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Latest News in Israel – 23rd December

Abbas says PA to start issuing ‘State of Palestine’ passports in 2016  

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Athens on Monday that his national authority was going to issue State of Palestine passports within 2016.

“Regarding the issue of a passport under the name Palestine State, we are about to proceed to the passport replacement and the issuance of a new passport within one year or even less. We have already changed all documents issued by ministries and public services and they now bear the name ‘State of Palestine’. We no longer accept from anybody to use the name Palestinian Authority,” Abbas told a joint news conference after meeting with Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.

Abbas is on a two-day official visit in Athens during which the Greek parliament is set to recognize the “state of Palestine” in a non-binding parliamentary vote planned for Tuesday.

Passports PLO[1]

However, the recognition will not be by the Greek state, in order “not to disturb good relations with Israel,” according to a statement released by the Greek foreign ministry.

“We must underline the imperative need to begin a substantial, a credible peace process but with a clear political target. A process that will give again hope to the Palestinian people, but also to the Israeli people, for a better future, for a peaceful coexistence of two peoples in the same region,” the Greek premier said.

The two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel has been the broad objective of negotiations since the mid-1970s and the overriding focus of US-led diplomacy for the past 20 years.

However a survey released in September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, showed that nearly 54 percent of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution and 60% of those polled support an armed intifada.                  (Jerusalem Post)

President Rivlin hosts 58 victims of terrorism celebrating their bar and bat mitzva


President Reuven Rivlin  celebrates with the youngsters at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem

For the second time since taking office, President Reuven Rivlin on Monday hosted bar and bat mitzva victims of terrorism.

The 58 youngsters representing a broad cross section of society from ultra-Orthodox to secular, Sephardi, Ashkenazi and Ethiopian, were yet another indication of terrorism’s indiscriminate cruelty.

Rivlin, who in recent months has been under attack from certain quarters, was received with whistles, cheers and sustained applause by the youngsters, those of the parents who accompanied them and volunteers working with The Terror Victims Association.

Rivlin was lauded for always having time for the organization during his period as a member and speaker of the Knesset, and continuing in this vein as president.

“It’s a festive day for you and for me, and I’m privileged to celebrate with you in your period of transition from childhood to maturity,” he told his guests.

Commenting that maturity carries with it the responsibility of coping with many problems, Rivlin paused for a moment then said: “You have already had much to cope with too young and too soon. You have suffered loss, pain and physical and emotional problems,” he said, noting that the young boys and girls in the hall had lost parents or siblings or had been wounded themselves in terrorist attacks.

“Some of you carry the memory of the last time you saw a loved one who left and never returned,” he said, “and some of you bear not only scars of memory but also physical scars.”

Rivlin made special mention of a recent victim Naor Ben Ezra, who was riding his bike in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood on October 12, when he was stabbed by Ahmed Manasra, a boy his own age.

Ben Ezra was severely wounded and rushed to hospital unconscious and in a critical condition.

Doctors did not hold out much hope for his survival. Yet last week, together with members of his family and close friends, he went to the Western Wall to celebrate his bar mitzva and to join in the joyous dancing afterwards. A very eloquent young man, Ben Ezra shared some of his experiences on Monday at the President’s Residence, saying the boy who had attacked him had been raised in a sea of hatred and had assaulted him only because he was Jewish.

Although the odds for his recovery had been slim, he said, the excellent medical care that he received, coupled with his own determination had enabled him to pull through, but he still had a long way to go in terms of rehabilitation.

“There’s a price we pay for being in this land and being Jewish,” Rivlin acknowledged.

He urged the youngsters to continue to dream and to realize their dreams. “I’m sure you’ll be a source of pride, strength and joy to your families,” he said.

Haim Katz, Welfare and Social Services minister, echoed some of what Rivlin had said and added that the country’s future depends on the best strengths and minds of today’s youth.

He also assured them that they had not been forgotten, nor will they be forgotten.

This pledge was reiterated by Yehoshua Cohen, the chairman of The Terror Victims Association, who said the organization would continue its tireless work to defend and maintain the rights of all victims.

Cohen himself was severely wounded at age 6 in Jerusalem’s German Colony during the War of Independence. One of his brothers was also wounded, and later his family had to cope with two other brothers who suffered disabilities after fighting in subsequent wars.

Cohen said he had not allowed his own disability to prevent him from living a normal life and contributing to society.              (Jerusalem Post)

French MP in ultimatum to Israel: Accept our diplomas or I’ll oppose aliyah

‘You can’t bring people here who have studied for five or ten years and then have to work as waiters’

A Jewish lawmaker in France is warning that he will move to stymie French-Jewish immigration to Israel if the country does not act quickly to fully recognize French academic degrees.

