Israel News for May 17, 2017

Arab Overtures
The Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have floated a proposal offering Israel improved relations in exchange for a freeze in settlement construction and easing restrictions on Gaza.

The improved relations would reportedly include the establishment of telecommunications lines with Israel, the approval of Israeli planes to pass through their national air space and the removal of various trade restrictions. One Arab official involved in the initiative was quoted saying, “We no longer see in Israel an enemy but a potential opportunity.”

Could this be part of Trump’s master plan for bringing peace to the region?

For further reading click here.

Haley Speaks
In the aftermath of the incident earlier this week in which a US diplomat in Jerusalem told Israeli officials that the Western Wall (Kotel) was not part of Israel, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley stated her view on the issue in an interview yesterday saying, “I believe that the Western Wall is part of Israel.”

Haley said she wasn’t sure what the official administration policy was on the matter but added, “I think that’s how we’ve always seen it and that’s how we should pursue it. I’m not really sure what happened with that issue but I know that they’re trying to fix that and get that taken care of but you know we’ve always thought that the Western Wall is part of Israel.”

Apparently Haley isn’t the only senior government official who isn’t clear on US policy regarding Jerusalem. During a White House press conference held on Tuesday, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster avoided answering a question on whether he recognized the Kotel as being part of Israel. He said, “Oh, that sounds like a policy decision, you know—and that’s the President’s intention…The President’s intention is to visit these religious sites to highlight the need for unity amongst three of the world’s great religions.”

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer responded to a question on the matter by saying, “The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in Jewish faith. It’s clearly in Jerusalem.”

Does anyone know what the policy is?

The fact that the US embassy is still in Tel Aviv and looks like it’ll be staying there says it all. Unless Trump changes it, US policy remains the same as it’s been for decades: the West Bank and east Jerusalem are not officially part of Israel.

For further reading click here.

Intelligence Compromised
According to ABC news, US intelligence officials believe that the classified information regarding ISIS shared by President Trump with the Russian Foreign Minister could jeopardize an Israeli spy embedded within ISIS. The White House is denying that Trump shared any sensitive information.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Mayor
Fatah representative Taysir Abu Sneineh, who was convicted of being part of a terror cell that murdered six Israelis in 1980, has been elected as the new mayor of Hebron, the largest city in the Palestinian Authority. Abu Sneineh had been in an Israeli prison until he was subsequently released in a prisoner exchange deal.

The new mayor expressed a willingness to work with Israeli authorities in order to provide services for the people of Hebron. He has no regrets for his previous terror activities.

For further reading click here.

Cheaper Taxis
Starting May 30, travelers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport will be able to order a taxi using the Gett app (formerly GetTaxi) and the price will be 30% cheaper than the current rates. Until now only one taxi company had a monopoly on rides from the airport.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for February 23, 2017

Soldier Wounded
A soldier from the Paratroopers Brigade’s 101st Battalion was lightly wounded by an explosive device thrown at him while securing the entrance to Joseph’s Tomb near Shechem (Nablus). The soldier was treated by his fellow soldiers on the scene and was later taken to the hospital for further treatment. The Tomb is visited by Jewish worshipers every few weeks in coordination with the military. Around 1,200 Jewish worshipers visited last night.

For further reading click here.

New Judges
Last night the Judicial Selection Committee selected four new Supreme Court judges – Yosef Elron, George Karra, Yael Vilner, and David Mintz. The judges are all conservative, and are supported by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi). Yael Vilner will be the first religious woman to serve on the court. David Mintz is the first judge to reside in a settlement (Dolev in Gush Etzion). George Karra is a Christian Arab from Jaffa. The appointments are seen as a victory for the conservative camp.

For further reading click here.

Goldins Meet Haley
The parents of IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, who was killed in Gaza in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge and whose body is still being held by Hamas, met on Wednesday with the new US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

During their meeting, the Goldin family requested that Ambassador Haley assist in their efforts for the return of the bodies of their son and Sgt. Oron Shaul, also held in Gaza, for burial in Israel.

A spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN said that during the meeting, Ambassador Haley pledged to advocate on behalf of Hadar Goldin and work with the Goldins, the Israeli Mission and other US partners at the UN for the return of Hadar to his family.

Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon thanked Haley for meeting with the family, saying, “Hadar was killed and kidnapped by despicable terrorists during a UN sponsored ceasefire and we won’t rest until this organization ensures his and Oron’s return for proper burial in Israel.”

For further reading click here.

ISIS in Golan
ISIS forces have launched a major offensive in the Syrian Golan against rebel forces currently in control of the area. ISIS has reportedly captured several villages and killed hundreds of rebel fighters. The area involved borders both Israel and Jordan. The prospect of having an ISIS controlled area next door is troubling to both countries.

