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The Israel News Purim Issue – 2017

Wikileaks Bombshell
Wikileaks has just uncovered documents and recordings proving that the US election was definitely rigged — by Israel. According to the documents, the Russian ambassador to the US was actually an agent for the Mossad, and was used to make everyone believe that Russia as behind the election hacking.

A telephone conversation recorded between Netanyahu and Trump several weeks before the election had the PM assuring Trump that Israeli intelligence along with a secret consortium of high tech startups had figured out a way to hack into election computers. He also was heard telling Trump, “from now on you had better damn well be the best friend Israel has ever had. Remember, we can make you and we can just as easily break you.”

Trump and Netanyahu both deny the veracity of the documents and recordings, blaming Radical Islamic Terror for orchestrating the forgeries. Presidential advisor Steve Bannon placed the blame on a secret international Jewish cabal. Jared Kushner and Trumps group of Jewish advisors, aides and confidants were in a closed door meeting in the White House basement and unavailable for comment.

Culinary Controversy
The latest controversy to engulf the White House revolves around a recent request by Ivanka Trump to make the White House kitchen kosher. Presidential advisor Steve Bannon reportedly is willing to accept a separate kosher kitchen in addition to the existing one.

Ivanka is adamant about a one kitchen solution, claiming that there’s absolutely no reason why everyone, kosher or not, cannot eat from the kosher kitchen. Bannon is sticking to his two kitchen solution saying, “every American should have the freedom to choose the food they want to eat without interference from the Jewish controlled food industry.” He added, “there’s no way in hell I’m eating gefilte fish!”

President Trump weighed in on the issue say, “I like one kitchen and two kitchens…whatever they agree upon.” He added, “And by the way, Ivanka makes the best gefilte fish you’ve ever tasted…the best!”

UN Condemnation
The UN General Assembly passed an Iranian sponsored resolution condemning Israel for the massacre of thousands of Persians during the reign of King Ahashverosh. The Iranian ambassador read passages from the Book of Esther as proof of the carnage. The Israeli ambassador denied responsibility, pointing out that the Sate of Israel only came into existence in 1948. In addition he held up a copy of the bible and reminded the assembly of Israel’s biblical right to its ancient homeland.

Annexation Agreement
In an unexpected turn of events, the far right and far left Knesset factions have reached an agreement regarding the annexation of large Jewish settlement blocks. According to the deal, Israel will annex areas of NYC, Long Island and New Jersey which have heavy concentrations of Jews.

The Chief Rabbinate, along with most rabbinic leaders, are fully behind the idea. The rabbis assert that according to Maimonides, any territory conquered (or annexed) by Israel automatically becomes part of Israel and attains the status of holy land.

Orthodox Jewish groups in the New York area are celebrating the plan. A statement released by an umbrella organization representing them said, “we welcome the opportunity to be able to fulfill our spiritual potential and halachic obligations without having to disrupt our comfortable lifestyle and move to the hot and dangerous Middle East.”

The majority of Israelis are also in favor of the plan, which will allow them to finally move to NY guilt free. Real Estate prices in Israel are expected to plummet, as demand in overpriced Anglo populated areas disappears.

The annexation plan is facing strong opposition from Nefesh B’nefesh. The Republican lead Congress and the White House have expressed interest in the plan and are anxious to remove New York and New Jersey from the electoral map.

Baseball Warning
The Israel National Baseball team currently competing in the World Fall Classic tournament in S. Korea has unexpectedly pulled off several victories and is plowing forward towards the championship. The team is doing so well that PM Netanyahu has issued them a special warning: In the event that they play the US team in the championships, they are to lose the game. According to a high ranking source in the Prime Ministers Office, the PM is afraid of upsetting US President Trump and wants to make sure that nothing occurs that could in any way ruffle the President’s feathers.

A senior White House advisor categorically denied the report, saying that Trump was the best friend Israel and the Jews ever had. When asked directly by a reporter, Trump responded, “I think the Israeli baseball team is doing really great things and we will always support them. But they should probably hold back just a bit, for the time being.”

It’s still unclear what the Israeli team will do if they play against Russia.

Women’s Rights
Women’s rights groups are in an uproar regarding a recent pronouncement by the Supreme Haredi Council of Sages to change the name of the Book of Esther to the Book of Mordecai and to make changes in the text diminishing the queen’s primary role in the story.

The Council claims that having a woman in such a prominent and visible position is contrary to the laws of female modesty. It also points out that the name Esther is derived from the pagan deity Astarte – “Queen of Heaven”, and therefore should not be uttered. In addition, the sages fear that saying the feminine pagan name could lead men to impure sexual thoughts, which combined with alcohol on Purim could be spiritually fatal.

[The council denied that the origins of the name Mordecai derived from the pagan deity Marduk.]

Hundreds of women from women’s rights groups joined by followers of pagan deities dressed up in I Dream of Jeannie costumes to protest in the streets of Meah Shearim. Thousands of Haredi men came out to watch.

