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Latest Israel News – 12th July

IDF Major General detained in Israeli submarine corruption probe

Police detained a retired IDF Major General a day after they detained six suspects in the investigation of Israel’s acquisition of three more German-made submarines and naval vessels, termed Case 3000.

The general was questioned as suspect at the offices of the Lahav 433 serious crime unit in Lod. Police offered no details as to the suspect’s identity.

Tuesday’s detention comes after six suspects were detained for questioning on Monday. Among the suspects three were arrested and had their remands extended: former deputy head of the National Security Council, retired Brig.-Gen. Avriel Bar-Yosef, Miki Ganor, the Israeli representative of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, and Attorney Ronen Shemer who works with Ganor.

Another suspect, is close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was released to house arrest.

The six people were detained on suspicion of bribery, fraud, money laundering, and tax offenses.

“At the time of the events, some of the suspects involved were civil servants, while others worked in the private sector,” the Police’s Investigations and Intelligence Division said in a statement on Monday.

Questions over the submarine deal surfaced in November, with a Channel 10 report that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron worked as an intermediary for Ganor.

Shimron is reportedly suspected of pushing to buy submarines worth some $1.5 billion from the German firm over the objections of the defense establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Former Israeli Navy Commander V.-Adm.(ret.) Eliezer Marom is also said to be wanted for questioning in the case, Channel 2 reported.

However, he was not detained due to a family event.

Shimron has denied any wrongdoing in the case. Netanyahu, who is not a suspect in the case, has denied any involvement in the deal with ThyssenKrupp.

However, according to a Channel 2 report on Monday, police will summon Netanyahu for questioning and ask the premier to explain why he decided to appoint Bar-Yosef as head of the NSC in February 2016, despite suspicions of Bar-Yosef working in a conflict of interest with German businessmen. Bar-Yosef later withdrew his candidacy for NSC head.

Attorney Jack Chen, who represents Bar-Yosef, told The Jerusalem Post that “after facing an investigation by the media, Avriel Bar-Yosef was happy to finally be given the opportunity to answer any questions and refute the allegations with the relevant officials.”

In February, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit authorized a full-blown criminal investigation into the submarine affair, stating that police had gathered enough evidence to raise suspicions “that some of those involved in the affair committed crimes of public corruption.”

Ya’alon, who has threatened “to go public” if Case 3000 does not produce an indictment, put the brakes on the planned purchase of the submarines. But after he stepped down in May 2016 as defense minister, Netanyahu renewed the negotiations with Berlin.

Ya’alon has testified to police investigators offering details about the contacts Netanyahu held with German officials regarding the acquisition of three submarines and several other warships, all of which happened without the knowledge of the security establishment.

On Monday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett – who is a frequent critic of the prime minister – said that “to the best of my understanding and knowledge, what drove the cabinet and prime minister was only security.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid offered a rebuke of the premier, stating that the sub deal was “not just corruption but [did] harm to the security of the state.”

Meanwhile, Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit – who traveled to Germany to collect information on the submarine deal and gave testimony to police in the investigation last month – said “the circle of the investigation is beginning to close around Netanyahu.”

ThyssenKrupp, which sold the Israel Navy its newest Dolphin-class submarines, has been accused of bribing officials around the world to promote sales of its submarines.

In June, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the German National Security Council approved the purchase of the three submarines by Israel. However, the contract reportedly includes a clause giving Germany the right to cancel the deal if any improprieties or criminal offenses are proven as a result of the current police investigation.  (Jerusalem Post)

US ambassador, Trump envoy meet Palestinian officials in Jerusalem

The US ambassador to Israel and the White House’s special envoy to the peace process met Tuesday with senior Palestinian negotiators in Jerusalem on Tuesday, after the Palestinian negotiating team refused to host the meeting in Ramallah.

Special envoy Jason Greenblatt, who has held many such consultations since Trump took office in January, was joined by US Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome and, in an unusual move, also David Friedman, who is the US ambassador to Israel.

“They had an open, cordial, and frank discussion on many topics related to peace negotiations,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel. “The administration believes that in order to give everyone the best chance to reach an ultimate deal, it is critical to have negotiators that are close with the president and that is why the team includes Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman.”

According to Israeli reports, the Palestinian negotiating team wanted to meet Greenblatt in Jerusalem because they were unwilling to host Friedman in Ramallah.

