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israel news settlements

Israel News for May 5, 2017

Israeli Law Extended
Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin are promoting an initiative that would apply all Israeli governmental legislation to the West Bank.

Currently, Israeli law does not apply in the territories. Instead, the GOC Central Command, who is the ex officio sovereign in the conquered territory, applies some laws to the Israeli residents by means of military orders. According to the directive promoted by the ministers, every governmental law would automatically become an order issued by the general officer commanding.

Shaked said, “It is impossible to accept a situation in which Israeli law does not address the 430,000 citizens of the State of Israel living in Judea and Samaria. Judea and Samaria are not Israel’s backyard, and from now on (the) ministerial committee will ask to clarify, with respect to every government law at its table, how the initiating ministry intends to treat the settlers.”

Levin said, “The settlement of Judea and Samaria is a fait accompli; it is not a temporary or transitory thing. The time has come for the State of Israel to treat all its citizens equally and apply all the same laws. The measure we are leading will put an end to the blatant discrimination and the disregard by the laws of the State of Israel against the regions of the homeland and the Israeli citizens living there.”

For further reading click here.

No German Meeting
According to reports, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has decided not to meet with representatives of Breaking the Silence during his upcoming trip to Israel. While Steinmeier’s office said the president will not meet the left-wing group, he will highlight the organization’s activities and its importance to democracy in a speech at Hebrew University. Steinmeier’s spokesman said that he intends to meet with representatives of other left-wing civil society organizations.

For further reading click here.

Holocaust Property
President Rivlin reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to seeking the restitution of Jewish property stolen as a result of the Holocaust. He spoke at a meeting in his residence attended by the German ambassador to Israel, Clemens von Goetze; the European Union’s head of delegation to Israel, Ambassador Lars Faaborg–Andersen; the deputy ambassador of the United Kingdom, Tony Kay; representatives of the US and French embassies; and the French government’s special envoy for restitution, François Croquette. Israeli government ministers and officials also attended.

Rivlin said, “We always say: ‘Crime doesn’t pay.’ But for many people the crimes of the Holocaust did pay. We cannot allow this. The property must be returned. In addition, time is running out. Less than 400,000 survivors are alive today. About half are here in Israel, the other half live around the world—many in the countries represented here.”

Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel said, “The Jewish people and the Jewish state have a moral duty to make every effort to return the stolen property of Holocaust survivors. Returning the Jewish property is a complex issue that requires extensive and sensitive international action. Only if the Jewish world will speak with one voice and claim the confiscated property from the victims of the Holocaust will it be possible to work with the different countries to return the stolen property to its rightful owners, and achieve some historical justice.”

At the end of the meeting, the participants joined representatives of the MFA, representatives of the WJRO, and the director general of the Ministry of Social Equality and his staff for the signing of a joint work plan to see the return of Jewish property stolen from the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

For further reading click here.

Soldiers Reprimanded
Last week a Lebanese man was able to cross the border into Israel before being arrested by police at a bus station in Kiryat Shmona. After an investigation by the IDF Northern Command, a battalion commander is to be officially reprimanded, a deputy company commander will be dismissed, and four other soldiers will face disciplinary hearings.

The IDF spokesman said, “The lessons of the incident will be transferred to the forces and additional professional complementary investigations will be carried out to prevent recurrence of such cases in the future.”

For further reading click here.

Shabbat Busing
While there is no official public transportation in Tel Aviv on Shabbat, there is one non-profit co-op called Noa Tanua that has been operating two private bus lines in the area. After a recent successful crowdfunding campaign that raised almost $100,000, it will be launching two new bus routes.

The non-profit co-op has been operating since 2015 with the help of volunteers. Only members of the co-op can use the service, with membership being free while the bus ride itself costing NIS 9 (US$2.49). Payment is done using the HopOn mobile app.

Roy Schwartz, the co-op’s founder, said, “People should not have to stay at home on Shabbat because they can’t afford a car, and they should be able to enjoy their one day off.”

For further reading click here.

Trump Tweet
Following his meeting with PA President Abbas at the White House on Wednesday, President Trump tweeted, “An honor to host President Mahmoud Abbas at the WH today. Hopefully, something terrific could come out it between the Palestinians & Israel.” The tweet included a video of the two shaking hands and was retweeted thousands of times. Then it was deleted from Trump’s account. Second thoughts about the “honor”?

For further reading click here.