Israel News for February 16, 2017

Trump Meeting
The long awaited meeting between Netanyahu and Trump took place yesterday. What happened behind closed doors is unknown, but from the press conference held after the meeting, it seems that the leaders discussed some sort of strategy for achieving a new kind of peace agreement which would involve the participation of moderate Arab nations in the region who are all afraid of Iranian expansion.

It also seems that Trump is approaching the Middle East peace process with a very open mind — like a true negotiator. It’s still unclear what exactly his plan is, but judging by Netanyahu’s smiles and hard to contain excitement during the press conference, it seems as though the PM is totally on board with it.

One of the reasons for the excitement is undoubtedly the fact that the two-state solution is no longer the stated objective of the US administration. When asked directly whether he supported the long standing US policy of a two-state solution Trump replied, “So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

In other words, while the two-state solution is apparently no longer US policy, it isn’t off the table either. US policy is now — whatever works best to reach a peace agreement. It’s all about the negotiation. Makes sense, considering that traditional diplomacy based on preconceived notions and requirements hasn’t gotten very far.

When asked whether this new US policy goes against his own statements in which he supported the two-state solution, Netanyahu replied that he still is in favor of a two-state solution under the following 2 conditions:

1. That the Palestinians clearly and definitively accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State.

2. That Israel maintains military control over the western bank of the Jordan river.

Even if the Palestinians would accept the first condition, which at the moment seems unlikely, especially given that Hamas rules Gaza and has growing influence in the West Bank, they will not accept the second condition as it would negate the full sovereignty of their state.

Most people believe that Netanyahu never really supported the kind of two-state solution envisioned by the Palestinians or the prior US administrations, but that he said he did in order to seem in line with the US. But that’s no longer necessary, which is probably one of the main reasons for his enthusiasm and near giddiness at the press conference.

Regarding settlements, Trump turned to Netanyahu and said, “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” implying that this was necessary as part of Trump’s negotiating strategy. What holding back on settlements for a little bit really means is unclear. Does it include building in East Jerusalem, or in established settlement blocks? Trump did not condemn or criticize Israel for recently approving the construction of around 5,000 new homes in the settlements.

When asked about moving the US embassy to Jerusalem as he promised, Trump replied, “I’d love to see that happen” and, “We’ll see what happens.”

So the hawkish Right Wing elements in the Israeli government are probably not as ecstatic as they initially were when they assumed that Trump would immediately move the embassy and that he would turn a blond eye to unlimited settlement expansion and possibly even annexation. But the PM seems pleased with the direction things are going in.

Trump emphasized that Israel would have to be flexible in any future talks saying, “As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make compromises.” Then turning to Netanyahu, he asked, “You know that, right?” Netanyahu responded with a smile and emphasizing, “Both sides.” Trump then remarked jokingly that the PM didn’t sound too enthusiastic about that and that he was a great negotiator. Netanyahu replied, “It’s the Art of the Deal.” Smiles all around.

When asked about rising anti-semitism in America and about those “who believe and feel that your administration is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones,” Trump first reiterated his amazing victory in the elections and said that he would do everything in his power to stop “long-simmering racism.”

He then said, “As far as Jewish people, so many friends — a daughter who happens to be here right now, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren.” He added, “You’re going to see a lot of love.” [Awesome!]

Netanyahu praised Trump for taking a tough stance on Iranian violations of the Iran nuclear agreement (which Trump made sure to emphasize that it was the worst deal that he had ever seen) as well as hailing him as the greatest friend that Israel has ever had. Trump also praised Netanyahu as well as the PM’s wife Sarah, whom he thanked for her friendliness towards Melania and asked to stand for applause during the press conference.

Regarding the potential for a peace agreement Trump said, “I think we’re going to make a deal,” adding, “It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.” Let’s hope and pray.

Reactions
PA President Abbas, the UN Secretary General, some left wink Israeli Knesset members, many liberal Jewish groups and others voiced their continued support of a two-state solution as the only path towards peace.

To watch the entire press conference click here.

amona

Israel News for February 1, 2017

Amona Evacuation
Hundreds of unarmed police officers entered the Amona settlement outpost to carry out the evacuation order issued by the Supreme Court last year. Hundreds of additional security forces surrounded the settlement and blocked all access roads. Despite the roadblocks, hundreds of activists managed to enter the settlement of the past few days and join residents in their “last stand”. Police have begun entering homes and dragging out residents.

Amona rabbi Yair Frank wrote, “We will not raise a hand against a police officer or a soldier, but we will not leave our homes willingly on our feet. They’ll need to carry us.” This is the prevailing sentiment among the people currently in Amona.

Dozens of youth activists, some residents and some not, assembled in buildings and sang religious songs as tears fell from their eyes in what are likely their final moments on the hilltop. Others wrote messages on the walls of the buildings and began conducting prayer services. Activists had also erected barricades on the main road into the settlement. At least ten activists have been arrested. Several police officers have been lightly injured.

Once the people of Amona are evacuated, the settlement will be destroyed.

Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett had reached a compromise agreement with the PM to relocate the Amona residents to alternative housing constructed on land near the settlement, but that housing has yet to be built. The Supreme Court has temporarily barred construction because of claims to the land by Palestinian villagers. The court is expected to rule on the issue as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Regulation or Normalization Bill passed its first two readings in Knesset committees and will be presented to the entire Knesset next week. The bill would legalize all settlement built on land claimed by Palestinian owners. Amona was specifically omitted from the bill in order to assure the support of various Knesset members who otherwise would have rejected the bill.

Bennett addressed the Knesset today expressing his sadness regarding the evacuation but his hope for the future of the settlement movement.

Bennett said, “Together with the residents of Amona we turned every stone, exhausted every option, and tried every process to save Amona. Unfortunately, the struggled for Amona failed. We lost the battle, but we are winning the war for the Land of Israel. The residents of Amona, by their sacrifice and tenacity, have helped save thousands of Jewish families from eviction,” said Bennett, referring to the Regulation Law, whose passage was a condition of the Amona agreement.”

The evacuation will continue throughout the day. We pray that it will proceed peacefully without any injuries to the residents, activist or police.

For further reading click here.

New Housing
Last night Defense Minister Lieberman and PM Netanyahu announced the construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). These units are in addition to the 2,500 hundred units announces last week.

According to their statement, “The decision comes as part of the resumption of normal life in Judea and Samaria and in order to provide a real answer to living and housing needs in the region.”

Lieberman added, “We are in a new time period in which life in Judea and Samaria is returning to normal, and we will provide an appropriate response to the needs of the residents of the region.”

A partial list of communities where housing units have been approved includes: 700 in Alfei Menashe, 200 in Oranit, 50 in Nofim, 650 in Beit Aryeh, 30 in Efrat, 150 in Nokdim, 150 in Givat Ze’ev, 70 in Shavei Shomron, 100 in Karnei Shomron, 100 in Shilo, 100 in Metzudot Yehuda, 80 in Kfar Eldad, and 650 in Beitar Illit.

For further reading click here.

Israel and Mexico
President Reuven Rivlin spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto yesterday to attempt to mend relations with Mexico following a tweet by PM Netanyahu that said, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

Why the PM would feel the need to tweet something like is beyond the scope of this email, but in any case, the Mexicans understandably took offense to it. The PM saw no need to apologize, claiming that he in no way referred to Mexico and was just praising his own great work as well as Trump’s decision. [Apparently the days of leaders admitting their mistakes are behind us.]

President Rivlin told the Mexican president, “I regret any damage caused by this misunderstanding, and it is important to remember that it was indeed nothing more than a misunderstanding, and I am sure we can put this thing behind us.”

The Mexican president thanked Rivlin again for his willingness to bring the mini confrontation to an end, by reemphasizing Mexico’s commitment to its relations with Israel, saying that they understand the explanation provided for the tweet while qualifying that “their interpretation on the subject was inevitable.”

For further reading click here.

Hilton Glatt
The iconic Tel Aviv Hilton hotel, renown for its service and dining, has also now increased its kosher supervision to “Glatt”. Without getting into technicalities, that means that the hotel’s dining and catering facilities will now be acceptable to the Haredi community.

For further reading click here.

Israel Books
If you’re searching for any book on Israel or the Holocaust, Click here. We get a small commission for anything you buy on Amazon for a full 24 hours after you use the link. In other words, if you end up buying a computer and lawnmower, we get the commission on that too. It’s a great way to support us while getting great deals on your shopping. And it doesn’t cost you a cent! So please use this link for all your Amazon shopping.

Israel News for January 30, 2017

Inexcusable Omission
On Friday the White House released a statement in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day that blatantly omitted any mention of reference to Jewish victims.

The statement read:

“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

“Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

There is no doubt that millions of innocent civilians were killed during WWII. But the Holocaust was specifically a war against the Jewish People in which millions of Jewish men, women and children were systematically starved, tortured, gunned down and gassed for no other reason than their DNA.

The Holocaust represents a tragedy in which a million and a half Jewish children were torn from their parents, rounded up and marched into gas chambers. No Mr. Trump, this did not happen to any other “innocents”, just to our Jewish innocents.

To separate the Holocaust from the Jewish People is tantamount to Holocaust denial.

We’d like to believe that it was just a careless mistake, despite you Chief of Staff’s attempts to say it wasn’t. We know that you, Mr. President, have Jewish grandchildren that would have been marched into those gas chambers too and so, there’s no possibility that you could knowingly make the sort of statement that you released. But we aren’t so sure that some of the people who now work for your administration, as well as some of those who supported your election, feel the same way and know the truth about the Holocaust.

There can be no diplomatic or policy related reasons for denying the connection between the Holocaust and the Jewish People.

So Mr. Trump, we need you to come out and clearly state that your White House statement was a mistake and that the Holocaust was specifically a war against the Jews. If you can’t do that then we can only assume that you either don’t believe it to be true or you are unable to admit when you’ve made a mistake. In either case, it would be very hard to trust you going forward.

Please do the right thing.

Normalization Bill
PM Netanyahu announced yesterday at the weekly security cabinet meeting that the Normalization Bill, which will legalize Jewish settlements built on land claimed to be owned by Palestinians. Netanyahu said, “Tomorrow we will submit to the Knesset what is being called ‘the normalization law.’ The law is designed to normalize the status of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria once and for all and prevent recurrent attempts to harm the settlement enterprise.”

