News from Israel – September 20, 2017

“News from Israel” presents a compilation of news stories from major Israeli and other publications. To see the source and to read the full story behind a headline, click the hyperlink in the corresponding news item.

No. 62, September 20, 2017

Inside Israel

Government unveils infrastructure investment super-program. A multiyear program, the first of its kind, will combine the development of all 147 infrastructure projects planned in Israel for 2017-2021 to the tune of NIS 116 billion ($32 billion). It will include all national infrastructural projects in transportation, education, welfare, environmental protection, agriculture, energy and more.

High Court moves to increase Haredi conscription into IDF. In an eight-to-one decision, the High Court of Justice struck down Knesset legislation from 2015 that was meant to delay the increase in the ultra-Orthodox draft into the military. The court ruled that the legislation was increasing the inequality in the “draft burden”. The ruling was met with a furious response from ultra-Orthodox MKs.

Attorney General announces intention to indict PM’s wife, pending hearing. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu. Expected indictment comes over suspicions indicating Sara Netanyahu used 359,000 shekels ($102,000) of public funds to pay for extravagant restaurant and chef-cooked meals before attempting to conceal her activities by spreading costs over numerous spurious invoices. PM Netanyahu placed the blame for the fraud on Meni Naftali, who was the residence caretaker at the time of the unusual spending.

Debates over the role of the Supreme Court. Leaders from the religious Zionist Jewish Home party are looking to rein in the Supreme Court’s activism and impose constitutional limitations, restraining the high court and increasing the Knesset’s authority as the sole legislative body in Israel. The effort is ledby Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.  Meanwhile, Knesset members from the Left expressed their outrage at the proposal made by Bennett and Shaked and characterized it as a “destruction of democracy and the Supreme Court.”

IDF holds largest exercise in 20 years to prepare for Hezbollah threat. Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah. According to military assessments, while it is unlikely that Hezbollah will attack Israel in the near future, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other.

10,000 set to gather at Kotel for ‘Day of Jewish Unity’. The initiative, named Day of Jewish Unity, is led by Dirshu, an international Torah organization. “Considering today’s polarizing environment and dangerously high level of hostility wreaking havoc across the world,” the organization said, “this initiative is to join thousands of people around the world for a Day of Jewish Unity.”


Netanyahu meets with Latin American leaders. Netanyahu’s four-day trip to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico last week marked the first time an Israeli prime minister visited Latin America. The president of Paraguay traveled to Buenos Aires to meet with him. Netanyahu cited the Jewish state’s technological, military and intelligence know-how as the main reasons why countries are increasingly seeking to cooperate with Israel.

Israeli ambassador elected VP of UN General Assembly. “We have proven once again that Israel is ready and able to serve in significant positions in the UN and the attempts to block this progress will not succeed,” Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon, the newly elected vice-president of the UN General Assembly stated. During his term, Ambassador Danon will chair meetings of the General Assembly, take part in setting the agenda of the GA and oversee the rules and decorum during the sessions.

Russia will work to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from threatening Israel. Russia has informed Israel that it will prevent Iranian forces and the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah from using Syria as a base to threaten Israel, according to a report in Israeli press. “If Iran and Hezbollah go overboard in their involvement in Syria, we will restrain them,” the report quoted a Russian official as saying.

Netanyahu: Israel’s cooperation with Arab states has never been greater. Israel is enjoying a greater level of cooperation today with the Arab world than it has ever had in its history, Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu said. He also said that the alliance with the U.S. is “stronger than ever”.

Israel rushes aid teams to Florida and MexicoIsraeli humanitarian-aid groups arrived to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Other Israeli aid teams are heading to Mexico, which was hit by a deadly earthquake.

Culture and Lifestyle

In Israel, bars and science have quite the chemistry. Thirsty for knowledge? Check out Science at the Bar, an initiative that brings science lectures to more than forty bars and pubs across Israel. Individuals hear from professors from the Weizmann Institute of Science who make every-day science accessible to the public.

Downtown Haifa emerges as Israel’s latest hipster hangout. An outdoor concert has just wrapped up for the evening, and Haifa’s downtown Turkish Market area is packed with people looking to unwind with a cold beer and a good meal. This would not have been the case just two short years ago, when the area was practically abandoned, rundown, and filled with less than desirable characters…

Israeli film ‘Foxtrot’ takes prize at Venice Film Festival. The Israeli film “Foxtrot” won the Silver Lion grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival but was condemned by the state’s culture minister. Following the announcement of the prize, Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev attacked the film, saying that “the international hug comes from self-flagellation and cooperation with the anti-Israeli narrative.”

Kova tembel hats make an unexpected fashion comeback. Once the symbol of Israeliness itself, the simple cloth cap known as the kova tembel (“dunce hat”) was, for several decades, relegated to dustbins, attics and flea markets. Trust Israeli hipsters, however, to rediscover the lowly kova tembel.

Science and Technology

Cornell and Technion institute open high-tech campus in NY. A high-tech teaching and research center born of a collaboration between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology inaugurated its newly built campus on Roosevelt Island. Over 500 people were present for the inauguration, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Daimler invests in Israeli fast-charging electric battery firm StoreDot. Israel’s StoreDot, which is developing fast-charging battery technology, said it raised $60 million in a third round of financing led by the truck division of Germany’s Daimler.

Tel Aviv becoming R&D Mecca for corporate giants. According to a recent report, Israel’s “Startup City” has doubled the number of International R&D centers over the past 5 years. From 35 R&D centers in 2012, Tel Aviv is now home to 73 centers. These centers introduce new capital and knowledge to the City’s well-developed tech ecosystem, and further elevate the City’s global standing.

In Depth

Explainer: All the investigations involving Netanyahu, and where they stand. Sara’s looming indictment, German subs affair, bribery suspicions and trusted Netanyahu associates have you confused? Here’s a breakdown of each of the investigations

Edited by:

Alex Drukarev