For further reading click here.

Court Overrules Bargain
The Jerusalem District Court overruled a plea bargain agreement that sentenced former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger to 3.5 years in prison and increased the sentence to 4.5 years and a fine of 5 million shekels. Metzger was convicted on a slew of bribery and corruption charges.

For further reading click here.

Rabbinate Hacked
Hackers attacked the computers of the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem, locking down all the data on the computers. The hackers demanded a ransom of thousands of dollars in bitcoin to release the data. The Israeli government refused to negotiate. The data was reportedly unblocked by IT specialists.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for January 9, 2017

Jerusalem Terror
Yesterday a terrorist drove a truck into a a large group of young officer cadets on a popular promenade in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanetziv. The soldiers were on a tour of Jerusalem and listening to a tour guide when the truck veered off the road and rammed into them. Several armed civilians along with two of the soldiers began firing at the truck. But before they could neutralize him the terrorist put the truck in reverse and drove over the wounded.

Four soldiers were killed and 15 soldiers and civilians were wounded in the attack. The soldiers killed were 2nd Lt. Yael Yakutiel (20) from Givatayim, whose rank was posthumously elevated to Lt.; Cadet Shir Hajaj (22) from Ma’ale Adumim, whose rank was posthumously elevated to Lt.; Cadet Shira Tzur (20) from Haifa, whose rank was posthumously elevated to 2nd Lt.; and Cadet Erez Orbach (20) from Alon Shvut, whose rank was posthumously elevated to 2nd Lt. They were all laid to rest today.

To read more about the victims click here.

The were around 300 soldiers in the area taking part in group tours. All of the soldiers were armed. The army is investigating why only two soldiers actually fired at the terrorist. One theory is that they didn’t know it was a terrorist attack until several minutes later. To read more about this click here.

Many of the soldiers ran from scene, apparently upon orders from a commander. To see footage of this from a security camera, click here.

One of the tour guides at the scene who was also injured but managed to fire at the truck with his personal weapon told media that he believed that soldiers hesitated to fire at the truck because of the recent Azaria case in which the soldier was convicted for firing at an incapacitated terrorist. However IDF officials as well as soldiers at the scene were quick to refute that claim.

One of the cadets that fired at the terrorist posted on Facebook, “Please stop listening to sources that don’t verify and immediately publish nonsense and distorted information. Please stop distributing opinions that are based on baseless lies…There is no connection to Elor Azaria. No connection.” He said that cadets ran towards the truck but were cautious about shooting due to the possibility of friendly fire accidents. He concluded by saying that regardless of what the tour guide tells the media, “we fought for our friends.”

To read more about soldiers’ reactions click here.

PM Netanyahu and DM Lieberman visited the site of the attack. Lieberman said, “It is clear that this horrible terrorist attack is not for any other reason rather than just one reason: Because we are Jews, and we live here in the State of Israel. “There was no other reason for this, and you don’t need to look for any justification—not Jewish settlements and not negotiations, but simply a terrorist attack, inspired by ISIS. We saw this in France, we saw it now in Berlin, and unfortunately, we saw it today in Jerusalem. We will fight this terrorism with all the tools at our disposal, and I am certain that there will be results and that we will triumph.”

The White House and State Department, the Canadian Prime Minister, the EU Foreign Minister, several European foreign ministers as well as the UN Security Council condemned the attack.

Palestinian sources identified the terrorist as Fadi Ahmad Al-Qunbar, a released prisoner from Jabel Mukaber, a neighborhood in east Jerusalem that borders East Talpiot. IDF troops raided the terrorist’s house shortly after the attack. The PM said that he believed that the terrorist was affiliated with ISIS. Hamas promised the attack, calling it heroic and pledging more attacks. They also gave out sweets in Gaza to celebrate.

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan has ordered the police not to return the body of the terrorist to his family for burial. He said, “This is a particularly heinous, painful and serious crime that could lead to copycats. We will not allow the vile terrorist and his family to have a funeral that would grant him the respect that would encourage other attackers.”

Israel News for December 15, 2016

Amona Rejects Compromise
Amona residents voted 59-20 against accepting a compromise proposal proposed by the government which would transfer their homes to a plot of land adjacent to the current settlement. The residents justified their decision on the grounds that the proposal contained no concrete guarantees that all those currently residing in Amona would be permitted to remain on the mountain. They did, however, express their willingness to accept other proposals by the government. But the government has already stated that they have no other proposals to offer. That means the evacuation of Amona will take place, as scheduled, on December 25th.