The bill would legalize about 4,000 housing units in 55 outposts in the West Bank on land that is claimed as privately owned by Palestinians. It would allow the Israeli government to recognize construction built with government assistance and in good faith — meaning the builders did not know it was private land. The bill does not include the Amona outpost.

The bill provides a mechanism for compensating Palestinians whose lands will be seized. A landowner can receive an annual usage payment of 125 percent of the land’s value as determined by an assessment committee for renewable periods of 20 years, or an alternate plot of land if this is possible, whichever he chooses.

Consideration of the bill by the Knesset had been suspended after it passed an initial reading in early December until the start of the Trump administration. Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

The vote is scheduled to be held on Tuesday. The bill is expected to pass.

For further reading click here.

Mexico Tweet
On Saturday night PM Netanyahu decided to show his support of President Trumps wall building plans by tweeting, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.” That did not go over well in Mexico, whose Foreign Ministry stated, “The Foreign Ministry expressed to the government of Israel, via its ambassador in Mexico, its profound astonishment, rejection and disappointment over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s message on Twitter about the construction of a border wall. Mexico is a friend of Israel and should be treated as such by its Prime Minister.”

The Mexican FM summoned Israeli ambassador to Mexico Jonathan Peled for a formal reprimand. The organization representing the Mexican Jewish community issued a statement saying it “forcefully rejected” Netanyahu’s comment, while several prominent Mexicans of Jewish origin sharply criticized the Israeli leader on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emmanuel Nahshon, tweeted shortly after the PM’s tweet that the PM “referred to our specific security experience which we are willing to share. We do not express a position on US- Mexico relations.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) criticized Netanyahu for meddling in the affairs of Mexico and negatively effecting the Jewish community there. He asked the PM to tweet an apology, which Netanyahu refused to do, claiming that he wasn’t addressing Mexico at all, but just the wall.

So Deri tweeted his own attempt at diplomacy saying, “I just now spoke with PM Netanyahu on the need to continue warm relations between Israel and Mexico. The PM told me that Israel will not interfere in the dispute between eh US and Mexico on funding the fence. We will continue to strengthen the relations with Mexico in which much of the Jewish people live in dignity.”

By the way, Israeli company Magal Security Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: MAGS) is one of the firms seeking contracts to help build the US-Mexico border wall.

For further reading click here.

UN Chief Attacked
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres came under fire from Palestinian officials for saying the unthinkable: that the Temple on the Temple Mount destroyed by the Romans was Jewish. The nerve!

The Palestinian Authority Jerusalem Affairs minister said that Guterres, “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary general…and must issue an apology to the Palestinian people.”

Guterres also said, according to Israel Radio, that he had no intention of pushing for a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, though he believes in the two-state solution and would assist in that goal if asked.

Ahmad Majdalani, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, said that the statements “undermine the trustworthiness of the UN as a body that should support occupied peoples.”

For further reading click here.

Rabbi Shteinmann
Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, the 104 year old leader of the Haredi community, was hospitalized over the weekend in critical condition. Doctors this morning said that his condition has improved slightly, as prayers continue to be recited throughout the worldwide Jewish community.

PM Netanyahu opened the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday saying, “We are changing today’s schedule a bit on account of Rabbi Shteinman’s illness. I would like to wish him a fast and full recovery. He is a very important man not only in the Haredi world, but also in the Jewish community as a whole, and I join the vast public wishing for his wellbeing and recovery.”

President Reuven Rivlin spoke with Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center CEO, Rabbi Shlomo Roshiled, and with MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and said, “My prayers go out to this outstanding rabbi of the generation, Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman.” He added that “he is in the best hands. Thank you for your kind and devoted care; we will keep him in our prayers.”

May he experience a full and speedy recovery.

For further reading click here.

Kushner Shabbat
Ivanka and Jared Kushner reportedly hosted their first official Shabbat dinner at their new Washington DC home with several very important guests in attendance. The guests included the Department of Commerce cabinet secretary appointee Wilbur Ross and his wife, the PResident’s Strategic Communications Director Hope Hicks, Former president of Goldman Sachs and top economic policy adviser Gary Cohn, Department of the Treasury pick Steve Mnuchin and his partner Louise Linton and Ivanka’s unofficial adviser Dina Habib Powell. Chabad Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the rabbi of their local Orthodox shul, was also seen outside of their home.

To see photos and videos click here.

Holocaust Book
In the spirit of Intenational Holocaust Remembrance Day, here’s a book called Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Polandby Jan Grabowski, which documents the systematic hunt for Jews hiding in with Polish farmers or in the countryside in an area of southern Poland near Tarnow. Most of the hunting was done by the Poles, who then either handed the Jews over to the Germans or simply murdered them themselves. The book is based on actual local government documents and eyewitness testimony. If you want to begin to understand why so few Jews survived in Poland, you must read this. To read more reviews and get the book, click here

If you’re searching for any book on Israel or the Holocaust, Click here. We get a small commission for anything you buy on Amazon for a full 24 hours after you use the link. In other words, if you end up buying a computer and lawnmower, we get the commission on that too. It’s a great way to support us while getting great deals on your shopping. And it doesn’t cost you a cent! So please use this link for all your Amazon shopping.