As an ambassador accredited to the State of Israel, Friedman would usually not attend bilateral meetings with the Palestinian Authority.

On Monday, a senior White House official told The Times of Israel that the purpose of Greenblatt’s trip was to lay the foundations for peace talks.

“This trip is an interim visit as talks continue about potential next steps,” he said. “President Trump has made it clear that working toward achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him.”

During his last visit to Israel at the end of June, Greenblatt accompanied Kushner to a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and another with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom the two US officials met in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

Palestinian sources told Hebrew and Arabic media later that the meeting had not gone well and that the Palestinian leader had accused the US of taking Israel’s side while refusing US demands that Ramallah cut off payments for some convicted terrorists and their families.

Kushner reportedly began his meeting with Abbas by stating all the Israeli concerns, including stopping the payments, according to Hebrew media reports, angering Abbas.

A senior Palestinian official said at the time that a preparatory meeting with Greenblatt a day before the meeting with Kushner had also not gone well and became tense over the payments to prisoners that Greenblatt had insisted come to an end.

Abbas has defended payments to Palestinian prisoners, including convicted terrorists, as a “social responsibility,” and said Israel was using the issue as a pretext to avoid peace talks. (the Times of Israel)

‘We want to separate synagogue from state,’ say 55% of Israel’s Jewish population

More than half of Jewish Israelis are in favor of changing the current status quo on religious life in the public realm, believing that current arrangements reflect haredi or religious-Zionist values, a new poll has found.

The survey, conducted for the Israel Democracy Institute, found that 55% of Jewish Israelis think that the way religious issues are handled by the state should change, compared with 33% who said they oppose changes.

Activists for religious pluralism and the separation of synagogue and state have been advocating for a change in religion in the public realm for many years, with key demands including the institution of civil marriage, greater freedoms on Shabbat and the dissolution of the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on many aspects of religious life.

As well as backing change to the religious status quo, an identical percentage of those polled, 55%, said that they believed religion and state arrangements reflect haredi or religious-Zionist values, with two-thirds of secular respondents saying that such arrangements represent specifically haredi values.

Interestingly, 57% of haredi respondents said the status of religion in public life represents either secular values or traditional values.

Among secular respondents who said they would like to see change to religious life in Israel, almost 100% said they support the separation of religion and state, or at least reducing the influence of religion on life in the country.

Some 46% of religious-Zionist respondents said they would support changes to the status quo, of whom 48% want the state to be more religious and 30% want the state to be less religious.

And 42% of haredi respondents said they also support change to the status quo, 76% of whom said they would like religion to play a greater role in Israeli life.

Among those identifying as traditional-religious Jews, 49% support separating or reducing the influence of religion, while among those identifying as traditional non-religious respondents, 80% were in favor of separating religion and state.  (Jerusalem Post)

The Best Six Months Ever in the History of Incoming Tourism! Record Levels for Tourism for June and the First Half of 2017

–    303,000 tourist entries in June, 28% more than last year

–    1.74 million tourist entries in Jan-June 2017, 26% more than same period last year –    NIS 9.4 billion revenue from tourism in Jan-June 2017 Tourism Minister Yariv Levin: “The June tourism statistics bring us to record levels for incoming tourism in the first six months of the year.  Our policy continues to prove itself and to bear fruit and we can see that the right marketing strategy can bring Israel to new heights.  We are implementing marketing activities and innovative processes to brand Israel and to bring new airlines and new routes into Israel and all this activity proves itself, month after month.. The significant increase in incoming tourism numbers makes an exceptional contribution to the Israeli economy and workforce. I am convinced that, with the correct activities, we will see continue to see good results in the coming months.”

Jerusalem, July 10, 2017 – According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the following increases were recorded in the first half of 2017 as compared to the same six months in 2016:

–    76% increase in tourism from China

—   30% increase in tourism from Russia

–    20% increase in tourism from USA (the largest source country for incoming tourism)

303,000 tourist entries were recorded in June 2017, 28.4% on June 2016. In the six months January-June 2017, 1.74 million tourist entries were recorded, 26% increase on the same period last year.