Thousands of supporters have arrived in Amona to resist the evacuation. They have begun barricading roads, but claim that all resistance will be non violent. In the words of one activist, “It isn’t an active resistance rather than a passive one. In other words, we won’t hit anyone or curse the police, but we won’t enable them to remove us so easily. They will need to drag me from the buildings. They will need to chase me and maybe even throw me from the rooftops. It won’t be easy for them, but the resistance will not include illegal acts or hitting the police.”

Right wing leaders including Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennet, who supported the compromise, are upset and disappointed at the decision of the Amona residents to reject the compromise, which they felt was fair as it provided the residents with alternate housing on the same mountain. But the Amona residents insist on keeping their homes and making a statement that Jews have the right to live anywhere in the land of Israel.

For further reading click here.

ISIS Rocket
ISIS claimed responsibility for a rocket that was fired at Israel on Tuesday but ended up falling short and landing in the northern Sinai. ISIS claimed that they were retaliating for three airstrikes that they accused Israel of launching against targets in Sinai. The claim was uncorroborated by any source.

For further reading click here.

Happy Anniversary
Did you know that it was the 29th anniversary of the founding of Hamas? They didn’t forget in Gaza. Tens of thousands of Gazans, including hundreds of masked armed terrorists, marched through the streets of Gaza firing weapons, carrying signs and blasting anti-Israel messages through loudspeakers. Signs in Hebrew and Arabis proclaimed, “Coming from Underground” referring to the terror tunnels.

To see photos of the event click here.

Rabbits and Tigers
During his meeting with the president Kazakhstan, PM Netanyahu responded to a prediction by Iran’s supreme spiritual leader that Israel was cease to exist within 25 years by saying, “Don’t threaten us, we are not a rabbit, we are a tiger.” [ No, he did not follow that with a roar. ]

The PM also signed agreements for economic and technical cooperation between Israel and Kazakhstan and urged the president to support Israel’s bid to obtain a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.

Kazakhstan has a Muslim majority of 70% and a Jewish community numbering between 20 and 30 thousand. It is the 9th largest country in the world by area but has a population of only 18 million.

For further reading click here.

Skirt Protest
In protest of the recently revised Knesset dress code that prohibits short skirts, 15 Knesset aides arrived wearing short skirts and were denied entry by Knesset guards. Several Knesset Members joined the women in a show of solidarity. MK Manual Trajtenberg (Zionist Union) really got mad when his aide was asked to remove her overcoat so that her skirt could be checked, and removed his shirt saying, “If I can enter the Knesset like this, so can you!” [ did he mean that she should be allowed in without wearing a top? Whatever, you get the meaning behind his words…] He also reportedly said, “Tomorrow all of you will have a burqa.”

In the end, after 6 hours, all the aides were allowed into the building. Knesset Speaker Uli Edelstein announced that he will set up a taskforce to review the dress code. Until further notice the new dress code regulations are suspended.

Responding to the protest the Knesset released a statement saying, “Today’s event was no more than a premeditated provocation that respected no one. Despite this, and as opposed to several reports on the matter, all aides were allowed to enter, apart from one. The women and men of the Knesset Guard standing at the entrance are dedicated to their work, which they do based on a dress code that has been used at the Knesset for years, which aims to protect the Knesset’s dignity and distinction.”

For further reading click here.

More Watching
If you need more stuff to watch in addition to cable TV and Netflix, you’re in luck. Amazon Prime Video is launching in 200 countries including Israel. The service will cost $3 a month, at least for the first 6 months. Netflix is $10 per month.

For further reading click here.

Winter Weather
Severe winter weather is rocking Israel with heavy rain from the Golan down to Eilat. There are also high winds, cold temperatures, some snow and poor visibility, all of which is wreaking some havoc in a country not used to the joys of the winter season. But how can you complain about rain in Israel?

To see photos click here.

Israel News for August 11, 2016

Tunnel Correction
Yesterday we mistakenly reported that 10 terrorists were killed when the terror tunnel that they were digging collapsed. According to press reports the ten were injured, not killed. It was just a case of wishful thinking on our part, and we apologize for the mistake (although perhaps some of them subsequently died??).

In any case some people have commented that the people digging the tunnels are not really terrorists, but rather they are innocent civilians forced to dig the tunnels by Hamas thugs who threaten to kill their families if they don’t comply. If that’s true, it’s certainly unfortunate and it’s even more of a reason for the UN and EU to stop propping up the Hamas government and immediately cutt off all aid, including the humanitarian aid that either directly or indirectly results in the strengthening of the terror organization.

In fact, the nations of the free world should form a military coalition and depose the Hamas government, like they did in Libya and Iraq and are currently trying to do against ISIS. Are Hamas terrorists that much different than ISIS terrorists?