Israel News for May 4, 2017

Trump and Abbas
President Trump met with PA President Abbas in Washington yesterday for the first time. Abbas described the meeting as positive and said that “we build hopes on it.” He said he believes the Trump administration can play an important role as a mediator — “What is needed is to bring the two parties together, to bring them closer and then to facilitate things between them.” Abbas also said that he is prepared to meet with Israeli PM Netanyahu and suggested the Israeli leader is avoiding such talks. “We had planned to meet in Moscow, but he didn’t show up,” Abbas said, referring to Russian efforts several months ago to set up such a meeting.

Trump expressed optimism but did not reveal any specifics of his peace making plans.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said during a press briefing at the White House that Trump had conveyed his deepest concern that the PA was paying money to families of Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism, adding that this problem had to be solved.

For further reading click here.

German Controversy
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is scheduled to visit Israel on Sunday, and Israel wants assurances that he will not follow his Foreign Minister’s lead and meet with left wing groups like Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. But the German President has declined to make any promises about whether he will or will not meet with the groups.

Despite their concerns and Steinmeier’s noncommittal stance on the matter, Israeli officials believe that he will show the appropriate sensitivity and refrain from meeting the groups, knowing that it could serve as a prelude to yet another diplomatic conflict with Israel—something that Steinmeier, an experienced diplomat, will probably aim to avoid.

Steinmeier is set to meet Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin during his visit, and is planning to give a speech at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also set to visit Givat Haviva and meet with Jewish and Arab children.

For further reading click here.

Draught Year
According to data from the Israel Meteorological Service data, Israel has entered a drought year, with the year’s rainfall at only about 70% of the yearly average.

The shortage of water in the Kinneret is causing an increase of salt levels in the water and could lead to environmental degradation and render the water unusable for irrigation or drinking. Forecasts for future years shows a continual decline in painful, so the situation will probably not get any better on its own.

The Water Authority is contemplating a plan to pump tens of millions of cubic meters of desalinated water into the Kinneret to prevent it from drying up. But since the water would lack basic minerals, more research is needed to conclude what sort of effect it could have on the lake and the local fauna and flora.

The Water Authority has almost completely halted drawing any water from the lake for drinking.

Almost all of the drinking water in Israel comes from desalinization plants.

For further reading click here.

Territorial Building
Israel has high hopes that the Trump administration will take a much more positive stance towards building in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). But according to recently released government statistics, even before Trumps election, housing starts in the territories in 2016 were 40% higher than in 2015.

In 2016, there were 2,630 building starts of homes in Judea and Samaria, up 40% from 1,884 in 2015, and 1,572 in 2014, although below the 2013 peak of 2,874. In 2016, 5% of all building starts in Israel were in Judea and Samaria.

There are now 420,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, 4.8% of Israel’s overall population. The largest cities are Modiin Illit (65,000), Beitar Illit (50,000), Maaleh Adumim (38,000), and Ariel (19,000).

Will 2017 be an even bigger year for housing starts across the Green Line?

For further reading click here.

Manners Please
Israelis are not commonly known for their manners, but that might soon change thanks to the Cafe Cafe restaurant chain. The chain will be offering a cup of coffee for 6 shekels instead of the normal 8 shekels for customers who say “please” and “thank you” when ordering. So you save money for being polite. That could actually work, even in Israel!

Founded in 2001, Cafe Cafe is one of Israel’s largest chains of cafes, with 157 branches deployed nationwide. Owned by Nimni and Mickey Teal, the chain includes other brands, such as Lechem Erez, Lechem Basar, the Fresh Kitchen chain, and the Caspi chain of restaurants.

For further reading click here.

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 terror car ramming

Israel News for February 3, 2017

Terror Ramming
A female Palestinian terrorist rammed her car into a police car guarding the entrance to the settlement of Adam, not far from Jerusalem. Two 52 year old police officers and one 34 year old security guard were lightly injured. The security gate to the settlement was also damaged. The terrorist was arrested at the scene.

For further reading click here.

Trump Warns Israel
In response to Israel’s recent announcements to build over 5,000 new housing units in settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the White House released a statement saying that settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace and that “The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity.”

Here’s the entire White House statement:

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.

As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

An unnamed White House official told the Jerusalem Post, “As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal. With that in mind, we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements.”

He added. “The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

The State Department said that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with PM Netanyahu by phone yesterday, but no details of the content of the conversation was revealed. Netanyahu and Trump are set to meet in Washington on February 15th.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was the first Israeli official to respond to the White House’s statement. Speaking to Israel Radio on Friday morning, Danon said that it was still too early to tell how the White House’s latest remarks will affect the construction of settlements.

