Israel News for May 24, 2016

Terrorist Neutralized
A female terrorist attempted to stab Border Police officers at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem yesterday.

According to the investigation report, at around 2:30 p.m. an Arab woman drew the suspicion of Israeli forces at the checkpoint, who called on her to stop. When she did not heed their instructions and continued approaching, officers fired in the air, as per protocol. She then drew a knife and ran towards them. Officers opened fire, fatally wounding the terrorist. Paramedics confirmed her death soon after. No officers were harmed.

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Returning Bodies
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed police today to stop returning the bodies of terrorists to their families for burials. The decision comes after last night’s funeral of terrorist Alaa Abu Jamal, which turned into a pro-terror rally and incitement when 200 East Jerusalem residents crowded outside the cemetery calling out “Allahu Akbar” and “In blood and spirit we will avenge you, shahid.” Border Police prevented the crowd from entering the cemetery.

Abu Jamal had been an employee of the Bezeq phone company when he ran over pedestrians at a Jerusalem bus stop with his car, and then exited his vehicle and hit his wounded victims with an ax, killing 60 year old Rabbi Yishayahu Krishevsky.

The police had delayed the return of the bodies of East Jerusalem terrorists for six months, until the families signed agreements to hold the funerals at night with a small number of participants, in order to avoid the funeral stunning into venues of incitement.

Explaining his decision, Minister Erdan said, “I was just shown the outrageous images from the funeral last night in East Jerusalem, in which the conditions set by the police were violated and the commitments made by the families were broken. The terrorists’ families lied to the High Court of Justice. It’s a shame the High Court believed them and pressured the police to return all the bodies by Ramadan.”

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Egyptian Peace Summit
While the French are working on their peace summit that will not include the Israelis or Palestinians, the Egyptians are quietly working on their own peace initiative meant to bring both parties together.

In the last few days the Egyptians have been pushing hard to organize a summit between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who will lead the summit in Cairo.

Al-Sisi said on Egyptian television, “I say to the Israelis and ask the Israeli leadership to allow the broadcast of this speech at least once or twice. There is a real opportunity for peace even if in the short term there is no real basis given the conditions in the region.”

Maybe France should leave peace in the Middle East to the people that actually live there and understand how to get things done in that part of the world?

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Open Door
With coalition talks with Yisrael Beiteynu still in process, PM Netanyahu told the opposition, at a special Knesset meeting commemorating Theodore Herzl, that he was still open to forming a unity government with them. Responding to opposition leader Isaac Herzog’s claim that Netanyahu had closed the door on a unity government the PM said, “I haven’t closed the door. The door is open. There is still an opportunity to unite the nation. There is an opportunity for national reconciliation. I call upon you and your members not to miss this opportunity, and to join the national effort.”

The deal bringing Yisrael Beiteynu into the government was supposed be signed and sealed already, but Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon is preventing the deal from closing by refusing to commit the funds necessary to fulfill the party’s demand to increase the pensions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Kahalon insists that he has already proposed a plan to increase pensions of the elderly across the board and that he will not discriminate by favoring any one group.

Yisrael Beiteynu leader Avigdor Liberman claims that his pension condition is a deal breaker, and that he will not join the government without it being fulfilled. But sources in Likud are saying today that Liberman has, in fact, accepted Kahalon’s proposals and that a final deal is imminent.

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Electric Road
The Tel Aviv municipality has installed a strip of “electric road” which can charge electric cars as they drive on it. The strip of road in northern Tel Aviv is part of a trial being conducted by startup ElectRoad, which has developed technology designed to power and charge vehicles by means of cordless power transfers as they drive.

Oren Ezer, the entrepreneur behind ElectRoad, said the process of turning a road into a “smart road” is relatively simple, despite the complicated-sounding nature of the technology. Grooves are carved into the asphalt and a chain of copper loops inserted. The chain is connected to a power converter at the side of the road.

Electric cars fitted with the company’s technology have contacts fitted onto their undercarriage that receive electricity when driving over the smart road. The smart road is designed to give the vehicles enough energy to power them, as well as to charge their batteries.

If the electric road works, it will mean that electric car batteries can be smaller and much less expensive, since they’ll be able to be recharged automatically, while driving.

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Israel News for February 5, 2016

Hadar Cohen Funeral
Hundreds accompanied Hadar Cohen, the Border Police officer killed in Wednesday’s terror attack in Jerusalem, to her final resting place in a small military cemetery in her hometown of Yehud. Cohen’s partner, Ravit Mirilashvili, who was wounded in the attack, left the Jerusalem hospital that had been treating her in order to attend the funeral with her family.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised Cohen for protecting her partner and saving her life. He described her as someone who, “carried a great burden on her shoulders and a big smile on her face.”

National Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich also praised her conduct, saying that she “fought like a lion” and that her courage “has chiseled a new chapter in the glorious tradition of the Border Police and the Israel Police.”

Cohen’s father, Ofer, in a tearful voice, said, “They say you were a true hero, but they do not know your warmth, your love of life, your captivating smile.” He ended his brief eulogy with, “How can I part from you. I am proud of you and I salute you.”

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Arab MK’s
PM Netanyahu asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to examine the possibility of punishing several Arab Knesset members for visiting families of terrorists. The visit by MKs Jamal Zakalka, Basel Ghattas and Haneen Zoabi from the Joint Arab List’s Balad faction was part of a campaign being conducted by the families, and legal aid and human rights groups, seeking the return of the bodies of their family members who were killed while committing terror acts and are now being held by Israeli authorities.

The PM said, “Knesset members who pay a condolence call to families of terrorists who have killed Israelis are not fit to serve in the Israeli Knesset.” The opposition Zionist Union also condemned the visit, saying, “The visit by Balad Knesset members to the terrorists’ families encourages continued terrorism and murder of innocent people.”

Knesset speaker Edelstein said, “It is unthinkable that while innocent civilians are being slaughtered in Israel’s streets, Knesset members console and give voice to the murders’ families. I view this as a severe assault on the Knesset and the state of Israel.”

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on the Attorney General to examine whether the meeting that the Knesset members had with the families constituted a criminal offense — providing support for acts of murder and terror.

Erdan explained that the bodies would not be released until the police are satisfied that the funerals of the terrorists will not be turned into venues of incitement and support of terror.

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Brazilian Diplomacy
While the standoff continues between Brazil and Israel over Brazil’s decision to prevent the appointment of Danny Danon as Israel’s ambassador to the country because of Danon’s history as a leader in the settlement movement, Israel remains ambassador-less in Brazil. Not so the Palestinians.

A new building housing the first Palestinian Authority embassy in the Western Hemisphere was inaugurated in Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia on Wednesday. The PA’s envoy to Brazil, Ibrahim Alzeben, led the event, which was attended by left-wing Brazilian government officials, representatives of Arab countries and members of the local Arab community. The new building is topped with a golden dome, to resemble the Dome of the Rock.

Some Brazilian security officials are critical of the location of the new embassy, which is close to all of the major government institutions, fearing that it will become a base for Hamas and give terrorists easy access to the center of Brazilian government.

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Home Sales
The number of new home sales in Israel in 2015 was 40% higher than in 2014. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, contractors sold 32,370 new homes, which is the highest number in more than 15 years. Various government tax incentives for first time buyers are assumed to be one of the factors contributing to the increase.

The leading city in sales of new housing in 2015 was Jerusalem with 2,292 units sold. Tel Aviv-Jaffa was in second place, followed by Petah Tikva, Ramat Gan, and Netanya. One town with an especially steep increase in new housing sales in 2015 was Afula, where 1,163 new housing units were sold in 2015, compared with 466 in 2014. The increase in Or Akiva was even more extreme: 771 new housing units sold in 2015, compared with only 128 in 2014.

So, what are you waiting for?

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Swiss Snack Control
Believe it or not, the Swiss might soon take full control over your Israeli snacking habits. That’s because Nestles, the huge Swiss food conglomerate, is planning to gain full ownership over Osem, one of Israel’s primary food companies. Actually, Nestle’s already owns about 70% of the company, but the final 30% will allow them to delist Osem stock from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and turn the company private. Nestle’s will pay $840 million for the 30%, which will give Osem a total value of around $2.4 billion.

Osem makes iconic Israeli snacks like Bamba and Bisli and a slew of other products including pasta, salad dressing, soup mix, cereal, vegetarian meat substitutes and of course, Sabra humus. In total it controls 10% of the Israeli food market.

As a private, foreign owned, company Osem will be be less sensitive to the media and to public opinion, which could make it easier for them to raise prices. So you better stock up on the Bamba and Bisli before that happens.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for February 4, 2016

Terror in Ramle
Early today, two 13 year old eighth graders from the Israeli Arab neighborhood of Jawarish in Ramle went to the central bus station in Ramle, a mixed Arab and Jewish city in central Israel. Sounds normal enough. But when the security guard asked them for their IDs, they pulled large kitchen knives from a school bag and stabbed him in the hand and leg. Other guards and civilians ran to help and subdued the girls. The security guard was lightly wounded in the attack.