But wait, Hamas confines their terror to Israel, so the world either doesn’t care or it expects Israel to take care of herself. Which brings us back to the tunnels. They need to be destroyed, regardless of who digs them. And when they do collapse, we’ll give a cheer, because it means that Israel has just become a bit safer.

Palestinian Tours
The US-based Jewish organization T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and the controversial left wing have announced that they will begin offering Jewish groups organized day trips to the West Bank to meet with Palestinians and IDF veterans who will share with them their perspectives on issues relating to Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The objective of the new trip initiative is to “empower more American Jews to meet both Palestinians and IDF veterans who have served in the territories, to listen deeply to their narratives, and to bring these perspectives into working toward a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Executive director of T’ruah Rabbi Jill Jacobs hopes that the trips will help the Jewish participants understand that “the current situation of occupation is having a deadly effect on both Israelis and Palestinians. It’s literally killing us. It’s killing us both physically and it’s killing us morally. It’s threatening Israel’s ability to survive, it’s violating the human rights of Palestinians every single day.”

No doubt about where she stands on the issue.

For further reading click here.

Doctors Strike
Today is not a good day to get sick in Israel. Doctors at state hospitals have called a 24 hour strike. They’re demanding a significant increase to their budget for the implementation of a program that would shorten waiting periods at public hospitals, additional interns to allow the doctors to rest during their shifts, and the scrapping of plans to discipline hospital administrators who exceed their set budget.

State hospitals will work according to Shabbat protocols, wherein all nonessential treatments and surgeries will be postponed. The strike is expected to increase the workload in hospitals and thus extend already prolonged waiting periods. Patients who do not require urgent care are advised to postpone their visit, or alternatively go to an HMO clinic instead.

Stay well!

For further reading click here.

Tehina Danger
About 200 tons of tehina salads made by “Shamir Salads” are being recalled from store shelves due a salmonella contamination discovered at a manufacturing plant.

For more details about the recall, click here.

PM Stuff
The Prime Minister is expecting a new residence and a new “Air Force 1”, which will end up costing around 650 million shekels. The finance Ministry feels it’s too expensive. But the PM wants it. So now they’ll fight it out.

By the way, President Rivlin, who would also use the aircraft, has stated that he doesn’t really need it and is fine flying commercial. The Prime Minister doesn’t agree.

For further reading click here.

Summer Lag
You might have noticed that August is a very slow time for Israel news. The Knesset is on vacation, as is most of the country. We’re trying our best to find stories that we think you’d like to read. But as they say, no news is good news, especially in Israel.

Israel News for August 4, 2016

Funds to Hamas
An Arab employee of the international NGO World Vision, Mohammad El Halabi, has been arrested and indicted for allegedly funneling tens of millions of dollars of aid money to the military wing of Hamas.

World Vision is a US-based Christian aid group with over 50,000 employees and a budget of $2.6 billion. It operates in close to 100 countries, and has been working with children and economically disadvantaged families in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1970’s.

The Shin Bet claims that Halabi was planted in the organization by Hamas in 2005, and rose in the ranks to become director of the Gaza branch by 2010. He succeeded in diverting up to 60% of the organizations Gaza budget to the Hamas military wing. Funds were used to pay salaries of terrorists, dig tunnels, purchase weapons and build military bases.

The Shin Bet also said Halabi would transfer to Hamas materials such as steel, digging equipment and pipes that were meant for World Vision agricultural assistance. Thousands of packages with food and medical aid received monthly would allegedly be diverted to Hamas operatives and their families rather than reach Gazan civilians.

The Australian government has announced that it will cut off all funding to World Vision in Gaza and Israel, as a result of the indictment.

For further reading click here.

Egypt Strikes
The Egyptian air force attacked ISIS terrorists in northern Sinai, near El Arish, killing 45, including the leader of the ISIS branch in Sinai. The group was suspected of having been responsible for placing the bomb on the Russian aircraft that exploded in October, killing over 200 passengers. Egypt has been battling Islamic extremists in Sinai since 2013.

For further reading click here.

Olympic Memorial
The eleven Israeli athletes murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972 were remembered in an official memorial ceremony at the Olympic Village in Rio yesterday. Ilana Romano, the widow of one of the athletes, said, “We were very impressed with the design of the Place of Mourning. This is an historic moment. This is an extremely emotional moment for us, one we have been waiting for since 1972. Our patience finally paid off. The memory of the 11 Munich victims has finally been acknowledged by the International Olympic Committee.”

A “moment of reflection” for the Munich 11 will be held during the Games’ closing ceremony on Aug. 21.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for January 27, 2016

PM Slams Ban
PM Netanyahu slammed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Ban’s comments yesterday. Ban said that, “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process,” and that, “it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.”