He said, “I would not categorize this as a U-turn by the U.S. administration but the issue is clearly on their agenda … the issue will be discussed when the prime minister meets the president in Washington.” He added,“We will not always agree on everything.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely responded to the White House statement saying, “The current Israeli government has chosen to exercise the right of the Jewish people to build in all parts of the country, and we are committed to respect the [wishes of] the people of Israel, who elected us to continue to build.”

She also said, “The White House also knows that settlements are not an obstacle to peace, and indeed, never constituted an obstacle to peace. Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that construction is not the problem.”

While the statement did not condemn settlement activity, it clearly serves as a warning for Israel to stop more construction of new housing units until Trump figures out what he wants his policy to be.

During the election campaign Jason Greenblat and Robert Friedman, at the time co-chairmen of Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee, released a joint statement spelling out Trump’s position regarding Israel in which they implied that he did not support a two-state solution.

They wrote, “The U.S. cannot support the creation of a new state where terrorism is financially incentivized, terrorists are celebrated by political parties and government institutions, and the corrupt diversion of foreign aid is rampant. The U.S. should not support the creation of a state that forbids the presence of Christian or Jewish citizens, or that discriminates against people on the basis of religion.”

They also wrote, “The U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and Mr. Trump’s Administration will move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”

But Trump has always been very clear that he intends to use his negotiating expertise to negotiate a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel. Any unilateral move by Israel to build more settlement housing would disrupt that negotiation. It is becoming clear that moving the US embassy will also be a negotiating impediment, which is why it seems unlikely that the promise to do so will be kept.

Any plans by Israel’s Right Wing parties to pass a law to begin annexing parts of the West Bank containing Jewish settlement blocks, like Ma’aleh Adumim, should probably be filed away along with the vision of a one-state solution. At least for the foreseeable future. [Is anything really foreseeable these days?]

The White House has clearly given Israel a reality check. Trump might claim to be the best friend Israel has ever had, but that’s from his point of view. He’ll do what he, and his close advisors, believe to be in the best interests of America. If that includes maintaining close relationships with the moderate Arab and Moslem states in order to wipe ISIS and Radical Islam from the face of the earth, then Israel will just have to fall in line and possibly take one for the team. Don’t forget, America first.

For further reading click here.

Jordan Warns Trump
According to the Jordanian state news agency, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned Trump not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem because doing so could threaten the two-sate solution and have a detrimental effect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House said the two enjoyed a “good conversation” on a range of regional issues, but did not mention the issue of the embassy relocation.The two leaders met on the sidelines of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

The King has been in Washington since Monday and has also met with Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis and senior members of Congress.

For further reading click here.

Prime Ministers
If you haven’t already read The Prime Ministers by Yehuda Avner, you need to do it asap. Avner worked closely for and with four of Israel’s greatest Prime Ministers and presents information and personal stories and accounts that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s an incredible book that will give you tremendous insight into Israel and its greatest leaders. To read reviews and get the book, click here.

If you’re searching for any book on Israel, 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 23, 2017

Trump and PM
President Trump and PM Netanyahu spoke on the phone yesterday. The President invited Netanyahu to meet in early February. According to a White House statement regarding the call, “The Prime Minister expressed his desire to work together with President Trump on their shared vision to promote peace and security in the region without having gaps between the US and Israel. The two leaders discussed the Iranian deal, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues.”
 
The White House said that the two “discussed ways to advance and strengthen the special relationship between the United States and Israel and the security and stability of the Middle East. The President emphasized the importance the US places on close military, intelligence and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and binding partnership between the two countries.”
 
The statement also mentioned that the two “agreed to continue to discuss regional issues closely, including the Iranian threat,” and that President Trump once again confirmed the US’s unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security and stressed that the fight against ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorist groups is a top priority for the US government.
 
According to the statement, “President Trump stressed that a Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement can only be achieved through direct negotiations and the US will work closely with Israel to achieve this goal.”

No mention was made of the promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the security cabinet voted unanimously to postpone a vote on the annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim until after the PM’s meeting with Trump.

For further reading click here.

Embassy Move
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement yesterday regarding the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem that, “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject.” White House sources said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.

During his presidential campaign Trump promised to move the embassy. So did Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. But despite a law passed by Congress in the 1990’s, no President has yet to do so, despite their promises. Doing so apparently has ramifications that they believed to be detrimental to US policy and interests in the region. Will Trump, who clearly articulated a policy of “America First” at his inauguration, make the move even if he decides that it will harm US political and economic interests?