Meyer Habib said he will call on French Jews to freeze their plans to immigrate to Israel if the state does not, in the next three months, enact reforms that would allow French doctors, dentists, nurses and lawyers to immediately start working in Israel without having to pass difficult tests.

Habib, a longtime friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, told The Times of Israel during an interview at the Knesset that he believes the prime minister is on his side, but that members of the professional elite in Israel places stumbling blocks in the way of reform, as they fear an influx of French professionals would lead to a decrease in wages for native Israelis.

“I am telling French Jews: Either Israel fully recognizes your degrees and lets you work after an internship of maybe two or three months, to learn the language, or you shouldn’t come. Because it’ll be a catastrophe,” he warned.

Although generally supportive of plans by community members to immigrate, Habib, a center-right politician with parliamentary responsibility for French people living in Israel, said the time has come to pressure Jerusalem over the issue, which he said has for years hamstrung efforts to bring more French Jews to Israel.

“There are many who want to come, but they would get lost. I tell them: Don’t come, you won’t find work. If Israel doesn’t recognize your diplomas, stay in France,” Meyer said.

“People come here with families and don’t manage to put food on the table. They spent all their savings; it’s psychologically exceedingly troubling and people are depressed because their social status is being broken. Morally this is unacceptable.”

Habib posed an ultimatum: “Today, I say clearly: If in the coming three months there is no tangible progress, I will tell the Jews of France: Don’t come to Israel until your degrees are recognized. You can’t bring people here who have studied for five or ten years and then have to work as waiters, have difficulty making ends meet or have to burn through their savings.”

As a French lawmaker, it is not his job to encourage immigration to Israel, Habib said. But he considers it his duty to protect some of the 150,000 French people living in Israel who want to work but can’t.

“Today I am convinced that we need to put on pressure. We waited for too long,” said Habib, who is in Israel this week for a conference of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, which is under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress. “French immigrants are very engaged, very Zionist, very attached to Judaism. They love this country, Israel, and we can’t torture them endlessly. At a given point, decisions have to be made.”

In November 2014, the government approved the principle of “diploma recognition facilitation,” agreeing to make life easier for French academics who want to move to Israel. “But at the professional level, especially in the medical fields, many blockages are linked to protectionist attitudes of professional corporations,” Habib charged.

This week, Habib said, he was informed that doctors and dentists who have worked in their professions for 14 years would be allowed to practice immediately after immigrating. “A dentist with three years of experience who wants to make aliyah cannot work here? He’s been given impossibly difficult exams, which only about 5 to 10 percent pass? This is a shame.”

Immigrants from many Western countries have to pass difficult exams before they are allowed to practice medicine, dentistry or similar professions. Habib wants such exams to be abolished entirely.

“French degrees are among the best in the world. Doctors, dentists, nurses, lawyers, certified accountants. I realize that immigrants need a period of readjustment, to learn the language, perhaps to take an internship, but the quality of French diplomas cannot be questioned,” he said. “Either we recognize French degrees, or we don’t recognize them. As of today, Israel doesn’t recognize them. These exams are unfairly difficult. Can you imagine that in some cases university lecturers don’t pass them?”  (The Times of Israel)

Smoke bomb thrown at Palestinian house during suspected ‘price tag’ attack

A smoke bomb was thrown at a house in the village of Beitillu near Ramallah in a suspected price tag attack on Tuesday morning, according to reports by Israel Radio.

A man, woman and a nine-month-old baby were rescued uninjured from the house.

The words “Revenge” and “Hello from the detainees of Zion” were spray painted on the wall of the home, an apparent reference to the suspects in the Duma arson investigation

Kasel, the father who was rescued with his family from the house, told Israel Radio, “They came to our home at 1:30 a.m., spray-painted our exterior walls, broke the glass, and then threw smoke bombs into the house.”

“The house filled up with gas smoke – it was impossible to re-enter up until now. The neighbors came to help us escape,” he said.

Kasel said he did not catch a glimpse of the culprits who vandalized his home. “They threw the smoke bomb and fled, but we now have soldiers and members of the police force in our home.”

This was not the first time that Kasel’s home was struck. “This was not the first, or the second time,” he said. “Our neighbors car was burned.”

He asked that the government and security forces to work to ensure that similar incidences don’t occur.

“I don’t inflict any damage on anyone, I want to live in peace,” he said.             (Jerusalem Post)

Greek parliament calls for recognition of ‘Palestine’

The Greek parliament, as expected, became the latest European legislative body to recommend recognition of a Palestinian state.

