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Latest News in Israel – 3rd June

Kahlon calls upon Zionist Union to join coalition

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s calls for the Zionist Union to enter the government despite Monday’s addition of Yisrael Beytenu to the coalition.

Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog called on Monday for Kahlon to take his Kulanu party’s 10 MKs out of the government. But in a speech in Netanya, where he was granted honorary citizenship, Kahlon rejected Herzog’s plea and tried to turn the tables on him.

“A regional peace conference can change the rules of the game, open new horizons to diplomatic progress and remove our relations with our neighbors from their current stalemate,” Kahlon said. “Such a step can significantly expedite further expansion of the coalition, and I think the Zionist Union will not be able to avoid taking part in this challenge. I call upon it to enter the government, because from the opposition a diplomatic process cannot be started and change cannot be created.”

Kahlon asked Netanyahu on Monday for Kulanu to be given the Economy portfolio that the prime minister has held since Shas leader Arye Deri shifted to the Interior Ministry. But Netanyahu said he was saving the portfolio for the Zionist Union, along with the Foreign Ministry, which the prime minister also controls.

The fate of the portfolios could be decided by the Labor leadership primary.

A date for the race is expected to be set by next week.

The two ministers who aided Netanyahu in expanding the coalition, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, both want the Economy portfolio.

New Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi has said that if the Economy Ministry is given to Kulanu, he would like the Environment portfolio, which the Likud would receive from Kulanu.

Environment minister Avi Gabbay of Kulanu quit last Friday to protest the firing of defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Hanegbi is a former environment minister. The political appointments he made while in the post led to him being convicted in 2010 of perjury and swearing falsely under oath.       (Jerusalem Post)

Diaspora leaders warn PM of ‘major rift’ if Western Wall plan collapses

‘Disappointment and frustration” characterized the mood at the end of Wednesday’s high-level meeting on a planned pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall with top Liberal Jewish leaders at the Prime Minister’s Office, said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement after the meeting saying that he continues to work on the issue and is committed to resolving the matter. Netanyahu attended about a third of the 90-minute meeting.

Jacobs said he expected to see progress in a matter of weeks. “There is a deep concern, bordering on disbelief, that this deal may not be implemented,” Jacobs said.

The Western Wall compromise, passed in a January 31 cabinet decision that reflected the work of years of negotiations, called for a permanent prayer platform to be built along the southern end of the Western Wall in an area of the Davidson Archeological park, otherwise known as Robinson’s Arch. There is currently a temporary prayer platform set up there in two distinct areas of the park.

The plan was heralded as a symbol of “Jewish unity” throughout most of the Jewish Diaspora. But within days of its jubilant announcement — a headline which splashed across international media — the cabinet decision drew the ire of the ultra-Orthodox parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenuous coalition who view the Western Wall pavilion as an open-air Orthodox synagogue. Its implementation has been stymied for the past four months.

In mid-March, according to a Channel 10 report, Interior Minister Arye Deri told his associates the Western Wall plan “is over.”

“We won’t sit in a government that recognizes the Reform, not over the Western Wall, not for marriage and not for divorce,” Deri later told Channel 2 news.

For Diaspora Jewry, which is overwhelmingly non-Orthodox, the Western Wall plan is significant because of its recognition of a plurality of Jewish denominations. “We express our love for the Jewish state every day,” said Jacobs Wednesday. “We need to feel some love in return. It’s a huge part of what this agreement signals.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Union for Reform Judaism president, speaking at the movement’s biennial conference in Orlando, Florida, November 7, 2015. (URJ/via JTA)

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Union for Reform Judaism president, speaking at the movement’s biennial conference in Orlando, Florida, November 7, 2015. (URJ/via JTA)

“This agreement, if it falters, its collapse will signal a major rift between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel,” said Jacobs.

“We have a coalition too,” said Jacobs while on his way to Ben Gurion Airport following Wednesday’s meeting. “We are the representatives of the overwhelming majority of Jewish people in North America. We are not a fringe group.”

Jacobs flew to Israel for this meeting with American Conservative movement leaders Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and Rabbi Steven Wernick, and Jewish Federations of North America head Jerry Silverman. They were at the table with Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, Women of the Wall head Anat Hoffman, Israeli Reform movement leader Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Israeli Masorti movement head Yizhar Hess and the federations’ Israel and overseas head Rebecca Caspi. Netanyahu were there for about half an hour.