While Ban did condemn Palestinian terror, he claimed that “security measures alone will not stop the violence. They cannot address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians – especially young people.”

Ban warned that,”So-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity.” He also said he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli government had approved plans for more than 150 new homes in “illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

In response, the PM said, “The UN secretary general’s comments give terror a tailwind. There is no justification for terror. The Palestinian murderers do not want to build a country – they want to destroy a country, and say so openly. They want to murder Jews wherever they may be, and say so openly. They do not murder for peace and they do not murder for human rights. The UN has long lost its neutrality and moral power, these comments by the secretary general do little to improve its standing.”

On the bright side, Ban also criticized Palestinian incitement to violence, saying that “incitement has no place, and questioning the right of Israel to exist cannot be tolerated.”

For further reading click here.

Holocaust Remembrance
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. At a special ceremony at the UN General Assembly, Israel will be represented (for the first time) by a Holocaust survivor. Martha Weiss, 81, an Auschwitz survivor, was invited to address the UN by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN. Last year President Reuven Rivlin gave the address.

In another first, US President Barack Obama is expected to attend a Holocaust memorial service at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Two American nationals and two Poles will be recognized as righteous among the nations at the ceremony. This will also be the first time the honor is bestowed in the United States.

In a statement regarding the day of remembrance, PM Netanyahu said, “Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever, for in this period of resurgent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism, it is commemorations like this that remind us all where the oldest and most enduring hatred can lead. Around the world, Jewish communities are increasingly living in fear. We see anti-Semitism directed against individual Jews, and we also see this hatred directed against the collective Jew, against the Jewish state. Israel is targeted with the same slurs and the same libels that were leveled against the Jewish people since time immemorial.”

Netanyahu specifically reprimanded European leaders for not fighting against anti-semitism, saying, ”Even respected Western opinion leaders have become afflicted with hatred for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The obsession with the Jews – the fixation on the Jewish state – defies any other rational explanation.”

He warned, “When a state like Iran and movements like ISIS and Hamas openly declare their goal of committing another Holocaust, we will not let it happen. But Europe and the rest of the world must stand up together with us. Not for our sake; for theirs.”

For further reading click here.

Cyber Attack
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed yesterday that Israel’s Electricity Authority managed to thwart a “severe cyber attack” on its operations this week.

Steinitz said, “The virus was already identified and the right software was already prepared to neutralize it. We had to shut down many of the computers of the Israeli electricity authorities. We are handling the situation and I hope that soon, this very serious event will be over.”

Apparently, terror attacks come in many forms.

For further reading click here.

ISIS Attack
According to the ISIS linked Amaq News Agency, two Israeli Apache helicopters, accompanied by two drones, attacked ISIS positions in the Egyptian town of Sheikh Zuweid in Northern Sinai on Monday night. Several ISIS fighters were killed in the attack. Egyptian media reported that the attack was launched by Egyptian forces. Who do you believe?

In any case, the reports agree that ISIS fighters were killed in an air attack, which is something we can all be happy about.

For further reading click here.

Hamas Washout
The robust rainy season in Israel this year has reaped an unexpected security benefit. According to Palestinian media reports, at least 8 Hamas terrorists were killed when heavy rains caused the tunnel they were digging to collapse, northeast of Gaza City.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza spokesman denied the reports, claiming no bodies were brought to the hospital from the tunnel collapse. On Saturday, the Ministry reported that a Hamas militant was killed in a tunnel collapse in Khan Yunis.

In any case, it’s clear that Hamas is back in the terror tunnel building business. It is estimated that since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas has dug dozens of tunnels of varying lengths. What a surprise.

For further reading click here.

Hawara terror

Israel News for December 31, 2015

Terror Updates
A Palestinian rammed his car into soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus today. One soldier was lightly injured. The terrorist was shot and killed.

Two Palestinian boys, aged 12 and 13, were seen wandering around downtown Jerusalem yesterday evening . Their behavior aroused suspicions of passersby and police who stopped them for questioning. The police officers noticed they had their hands in their pockets so they searched the boys and found knives in their possession. Under questioning the boys admitted that they were planning to carry out a terror attack in the area.

For further reading click here.

Israeli ISIS
In a recording released this past weekend, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi threatened to perpetrate attacks against “the Jews in Palestine”. He might have some resources in place inside Israel.

According to the Shin Bet, ISIS is making some inroads among Israeli Arab youths. Last week a 19 year old resident of the Bedouin town of Hura in Southern Israel was arrested in a raid on a Hamas cell in East Jerusalem that was planning suicide attacks. The man also admitted to be an ISIS supporter.