If Trump determines that in order to fulfill his promise of eradicating radical Islam from the face of the earth, the US requires the cooperation of “moderate” Moslem countries to form a united coalition to fight ISIS and other terror groups, could he decide that moving the embassy will damage that opportunity and not be the best thing for America?

Does “America First” equal “Israel First”?

War Crimes
Knesset Member Tzipi Livni, who in previous governments served as Foreign Minister and Justice Minister, has cancelled a planned trip to Belgium, where she was supposed to attend a conference on security for Jewish communities. The cancellation came after an announcement by a federal prosecutor in the Belgian Justice Ministry that Livni would be detained and questioned in connection with war crimes charges upon landing in Brussels.

For further reading click here.

IDF Social
The IDF has released a new guide for soldiers on how to use social media, in the wake of recent attempts by Hamas to hack the phones of soldiers. In a video a soldier explains how he was fooled by a Hamas operative using a fake Facebook profile: “She sent me a message on Facebook. We spoke a lot over a few days. She said she was a prison guard, and I told her I was in the army. Then she asked me to download this chat app so that we could talk more. I downloaded it, but it did not work. I tried to reach her again on Facebook, but she didn’t answer.”

The chat app was actually a spy tool used to collect information and track location even when the phone was turned off. While the IDF claims that no material intelligence damage was caused by the hacking of dozens of soldiers, the potential for major security leaks is huge. For example, since phones have GPS tracking, it’s very possible for sensitive military locations to be revealed.

Hopefully, soldiers will now be more careful with whom they “friend” and what they download.

For further reading click here.

Shiva Call
PM Netanyahu visited the Belzer Rebbe, who is sitting shiva for his mother. The PM spoke about how his faith is the foundation that keeps him strong. Te Rebbe blessed the PM and his wife.

To view photos and a video click here.

Shark Warning
If you’re planning to go swimming near Hadera in northern Israel, you should reconsider. Around 150 bull and sandbar sharks have been spotted in the area.

To watch video click here.

Jerusalem Biography
If you want to learn the history of Jerusalem from a book that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end, you must read Jerusalem: The Biographyby Simon Sebag Montefiore. It’s the kind of book that you’ll read more than once and keep on your shelf as a go to reference. I personally love it. I think you will too. To read more reviews and get the book, click here

israel news terror raid

Israel News for January 10, 2017

Terrorist Killed
A Palestinian terrorist attacked IDF soldiers of the Duvdevan unit with a knife last night as the soldiers were carrying out an operation to arrest terror suspects in the Far’a refugee camp in the West Bank. The 33 year old terrorist was shot and killed by soldiers before causing any harm. During the operation the soldiers were also fired at and attacked with molotov cocktails. There were no IDF casualties.

For further reading click here.

Status Revoked
Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri has decided to revoke the permanent resident status of 13 family members of the terrorist who killed four soldiers and injured 15 in Jerusalem on Sunday. The family members, including the terrorist’s mother, will lose all social benefits that go along with permanent residency.

This is the first time residency status of family members of terrorists has been revoked, and it precludes them from appealing to the Supreme Court. Deri decided on the move after consulting with the Prime Minister and the Shin Bet.

Deri said, “This is a decision that signals a new era against terrorism and terrorists who use their status to carry out attacks against citizens. From now on, there will be zero tolerance towards those who are involved in terrorism against Israel. Let this be known to all who are plotting, planning or considering carrying out an attack, that their families will pay a heavy price for their actions and the consequences will be severe and far-reaching.”

Israeli citizenship, however, has never been revoked from people involved in or connected to terror activity.
 
For further reading click here.

UN Condemns
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Sunday’s terror attack but added that the attack should not prevent peace starts from restarting between Israel and the Palestinians. He added that those involved in the planning and implementation of the attack “must be brought to justice, condemned and disavowed.” The UN Security Council made a similar statement condemning the attack.

For further reading click here.

 

Funeral Absence
The four soldiers killed in Sunday’s Jerusalem terror attack were laid to rest yesterday. Surprisingly, and to the consternation of the parents of the deceased, no government officials attended any of the funerals. When contacted by the press they all had different reasons and excuses why they couldn’t attend. As a result, the PM has instructed Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman to formulate binding procedures requiring government ministers, deputy ministers and Knesset members to attend the funerals of fallen IDF soldiers.