The vote took place during a special parliament meeting attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The resolution is non-binding. Several other European parliaments, such as in Britain, Ireland and France, have passed similar resolutions.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely quickly responded to the resolution, issuing a statement saying that Abbas and the PA are continuing to choose unilateral steps to receive “recognition that has no practical significance.”

“Instead of Abu Mazen [Abbas] ending incitement and funding terrorism, he goes on a twisted path that will lead him nowhere,” she said.

The move comes amid a blooming of Israeli-Greek ties, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled to meet twice with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leader twice next month, once at a government-to-government meeting in Jerusalem, and the next day at a trilateral summit in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

The Greek parliament’s resolution was drawn up weeks ago, evidence that the move is not related to the understandings signed last week between Israeli and Turkish officials paving the way for a possible reconciliation between the two countries.

On Monday the Greek Gazzetta web site reported that Tsipras welcomed Abbas to Athens by saying that Greece backed a two-state solution that “guarantees the establishment of a viable, territorially unified, independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital and which will coexist in peace and security with Israel.”

According to the report, Tsipras called for an end to settlement construction and respect of the status quo for holy sites. The report said that from now on Greece will in all its public documents refer to the Palestinian Authority as “Palestine.”

Tsipras repeated what he said last month in Jerusalem, that Greece is interested in using its good relations with both sides to play a role in the diplomatic process. “Greece can play this role of a bridge in the direction of a just and viable solution to the Palestine issue,” he said. The country has in the past offered to host Israel-Palestinian talks on one of the Greek islands.

Abbas, according to the report, told Tsipras that “our people and our land need to be defended by the international community in order to have peace and democracy, like other people do. This is the last chance to have peace in the region and a resolution of the Palestinian issue, “So if the Palestinian issue is resolved, then the problem of terrorism that surrounds us all will also be resolved,” he said. “We are in favor of combating terrorism; we are in favor of peaceful resolution and political settlement of all the problems we are seeing in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.”    (Jerusalem Post)

Wage negotiations continue as injunctions filed to avert strike

Wage negotiations between the Finance Ministry and Histadrut Labor Federation were expected to continue into the night Tuesday in an effort to prevent a public sector strike set for 6:00 am Wednesday.

A strike would throw a wrench into the country’s economic gears, shutting down schools, transportation, ports, and government services and inflicting between NIS 1 billion and NIS 3 billion of economic damage a day, according to Finance Ministry estimates.

The Histadrut is demanding a NIS 11 billion hike in public sector wages, while the Finance ministry is seeking a formula to either delay a hike or parse out a rigid method for focusing wage increases toward lower earners. The Ministry’s offers thus far fall in the NIS 3.5 billion to NIS 7 billion range.

A slew of ministries and organizations opposed to the strike filed court injunctions in an effort to have the event postponed or cancelled altogether.

The Ministries of Finance and Education, alongside the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa municipalities, filed an injunction aimed at the teachers unions participating in the strike.

The teachers, they said, had agreed to “workplace quiet” until August 2017 when they settled a previous labor dispute.

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce filed an injunction to postpone the strike by at least six months, saying that a deal could be worked out without such a threat.

The Manufacturer’s Association of Israel petitioned the National Labor Court, saying that the strike would cost NIS 900 million in its first day and would increase to NIS 5 billion if it continued for five days. The private sector  would suffer NIS 37 million in lost productivity alone, as the roughly 95% of goods that move in and out of Israel’s ports would be stuck.

“It’s clear to everyone that at the end a solution to the current crisis will be found, so it’s preferable to arrive at that solution before we lead the Israeli economy into the terrible tailspin that the strike will create, and not after,” MAI President Shraga Brosh said.

The court asked to consolidate the injunctions, and had not yet ruled as of press time.

Likud MK Sharren Haskel said the Histadrut was endangering Israel’s economy.

“For the fourth time in just one year,the Histadrut is threatening to use the power they have to shut down the economy. The situation in which Israel’s economy and citizens are hostage to the Histadrut’s strike threats is absurd,” she said.

Haskel said she would propose a bill Sunday to limit the Histadrut’s ability to disrupt emergency services.                      (Jerusalem Post)

Birthright must transcend fear of attacks at the Kotel

by Shmuley Boteach                 The Jerusalem Post

We’ve just recently finished celebrating Hanukka, the holiday that commemorates the Maccabees’ brave victory over the seemingly insurmountable forces of the Hellenized Syrians.


