector. No one held a discussion on the required preparations for the massive amount of construction going on in the country, which is only expected to grow. We’ve also seen the lack of preparedness on the part of government ministries.”

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Chief Rabbi Speaks
Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef participated last night in a night of Torah study held near the gravesite of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, on the anniversary of Rabbi Kook’s passing. R. Kook was the first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi in Israel during the British Mandate, and is considered to be the father of “Religious Zionist” ideology.

At the event R. Yosef praised R. Kook as one of the great rabbis of his generation and spoke about several contemporary issues in Jewish law, invoking the opinion of R. Kook as support for his positions. He spoke about the need for gender separation in religious youth groups and said, “Rabbi Kook demanded separation between males and females in youth groups and at school.” He also used R. Kook to reinforce his stringent positions relating to conversions saying, “I had an argument with one of the head politicians who was trying to get me to be lenient in conversions. Rabbi Kook fought against this.”

Finally, R. Yosef reiterated his opposition to Jews ascending the Temple Mount saying, “How often did Rabbi Kook say not to ascend the Temple Mount; the rabbis as a whole, too, strongly opposed this practice. In a judgment on the matter by the Rabbinical Committee it was decided that most Rabbinical Authorities of the generation oppose Jews ascending the Temple Mount. There are some who allow it, but majority rules. It is a serious prohibition. He who ascends the Temple Mount…needs to repent.”

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Kotel Collections
During the last three years, citations have been issued by police to eleven people caught asking for charity at the Kotel. The Chief Rabbi of the Kotel, Rabbi Rabinowitz, who is seen as the main enforcer of the policy, has come under fire from Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, who is considered to be the most senior rabbinic authority in the Haredi community. R. Kanievsky has remarked that stopping Jews from asking for charity at the Kotel goes against Jewish tradition.

R. Rabinowitz claims that the beggars disrupt people’s prayers and create a “Chillul Hashem” (desecration of God’s Name) by their often aggressive attempts at collecting. He also claims that he previously consulted with R. Kanievsky as well as with Rabbi Elyashiv, the previous senior rabbinic leader, who both agreed that beggars should not be allowed to interrupt prayers or to solicit (and bother) non-Jews at the Kotel.

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Newman Returns
It’s been almost 20 years since the hit comedy Seinfeld aired its final episode, but apparently Israelis have not forgotten it. That’s probably why Ikea in Israel decided to create a commercial featuring Newman, the unlikeable mailman from the series. In the commercial Newman plays a mailman (what else?) who hates his thankless job except for on one day a year — the day he gets to deliver the Ikea catalogue. The commercial is in English, accept for one word in Hebrew. You’ll have to watch it to find out what the word is.

To watch the short commercial click here.