Two months ago, another Hura resident, Muhannad al-Okbi, carried out a shooting attack in Be’er Sheva’s central bus station in which an Israeli soldier was killed.

Over the past year, two other Hura residents were found to have ties to ISIS. Othman Abu Kian, a medical resident who worked at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, traveled to Syria about a year ago to fight for ISIS and was killed in battle. In July, four teachers from Hura – also members of the Abu Kian clan – were arrested on suspicion of disseminating ISIS propaganda.

Israeli Arabs from the north have also been arrested on suspicion of involvement with ISIS in recent months. In October and November, five Nazareth residents were arrested on suspicion of undergoing weapons training in preparation for carrying out attacks inspired by ISIS.

In November a cell affiliated with ISIS was uncovered in Jaljulya after one member went to Syria to join the ISIS branch on the Syrian Golan Heights. And last week, two residents of villages near Nazareth were arrested for being in contact with ISIS. They had gone to Turkey in May to join the group’s fighters in Syria, but changed their minds at the last minute.

Security officials aren’t overly concerned about ISIS in Israel just yet, but if ISIS continues to make inroads into the Israeli Arab community, there could be much to fear.

For further reading click here.

Arab Budget
Yesterday the government unanimously approved a 10 to 15 billion shekel budget to be used for Israeli Arab municipalities over the next five years. The money will be allocated primarily to education, transportation, housing, culture and sports.

Approval had been delayed when several Likud ministers, including Culture Minister Miri Regev and Science Minister Ofir Akunis, raised objections to the plan because it does not include benefits to municipalities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations. Despite the objections, cities with mixed populations such as Ramle, Lod, and Acre will not benefit from the initiative.

In a statement the PM said, “This is a significant addition meant to assist minority populations and to reduce gaps.” Arab legislators cautiously welcomed the initiative, but said it falls short of fully addressing the community’s needs.

Yousef Jabareen, an Arab Knesset member, said the plan was a step in “the right direction.” But he said, “it does not address all the socio-economic needs of the community and falls short of bridging the historical gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel.” He also said that Arab lawmakers had lobbied for an investment twice as large as the amount reportedly approved.

For further reading click here.

Empty Tax
Starting in 2016, Jerusalem’s municipal property tax rate for apartments remaining empty nine or more months of the year will be doubled to NIS 223.56 per sq.m. per year. That means that the tax on an empty 100-sq.m. apartment will be NIS 22,356 per year.

According to the municipality, there are 9,000 apartments in Jerusalem that are empty by the municipality’s definition: “an apartment that is unused at least nine months of the year.” The municipality determines that by examination the apartment’s electricity and/or water bills.

The extra high property tax is meant to encourage absentee owners to rent out their apartments, which would increase the housing supply available for young couples and families. The municipality says that it will use the tax revenue to promote cheap housing for young couple and families in the city.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said, “Doubling the municipal property tax on empty apartments is an important tool for adding thousands of apartments for young families in Jerusalem. Young people are the oxygen of Jerusalem. Adding thousands of empty apartments to the market will dramatically increase the supply of rental apartments for young people, and cause a decrease in rents in the city.”

The Tel Aviv municipality is planning to follow Jerusalem’s lead by doubling their “empty nest” tax rate too.

Given that most of the empty apartments tend to be owned by foreign owners as vacation destinations, a few thousand bucks a year in tax probably won’t compel them to rent them out. But it’s a good idea in theory, and you never know.

For further reading click here.

Banned Novel
Israel’s Education Ministry has banned a novel that describes a love story between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from use by high schools around the country. The move comes even though the official responsible for literature instruction in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers.

The book, “Gader Haya” (translated as “Borderline”) by Dorit Rabinyan, published in Hebrew year and a half ago, tells the story of Liat, an Israeli translator, and Hilmi, a Palestinian artist, who meet and fall in love in New York, until they part ways for her to return to Tel Aviv and he to the West Bank city of Ramallah. The book was among this year’s winners of the Bernstein Prize for young writers.

The Education Ministry said, “Professionals discussed the topic of including the work in the curriculum. After carefully examining all the considerations, and after weighting the advantages and disadvantages, the professionals decided to not include the work in the curriculum for five-unit literature studies,” referring to advanced literature classes.

For further reading click here.

Ehud Olmert

Israel News for December 29, 2015

Court Appeals
In March of 2014, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen convicted former Jerusalem mayor and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of accepting bribes when he served as mayor of Jerusalem in exchange for helping the developers of the Holyland Park residential project in the city. Thirteen other government officials and businessmen were also convicted, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Rozen found Olmert guilty of two bribery charges and said he accepted 560,000 shekels ($160,000) from developers of the Holyland project. Prosecutors had alleged he received more than 800,000 shekels, but he was acquitted on two other corruption charges.

