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Latest News in Israel – 15th June

Jerusalem – Startup Capital of Israel

A new buzz of innovative entrepreneurship has settled over Jerusalem. With only 10 startup companies in 2010, Israel’s capital currently boasts 500 startup companies, of which over 200 have been founded since 2014.

With international innovators such as Cisco, Teva, Kaspersky, J&J and others in the forefront, over 40,000 students at world-leading academic institutes and grants and tax benefits offered by the Jerusalem Development Authority, it is little wonder that the city is rushing to become Israel’s new start-up capital.

In first, Israel elected to head a permanent UN committee

For the first time ever, Israel was elected to head a permanent committee at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, despite intense efforts by Arab and Muslim states to stop the nomination.

In a secret ballot Monday in New York, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon was elected chairman of the GA’s Sixth Committee, which deals with legal issues.

“This is a historic achievement for the State of Israel. We broke the glass ceiling: Despite the opposition of many countries, including Iran and others that tried to prevent the vote, we managed to be elected for the first time to head a committee at the UN,” Danon said.

In the past, Israeli diplomats have presided over other, less prestigious committees at the UN and even co-chaired the GA, but never headed one of the GA’s six main committees. “The Sixth Committee is the primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly,” according to the UN.

Among the issues it is expected to deal with at this fall’s GA are “measures to eliminate international terrorism,” and “the rule of law at the national and international levels.”

“One of Ambassador Danon’s first tasks in his new position will be to further the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism,” the Israeli delegation to the UN in New York said in a press release.

“Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism. We are pleased to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with the countries of the world,” Danon said.

He was nominated for the job by the Western European and Others Group in the UN, whose turn it was to pick a chairman for the committee. Israel has been a temporary member of the Western European and Others Group since 2000 and joined permanently in December 2013.

The chairmanships of the GA main committees are allocated on a rotational basis and are usually confirmed without a vote. In this case, however, Yemen, on behalf of the Arab Group, challenged Israel’s nomination and asked for a vote. In a secret ballot Monday, in which all 193 UN member states could vote, Israel was elected. Congratulations immediately started pouring in from Western states that supported Jerusalem’s bid.                          (the Times of Israel)

UN: 2015 was most violent year in West Bank, Israel in the last decade

Last year saw the highest number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties in the West Bank and Israel since the UN began recording such data a decade ago, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report issued early Monday morning.

The 19-page report titled “Fragmented Lives” took aim at Israel’s continued military rule of the West Bank as well as its hold on east Jerusalem by looking at the impact on Palestinian lives on the ground.

“This month, Palestinians enter their 50th year under Israeli occupation,” said David Carden, head of OCHA in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“‘Fragmented Lives’ shows clearly the devastating impact of this ongoing situation, mainly on 4.8 million Palestinians who are increasingly vulnerable due to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,” he said.

But the report’s primary focus was 2015, which was marked by the wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis that claimed the lives of 25 victims as of December, and the response of Israeli forces.

The toll was higher among Palestinians, where 146 people died, the UN said.

Of that number, 94 Palestinians were killed executing attacks and “alleged attacks” against Israelis, the UN said.

Most of the other 52 deaths occurred in violent clashes between Palestinian rioters and the IDF.

The 52 figure also includes attacks against innocent Palestinians by rightwing Israeli extremists, such as the July arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma that claimed three lives.

The Palestinian fatality count also included 30 minors, of whom 20 were killed by Israeli security forces while executing attacks and “alleged attacks” against Israelis, the UN report said.

When it comes to those wounded in 2015, there is a vast discrepancy between the number of Palestinians injured – 14,053– and the Israelis who were physically harmed – 304 – the UN report stated.

“The absolute majority of Palestinian injuries occurred during clashes and resulted mainly from tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment (60 percent); rubber bullets (26%); and from live ammunition shot by Israeli forces (10%),” the UN said.

Meanwhile, settler violence against Palestinians has declined, the UN report stated, noting that there were 305 such attacks in 2013, which dropped to 217 in 2014 and then declined again to 130 in 2015, according to the report.

Those figures included both vandalism and personal injury.

The number of Palestinians physically harmed by settlers was 92 in 2013, which rose to 107 in 2014 before declining to 97 in 2015, the report stated.   (Jerusalem Post)

Police allow return of MKs to Temple Mount

The Knesset Ethics Committee is expected to approve a recommendation to allow lawmakers to ascend the Temple Mount again after a seven-month ban, in a vote scheduled for Tuesday.

In a meeting with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh said the police have reassessed the situation on the Temple Mount, and it is once again safe for MKs to visit.

The outline the police recommended is that Muslim MKs be allowed to ascend the mount during the last week of Ramadan, and after that, all legislators will be allowed to visit the site.

The Ethics Committee had hitherto prohibited them from visiting the Temple Mount. Such a visit would amount to an ethical violation. The decision was based on a police recommendation, which held that such visits could provoke violence.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, where both Holy Temples once stood. Currently, al-Aksa Mosque stands atop the mount, which is administered by the Jordanian Wakf Muslim religious trust. The Wakf bans all non-Muslim prayer in the entire plaza, and together with Palestinians not acting in an official capacity, often harasses Jewish visitors.