June 2017

There was a 28.4% increase in tourist entries in June 2017 as compared to June 2016 and a similar increase on June 2015. 275,000 tourist entries were by air, an increase of 26% on June 2016 and 27% on June 2015. 28,600 tourist entries were recorded via the land crossings in June, of which 24,000 came via Jordan and about 4,500 via Egypt. 19,300 arrived as day visitors as opposed to 8,700 in June 2016.

January- June 2017

In January- June 2017, 1.74 million tourist entries were recorded, an increase of 26% on the same period in 2016 (1.38 million) and 24% more than in 2015  (IMRA)

Israel Innovation Authority Earmarks 3 Million NIS for Projects Developing Technologies Assisting those with Disabilities

Last week, the board of the Israel Innovation Authority convened to discuss a variety of projects developing technological solutions for populations with special needs, allocating NIS 3 million for the projects. This initiative promotes unique assistive technological solutions for people with special needs as part of its Societal Challenges Division.

Among the approved projects are two applications aimed at children on the autistic spectrum. The first application is intended to help enable more effective communication with autistic children, and the second is intended to help develop their social skills.

The Authority also approved the development of a technologically innovative system for the benefit of the visually-impaired. The system will enable the visually-impaired to receive information that will help them orientate in public spaces and will even help them carry out various day-to-day activities.

Another approved project is for the development of an electro-mechanical device intended for offices open to the public. The device will enable people in wheelchairs to open doors using their cellphones. Another project is developing affordable but accurate communications devices intended to help the disabled with physical limitations, such as ALS patients, communicate through the movement of their pupils alone.

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen said: “These funds have been allocated to develop technologies designed to help people with disabilities meet daily challenges, to increase awareness and to support businesses integrating people with special needs into the economy and society. As a society, we must promote equal opportunity and I commend the use of one of our greatest resources, Israeli innovation, to meet these particular challenges. These projects can affect real change in the lives of real people.”

Nachum Itzkovich, Acting Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, said, “One of the key missions of the Israel Innovation Authority is to leverage groundbreaking Israeli innovation in order to help those with special needs.

Israeli technology can help improve the lives of those facing daily challenges.”

The Societal Challenges Department in the Israel Innovation Authority is in charge of research and social development intended to cope with social and environmental challenges such as increasing and diversifying the number of people employed in the hi-tech industry or creating technological solutions for different sectors coping with unique challenges, in Israel and around the world (IMRA)

Record-breaking day in the pool led by Aussie Levy setting world mark

Australia’s Matt Levy set a world record in the swimming competitions of the 20th Maccabiah on Monday, with the seven-time Paralympic medalist improving his own record in the 200- meter freestyle in the S7 class.

The 30-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is competing in the Maccabiah for the first time.

He won a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympics as part of Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay team and a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in the 4x100m medley relay event.

Levy also claimed one silver and three bronze medals in London and is competing in Israel a year after taking a bronze in the 200m individual medley in the Rio Games, while also finishing fourth in the 50m and 100m freestyle events.

Levy, who was born at 25 weeks and has survived 46 operations, set a time of 2:16.28 minutes at the Wingate Institute, an improvement of 46 hundredths of a second to his previous best recorded in April of this year.

“It is an honor to be asked to go to these games to represent Australia,” Levy said when it was announced he would be competing in the Maccabiah.

“When I go overseas I love to learn about the different cultures, and people and learning about the culture side of Judaism in a place like Israel will be pretty amazing.”

There were also new Maccabiah records set in the pool on Monday.

After breaking the Games record in the 100m free on Sunday, Andrea Murez set a new best in the 200m free, clocking 1:59.80 minutes.

Murez smashed the record she set four years ago while representing the USA .

Murez moved to Israel from the US in 2014.

Another Maccabiah record was set by 17-yearold Israeli Denis Loktev, who won the men’s 200m free in 1:49.31m.

Tuesday’s schedule in the pool includes a special exhibition event featuring American Olympic champions Lenny Krayzelburg, Jason Lezak and Anthony Ervin.

Krayzelburg took part in the 2001 Maccabiah and claimed three gold medals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and one more in Athens four years later. Lezak competed in the Maccabiah in 2009 and has eight Olympic medals to his name – including four golds – from Sydney 2000 to London 2012.

Ervin is competing in the current Maccabiah and is the reigning Olympic champion in the 50m free. They will swim a relay with Alex Blavatnik, a Maccabiah masters swimmer and a major donor. They will compete against an all-star team of retired and active Israeli swimmers, including Yoav Bruck, Eran Garumi, Guy Barnea and Tal Stricker.

