Israel News for December 30, 2015

Victim Dies
Genady Kofman, 41, a maintenance worker at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, was stabbed by a Palestinian as he left work on December 7. Yesterday he died of his wounds. Kofman, who made aliyah from the Ukraine 21 yrs. ago, lived in Kiryat Arba and was a married father of two.

PM Netanyahu made a statement at a cabinet meeting today in response to Kofman’s death saying, “I say to all those who would uproot us from the Tomb of the Patriarchs – except for a few years in the previous century, we have been there for almost 4,000 years and we will stay there forever. You cannot defeat us.”

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Supermarket Attack
A Jewish worker at a supermarket in Beit Shemesh was arrested yesterday for attacking and injuring an Arab co-worker. The Jewish worker was recorded on a security camera as he punched, kicked and attacked the Arab with a knife. The attack is suspected by police to be nationalistically motivated.

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Election Moves
The primary for the leadership of the PM Netanyahu’s Likud party will be moved ahead to February, as requested by the PM. The early primary will most probably cement Netanyahu’s position as party leader, since no other candidate will have sufficient time to mount a competitive campaign. Nice move.

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Uplifted Hands
Jerusalem District Court judge Ram Vinograd reversed the decision of a lower court to ban activist Yehudi Etzion from visiting the Temple Mount for 15 days after he was arrested for lifting up his hands in the Temple Mount compound. The lower court ruled that lifting up the hands was a gesture of prayer, which is prohibited on the Temple Mount for non Muslims.

Judge Vinograd called the lower court’s ruling a “slippery slope”, claiming that if lifting the hands is prohibited then wearing a head covering or gazing upwards might also be prohibited, since they can also be considered acts relating to prayer. The judge said that the gesture was not sanctioned in the past, and that if police wanted to change the instructions on proper behavior at the site, it should have done so explicitly.

Etzion said, after the ruling, ”From the start it was clear to me that even under the shameful status quo which bans prayer at the Temple Mount, there’s nothing wrong with lifting the hands upwards,”

Honenu, the group which filed the appeal on Etzion’s behalf, praised the ruling and said it “hopes police will learn from the judge’s statements and stop harassing Jews coming to the Temple Mount.”

This case just highlights the absurdity of the “status quo” regulations which prohibit non Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount in any form. Besides being clearly discriminatory, the rules are just impossible to enforce, since the police are supposed to decide what is and isn’t considered to be prayer.

Even though the idea of Jews barring Jews (and other non Muslims) from praying at their holiest site is reprehensible, if the government feels that there are valid security and political reasons for doing so, the regulations should only apply to organized prayer. But preventing an individual from whispering a prayer, without using a prayerbook, is just beyond reason. Where does it end? The judge in the Etzioni case has at least set some boundaries.

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Video Arrest
Police yesterday arrested the groom from the wedding where the infamous video was filmed which showed religious settlers dancing and singing while brandishing knives and guns and stabbing a photo of the child killed in the Duma arson attack. Police also arrested a 50 year old guest seen dancing with a weapon in the video and four other guests, including two minors.

A judge today decided to release all of those arrested on bail, despite protests by police.

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Netanyahu Bugged
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the U.S maintained National Security Agency surveillance on Israeli officials, including PM Netanyahu, during nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The report also reveals how Israel’s military intelligence Unit 8200 and the NSA shared information and technology, but also spied on one another, in what the report said stoked mutual suspicions and fostered what a U.S. official described as “the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have.”

Bottom line: Israel and the US spy on each other. Now let’s move on.

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Israel News Rivllin US visit

Israel News for December 9, 2015

Terror Attacks
A terrorist stabbed two men near Beit Hadassah in Hebron today. The men, both in their early 20’s were wounded, one in the upper body and one in the leg. The terrorist was shot and killed. This story is still developing.

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Terrorists threw four molotov cocktails at cars driving down Highway 443 towards Jerusalem last night. There were no injuries or damage to vehicles. The 443 is one of just two main arteries connecting Jerusalem to the center of the country and Tel Aviv. Keeping it safe is a priority for security forces, which is why they’re moving full force to catch the perpetrators and halt further attacks.

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Israeli ISIS
The Shin Bet announced yesterday that they have arrested five Israeli Arabs from Nazareth for attempting to form an ISIS terror cell. According to the Shin Bet, the group had already started to meet, had begun training with live arms and were planning ISIS style terrorist attacks. The group had recently sworn allegiance to ISIS and to a “jihad against infidels.”