Israel News for December 21, 2016

Trump Policy
Becky Norton Dunlop, a senior official in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, participated in a tour of the West Bank this week along with some Republican members of Congress and members of the EU.

Dunlop said, “Anyone who comes and visits Judea and Samaria sees that it is an inseparable part of the State of Israel,” and that, “As an American citizen, I empathize with the Israeli people who want to settle on their entire state, to expand their communities and their homes, and they should have safe places to raise their children.”

She also remarked, “During the visit we saw that Arabs living in Israel are completely able to work together with their Israeli neighbors. The international community has to take note of what is really happening here instead of listening to the mainstream media which doesn’t report the news but rather invented things. They need to focus on what is really happening here in Judea and Samaria.”

Her statements do not necessarily represent the policies of the incoming president, but they definitely seem to reflect the mood in Trump Tower.

For further reading click here.

Amona Evacuation
The State has petitioned the Supreme Court for a 45 day extension of the Amona evacuation order, which is currently set for December 25th, in order to implement the compromise agreement reached with the residents to move most of them to an adjacent plot of land on the same mountain. The other residents will be moved to a location near Ofra until permanent housing can be provided.

PM Netanyahu met with Amona residents over the weekend and shocked them (and everyone else) when he said that he understood what it means to lose a home since he and his family were kicked out of the Prime Minister’s residence after he lost the 1999 election to Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu said, “I understand what it means to lose a home. After the 1999 elections, with zero warning, me and my family were simply kicked out of the house on Balfour Street. Just like that, with all of our belongings, we were just thrown into the street. We had to go to the Sheraton Plaza Hotel, it felt terrible.”

Seriously?

In response to the PM’s remarks Ehud Barak tweeted, “He completely lost it. ‘Uprooted from his home’? By the electorate’s votes. I was there. It took him six weeks to pack up and evacuate. Difficult? It’s time for another time.”

At least one settler leader who was at the meeting said that the PM never mentioned the name of a hotel and that his remarks were taken out of context in order to slander him. He said that the PM did not insult the residents of Amona but that he empathized with them.

The Prime Minister’s Office has not responded to the report.

For further reading click here.

Prison Visits
The Knesset House Committee has approved a proposal submitted by Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Minister of Information Gilad Erdan to limit the ability of MKs to visit security prisoners. The proposal comes in the wake of allegations that MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) smuggled cell phones to security prisoners when he visited them.

According to the new proposal, MKs who wish to visit security prisoners will have to coordinate their visits with the Knesset speaker, House Committee chairperson and State Control Committee chairperson.

In addition, only certain members of the coalition and the opposition will be permitted to visit security prisoners, and those MKs will be physically searched before entering the prison. 

National security trumps MK immunity.

For further reading click here.

Conflict in Arad
In recent years the ultra-Orthodox population of the southern city of Arad has grown to almost 20% of the city’s total population. The Gur (or Ger) Hasidim make up overwhelming majority of the Haredi population. In 2014 they occupied the main Ashkenazic synagogue in the city, forcing the Chabad rabbi to move his services to a local Chabad school.

The Mayor of Arad, Nissan Ben Hamo (who is secular), petitioned the court to remove the Hassidim from the synagogue, claiming that they took control of the synagogue without permission and that they are impeding other worshippers from praying in the shul. The request was granted, but was subsequently appealed. A final ruling is still pending.

Secular residents of Arad, led by the mayor, are unhappy with the Haredi presence in the city and the associated change in the city’s existing character or “status quo”. Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, also a Gur Hasid, is representing the Hassidim and has called for the Haredi community to support them with protests.

Yesterday thousands of ultra-Orthodox residents demonstrated in Bnei Brak. Similar protests are planned for Ashdod and Jerusalem in the coming days.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for November 23, 2016

Fires Rage
Hundreds of firefighters continue to battle fires raging throughout Israel. The fires are difficult to control due to extremely dry and unseasonably warm conditions along with strong winds.

One of the most dangerous fires has been raging for several days in the city of Zichron Yaakov. Several neighborhoods in the city have been evacuated and homes and property have been damaged. People will not be able to return home until at least Friday. Fires also are burning in several others areas of the country including near Nahariya, Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. Dozens of people have suffered from smoke inhalation.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted, “It’s beginning to appear—in light of the multiple fire locations—that arson could be the cause of some of the fires. The police and the Fire Department will investigate.” Erdan is deciding whether to ask Greece and Croatia, which whom Israel has cooperation agreements, to send firefighting planes to aid in battling the fires.

To see images of the firefighting and fire damage click here.

Noise Bill Lives
The proposed legislation to prohibit mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast their calls to prayer looked like it would not receive the backing of the Haredi coalition parties because they feared that the new law would also end up banning the sirens used to announce the entrance of Shabbat on Friday afternoons. But a compromise has been reached to include a clause in the law stating that the law would apply only between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and thus, would not effect the Shabbat sirens.