The Jewish leaders said in a statement put out after the meeting, “Admittedly we are frustrated, however we look forward to measurable progress being made in the coming weeks. Millions of Jews in Israel and around world are looking to the Israeli government to implement this agreement and in doing so, to give respect to Jews everywhere, honoring all expressions of Judaism.”

Wednesday’s “emergency” 90-minute session took place to coincide with the end of a 60-day extension requested by Netanyahu who had called for a new fact-finding task force on the issue of the pluralistic plaza, headed by chief of staff David Sharan.

Although Netanyahu reportedly “reiterated his commitment to the coalition agreement,” the Diaspora negotiating team found an utter lack of progress in its implementation, said Jacobs.

During the meeting, Netanyahu “expressed that this agreement was a set of principles and set of commitments,” said Jacobs. However, he said, because of the prime minister’s “complicated political reality” it will require strong leadership and a broad view of what is good for the entire Jewish people to actualize.

“We intend to hold the prime minister to his commitment. We’re not picking up our marbles and going home,” said Jacobs. “We made it clear that the Haredim [ultra-Orthodox] need to affirm this agreement. When they’re committed to this agreement and moving forward, we’re open to compromise.”

Among the sticking points of the Western Wall plan for the ultra-Orthodox parties are its government funding and a unified entrance to the Western Wall prayer areas, which would split off for the single-gender Orthodox men and women’s areas, and the mixed-gender pluralistic prayer section.

“We’ve shown ourselves a people of compromise. We’re not digging in our heels and being entrenched, but compromise is a two-way street,” said Jacobs.

‘This is not a moment when I’m bringing a victory flag’

From Israel, Jacobs is flying to St. Louis for a convention of Reform leadership.

“This is not a moment when I’m bringing a victory flag. I am bringing a message that this deal is still alive, and that we’ll continue to stand up strongly for it.”

But Jacobs is still innately optimistic about the implementation of the pluralistic Western Wall pavilion, and points as example to his movement. Despite dire predictions to the contrary, Reform is today the largest Disapora denomination and continues to grow “in size and strength and love of Judaism.”

“We’re about making impossible things happen every day,” said Jacobs.            (the Times of Israel)

West Bank stabbing attempt: Female Palestinian attacks IDF soldiers, is shot dead

A Palestinian woman was shot and killed on Thursday after she tried stabbing IDF soldiers in the northern West Bank.

The IDF said that the knife-wielding Palestinian woman arrived at a military post near the Palestinian town of Anabta, where she tried attacking nearby troops. The soldiers reportedly left their guard post and initially tried apprehending the woman before firing shots at her.

There were no injuries among the Israelis.

While the frequency of lone-wolf violence that plagued Israel in recent months has simmered down, sporadic attacks continue to occur.

Earlier in the week, a Palestinian teenager stabbed and lightly wounded a soldier in Tel Aviv in what police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) were investigating as a likely terrorist attack.

Police said Monday that a Palestinian teen with a screwdriver stabbed and lightly wounded a 19-year-old soldier at the scene, before he was cornered by bystanders in an apartment building nearby.

Prior to that, on May 23, a Palestinian woman was shot dead after she attempted to stab security forces at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem.

According to a Border Police statement, the Palestinian woman arrived at the Ras Bidu checkpoint near Givat Ze’ev and was approached by officers “who thought she appeared suspicious.”

The officers then asked her to stop and fired warning shots in the air, but she then ran toward them brandishing a knife and was shot by the officers, the statement read.   (Jerusalem Post)

IDF finds ambulance driver tampered with knife after shooting of Hebron attacker

The IDF’s lead investigator in the Hebron shooter case testified on Wednesday that an ambulance driver had moved a knife closer to the wounded Palestinian attacker’s body after the shooting, implying he tampered with evidence to make the killing look more like self-defense.

Video footage that the prosecution unveiled at the Jaffa Military Court hearing showed that the knife was three to four meters away, clearly out of reach of Abdel Fatah al-Sharif, both before and after the shooting – until it was moved at an even later point.

The driver, Ofer Ohana, also was responsible for taking many of the videos of the incident, but the military police investigator, a major, said that at one point his video stopped, he moved the knife, and then his video started again.

