israelAM for August 5, 2015

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Shin Bet Arrests More Suspects
The Shin Bet has arrested 2 more suspects in the Duma arson case, Mordecai Ma’ayar and Avitar Salonim. Both are Jews known to be involved in far right extremist activities. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed an administrative decree after Ma’ayar’s arrest, allowing security forces to detain him for up to six months without formal charges or a trial.

Meir Ettinger, the grandson of the late Meir Kahane, was arrested on Sunday and is still in custody.

Meanwhile the Judea and Samaria District police published a public appeal on Tuesday for help in solving the arson case. The police has never asked the public for help before in similar attacks, but this time they think the public might be open to helping since the victim was just a toddler. The boy’s parents and brother are all still in critical condition.

New Budget Coming
The government is meeting today to vote on approving the official budget for 2015-2016 and it looks like it will be approved by a huge margin. But the PM and Finance Minister would like the vote to be unanimous, and that could be a problem.

The new budget includes large cuts across the board.  Minister of Economy Aryeh Deri of Shas wants the poorest 40% of the population to be exempt from paying VAT (value added tax) on their water and electric bills. He also wants to remove all VAT from public transportation. Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon thinks that’ll cost the country too much revenue.

Education Minister Naftali Bennet of Bait Yehudi isn’t happy with the proposed 1 billion shekel cuts in the education budget. He says the cuts will critically harm education for young children, for children living in the country’s periphery and for all math education. The Internal Security Minister also has issues with the budget.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon defended the budget claiming that there will actually be an increase in spending for education, health and internal security. The PM added that the budget is balanced and will both allow economic growth and monthly savings for every family.

The negotiations to try to get unanimous approval continue, but the new budget will pass in any case. If you trust Netanyahu’s economic policies, that’s good news for the country.

PM Takes the Stage
Prime Minister Netanyahu used a webcast to convince American Jewish leaders to oppose the Iran nuclear agreement. He reiterated his main reasons for opposing the deal: 1) It will leave Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure in place. 2) Iran’s “breakout time” for a nuclear weapon in 10-15 years, once the deal expires, will be practically zero. 3) The deal will give Iran a massive infusion of cash that it will use to arm its terrorist proxies in the region. 4) The deal will spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

The PM denied that he was against any deal with Iran. “The alternative to this bad deal is still no deal, or a better deal,” he said. “The claim that I wouldn’t accept any deal and wouldn’t propose any alternative is certainly not true.”

Netanyahu reasoned that if sanctions and pressure on Iran were increased, Iran would return to the bargaining table in search of a deal. “They need the deal a whole lot more than any of us need a deal,” he said.

Netanyahu also noted that even opposition leader Isaac Herzog agreed with him regarding the deal. “This is simply not a partisan issue in Israel … It shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the United States either.”

Meanwhile, both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have been meeting with Jewish leaders to make their pro-deal case.
This battle is far from over.

More Unholiness
A rabbi living in a settlement in the Binyamin area was placed under house arrest and is being investigated for sexually assaulting several women who came to him for blessings and spiritual guidance relating to relationships. Investigators are pretty sure they will find more women who were victimized by the rabbi.

Surf’s Up
Israeli beachgoers breathed a sigh of relief. Seven weeks after arriving on Israeli shores, swarms of Jellyfish have departed for other Mediterranean waters. This year’s swarm had unusually large specimens, with some of the jellyfish as much as 70 centimeters wide. Getting stung by one is no fun.

The Jellyfish departure came just in time to allow people to get some relief at the beach from the brutal heatwave hitting the country.

Crashers are Welcome
Social media and a lot of big hearts came to the rescue of a bride and groom who found themselves pretty much alone at their wedding. Other than about 10 close relatives, most of the invited guests thought that the wedding had been cancelled because the bride’s father had just recently died. One of the guests posted this on Facebook: “The bride lost both her parents in the last two years. Her father passed away a month ago, and now there is no one there except for a few relatives. You don’t need a gift, you don’t need money. Just come fill the auditorium, fulfill a mitzvah, and make a bride and groom happy.”

The post went viral and 2,000 people showed up to celebrate. Almost none of them knew either the bride or groom. But they saw an opportunity to do a mitzvah and make a new couple happy, and they grabbed it. Israelis at their best.