Based on the new clause, Health Minister Litzman of the UTJ removed his appeal, allowing the legislation to come to a Knesset vote this week.

However, a Shas MK has raised objections to the legislation, claiming that it just serves to alienate and annoy the Arab population. He believes that an agreement can be worked out with Arab leaders based on existing anti-noise laws.

Arab Knesset members have condemned the proposed bill and have called on the Arab population to disobey it if it passes. The PA, Jordan and Turkey have also attacked the law.

[Alarm clock manufacturers are expecting a huge boost in sales if the law passes.]

For further reading click here.

Israel Accuses Iran
In a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon accused Iran of using commercial airliners, including Mahan Air, to transfer weapons to Hezbollah. The United States has sanctioned the Iranian carrier for providing services to the Quds Force, a special forces unit of the Revolutionary Guard, as well as Hezbollah.

Danon claimed that the Iranians packed weapons into suitcases that went on commercial flights to Beirut and Damascus. He wrote, “It is clear that Iran is still the primary supplier of arms and related material to Hezbollah, in blatant violation of numerous Security Council resolutions. The Security Council must condemn Iran and Hezbollah for the violation of its resolutions.” Danon did not provide any evidence to back up his claim.

For further reading click here.
 

Long Term PM
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, PM Netanyahu has broken David Ben-Gurion’s record as the prime minister who served the longest consecutive term in Israel’s history. Ben-Gurion was Israel’s first PM.

As of Tuesday, Netanyahu had served 2,793 days or seven years and 236 days. That includes three terms in office starting in 2009. Netanyahu also served as PM from 1996 to 1999 (but that doesn’t count for the record). If Netanyahu makes it to the 2019 elections, he’ll be the longest serving Israeli PM ever.

Israel doesn’t have term limits.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for November 3, 2016

Jerusalem Construction
The Jerusalem municipality approved the construction of 181 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo yesterday, which is considered to be part of occupied territory according to international law.

Later in the day, the US State Department condemned the new construction as an obstacle to a two-state peace solution and saying that it raises questions as to Israel’s commitment to a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

Seven hundred housing units, intended mainly for the ultra-Orthodox community, are planned for at the site. The new area of construction, called “Gilo Slopes,” slightly extends the neighborhood toward the valley that separates it from the Palestinian village of Wallajah.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Sentenced
The terrorist who brutally murdered Dafna Meir, a mother of six, last January outside her front door in Otniel was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. His family was also ordered to pay 1.75 million shekels in compensation.

Natan Meir, Dafna’s widower, reacted to the verdict saying, “It’s hard to be happy and receive some solace. I was hoping that this person would not be granted an ounce of compassion to someone who committed such an act, and I feel that this happened here.”

He added, “There was a point when the murderer’s father asked for compassion. I told the judges that compassion should be given to the injured party and not the one who caused harm and to the man asking for compassion for his son after he committed such an act, which shows that his education was lacking. I told the judges that if God forbid I was standing in his shoes, I would ask them to punish my sons in the most severe way possible.”

For further reading click here.

PM Responds to Kotel Protest
The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement today in response to yesterday’s Kotel demonstration in which Reform and Conservative rabbinic leaders carrying Torahs led hundreds of marchers to the Kotel to protest the fact that the government has not implemented its agreement to create an egalitarian prayer area at the southern end of the Kotel. The statement reiterated that the PM had urged the Reform and Conservative leaders to be “patient” and that, “unilateral breaches of the status quo at the Kotel harm our attempts to reach a compromise. The regretful events that took place at the Kotel plaza do not help advance an agreed solution to prayer arrangements.”

The non-Orthodox leaders responded by trying to give the PM the benefit of the doubt by placing the blame for the government’s inaction on the Ultra Orthodox coalition members. But they added, “After a frustrating year without implementation of the resolution [and with] an unprecedented incitement campaign against Reform Judaism … the government should meet its commitment to the Jewish world. We call on the Prime Minister to announce the full and immediate implementation of the cabinet resolution.”

It turns out that the protesters had received a special permit from police allowing them to bring Torah’s to the Kotel, something that is ordinarily prohibited. The security personnel at the scene were apparently unaware of the permit, which is why they tried to prevent them from entering the area, forcing them to push their way through.

To see video and images of the demonstration click here.

Israelis in Sinai
The battle against ISIS related terrorist groups in Sinai is not stopping Israelis from visiting. According to the Israeli Airport Authority, over 60,000 Israelis crossed the border at Eilat to enjoy Sinai’s Red Sea beaches in September and October. The total number of Israelis visiting Sinai is on track to hit 200,000 by the year end. That’s almost double the number for 2015, but only half of the 400,000 that visited in 2004.

For further reading click here.

Voting Error
The new state budget for 2017-2018 was voted on in the Knesset yesterday and passed by a massive margin of 92-17. But it turns out that 30 members of the opposition mistakenly voted in favor of the budget because they thought they were only voting for a specific clause in the budget. It wouldn’t really have made a difference, since the budget would still have passed its first reading with a wide margin, but the embarrassing mistake gave MK’s from the coalition the chance to take some shots at the opposition, questioning their ability to govern — “Is this an example of how you would run the country?”