The PM did visit soldiers who were wounded in the terror attack and are being treated at Shaarei Tzedek and Hadassah Hospital.

For further reading click here.

Tsfat Growing
The city of Tsfat, considered to be one of Israel’s holy cities (along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberius) and home to great kabbalists and mystics since the 1500’s, is already home to thousands of haredi families who make up a significant portion of the city’s population. Now two Hasidic real estate investors have announced that they will build 2,000 new homes in the city, earmarked for the haredi public.

For further reading click here.

Kushner Rises
President elect Donald Trump has appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior White House adviser working on trade and the Middle East.

Although his name isn’t Joseph (like his grandfather and son), you can’t ignore the juxtaposition of the rise of Jared with the rise of Joseph (prime minister to Pharaoh) in the last few Torah portions (regardless of your personal political views).

May he be blessed with wisdom and success.

For further reading click here.

Amazing Story
Would you believe that an Arab boy from East Jerusalem who threw stones at soldiers is now trying to join the IDF? It’s true. To read this amazing story click here.

Israel News for December 23, 2016

No UN Vote
The UN Security Council vote on an Egyptian sponsored resolution to condemn Israeli settlement building in the West Bank was postponed indefinitely after Egypt abruptly withdrew their proposed draft.

According to Western officials, the Obama administration was prepared to allow the US to abstain from the vote, allowing the resolution to pass. This was confirmed by US officials. The Israelis found out about this and implored the White House to veto the resolution.

When they felt that the US would still abstain, they reached out to Trump, who tweeted his Facebook post that said:

“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed.

As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.
This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

Earlier in the year, when referring to negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Trump told CNN, “I don’t like the United Nations getting involved in the negotiation. This has to be a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This has to be that. You can’t force a deal down the throats of both but you know it will be a bad deal for Israel if they do that. So … if the United Nations forces a deal, I would veto that deal immediately.”

Israel put a lot of pressure on Egyptian president al-Sisi, who then spoke with Donald Trump. Egypt then withdraw the draft resolution. An Egyptian spokesman said, “The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement.”

Trump also attempted to convince the White House to veto the resolution.

The resolution can still be submitted for a vote by another country. New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal had expressed interest in the resolution and will be meeting today to decide whether to push for a vote.

There was no comment from the White house or State Department regarding the United State’s planned abstention.

For further reading click here.

Terrorists Captured
The Shin Bet has busted a terror cell with more than twenty Hamas terrorists from across the West Bank. The cell, based around Nablus, was recruiting and training terrorists to carry out suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa. The cell established a bomb-making factory in Nablus and acquired M-16 assault rifles. Most of the terrorists have previously spent time in Israeli prisons.

A Shin Bet spokesman said, “The Shin Bet investigation unearthed a well-organized, structured Hamas cell. Had it not been discovered, it would have carried out grave terror attacks. Thanks to excellent intelligence and operational activities of Shin Bet and IDF forces, the cell was discovered in time. This investigation reveals, once again, the efforts that Hamas is investing into creating terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria to carry out attacks against Israelis.”

For further reading click here.

Amona Extension
The Supreme Court has accepted a government petition and granted a 45 extension to the scheduled Dec. 25th evacuation of Amona. The new date is Feb. 8, 2017. The court stressed that “this is a final and last extension, even if no alternative solution is found.”

Amona residents welcomed the decision saying, “Now, the responsibility is entirely on the state and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who committed to erect in the next 45 days homes on the mountain for the residents of Amona, and preserve the town. The ball is in their hands.”

The government plans to relocate most of the families to a nearby plot of land on the same mountain. Some of the families will be relocated temporarily to housing near Ofra.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for October 6, 2016

Airstrikes Hit Gaza
Israel launched five separate airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza in retaliation for yesterdays rocket attack on Sderot. One airstrike hit a Hamas outpost in the southern city of Khan Yunis while another three hit Gaza City. The last one hit Hamas in the northern part of the Strip. IDF artillery also hit targets in Gaza.

For further reading click here.

Israeli Pilot Killed
Israeli Air Force F-16I pilot Capt. Ohad Cohen Nov was killed today while attempting to eject from his plane shortly before landing at the Ramon Airbase in the Negev. His navigator managed to eject and was lightly wounded. The aircraft was returning from a reprisal raid in Gaza.

According to the preliminary investigation, the aircraft began experiencing technical difficulties upon its return, leading the pilot to fly another circle above the base prior to landing in an effort to remedy the problem. After it became clear that his efforts were insufficient, he decides to abandon the plane.