Is this a trend in the Israeli Arab community or just an isolated incident?

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Convicted Terrorists
Yesterday, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced four east Jerusalem Arabs for conspiring to carry out shooting and kidnapping attacks against Jews praying on the Temple Mount and security forces posted in east Jerusalem. Three other Arabs were convicted last week on similar charges.

The head of the terror cell, Nor Hamdan, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for contact with a foreign agent, illegal military training and crimes related to illegal weapons possession and development.

Hamdan’s deputy, Imah Shaar, was sentenced to 11 years and Omar Vuzvuz and Amjad Razam were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for similar crimes.

The Shin Bet said that the cell had come into possession of two handguns, a pipe bomb, and ammunition. They won’t need those where they’re heading.

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IDF Accused
The Legal Assistance Division of the Israeli Justice Ministry filed a petition with the High Court of Justice yesterday against the IDF. The petition alleges that the IDF discriminated against soldiers of Ethiopian background by granting them “poor conduct” discharges.

A “poor conduct” discharge can result in loss of state benefits including national insurance (Bituach Leumi) and can have a negative impact on finding a job.

A 2011 State Comptroller report noted that 66 percent of Ethiopians released early in 2010 were released for “poor conduct,” a percentage far above the frequency that these grounds are given for discharges among the general population.

The test case that the Justice Department is presenting involves a soldier of Ethiopian background who was released on December 31, 2013 for “poor conduct,” despite the fact that on January 8, 2014, a neurologist and the official Medical Committee said that his release should have been based on his “medical condition.”

On the other hand, the soldier attempted to desert on more than one occasion for which he was court martialed — which gives the IDF support for its “poor conduct” discharge.

The High Court will have to decide who is right and whether the IDF did actually discriminate against the soldier. But regardless of this case, it does seem like the IDF needs to review its general treatment of soldiers of Ethiopian background to make sure that it’s all perfectly “kosher”.

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The US stopped funding the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) four years ago, after it voted to admit Palestine as a member. The UNESCO move triggered an old law enacted by Congress requiring America to stop funding any UN agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member state. That cost UNESCO $80 million in annual US funding, a quarter of its total budget. But it also cost the US its voting rights in the organization.

The US administration wants the UNESCO funding resumed and has asked Israel not to oppose a waiver to the new US foreign aid budget which would exempt the government from complying with the old law. It looks like PM Netanyahu has agreed to the request. Is this part of a bigger bargain? An even bigger question: can Israel really dictate what bills or waivers Congress passes? Apparently, they can in this case.

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Israeli Poverty
The annual 2014 report on poverty released by the National Insurance Agency (Bituach Leumi) shows that 1,709,300 of Israel’s citizens live below the poverty line. That number includes 776,500 children. The figures rank Israel in the bottom two countries in the developed world (OECD), just above Mexico. In terms of poor children, Israel also ranks second to last, just above Turkey.

According to the report, the poverty income level is NIS 3,077 a month for an individual, NIS 4,923 a month for a couple and NIS 9,230 for a family of five.

Poverty among Arab families rose from 51.7% in 2013 to 52.6% in 2014. Poverty levels within the Ultra Orthodox community rose to 54.3% in 2014. Two thirds of all children in this sector of the population live in poverty.

Let’s hope that the Startup Nation can figure out a solution to this huge problem?

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Rivlin in Town
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin arrived in New York yesterday on a commercial El Al flight (probably first class) and took a train to Washington (is there first class on the train?).
Rivlin attended a joint meeting on Capitol Hill with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He then met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Today Rivlin and his wife will head to the White House where they will be met by the First Family. Rivlin will then meet with Obama. After that the Rivlins will join in a Hanukkah reception in their honor. Fun!

On Thursday, Rivlin is scheduled to deliver a diplomatic speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, after which he will travel by train to New York for a series of meetings with leaders of the Jewish community.

Good luck!

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Mr. Universe
Proving his Jewish mother’s claim that her son is the greatest man in the universe, Danny Kaganovich has won the Mr. Universe competition. He’s the first Israeli to ever win the international bodybuilding competition. Is mom proud now, or would she rather Danny have an MD after his name? If you’re reading this Mrs. Kaganovich, please let us know.

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