The new accusations in the trial of Sgt.Elor Azaria, which has transfixed the nation and garnered major international attention since the March 24 shooting of Sharif who attacked soldiers but was incapacitated when Azaria shot him, were part of the first day of calling actual witnesses.

The shooting was picked up on a video distributed by B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, which went viral online and has dominated the airwaves with a war of words over Azaria’s guilt or innocence.

Just before the major’s testimony, the prosecution made its opening statement, in which Lt.-Col. Nadav Weissman slammed Azaria as having broken with the IDF’s “fundamental values… regarding purity of arms.”

He confidently told the court that it should convict Azaria of manslaughter since he admits to almost all of the facts in the case regarding his shooting of Sharif, which shifts the burden of proof to the defense to prove self-defense.

Weissman further charged that Azaria has repeatedly changed his accounts of the incident and that the much-debated knife that the Palestinian assailant had used to stab a nearby soldier was not on the terrorist’s person, but out of reach.

In other testimony by the IDF major, he said Azaria sent a text message to his father following the incident, telling him that a colleague had been injured by a knife-wielding terrorist, that one terrorist was killed with the other wounded, but that Azaria had made sure to shoot the attacker who was still alive.

According to the major, additional video footage showed Azaria shaking hands with far-right activist Baruch Marzel and after the shooting incident.

Next, the major said that a fellow soldier initially said that before Azaria shot Sharif, he stated that the Palestinian “stabbed my friend, he deserved death.” The soldier later said Azaria made the remarks after shooting the Palestinian attacker, the major said.                         (Jerusalem Post)

Jerusalem city hall orders halt to illegal Waqf construction on Temple Mount

The Jerusalem Municipality on Tuesday ordered a halt to illegal construction taking place outside of the fence surrounding Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount holy site.

The administrative order was issued after authorities determined the construction of additional restrooms at the complex has begun without the proper permits, a municipality statement said.

According to reports, the project was initiated by the Muslim Waqf — the Jordanian trust that administers the site — to accommodate the tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers expected to visit the compound during the upcoming Ramadan holiday.

Army Radio said the municipality has pledged to install portable toilets in the Temple Mount area for the month-long holiday. The bathrooms will be erected in coordination with Jordanian authorities, according to the report.

Last week, a Channel 10 report said the Israel Antiquities Authority had filed a lawsuit against the Waqf for building the bathrooms in an archaeological site within the Temple Mount complex.

The Antonia Fortress, which is believed to date from at least 31 BCE, sits atop the Western Wall tunnels sparking fears that sewage from the restroom will seep into the structures below, the report said.

The suit also includes IAA opposition to a Waqf plan to break through one of the walls on the Temple Mount itself.

Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the site of the first and second Jewish temples and home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine, has been at the heart of months-long unrest and violence.

Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters erupted last year at the compound amid fears that Israel was planning to change rules governing the site which allows Jews to visit the site but not pray there.

Israel has repeatedly denied such plans are in the works.  (The Times of Israel)

Israel boycott campaign is failing miserably, study shows

The anti-Israel boycott movement has been the topic of headlines recently, with the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations hosting a major “anti-BDS” conference at the UN just this Tuesday.

But according to an authoritative survey the BDS movement – promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state – has failed miserably in its stated aim of cutting Israel off from the world economically.

In fact, a report by Bloomberg released Thursday revealed that since the BDS campaign was launched in 2005, foreign investment into Israel has nearly tripled, hitting an all-time high of $285.12 billion in 2015.

And that investment is expected to grow this year, with Israel’s economy predicted to grow by 2.8% in 2016 – compared to just 1.8% in the European Union and United States.

What’s more, even those boycotts specifically targeting companies who do business in Judea and Samaria have failed to have any discernible impact whatsoever. According to Bloomberg: “The stake of non-Israeli shareholders in nine such publicly-traded companies and banks has risen steadily over the past three years.”

It’s not just foreign companies investing in Israel either.

The same is true for Israeli companies targeted for doing business with Jews in Judea and Samaria – with the top nine such firms either showing significant increases in profits over the last three years, or remaining largely unchanged.

And despite high-profile protests and even assaults on small Israeli restaurants and retailers in some countries Israeli businesses are trading more than ever abroad.