Everyone makes mistakes, right?

For further reading click here.

Israel news cover

Israel News for October 11, 2016

Closing Jerusalem
Police will set up roadblocks on yom Kippur to block Palestinian vehicles from traveling from East Jerusalem to Jewish neighborhoods in the western part of the city. Palestinian vehicles will be able to travel between their neighborhoods as well as to the Old City and Temple Mount. Palestinian crossing points from the West Bank and Gaza will also be closed.

Call to Kerry
On Saturday night PM Netanyahu had a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Kerry in which the PM said that he expected that President Obama would not promote or support a UN Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue after the US elections and before leaving office. Kerry responded that the US administration has still not made any decision on the issue.

Netanyahu also explained Israel’s position regarding the planned evacuation of the Amona settlement outpost and the building of substitute housing for the displaced residents in the nearby Shiloh settlement. The US has condemned Israel’s plans to construct the additional housing units, claiming that it constitutes the establishment of a new settlement. Netanyahu reiterated to Kerry that the construction is part of an existing community on State owned land and not a new settlement. The US isn’t buying that argument.

The Security Council is set to meet on Friday for a special session to discuss Israeli settlement activity. While no resolutions will be voted on, the session will undoubtedly turn into a platform for condemning Israel.

What will happen after the US election is still the big unknown. In a statement released after her meeting with the PM in NY, Clinton said that she would oppose any unilateral steps against Israel at the UN. Based on that, sources in the Prime MInister’s Office believe that if Clinton wins, she will restrain Obama from proposing a UN resolution. Trump would obviously oppose such a resolution, but his winning might push Obama into pushing it through.

For further reading click here.

Controversial Police Rabbi
On Monday the Israel Police appointed Rabbi Rahamim Berachyahu as its new Chief Rabbi. R. Berachyahu is the chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Talmon and heads religious programming at a Jerusalem study center called “Believing in the Police,” which encourages men from the national religious community to join the police force and runs a special cadet program that combines police training with Torah studies.

Several female MKs have written letters in protest of the appointment, citing the rabbi’s ruling that prohibited gay and lesbian couples from living in Talmon. In his defense Berachyahu said that his ruling does not “remove our obligation, as individuals and as a community,” to treat members of the LGBT community “with sensitivity and humanity. A humane relationship between the Torah community and these people is in my eyes an ethical obligation.”

R. Berachyahu also remarked in the past that a male and female police officer should not serve together alone in a car at night, and that religious women should not serve in the police.

For further reading click here.

Flight Ad Rejected
The Port Authority of NY and NJ has rejected, at least for the time being, the displaying of a billboard ad that advises women not to give up their seats on airline flights.

The ad, sponsored by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), which is the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel, is aimed at women who travel on Israeli flights who are asked to switch seats by Haredi men who do not want to sit next to women for religious reasons. Instead of switching seats to accommodate the request, the ad urges women to keep their seats and explains that requiring a person to switch seats because of gender is illegal and that flight attendants are not allowed to ask a passenger to switch seats to enable segregation by gender.

The IRAC wanted to display the ad in the EL AL waiting area in Newark Liberty International Airport, but Port Authority guidelines prohibit ads that promote or transmit a religious or political message. The IRAC has hired a lawyer to convince the Port Authority to allow the ads.

For further reading click here.

Daring Rescue
In commemoration of the 43 anniversary of the Yom Kippur War the IDF has released a recording taken during a daring rescue mission led by Yoni Netanyahu, the older brother of the PM who was later killed leading the famous raid that rescued hostages in Entebbe.

The mission was to rescue Brig. Gen. Yossi Ben-Hanan, who laid wounded on the battlefield for over four hours, during which time he continued to direct artillery fire and also guide the rescue team to his location.

To listen to the recording click here.

Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins tonight at sunset and lasts until nightfall tomorrow night. It is the only time that the Torah mandates that we “afflict” ourselves. We accomplish that by refraining from eating, drinking, wearing leather shoes (they didn’t have Crocs back then), bathing for pleasure or engaging in marital relations. We spend our day asking God for forgiveness, but not nearly enough time asking the same from our fellow man. Perhaps this year we should make an effort to focus a bit more on how we treat each other and create an environment in which we can leave together in unity and peace? When we succeed at living in peace with each other, we’ll be much more prepared to make true peace with our enemies.

Wishing you all an easy fast and a Gmar Chatima Tova.

Israel News for September 27, 2016

Bus Collision
Early today a bus collided head on with a car near the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev. Twenty three people were injured, including a 7 month old baby.

For further reading click here.

Facebook is Sorry
Facebook has apologized for temporarily disabling several pages related to Palestinian media agencies last Friday. The agencies, the Quds News Network and the Shehab News Agency, have millions of likes and are “critical” (to say the least) of Israel.

Facebook released a statement saying, “The pages were removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.”

Palestinians accused Facebook of censorship and blamed Israel for being behind the closures.