Olmert was sentenced to six years in prison, and fined 1 million shekels. The amount of the bribes he was said to have received, 560,000 shekels, was also ordered to be confiscated from him. Lupolianski was convicted of seven counts of accepting bribes for donations given to the nonprofit organization he founded and had run, Yad Sarah. Lupolianski was sentenced to six years in prison.

Today the High Court of Justice accepted an appeal by Olmert, acquitted him on the main bribery charge and reduced his prison sentence to 18 months instead of 6 years. Uri Lupolianski sentence was reduced from 6 years to 6 months of community service due to health reasons. Many of the other convicted men’s sentences were also reduced by the court.

After the decision on his appeal, Olmert said: “A great weight was lifted from my heart when the Supreme Court ruled in its decision that I was acquitted on the central charge that was the Holyland affair, and ruled that I am innocent in this affair.”

Unfortunately for him, he was still convicted on a lesser bribery charge and sent to prison for a year and a half. Nothing to be proud of. On the bright side, Olmert is expected to ask President Rivlin for a pardon.

For further reading click here.

Northern Tensions
Tensions are escalating on Israel’s northern border in the aftermath of the killing of Samir Kuntar last week, and following Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Sunday in which he promised to retaliate against Israel for the killing. “The response for the assassination of Kuntar is coming, there’s no doubt” he said in a ceremony marking a week since Kuntar was killed.

Farmers on Israel’s northern border say they have not experienced this level of security tensions since the second Lebanon War in 2006. For the first time in nearly ten years they are not allowed to work their lands situated close to the border, the rear gates of their settlements have been locked, roads have been closed and there is a massive increase in military and police presence.

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Suspect Released
A Petach Tikva court yesterday released one of the suspects in the Duma arson case to house arrest. The suspect, an 18 year old Israeli, was arrested a month ago by the Shin Bet and was blocked from meeting with his lawyer for 18 days. After a month long interrogation, the police could not find enough evidence to make a case against him. But they did discover that he might have taken part in beating a Palestinian man two years ago, which is why he’ll remain under house arrest for the time being.

The Honenu organization, which is representing the released youth, said:

“This is a scandal. After 29 days of harsh interrogation by the Shin Bet, shaking, sleep deprivation, and physical and emotional abuse, it turns out that the only claim against this teenager is that he was involved in a brawl with Bedouin nearly two years ago. We hope that an investigative committee will be established to examine the conduct of the Shin Bet and the State of Israel’s other enforcement authorities in this case.”

The youth’s family said: “After 30 days in which our son suffered brutal abuse that included humiliation and harsh violence it turns out that he is accused of involvement in a brawl from two years ago. All the Shin Bet justifications for abusing our son as if he was a suspect in the Duma murder proves our claims that the Shin Bet has been lying and deceiving the legal system and the public.”

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First Lady
Sara Netanyahu is scheduled to be questioned by police on Thursday over her involvement in what has become known as the Prime Minister’s residences affair.

The affair mainly consists of the suspicion that the Netanyahus presented payments to service providers at their private home in Caesarea as though they related to their official residence in Jerusalem, and thus obtained state funding for their private expenses. In one instance, garden furniture reportedly purchased for the official residence was used at the Caesarea private home. Another incident being investigated concerns work done by an electrician at the Caesarea home.

The Netanyahus claim that they had no knowledge of the wrongdoings and that the residence manager made all of the purchasing decisions. That seems reasonable enough.

And if they did use the garden furniture at their private home, does anyone here really care?

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Billions Lost
Since the start of the recent wave of terror the Palestinian economy has has lost five billion shekels according to Azami Abd A-Rahman, the official responsible for economic policy in the Palestinian Ministry of Economy.

He said the hardest hit areas include East Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus. He added that the tourist industry lost hundreds of millions of shekels because thousands of foreign tourists cancelled their trips to East Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Christmas and the New Years.

A-Rahman also claimed that due to the increased violence in the West Bank over 6,000 Palestinians were hospitalized, which cost the Palestinian Authority a quarter of a million shekels. In addition the increase in checkpoints in the West Banks and the block on trade with Gaza cost an additional two million shekels. He also said that the security situation led to a decrease in investments and loans available in the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps it’s time to curb the violence?

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ISIS Fears
According to a German reporter who spent 10 days with ISIS last year in Iraq and Syria, while the Islamic State doesn’t think much of the US and Russian military, they’re pretty darn scared of the IDF.