“BlueStar Israel Global Index, a gauge of globally-listed Israeli companies, has doubled over the past decade, outperforming the 24 percent gain in the benchmark MSCI ACWI Index of emerging and developed world markets,” Bloomberg noted in its report.

The depreciating value of the shekel in recent years is one of the signs of increased investor confidence, the report further noted – yet despite that, Israeli startups raised a whopping $3.76 billion from non-Israeli investors in 2015 – a 10-year high.

Despite the damning evidence, BDS leader and co-founder Omar Barghouti put on a brave face.

Responding to the figures, he told Bloomberg: “BDS is not just working, it is working far better and spreading into the mainstream much faster than we had anticipated.”

Barghouti himself, however, has been widely derided for breaking his own “boycott” principles – for the past several years he has studied for a PhD at Israel’s Tel Aviv University.

He also claimed the campaign had been successful in causing an “indirect, palpable psychological impact on the mainstream Israeli psyche about the country becoming more ‘isolated’ from the world.”

That claim is of course up for debate – but the figures paint a very different story altogether.              (Arutz Sheva)

Revolutionary Israeli technology turns off the pain of periods

When female reporters from publications including Cosmopolitan, Seventeen and HuffPost opened packages containing a wearable device to relieve menstrual pain, they probably didn’t realize it was invented by an Israeli father and son.

But that odd fact didn’t really matter. The device, called Livia,  has created a buzz worldwide and has garnered more than $300,000 from supporters so far in an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign  launched with a $50,000 goal.

iPulse Medical, the company behind Livia, was founded in April 2015 and is headed by Chen Nachum, a 36-year-old bachelor.

“The technology is my father’s,” Nachum tells ISRAEL21c.

Zvi Nachum, a medical patents developer, was experimenting with pain solutions for a different project and discovered how to fine-tune the frequency and wave shape of an existing technology called TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to block specific types of pain.

“But that wasn’t his original project, so he put it aside and I took over,” says Nachum.

Nachum gathered a mostly female group of Israeli experts to birth Livia: industrial designers from Tenenbaum Hazan Design Studio in Herzliya, marketing and branding gurus from Tross Creative in Tel Aviv, and publicists from Blonde 2.0 in Tel Aviv. It was the publicists who had the idea of 3D-printing 20 prototypes to send to influential women journalists.

is a small patent-pending wearable (available in a variety of fun colors) that claims to provide nearly instant relief from cramps in three easy steps: attach the electrodes via gel pads to the spot where pain is worst, clip the device onto a waistband or pocket, and switch it on.


Livia lasts up to 15 hours on a single charge, doesn’t interfere with the menstrual cycle or hormonal balance, and provides a discreet natural alternative to pain pills and hot-water bottles.

Now nearing completion of the FDA and CE regulatory approval processes, Livia was clinically tested on 163 women by Dr. Bari Kaplan at the Women’s Hospital of Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

“Over 50 percent of women suffer primary menstrual cramps, for which they consume large amounts of painkillers,” said Kaplan, a male gynecologist. “Livia uses a pain-relief method that does not involve drug consumption. The idea is to close the ‘pain gates.’ The device stimulates the nerves, making it impossible for pain to pass. The method Livia uses has been proven effective in several clinical studies.”

Assembled in Israel, Livia devices are supposed to go on the market in October at an initial retail price of about $149, though Nachum hopes to reduce the cost as manufacturing becomes more streamlined.

“Especially with people looking into holistic alternatives for food, medicine, and other industries, Livia is the natural step to take in order to get relief from menstrual pain, especially for women whose cramps can really be debilitating,” says Nachum.

Based in Ra’anana, iPulse Medical has established a corporate presence for Livia in Delaware in anticipation of a lot of demand in the American market. The device is expected to sell worldwide.                 (Israel 21C)

Backgrounder: The BDS Movement

Middle East Forum


On May 31, Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes joined an estimated 2,000 diplomats, public officials, journalists, and other opinion makers from around the world at a special conference on the delegitimization of the State of Israel at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The unprecedented nature and size of the conference, entitled “Building Bridges, Not Boycotts,” befits the scope of this growing problem. Founded nearly 11 years ago, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) seeks to lobby governments, companies, universities, artists, and others to sever ties with Israel. Supporters say that Israel alone should be singled out among the nations of the world for its alleged human rights abuses and violations of international law.