Ramla Mayor Yoel Lavi said police was investigating the attack that “is uncharacteristic of the Arab sector in Ramla. Ramla is a multi-cultural city, in which people live in coexistence and in good neighborly relations, Jews alongside Arabs.”

Police praised the security guards for exercising restraint and subduing the girls without using their firearms. During the police interrogation, one of the girls said, “we came to kill Jews.”

For further reading click here.

Jerusalem Terror
Near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem yesterday, a Border Police patrol, consisting of one male officer and two female recruits still in training, noticed two suspicious looking Arab males sitting on a bench. They approached and asked the men for identification. One of the men stood up, drew a gun from his coat and struck the officer’s head.

In the words of the Border Police officer, “I took a step back, saw he was aiming at me and was going to pull the trigger. I took two steps back, cocked my revolver and fired a bullet at him. Then I turned and saw someone with a knife stabbing [the border policewoman who survived] and I shot him. Then I heard shots, turned around and saw another terrorist shooting.” A policeman then arrived on the scene and shot the other terrorist.

Hagar Cohen, 19, one of the recruits in training, was killed in the attack. The other trainee was seriously wounded. All three terrorists were killed. They had submachine guns and explosives. Luckily, the explosives failed to detonate.

Cohen was recruited just two months ago and was sworn in last Thursday. Some of Cohen’s relatives criticized the fact that the Border Police would deploy inexperienced recruits in such a volatile area.

Police commanders praised the actions of the Border Police patrol and said that they, in all likelihood, prevented a much larger terror attack by confronting the terrorists before they had a chance to act.

Israeli forces have blockaded and sealed off the Qabatiya, near Jenin, which is the hometown of the terrorists. A large number of reinforcements have arrived in the area. Several terror suspects have been arrested and the homes of the three terrorists have been prepared for demolition.

For further reading click here.

Abbas Strikes Again
Just hours after the terror attack in Jerusalem that claimed the life of a Border Police recruit, PA President Abbas met with the families of eleven terrorists at his office in Ramallah.

The terrorists, all from the Jerusalem, committed their deadly and destructive attacks during the last four months. Their families want Abbas to get Israel to return their bodies for burial. Abbas told the families that he is making efforts to get the bodies returned, calling the terrorists martyrs.

Surprised by any of this?

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Youths Sentenced
The Jerusalem District Court has sentenced the two minors convicted of the July 2014 murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who burned to death in an apparent revenge attack for the murder of the three Jewish teens near Hebron. One received a life sentence and the other, 21 years in prison. Each minor will also be forced to pay the Abu Khdeir family 30,000 shekels (about $7,700) in compensation (not sure how they came up with that number).

The minor sentenced to 21 years was not sentenced to life because the court determined he didn’t take part in the actual murder, only the actions that preceded it. “He is the youngest of the bunch, with potential for rehabilitation,” the judgement read.

The court is expected rule in the case of the main defendant, Yosef Chaim Ben David, after he undergoes a final psychiatric evaluation (since he pleaded insanity just before sentencing).

The parents of the victim aren’t happy with the verdict, claiming that justice was not done. But the sentences seem to be in line with what Palestinian terrorists receive, and there’s no chance that the Jewish convicts will ever be released in a prisoner exchange. So I’d say justice has indeed been served.

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Tokyo Tel Aviv
Israelis have become a common site in India and Thailand. Their next popular distention might be Japan. Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) launched flights from Tel Aviv to Tokyo via Europe six weeks ago, and the airline is satisfied, to say the least. ANA senior VP Yutaka Ito, who is visiting Israeli, said, “The Israeli market is important to us. We recognize its great and growing potential, and are interested in the passenger traffic between the two countries.”

An estimated 20,000 Israelis flew to Japan last year, half of them business passengers and half vacationers. Ito says this number has been growing yearly, thereby paving the way for the establishment of a local ANA office and investment in the business, which for now is focusing mainly on Israeli tourists, rather than bringing tourists from Japan to Israel.

And most importantly, sushi in Japan is about half the price of what it is in Tel Aviv. So the sushi savings might be enough to pay for your next flight. It’s worth a try.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for September 3, 2015

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Shots from Gaza
Several shots were fired from Gaza yesterday at Israeli moshav Netiv Ha’asarah. Three homes were hit. Miraculously, no one was injured even though the inhabitants were home. In one of the homes a bullet hit the TV that the kids were watching at the time.