In accordance with the standard procedure and the automatic mechanisms in the ejection system, the navigator managed to eject from the plane, sustaining light injuries. The pilot’s ejection was supposed to occur seconds later but, for reasons which are yet to be fully determined, he did not manage to implement the ejection and at a critical moment the jet crashed and burst into flames.

Investigators believe that the plane experienced a weight imbalance prior to landing, which caused the malfunction.

Capt. Ohad, 34, had become deputy commanded of his F-16I squadron, known as the Bat Squadron, just last week. He is survived by his pregnant wife, Shahar, and a young daughter.

One of his fellow pilots said, “He was a person of gold. He was happy, funny, and had a good heart. He was always nice and courteous and smiling. He loved challenges and was an excellent pilot. He had everything.”

Capt. Ohad Cohen Nov’s funeral will be held on Friday at Mazor, the moshav in central Israel where he lived.

May his memory serve as a blessing for us all.

For further reading click here.

Israel and US Clash
Last week Israel approved the construction of 98 new housing units and up to 200 additional units in the settlement of Shvut Rachel near Shilo (Samaria-West Bank) to provide housing for the residents of the Amona outpost which is due to be dismantled. The settlement of Shvut Rachel has a population of around 100 families and was founded in 1991 in memory of the victims of a terrorist attack on a bus.

Yesterday the US State Department and the White House lashed out harshly against the decision. The State Department statement, signed by deputy spokesman Mark Toner, stressed that the U.S. views advancement of the plan as a violation of a commitment by Netanyahu’s government not to establish any new settlements in the West Bank.

The statement said, “Proceeding with this new settlement is another step towards cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. Such moves will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many of its partners, and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace.”

The statement also connected the issue to the new military aid package recently agreed upon and the death of Shimon Peres saying, “It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and the US concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel’s security, that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians. Furthermore, it is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the US and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for the two-state solution that he so passionately supported.”

Later in the day White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “We had public assurances from the Israeli government that contradict this new announcement – so when you talk about how friends treat each other – this is also a source of concern. There is a lot of disappointment and great concern here at the White House.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement defending the decision to construct the new housing units, saying, “This housing will be built on state land in the existing settlement of Shilo and will not change its municipal boundary or geographic footprint. The units are intended to provide a housing solution for the residents of Amona who must leave their homes in accordance with the demolition order issued by Israel’s High Court of Justice.”

The Foreign Ministry added that Israel remains committed to the two-state solution, “in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. The real obstacle to peace is not the settlements – a final status issue that can and must be resolved in negotiations between the parties – but the persistent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state in any boundaries.”

A spokesman for the residents of Amona has rejected the new construction plan and any attempt to transfer the outpost’s residents under any circumstances.

For further reading click here.

To read about the reaction of the Amona residents, click here.

Navy Boards Boat
A boat carrying 13 female activists that set sail from Barcelona last week in an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza was stopped and boarded by the Israeli navy around 35 miles off the coast. There was no resistance or injuries reported, and the boat was escorted to the Port of Ashdod.

The boat was sponsored by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, a group of pro-Palestinian groups based mostly in Europe. The Dutch-flagged boat was carrying 13 female activists from different countries headed by Mairead Maguire, an Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate. A retired US colonel and former South African Olympic athlete were also on board, along with women from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Russia and Malaysia.

Zaher Darwish, one of the coordinators of the flotilla, said the boat not carrying any aid and that the goal was purely “symbolic” — to call attention to the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, which he called illegal.

For further reading click here.

Medical Breakthrough
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a new form of treatment that fixes the impaired gene that causes Alzheimers. Trials performed on mice were successful. The treatment takes a new approach; targeting the APOE gene. The gene has two forms: a healthy form called APOE3 and a disease-related pathological form called APOE4. The researchers at TAU have developed an approach that will convert the bad form into the good form.

According to research team leader Professor Daniel M. Michaelson, Director of the Eichenbaum Laboratory of Alzheimer’s Disease Research and incumbent of the Myriam Lebach Chair in Molecular Neurodegeneration at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences, “APOE4 is a very important and understudied target. It is expressed in more than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s patients. Anti-APOE4 treatments are thus expected to have a major impact on the patient population.”

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 16, 2016

Gaza Wall
Israel’s Defense Ministry has announced that Israel will build a wall along the entire 60 mile Gaza border that will extend tens of meters below as well as above ground. The wall will cost over 2 billion shekels, and guess whose going to pay for it: no, not Mexico. The Israeli taxpayer will have to foot the bill, unless the PM can pick up some negotiating tips from … you know who.