Opponents say BDS has nothing to do with actual Israeli transgressions and is “not about helping the Palestinians or bringing peace,” as Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon remarked in his address to the conference. Its “only goal is to bring an end to the Jewish state … BDS is the true face of modern anti-Semitism.” As MEF fellows Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky explain, the BDS movement in the West is propelled by “an unholy alliance of far-left organizations and Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamists,” centered primarily in universities and unions.

According to a new poll, a third of Americans now think boycotting Israel is ‘justified.’

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour boasted that conference is an “admission” that Israel is “losing ground at American universities and colleges to BDS,” and he’s right. In fact, the BDS movement has continued to make advances on U.S. campuses, winning 12 of 26 BDS referendums last year, as well as a Middle East Studies Association (MESA) resolution lauding “calls for [anti-Israel] institutional boycott, divestment, and/or sanctions” as “legitimate forms of non-violent political action.”

There were also notable BDS failures, such as at Bowdoin College and the American Historical Association, where MEF fellow Jeffrey Herf helped lead the battle to defeat anti-Israel resolutions last year. But a new poll shows that a third of Americans now think boycotting Israel is “justified.”

Seventy-one percent of students at Bowdoin College in Maine voted against an academic and cultural boycott of Israel in a May 2015 referendum.

Although BDS organizers have gained less traction at most major American universities than in Europe, MEF staff and fellows see trouble on the horizon.

MEF fellow A.J. Caschetta warns of what he calls “backdoor BDS” currents (#backdoorBDS) that allow participants to ostensibly oppose BDS while aiding its advance under the table. The first, spearheaded by the Open Hillel Society, fights for the BDS movement’s right to have a voice within the Jewish campus organization Hillel, which bars its 550+ chapters from hosting or partnering with organizations that work to delegitimize Israel.

The second, led by The Third Narrative (TTN) and Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP), advocates sanctions that selectively target Israeli settlements or individuals associated with them. Both unfairly single out Israelis, but in a way more palatable to mainstream academics than the BDS movement. Joffe and Romirowsky call them “BDS-lite” movements.

In a February 2016 Miami Herald oped, Campus Watch Director Winflield Myers notes that even the good news – the tendency of university administrators to speak out publicly against the BDS movement – is not as auspicious as it seems. Such statements tend to oppose boycotts on the grounds of academic freedom, while “failing to address the odiousness of singling out Israel for boycott” among the multitude of brutal, undemocratic regimes in the Middle East. Ignoring the immorality at the heart of BDS “lends it a veneer of legitimacy,” according to Myers.

While the Obama administration has expressed approval of backdoor, or BDS-lite, sanctions of the kind introduced by the EU, a number of U.S. states are taking action on their own to combat the BDS movement. Some have passed legislation sanctioning companies that discriminate against Israel, notably South Carolina Illinois, and Indiana. Similar legislation is currently before the New York state assembly, as discussed by Romirowsky and Benjamin Weinthal in a widely-read New York Post oped.

As several Middle East Forum researchers and fellows have underscored, sanctions advocated by BDS and backdoor BDS activists aren’t oriented toward helping Palestinians. All sanctions targeting the highly interconnected Israeli-Palestinian economy will bring down Palestinian living standards. As Romirowsky illustrates, even those that specifically target Israeli settlements “hurt the very constituency they claim to represent” by putting Palestinian laborers in the West Bank out of work.

The BDS movement is about defaming the world’s lone Jewish state, pure and simple. That is why, as Campus Watch west coast representative Cinnamon Stillwell explores in the a recent article, the BDS movement has tried to shut down a program that sends American Muslims to Israel to meet with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian residents in order “to explore how Jews understand Judaism, Israel, and Jewish peoplehood.”

SAIL Tel Aviv – A Celebration of Beach & Water Sports

SAIL Tel Aviv, the largest maritime sports festival in Israel, took place this year between April 18 – 28Aimed at all lovers of maritime sports, the festival featured hundreds of participants who used their yachts, surfboards, SUPs, goggles and whatever else they could to ensure maritime glory!

Sailing, SUPing, kayaking and volleyball… all make for a perfect beach day. Now you can check out the action-packed events taking place on the beaches of Tel Aviv!   (MFA)