Last autumn, when the recent wave of violence began, the Islamic Movement and terrorist groups claimed Israel was trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and even destroy the mosque, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emphatically denied. This claim has been trotted out many times to provoke violence, as early as in the 1929 Hebron Massacre.

Last month, several Joint List MKs announced their intention to visit the mount during Ramadan despite the ban.

Joint List MK Masud Gnaim wrote a letter to Edelstein on behalf of himself and MKs Abdel-Hakim Haj Yahya and Taleb Abu Arar, all from the United Arab List which is aligned with the Islamic Movement’s southern branch, stating that they “intend to enter al-Aksa Mosque and pray in it during the month of the fast of Ramadan. Fulfilling this religious commandment is a basic right, and part of our lifestyle as Muslims and religious people.”

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), the sole member of the Ethics Committee who voted against the ban, wrote a letter to the panel’s chairman, MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), asking that it be overturned.

The requests came the same week Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick was sworn in as a Likud MK. Glick said he would honor the ban, despite his dedication to equal rights for Jews at the site, and he petitioned an ethics complaint against Gnaim for saying he would knowingly violate it.

In November 2014, Glick survived an assassination attempt by Mutaz Hijazi, an Arab from Jerusalem who shot Glick in the chest four times and called him “an enemy of al-Aksa.”                              (Jerusalem Post)

MKs compare Orlando, Tel Aviv slayings

Faction meetings at the Knesset opened Monday with condolences to the victims of the murders in Orlando and Tel Aviv, and with politicians making comparisons between the two.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid told his faction that what connected the four Israelis murdered at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv on Wednesday with the 49 members of the LGBT community who were murdered on Sunday in Orlando, was that in both cases, innocent people were murdered not because of something they did but because of who and what they are.

“We are in the midst of a global war,” Lapid said.

“On one side there are those who define themselves by hatred of the other, by murderous Islamist fanaticism, by the attempt to drag us back to the Middle Ages. On the other side is us, all those who define themselves by tolerance, acceptance of the other and the ability to live together with those whom we disagree with.

There is one thing you can’t be in this war and that’s neutral. Everyone must choose a side.”

After sending condolences to the Florida victims’ families, Lapid said the connection between Israel and the United States stemmed first and foremost from their shared values, and that the two countries were engaged in the same conflict.

“In this war against extremism and against hatred, we are on the same side,” said Lapid, who on Friday escorted ambassadors to visit the site of the Tel Aviv terrorist attack.

After offering his own condolences, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog used the attacks in Tel Aviv and Florida to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

“I will not offer the American government any advice from here,” Herzog said. “I am leaving that task to Israel’s security leadership which always knows how to advise others, to write books, Facebook posts, and tweets on fighting terror. I have only one request from our leadership: start dealing with our terror.”

Saying it was time for Netanyahu and Liberman to prove that they can defeat terror, Herzog listed broken promises by Netanyahu and Liberman about how they would take action against terror, and dared them to complete the security fence in Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

“I don’t think we are destined to face swords forever,” Herzog said. “Whoever is unable to change our reality – to fight for a better future for our citizens and the region and pay a personal price – is unfit to be a leader in Israel.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called his American counterpart, US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, to offer his condolences.

“Terror strikes everywhere, and it does not differentiate between Orlando and Tel Aviv,” Edelstein stated. “Unfortunately, the Israeli people know well the feeling of sadness and anguish caused by such events. We must join hands in the fight against global terrorism.”

Meretz MK Michal Rozin tried to explain the motives of the attackers in Tel Aviv and Orlando.

“Hatred prevents people from accepting the right of others to live their lives without regard to religion, race, gender, nationality, sexual preference or gender identity,” Rozin said.

“The hatred comes from fear of those who are different, and an inability to accept the other. All incidents of horrible murder encourage hatred and deepen fear. The fear is natural and clear, but it is important to remember that most humans are not racist and do not hate. We all have to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other. Terror is terror. No motive can justify murdering innocents.”   (Jerusalem Post)

Boycotting Israel Isn’t Free Speech – Eugene Kontorovich (New York Daily News)

New York Gov. Cuomo’s recent executive order requiring state agencies to divest from companies that boycott Israel has led boycott proponents to claim he’s violating the First Amendment, which safeguards free expression, and particularly political speech. But there is no free speech problem here. States have a right to refuse to spend their money on what they view as bigoted or improper conduct.

The First Amendment protects speech, not conduct. The Supreme Court unanimously held, in Rumsfeld vs. FAIR, that the government can deny federal funding to universities that boycott military recruiters.

Companies may boycott Israel to prevent further harassment from the BDS movement, to curry favor with Arab states or out of mere anti-Semitism. Those actions have no message. That is why refusals to do business are not speech.

Federal law already bans participation in certain kinds of boycotts of Israel – those sponsored by foreign countries – and no one has ever doubted the constitutionality of these measures.

Israel boycotts – which target all businesses from a particular country – have the key hallmark of impermissible discrimination: They cut off business to people and companies not because of their own particular conduct, but on the basis of who they are.

Boycott activists claim they merely object to Israeli government policies. But it is not the Israeli government targeted by boycotts, but those with some Israeli connection.

The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.

So who says ancient and innovative can’t go together? This is the face of high-tech in one of the oldest cities in the world: Jerusalem!              (MFA)