Meanwhile, the IDF is also building a wall along sections of the Lebanon border adjacent to Israeli towns. Will these new walls help make Israel great again? But isn’t Israel already great? We’ll settle for just keeping the terrorists out.

For further reading click here.

Terrorist Law
The Knesset yesterday passed a new Terrorist Law that expands the tools used to handle terrorism via criminal and legal mechanisms, extends the maximum sentence for carrying out various terrorism-related crimes to 30 years, anchors in law administrative detentions, and sets sanctions for multiple kinds of terrorism-related offenses.

The law was passed with broad approval across the political spectrum, with the exception of Meretz and the Arab Joint List. It will hopefully aid in Israel’s fight against terrorism.

To read more about the details of the new law, click here.

US Clarifies
The White House clarified its opposition to a Congressional proposal to increase funding for Israel’s missile defense by explaining that it does not reflect a desire to cut military aid to Israel, but rather reflects a disagreement as to how to budget for the aid.

The White House believes the missile defense funding should be included in the 10-year military aid agreement the two countries are now negotiating, and not in the 2017 defense budget, as Congress proposed. This would be better for Israel, they claim, because it would obviate the need for Congress and the administration to renegotiate the sum every year.

A senior White House official said, “We are prepared to make an unprecedented multi-year missile defense commitment as part of a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel on military assistance. This commitment, which would amount to billions of dollars over 10 years, would be the first long-term pledge on missile defense support to Israel, affording Israel robust support for its missile defense, as well as predictability and facilitating long-term planning for missile defense initiatives.”

The administration claims that including the Israeli missile aid in the budget would reduce the amount available for developing US missile defense systems. Instead, the administration would give Israel special emergency grants for missile defense on top of the regular funding, something it has done several times over the past few years. For instance, they noted, during the 2014 war in Gaza, Washington gave Israel an extra $225 million to purchase additional Iron Dome batteries.

So it’s really not as bad as it seemed. Apparently.

For further reading click here.

New City
There’s a new, modern, affordable city in the process of being built around 25 miles north of Jerusalem in the West Bank. No, this one won’t provoke the condemnation of the EU or State Department as being an obstacle to peace. That’s because it’s a Palestinian city.

The city, Rawabi, is the first planned city to be built for Palestinians. It boasts high-rise apartment buildings, a shopping center, a 12,000 seat amphitheater, schools, playgrounds, mosques and an industrial zone. The city, that reminds you of Modiin, is planned to hold 60,000 residents when construction is completed in five years. There are currently 250 families living there, and more are moving in as apartments become ready for occupancy. The price of a three bedroom apartment is around $100,000, which is 25% less than an equivalent unit in Ramallah.

Rawabi is the brainchild of Palestinian-American developer Bashar Masri and is being funded by a Palestinian company run by Masri as well as the Qatari holding company Diar. Construction costs have so far topped $1.2 billion.

Residents are excited with the prospect of living in a clean, well planned city which stands in stark contrast to the chaotic Palestinian towns and villages in the area.

A church is currently under construction to service the Christians who are expected to form around ten percent of Rawabi’s population.

Masri said, “I’m a strong believer that a Palestinian state is in the making and part of the pillars of building a proper state is to have a strong economy and higher standard of living.”

To see photos of Rawabi, click here.

Eruv Controversy
Opposition to erecting Eruv’s occasionally arises in the US. But you wouldn’t expect it in Israel, right? Well, think again.

The village of Kfar Bilu, not far from Rehovot in central Israel, is refusing to erect an Eruv of the moshav because they want to make sure the moshav doesn’t become “haredi”.

Far Bilu, founded in 1932 has just a few religious residents out of a population of around 1,500. One of them is a wounded soldier confined to wheelchair, who recently became religious. Because of Shabbat restrictions, he is unable to leave his home on Shabbat without an Eruv. So he asked the village council to put one up and got the money to pay for it from the Religious Affairs Ministry. Their response: “If you want to be religious, then don’t be with us. The fact that you became religious is your problem.”

The council also refuses to erect a Mechitzah in the village synagogue, even though it is only used by the religious residents.

Huh.

For further reading click here.

Israel News for June 15, 2016

Jerusalem Fire
A large fire is raging in the Jerusalem forest at the entrance to the city near the Givat Shaul neighborhood. The fire is being fought by 35 firefighting units along with eight aircraft. The fire is approaching the main Electric Company power station and is spreading towards the Har Nof neighborhood. Electric Company employees have been evacuated.