Israel has been in discussions with Facebook to try and get the company to stop incitement on the site.

For further reading click here.

Saudi Editorial
The English language Saudia Arabian daily newspaper the Saudi Gazette published an editorial on Sunday saying “that the Palestinians “should not be too quick to dismiss the invitation extended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to address Israel’s parliament.”

The editorial said, “Netanyahu’s gesture was quickly rejected by the Palestinians as a ‘new gimmick,’ but the invitation is reminiscent of the one issued by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel — and the rest is history.”

Given that the Saudi Arabian press is under the firm control of the royal family, the editorial could possible reflect a change in Saudi Arabian policy.

For further reading click here.

Surprise Meetup
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is on a business trip in NYC this week. Yesterday he happened to run into Jonathan Pollard, who was having coffee at a Manhattan cafe with his wife. This was the first time any Israeli official has met Pollard since his release from prison last year.

The mayor had awarded Pollard a medal as an “honorary citizen of Jerusalem” prior to his parole, which Pollard never received. So on Monday the mayor removed his own Jerusalem pin from the lapel of his jacket and pinned it to Pollard’s suspenders. He said, “If Jonathan cannot come to Jerusalem, then Jerusalem will come to him in New York or anywhere else in the world.”

To watch a video of the incident, click here.

Bibi on Broadway
While PM Netanyahu was in NYC this past week, he managed to catch a performance of the hit Broadway show Hamilton. But just before the performance two women approached him, shouting “free Palestine”. They were pushed aside by the PM’s robust security detail, the same one that apparently accompanied him to the bathroom of a Manhattan restaurant in full force.

Netanyahu received applause as well as boos from the theatre crowd. The boos might have been more related to the balagan (big mess) he caused at the theatre (with the huge security detail) than to the fact that he was the Israeli PM. Getting seats at a hit show is hard enough as is!

One theater goer wrote,  “It isn’t enough that it is hard to get tickets to a Saturday night show. Netanyahu’s arrival turned the theater into an airport.”

The PM’s Office had no comment as to whether the PM enjoyed the show or not.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 30, 2016

Terror Attack
This morning a Palestinian terrorist scaled a security fence, broke into a house in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, and stabbed a 13 year old girl to death while she was sleeping in her bed. The town’s civilian security patrol arrived at the house moments later and broke down the door. The terrorist stabbed one of the patrol members in the face before being shot and killed by the other security guard.

The 13 year old girl was Hallel Yaffa Ariel. The 31 year old security guard suffered serious wounds and was evacuated to Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem.

The terrorist was identified as Mohammed Tra’ayra, 19, from the nearby village Bani Na’im. He is a relative of the man who carried out a car ramming attack in Kiryat Arba in March. The IDF has surrounded the village and is searching it and interrogating relatives of the terrorist.

Over the weekend Tra’ayra posted a message on his Facebook page saying, “Death is a merit, and I desire to claim my merit.” His sister praised him in an interview on Palestinian TV, calling him a martyr and saying that he will enjoy his beard in heaven. She also called for divine retribution against the Jews.

The funeral for Hallel Yaffa Ariel will be held in Hebron later today. May her memory be a blessing.

For further reading click here and here.

Attacked in Ramallah
Nine Israeli left-wing activist illegally entered Ramallah to celebrate the nightly breaking of the Ramadan fast at the home of a Palestinian who is working to strengthen ties between leftist Israelis and Palestinians. But before they could get to the house, the Israeli’s were attacked by locals throwing rocks and firebombs. One of the cars burst into flames.

Eight of the Israelis were able to escape back into Israeli territory via the Qalandiya checkpoint. The ninth was rescued by PA security forces and questioned, before before being released to Israeli authorities near Beit El.

All nine are being questioned by security forces for violating a military order prohibiting entry of Israelis to areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

For further reading click here.

Take Two
Several months ago the Brazilian government refused to accept the credentials Dani Danon, whom the Prime Minister had appointed as ambassador to Brazil. The Brazilians objected to Danon because he had been a leader in the settlement movement. After a long standoff the PM backed down and appointed Danon as Israel’s UN Ambassador.

Well, it looks like the Prime Minister’s second try at appointing an ambassador might not be much more successful. This time the PM has appointed Yossi Sheli, a former business who was indicted and found guilty of perjury and fraud in 2008. In 2012 he signed a plea bargain agreement in which he admitted to a lesser charge and was forbidden from serving in public office until June of 2015. To top off his impressive resume, Sheli has zero diplomatic experience.

Sounds like the perfect choice.

For further reading click here.

Mein Kampf
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been publishing Mein Kampf, the infamous manifesto by Adolf Hitler, since 1933. Since 2000, the company has donated the proceeds from the sale of the book to combat anti-semitism. Last year the company announced that they would widen their scope and include cultural organizations as recipients of the funds. This caused an outcry from Jewish advocates. It worked.

Going forward, the proceeds from Mein Kampf will be donated to Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston for “direct support of the health and human services needs of [Holocaust] survivors.”

By the way, between 1979 and 2000, the company kept all the proceeds for itself. Apparently, business is still business.

For further reading click here.