During World War II Winston Churchill emboldened the British people to courageously endure daily aerial bombings by the Nazis while Britain battled the existential threat posed by Hitler’s war machine. Likewise, FDR fortified his people with the famous proclamation in his first inaugural, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It is a lesson the Jewish community should bear in mind as the Israeli people face daily and deadly terrorist attacks.

Last Friday’s Jerusalem Post headline stated that Birthright Israel had formulated a new policy banning participants from visiting the Kotel – the holy Western Wall – on Shabbat. While trips to the holy site will continue on weekdays, when groups can be transported there by bus, on Shabbat, when buses are not available, walking to the wall has been deemed too dangerous.

On the face of it, given the terrorist attacks and heightened security situation in Israel currently, this new policy is understandable. Yet I would respectfully argue that it needs to be reconsidered.

For one, the Jewish people have been praying for over 2,000 years that God would one day return them to their land and allow them to worship at the Western Wall which historically was a privilege experienced only by the small Jewish communities that managed to remain in the land following the Roman exile. When our people were finally able to return to Israel and declare an independent state in 1948, they were denied access to this holy site for nearly 20 years by the Jordanian forces occupying Jerusalem.

Then in 1967 Israel was attacked by the forces of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, who were supported in the fighting by the PLO and eight other Arab nations.

Just before the war began Egypt’s president Gamal Abdel Nasser laid out the goals of the war, stating, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.” Similarly Syria’s president Hafez Al-Assad proclaimed, “I as a military man believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.”

The Jewish state faced the possibility of a second Holocaust and against all odds, contrary to the predictions of military strategists and government experts across the globe, Israel unanimously defeated its enemies and retook the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The courage and tenacity of the Jewish people was manifest for all the world to witness as Jews were finally allowed to return and pray at the Western Wall again.

So here we are nearly a half-century later and the Jewish people are now again under attack. And yet, this time, Palestinian terrorism is swaying Jews from visiting their holiest site on the holiest day of the week.

We would be wise to heed the words of past presidents in these matters. Just after 9/11, President George W. Bush stated, “Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don’t conduct business, where people don’t shop.”

And that was for shopping! And just last month after the Paris attacks, President Barack Obama said, “We cannot give them the victory of changing how we go about living our lives.”

Clearly, the best course of action is to ensure that we maintain our routine and daily practices, especially when it comes to visiting the holy land.

In my book Face Your Fear, I distinguish between fear and caution. Fear is a hysterical reaction to an imagined threat. But caution is a calculated response to a real and present danger.

That’s how we should be approaching this.

The truth is if you take this fearful policy to its logical extreme, we should probably not visit Israel. After all there is always the possibility of a flare-up in the North, Hamas rockets from the south, or terrorist attacks from the east. And really, we may as well also avoid Paris, San Bernardino, New York, London and Madrid while we’re at it.

With its world-class, expert security Israel is one of the safest countries on earth, and the Western Wall is one of the most heavily protected locations within Israel. The trips to the Kotel on Shabbat must continue.

My son who is an IDF soldier recently got engaged, thank God. We held the engagement party in Kidmat Zion in east Jerusalem among the dedicated inhabitants of the neighborhood. It was beautiful. But some friends, and even close family members, refused to come, saying it was dangerous. One family member complained that the neighborhood was not safe and missed the celebration.

Two days later, right in front of him in a suburb of Tel Aviv, a terrorist tried to murder a passerby. He would have been safer in Kidmat Zion.

Furthermore, anyone who has lead a Birthright trip knows that the walk to the Kotel on Shabbat does wonders for young Jews who have never had experienced the joy of Shabbat in the holiest place on earth. There is nothing like being at the Kotel on Shabbat. Nothing.

Removing this important element from the trip would be a terrible blow to the program. Fear must not stop us from visiting the holiest site on the holiest day.

I know many in the Birthright leadership, from donors to leaders, and they are extraordinary individuals devoted to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

Over the years, they have brought over 500,000 young people to Israel and instilled in them a pride and love for their Jewish heritage and the Jewish state. They have only the most positive of intentions and want nothing more than to preserve the security of young Jews visiting from the Diaspora. And still I strongly believe that this policy should be reconsidered and reversed.

We’ve just recently finished celebrating Hanukka, the holiday that commemorates the Maccabees’ brave victory over the seemingly insurmountable forces of the Hellenized Syrians. We should look to their example.

They fought with all their might to ensure that the Jews survived as a people and continued to live without fear. We must take the torch of the Menorah and use its light to dispel the dark shadows of fear so that we Jews never allow our enemies to incarcerate us again.

The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He will shortly publish The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.

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