The IDF is sure that the shots came from Gaza, but not so sure that the shots were deliberate. Hamas has a training camp right near the border in the area.

In any case, the air force quickly responded by hitting the Hamas military area where the shots originated from. The IDF said that they hold Hamas responsible for any attacks coming from Gaza and for keeping their side of the border quiet.

Budget Approved
The Knesset yesterday approved the 2015-2016 budget in its first reading with a narrow margin of 57 in favor and 53 against. It still needs to be approved in two additional readings to become law. 

In presenting the budget, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said “this budget includes a significant increase for the social ministries, with an increased budget for education, health, welfare and public security.”

The main challenges Kahlon faced in getting the budget approved were the promises that had been made to individual parties, especially the charedi parties, during the coalition building process. Many of those promises could not be honored within the proposed budget.

Economy Minister Aryeh Deeri of Shas was noticeably absent from the vote and threatened that if his proposal to eliminate all VAT (value added tax) for the poorer sectors is not implemented, his party will vote against the budget in the second and third readings.

One of the largest bones of contention is the size of the defense budget. According to the Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist, it stands at 55 billion shekels, but the political establishment is estimating the final number to be much larger. Any increase in the defense budget is likely to mean cuts in the welfare budget or an increase in the national deficit.

The opposition strongly opposed the budget.

PM Gets Tough
PM Netanyahu is getting tougher on security. In a meeting yesterday regarding the security situation in Jerusalem and on Highway 443, he told the IDF to reassess its standing order on opening fire on stone and fire-bomb throwers.

The current order, which was issued after the Duma attacks, prohibits soldiers from firing at stone throwers unless the soldiers feel that their lives are in immediate danger. The order was meant to prevent increased violence by avoiding Palestinian casualties. That seems to be working. Unfortunately, stone and fire-bomb throwing seems to have increased.

The PM wants the attacks to end. He stressed that his policy is, “zero tolerance for stone throwing and terror.”

As a result of the meeting, two new Border Police companies and another 400 police officers will be added to the existing forces in Jerusalem and additional security will be added along the 443.

Firemen Attacked
A fire broke out in a building in an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem last night. Five firefighting units responded. Firemen entered the building and rescued five people, including a mother and her children. They put out the fire. Then the neighborhood came out to attack them with stones. Police forces that were on the scene protected the firefighters from their grateful audience.

This wasn’t an isolated incident. It seems that rescue workers that respond to calls in Arab neighborhoods routinely get attacked. Not very nice.

Charedi Minister
It finally happened, without hell having to freeze over. For the first time in over 50 years, there will be a charedi cabinet minister in the Israeli government.

Yesterday, Yaakov Litzman was sworn in as Minister of Health after a Knesset vote of 83 to 10 in favor of his appointment. Among those who voted for him were opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid, as well as all of the Labor party Knesset members.

Litzman had held the position of Deputy Health Minister in accordance with the charedi position of not accepting government ministerial portfolios based on their ideological objections to secular government in the Holy Land. But when the High Court ruled that he must either become full minister or quit, the Council of Torah sages of his Agudas Yisroel faction gave him the green light to become minister.

After his swearing in Litzman received congratulations from most of the Knesset members. He even got some hugs, but just from the men.

Druze Shortchanged
The Israeli Druze population contributes more than its fair share of combat fighters to the IDF. Many Druze soldiers fought valiantly and were decorated for their service during Operation Protective Shield (Gaza War) last year. Unfortunately, many of their homes aren’t even connected to the electrical grid. That’s caused a group of veterans to return the decorations they received during Protective Shield to protest their situation.

MK Nissan Slomiansky of Bayit Yehudi met with representatives in the Druze town of Dalit Al-Karmel to hear their grievances. He sympathized with their problems, but tried to convince them to keep their commendations.

So the Druze have their ribbons and medals, but still not much electricity.

They deserve better.

Israel News for August 17, 2015

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More Protests in Ashkelon
Violence broke out between police and hundreds of demonstrators close to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon where Mohammad Allaan, a suspected Islamic Jihad member in administrative detention, is currently hospitalized 61 days into a hunger strike. He has been in an induced coma since Friday, and is being given fluids and vitamins intravenously.

About 200 Arab protesters attempted to block the main junction leading into Ashkelon and attacked police with stones and pepper spray, but were dispersed by water cannons.

Outside the hospital police controlled dozens of Arab protestors demonstrating in support of Allaan and right wing Israeli demonstrators protesting against him.

In total, 15 demonstrators were arrested from both sides.