Elsewhere Monday, 18-year-old Israeli Ofir Kremer won the gymnastics all-around final.

The individual apparatus finals will be held on Tuesday.

Earlier Monday, President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama welcomed Maccabi World Union chiefs, heads of delegations and Maccabiah athletes to their official residence in Jerusalem.

“Sport has always been a way to bring people together,” Rivlin said.

“Sport brings people closer because it is a celebration of the human spirit and body, but also because sport at its best reflects the world in the way we would like to see it where talent is celebrated regardless of religion, race, or gender, and everyone must play by the rules.”

Rivlin also spoke of the importance of the Maccabiah.

“As Jews we know that it is far from a given that all people can take part in sporting competitions and that sports and politics don’t mix,” he added. “Jews have been victims of racism and discrimination in sport. The Maccabiah is the answer to this. The Maccabiah is against hatred. We must maintain these values and fight together against the dangerous BDS movement and the mixing of sports and politics.

“We can argue and we can disagree between ourselves. But we are always one family.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s New Labor emerges victorious

By Gil Hoffman            The Jerusalem Post

http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Analysis-Israels-New-Labor-emerges-victorious-499304

A generation ago the Labour party in England had become a party of losers with very little hope, until Tony Blair took over its leadership in 1994, rebranded it as New Labor, and brought it to victory three years later.

Labour remained in power for 10 years under Blair, and an additional three under his successor, Gordon Brown.

Avi Gabbay will try to mimic that success with the Israeli Labor party, which has not been in power since Ehud Barak lost to Ariel Sharon in 2001.

It will be a difficult challenge.

Labor has lost confidence in itself after losing election after election and throwing out multiple party leaders. Even after Shimon Peres won an election for president, his former party retained its image as a lovable loser.

The first step will be remaking Labor’s image as the main party in opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after former chairman Isaac Herzog was not seen as effective in that role, abdicating it to Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

Gabbay

It will be especially hard for Gabbay to remain in the public eye, because he is not a member of Knesset and does not receive the stage that the Knesset regularly provides. At least he will be able to speak at weekly faction meetings and will not have to rely on Facebook to approach the public, as have former ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Moshe Ya’alon.

Labor under Gabbay will fight Netanyahu on both diplomatic and socioeconomic issues, and perhaps also on matters of religion and state. However, Gabbay has made a point in recent interviews of not wanting to be judged in comparison with Netanyahu.

Gabbay wants to focus on building Labor by remaining in the field, as he did during his campaign, and reaching out to sectors that Labor has not attracted in recent years. He already proved successful in beating the establishment in Labor, and the Histadrut Labor Federation that backed his opponent, MK Amir Peretz. Gabbay did that despite only joining Labor six months ago.

When asked who better resembles French President Emmanuel Macron – Gabbay or himself – Lapid mocked Gabbay on Monday, saying, “You cannot run in the oldest party in Israel and say you are the new and fresh thing.”

Gabbay can only hope he can sweep the country off its feet the way Macron did. He will have to learn from both Macron and Blair to succeed

If the Palestinians Care about Peace, Why Do They Pay Salaries to Terrorists? – Robert Fulford (National Post)

All over the world, people take the side of the Palestinians without knowing much about them and their collective beliefs and intentions.

For many years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) or one of its offshoots has been paying regular salaries to the families of dead or imprisoned terrorists. The 2016 PA budget says it pays relatives of “martyrs” the equivalent of $183 million a year and families of imprisoned terrorists $135 million. The Palestinians have paid out $1.12 billion during the last four years to terrorists and their families. The money comes from foreign aid grants.

Recently, the official Facebook page of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ party, Fatah, carried his statement: “Even if I will have to leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary of a martyr or a prisoner.”

Fatah central committee member Jamal Muhaisen explained that the payments are connected to the “Palestinian historical narrative” and that the prisoners and martyrs “represent our Palestinian people’s struggle.”

The recipients of the salaries are encouraged to believe that their actions, whether blowing up a bus or knifing an old man, are part of a sacred historic movement.

That’s the point. Many Palestinians (and certainly the leaders they elect) assume that terrorists who randomly slaughter men, women and children are heroes.