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 75 and a former member of the German Parliament, spent time with ISIS doing research for his recently published book, “My 10 Days in the Islamic State.” Regarding the ISIS view of Israel he said, “They think they can defeat U.S. and U.K. ground troops, who they say they have no experience in city guerrilla or terrorist strategies. But they know the Israelis are very tough as far as fighting against guerrillas and terrorists”

“They are not scared of the British and the Americans, they are scared of the Israelis and told me the Israeli army is the real danger. We can’t defeat them with our current strategy. These people [the IDF] can fight a guerrilla war.”

Todenhöfer described the stages of ISIS’ plan for world domination: First to conquer all the Middle East, except for Israel. Then to conquer the West and the rest of the world.

So it looks like Israel might not have to get directly involved in fighting ISIS for a while. Hopefully never.

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israel news terror raid

Israel News for December 16, 2015

Terror Attacks
IDF forces who entered the Kalandia refugee camp in the West Bank last night to arrest terror suspects were attacked by terrorists who tried to ram their cars into them in two separate incidents. The soldiers shot and killed both terrorists before they could succeed. During the operation three soldiers were wounded by gunfire. The IDF is investigating whether they were wounded by friendly fire.

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Also last night, security forces confiscated improvised firearms and ammunition during a counter-terrorism raid on a mattress factory in Hebron.

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Yesterday, a Palestinian construction worker from the West Bank who was legally employed at a building site in Modiin attacked and wounded a foreman and another worker there before he was subdued by other Arab workers. Police are interrogating the attacker and suspect that the attack was nationalistically motivated.

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Attack Thwarted
An alert Border Policewoman stopped a Palestinian woman on a Jerusalem street because she seemed to be acting suspiciously. The officer searched the woman’s purse and found a long screwdriver, which the woman admitted to be carrying with the intent of committing a terror attack.

High five for the Border Police!

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Egypt in Negev
According to a Ynet report, Egyptian Air Force jets have flown over the Negev on several occasions, enroute to bomb ISIS related terrorists in the northern Sinai. The Egyptians apparently coordinated the flights with the IDF, otherwise they would most definitely have been shot down.

The Egyptians have been fighting the ISIS terror groups, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, for the past few years. But they aren’t alone in their fight. Israel is viewing the terror groups as threats to its security and is assisting the Egyptians in their fight by permitting them to bring tanks and warplanes into the Sinai, which is technically prohibited by the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The cooperation with the Egyptian Air Force is just the latest example of the joint efforts in the battle against ISIS terror.

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Fringe Benefit
The Syrian civil war continues to cause tragedy and misfortune for millions of Syrian civilians. But there seems to be one fringe benefit from the war for Israel. According to Hezbollah statistics, the Lebanon based terrorist organization that has been fighting alongside Syrian government forces in the civil war has suffered heavy casualties including 1,500 dead and 5,000 wounded. That equals over one third of Hezbollah’s total fighting force. It also means that Hezbollah will probably not be looking to start another war against Israel, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s very good news. May they be blessed with many more martyrs.

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Arab in Bnei Brak
Isawi Farig, an Israeli Arab Knesset member from Meretz, is trying to pass a law that would allow women to be appointed as Muslim religious judges (Quadis) in the official Islamic religious court system in Israel. The only thing standing in his way is the veto power wielded by the Haredi parties in matters related to religion.

The Haredi ministers are opposed to the appointment of female Muslim judges because they fear that it would set a precedent for appointing female judges to Jewish religious courts. So Farig headed to Bnei Brak to meet with leading rabbis in the Haredi Sephardic and Lithuanian communities. He did not get very far with them. The rabbis are standing firm in their decision to oppose his bill. Farig isn’t giving up, promising to continue knocking on doors in Bnei Brak until he achieves his objective. He might be knocking for a very long time.

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Combat Dreams
Yoni Zarka is a 32 year old from Paris who immigrated to Israel in February. Since then he has been pleading with the IDF to allow him to enlist in a combat unit. Unfortunately for him, the IDF doesn’t want him, claiming that he is too old. The age limit for enlisting as a combat soldier is 27. The fact that Zarka is a two time triathlon champion isn’t swaying the army. Rules are rules.

Zarka isn’t giving up on his dream just yet. Starting this week he has been camping out in a sleeping bag outside of the main IDF induction base in Tel Hashomer and holding a sign that explains his predicament and his desire to join the IDF. He’s getting support from ordinary Israelis who have been giving him food and support.

An IDF officer who is involved with new immigrant soldiers claims that he has seen new immigrants in their 30’s accepted into combat units, so he’s puzzled as to why the army would reject a seemingly super qualified candidate. But the army is sticking to its guns. And Zarka is gonna keep nudging. Why not just let the man serve his country?

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