News from Israel – March 1, 2017

No. 48, March 1, 2017

Inside Israel
Israel’s income gap narrowing. Israel was one of only two OECD countries in which poor families’ income grew in 2007-2015 at a faster pace than the increase in income among rich families. The reasons for that include low unemployment rate, cuts in taxes, higher child allowances, and a rise in the minimum wage.

Welfare Ministry to provide food vouchers to Israel’s poor. The new initiative will provide food for tens of thousands of families who suffer from nutritional instability, providing them with a rechargeable 500 NIS (~$125) “credit” card enabling them to buy food for that sum every month.

Cabinet endorses plan to fund Beduin townships, increase law enforcement. The cabinet voted to endorse an NIS 3 billion ($800 million) plan for the Beduin sector in an unprecedentedly largeinfusion of funds over five years for the townships that are at the lowest rung of Israel’s socioeconomic ladder.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman urges all those talking about annexation to “calm down”. “We cannot move forward without understandings with the United States, both regarding construction and application of sovereignty, so I suggest that everyone calm down,” Liberman said.

Four new Supreme Court judges selected. The first Jewish religious woman, an Arab Christian, a resident of the settlements, and a Haifa District Court judge make up the newest appointments selected by the Judicial Selection Committee. The selection of these four judges is seen as a victory for the conservative wing, which is led by the Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked.

Netanyahu visits the White House. Upon completion of the meeting between Netanyahu and Trump at the White House on February 15, the White House issued a statement, in which it reaffirmed the special relationship and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. Both sides agreed that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the U.S. will work closely with Israel and the Palestinians to make progress toward that goal.Reaction in Israel to the outcome of the visit was split along party lines.

Netanyahu: Settlements ‘an issue, not the issue’ in conflict. Hailing a “very, very warm” meeting with US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the settlements were “an issue” but not “the issue” hindering peace with the Palestinians. “Because the real core of this conflict … is the persistent and enduring refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary.”

VP Pence: ‘Israel’s fight is our fight’. US Vice-President Mike Pence conveyed his pleasure of serving in a US administration that stands with the State of Israel. “Israel’s fight is our fight, her cause is our cause and her values are our values,” he said.

Evangelicals are ready to speak for Israel in Washington. US Evangelicals have been advocating for Israel for years. But while their support is undeniable and certainly welcomed by a Jewish state, it still discomforts many in the pro-Israel camp, especially liberals. They worry evangelicals’ Bible-based views are too right wing, both on social issues as well as Israel affairs.

Poll: One state, two states … A majority of Palestinians do not support a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, a survey found. Only 44 percent of Palestinians back the two-state solution, whereas 59 percent of Israelis support two states. Support for the idea of a one-state solution where “Palestinians and Jews will be citizens of the same state and enjoy equal rights” was high among Israeli Arabs, standing at 56%. But only 36% of Palestinians and 19% of Israeli Jews said they support it. Detailed data from this poll can be found here.

Saudi FM urges progress toward Israeli-Arab peace. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he is optimistic that Arabs and Israelis can reach a peace deal in 2017. He said the new US administration made him optimistic that this and other regional challenges could be resolved. The biggest challenge facing the region is Iran, he said, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Culture and Lifestyle
‘After 27 centuries of exile,’ 102 Indian Bnei Menashe head to Israel. One hundred and two members of the Jewish community in India, who trace their heritage to one of Israel’s lost tribes, aremoving to Israel. Some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel in recent years, with another 7,000 remaining in India.

The Dirty Dozen things you must buy & try in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a beautiful city with so much to see, eat, do and, of course, buy. You really can’t walk more than a few steps in Tel Aviv without coming across somebody selling something, whether it’s clothes, food, souvenirs or something else altogether.

Record number of organ transplants.  A record 504 Israelis were saved thanks to organ transplants in 2016, up from 433 in 2015. The number of live kidney transplants (222) was also a record and included 129 donations from friends or strangers.  887,317 Israelis have now signed organ donor cards.

Science and Technology
Israeli firm is FBI’s cybersecurity go-to. A small Israeli company appears to be plugging a big hole in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s technical capabilities. Over the past five years, the FBI has paid $2.5 million to the Israeli company Cellebrite for a wide range of services including cracking open and extracting data from locked Apple iPhones and mobile phones from all other major manufacturers.

Israel is dominating the cannabis industry. From research to agricultural and technical innovation and liberal government policies, Israel is a central hub for advancing medical cannabis. A leading entrepreneur in this area says that Israel is up to 10 years ahead of other countries in innovation in the cannabis industry.

Foreign investors scouting for Israeli smart car tech. Venture capital is flowing into Israel in search of automotive technological developments and the next Mobileye. The volume of venture capital now flowing into Israel in search of automotive technology instruments – even at the seed stage – is something that has not been seen here since the Internet bubble days in 2000.

Israeli hospital helps deaf Palestinian children hear for first time. Sixteen deaf Palestinian children were able to hear for the first time after undergoing a procedure at an Israeli hospital to repair their hearing. The operations to repair the children’s hearing, known as cochlear implant surgery, were performed by doctors at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem over the course of the past several months.

In Depth
Dispelling the myth that Israel Is the largest beneficiary of US military aid. Many American detractors of Israel begin by citing that Israel receives the lion’s share of US military aid. In reality, Israel receives only a small fraction of American military aid, and most of that is spent in the US to the benefit of the American economy

Rabbi Philip Ohriner                        Rabbi Leslie Alexander

Edited by:

Alex Drukarev