Yesterday, Allaan’s lawyer petitioned the High Court for his release on grounds of his poor health. The government responded by telling the court that it would be willing to release Allan on the condition that he leaves the country for 4 years and does not return to the region. The High Court are due to reach a decision today.

A ruling of the High Court to release Allan could trigger a wave of hunger strikes by security prisoners in an attempt to gain their freedom. That would create an untenable situation, for obvious reasons.

More Terrorism
The string of Palestinian terror attacks in the two weeks following the Duma arson attack continued with three new stabbing attacks.

Early this morning a Palestinian approached a border policeman at the Tapuach junction in Samaria saying that he wasn’t feeling well. Then he stabbed the policeman, lightly wounded him. The attacker was shot and seriously wounded by officers.

There were two stabbings on Saturday.

The first incident occurred at around 11:30 a.m. at a checkpoint in Samaria near Route 443. A Palestinian male approached an IDF soldier and asked for water. When the soldier turned to get the water, the Palestinian stabbed him in the upper back. Another soldier at the scene opened fire and wounded the attacker.

The second incident occurred at around 6:15 p.m. at the Tapuach Junction in Samaria. A Palestinian 21-year-old male, Rafiq Kamel Rafiq, approached Border Police officers conducting a routine security check and plunged a knife into one of their backs. Another officer opened fire and killed the attacker.

In an official statement, Palestinian Authority President Abbas blamed Israel for the killing of the attacker. “The crime was a continuation of the daily killing which no one can be silent at” the statement said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “Anyone that tries to harm IDF soldiers, Border Police officers or Israeli civilians should know that they are taking their lives into their own hands. The fight against Palestinian terrorism, both of the organized and ‘lone wolf’ nature, is complex and requires an iron hand, patience and judgment, and this is how we act.”

Protests Against Cinemaplex
Last week a new cinemaplex called Yes Planet opened in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem, bordering on the Arab neighborhood of Abu Tor. It’s the only cinemaplex in Jerusalem that’s open on Shabbat.

The fact that it’s located nowhere near any of the city’s predominantly religious neighborhoods didn’t stop groups of Charedi men from protesting, in two of their own neighborhoods. The protests resulted in some scuffles with police, several closed off streets, minor damage to a few cars and buildings — but at the cinemaplex, it was business as usual.

In a statement, the leader of the protesters said, “this is just the beginning of the protests.”  Meanwhile, the cinemaplex goers are excited about their new weekend entertainment venue. The cinemaplex management has no intention of closing on Shabbat.

So, It looks like both the protests and the movies will continue.

Threats Against Rabbi
Rabbi David Stav, the Chief Rabbi of Shoham, the head of the Tzohar Rabbinic Organization and one of the founders of the new conversion court that is operating outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s authority, is now under police protection due to threats against him. His photo appeared in the Charedi press with a big caption in red letters saying, “this man is dangerous”.

Rabbi Stav doesn’t seem too worried, but he is avoiding certain places and changing up his regular schedule a bit, just to be safe. The conversion court is proceeding as planned.

Women in Knesset
When Minister and Knesset Member Danny Danon officially becomes Israel’s UN Ambassador, he will vacate his Knesset seat, which will be filled by fellow Likud member Sharren Haskel. The Canadian born 31 year old Haskel is known for her advocacy related to environmental issues. When she’s sworn in, Haskel will bring the number of female Knesset members currently serving to 30, which is a record.

Danon will also be giving up his cabinet post as Minister of Science and Technology and Space as well as his position as chairman of the Likud Central Committee.

Maybe there was an ulterior motive for the PM to give Danon his new position?

Cabinet Approves Gas Deal
The cabinet approved an agreement that will allow three major gas companies to develop the Leviathan natural gas fields, located off the coast of Haifa. PM Netanyahu said that the agreement will, “earn the people of the country and the state treasury hundreds of millions of shekels. This money will go for education, health, welfare, and other national needs.” The revenue to the state in the next few decades is estimated to be $100 billion, about 20 to 30 billion less than originally expected.

Huckabee Heading to Israel
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee heads to Israel this week to raise money and meet “with a number of officials” to discuss the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

“The Iranian government is not to be trusted,” Huckabee said, “We’re being pushed to get into a deal that gives us nothing, but gives the Iranians the capacity to ultimately end up with a nuclear weapon, and that’s just insane.”

Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, enjoys a large base of supporters in the Christian Evangelical community, which strongly supports Israel. He’s noted that he’s been to Israel “dozens and dozens of times” since his first trip in 1973.