To see images and video, click here.

Obama vs Israel
In response to a decision by Congress to increase US military aid to Israel by $455 million, The White House sent Congress a memorandum opposing the new aid package. The additional money was earmarked for anti-missile defense systems.

Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $600 million in funding for fiscal year 2017 – an increase of $113 million from last year and $454 million over President Obama’s request.

According to the Senate appropriations committee proposal, Israel was supposed to receive $270 million for missile defense R&D programs, $62 million for procuring Iron Dome short range missile defense batteries, $150 million for medium range David’s Sling systems, and $120 million for the Arrow 3 long-range missile defense system. Instead, Israel will have to make do with the $150 million in the White House’s original proposal, subject to Senate legislation.

In a “Statement of Administration Policy” released by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, the administration said it “opposes the addition of $455 million above the FY 2017 Budget request for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs.”

AIPAC criticized the White House position saying:

“On a bipartisan basis, Congress has increased funding above administration requests this year, as it has done for well over a decade. These cooperative programs – including the Arrow, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome – are critical for Israel’s defense against a growing array of missile threats and make an important contribution to U.S. missile defense programs. We applaud Congress for consistently supporting these key programs, and urge their full funding in both the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization and Appropriations Acts.”

A large part of the money appropriated for Israel’s missile defense would, in any case, be used for purchasing parts and components made in the US, which is good for the US economy. Israel’s missile defense technology and its practical application in actual combat situations is also extremely valuable for the US. So why is The White House against the increased funding?

Sources in the Israeli government deny that there is any problem and that the White House opposition doesn’t effect the core US military aid. The PM Office issues a statement saying, “In the wake of numerous misleading reports, the Prime Minister’s bureau would like to clarify there has been no cut in American assistance.”

So maybe there’s no real problem after all?

For further reading click here.

Hamas Defection
Senior Hamas member Bassam Mahmoud Baraka has defected to Israel from Gaza. He brought with him his wife, children and, more importantly, his laptop and maps displaying at least part of the Hamas tunnel infrastructure. This should be helpful. Kudos to Israeli intelligence for making this happen.

For further reading click here.

Herzliya and Shabbat
The Herzliya municipality yesterday decided to institute limited bus service on Shabbat, making it the first predominantly Jewish city to allow public transportation on Shabbat. Until now, the only cities that provided regular public transport on Shabbat and holidays were those with large non-Jewish populations such as Haifa.

The new bus service will be limited to main roads and primarily provide access to the beach, the hospital, the park and the main entertainment district. Buses won’t run through religious neighborhoods.

Israeli law forbids public transportation on Shabbat and holidays in most cities and defines public transport as a service for which the user pays. The new Herzliya bus service will be free, so it does not violate the law.

A poll commissioned last September by the Hiddush organization, which opposes religious coercion, found that 72 percent of Israelis support some kind of public transport on Shabbat, but only 27 percent think cities should offer full bus service; the remaining 45 percent favor a more limited service.

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss a bill that would allow any municipality to provide public transportation on Shabbat within its boundaries, and also on intercity roads, but only in minibuses and not through religious neighborhoods.

For further reading click here.

Terror Victim Miracle
Assaf Bar, 27, was shot in the head twice in the recent terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. Miraculously, he’s pretty much ok and will soon be released from Ichalov Hospital. Doctors removed one of the bullets but decided to leave the other one in place, since they determined that it posses no danger.

Bar was sitting at the cafe with his girlfriend when he was shot. He recounted, “I saw the terrorists. They sat at a table near us but I did not suspect anything. I was hit first. I was shot in the head at the very beginning of the event, just before paying the bill, a moment before we intended to leave.” His mother died of cancer 3 weeks ago, after a 2 year battle during which he took care of her.

Doctors say Assaf can expect to make a full recovery from his injuries and return to a completely normal life. When asked how he felt, Assaf said, “I’ve got some headaches and hearing problems, but every day I feel stronger and I hope to continue to do so.”
 
The Director of Neurosurgery at Ichilov Hospital, Professor Tzvika Ram stated, “Assaf is a great example that despite having been shot twice in the head, with lots of luck and the quick and immediate treatment by Dr. Strauss, he stands before you today.” The doctor ended his statement with a joke regarding the bullet (only in Israel), “It won’t bother him at all. It may serve as an amulet and will help stop more bullets.”

For further reading click here.