News from Israel – January 4, 2017

No. 44,  January 4, 2017

Inside Israel

Israel’s economic growth estimated at 3.8% in 2016. Per capita private consumption isestimated to have grown by 4%. Exports of goods and services grew by 3%, according to the estimates, while purchases of consumer durables rose 10.8%.

New developments in the Negev. A not-so-quiet demographic and geographic revolution is taking place in Israel these days. After years of planning, concrete efforts are underway to shift populations — particularly educated and younger sectors of Israeli society — away from the overcrowded and overpriced center of the country. The new destination is the southern Negev region and its wide-open spaces.

IDF, Security Services foiled 180 West Bank shooting attacks in 2016. Over the past year the IDF and GSS foiled 180 planned shooting attacks in Judea and Samaria. Some of the attacks were prevented just before their execution and some in planning stages that involved up to three terrorists.

Arab Knesset member arrested for aiding terrorists. Basel Ghattas of the Arab Joint List was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, fraud, breach of trust and violation of Israel Prisons Service orders. Knesset Speaker had announced hours beforehand that Ghattas will be stripped of his parliamentary immunity.

Christians laud freedom of worship in Israel. In the annual reception hosted by President Reuven Rivlin for spiritual and lay leaders of Christian communities in Israel, the Greek Patriarch Theophilos said: “The State of Israel takes pride in the fact that this state was founded on democratic principles in the Middle East and that it guarantees full freedom of worship“.

Road accident fatalities in 2016. Israel’s National Road Safety Authority published statistics on road accidents in 2016. During the past year, 372 people were killed on Israel’s roads. This figure rose from 356 in 2015. The number of road accident victims tops the number of terror victims. The rate per 100,000 population (4.6 fatalities) is lower than the corresponding US rate (10.9).

International

UN passes anti-settlement resolution, US abstains. The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Israeli settlements with the United States abstaining. Samantha Power, the American U.N. envoy, said the resolution is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy. Major Jewish organizations joined forces in condemning US abstention on Security Council resolution, liberal Jewish groups issued statements supporting the vote. Israeli politicians on the Right harshly condemned the UN Security Council decision on Israel, while those on the Left said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his policies were to blame.

Israeli officials believe the Obama administration had planned its abstention for some time. “From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu said at his weekly Cabinet meeting. He said the resolution was surreal in that it determined that the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall were occupied territory.   A senior adviser for US President Barack Obama said he was “disappointed” in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremely harsh response to the UN vote on settlements.

Ramifications of UNSC resolution: Sanctions, boycotts and ICC lawsuits. While the anti-settlement resolution adopted by the UN Security Council has no immediate practical ramifications, it could open the door to lawsuits against Israel at the ICC, sanctions imposed for any Israeli move seen as violating resolution, and boycotts on settlement products. Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) stated that Palestinian Authority is planning to undertake all these actions now.

Netanyahu castigated Kerry’s skewed speech, obsession with settlements. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized a major address by US Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Secretary drew false moral equivalence between Jerusalem construction and Palestinian terror,” PM charged, “and was only ‘paying lip service’ in condemnation of attacks.”

Russian Foreign Ministry: direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis without any preconditions. Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 regarding Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Among other things, the statement says “Our experience shows convincingly that a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is only possible through direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis without any preconditions”

Fatah celebrates its murdering 116 Israelis. Fatah continues to promote and celebrate terror on an almost daily basis. On two consecutive days last month, Fatah celebrated on its Facebook page 10 different “most outstanding ” terror attacks – in total 20 attacks that killed 78 adult civilians, 16 soldiers, and 22 children.

Israelis raise funds for Syrian children. The initiative, led by Israelis from all sectors of the country aims to raise 600,000 Shekels for the refugee children of Syria.

Culture and Lifestyle

A tour of Machane Yehuda market. If you have never been at the Jerusalem shuk, here is your chance to visit it without leaving your home. And if you have, relive the experience with this video.

Sufgania. The traditional Jewish doughnut (Sufgania) enjoys countless modern versions in Israel, with a variety of toppings and extras, making the Hanukkah holiday even sweeter. See for yourself.

Supermarkets to charge for plastic bags. 10 agorot (2c) per bag law to take effect on January 1 inattempt to curb pollution, but activists warn small sum won’t be enough to dissuade use.

Zubin Mehta announces retirement from Israel Philharmonic. Legendary conductor Zubin Mehtaannounced his retirement as music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra effective in October 2019. The 80-year-old Indian-born conductor has been with the ensemble on a regular basis for close to half a century.

Cook-up nation: Gourmet revolution puts Israel on the culinary map. Israeli cuisine speaks a unique culinary language, its vocabulary steeped in the traditions of its diverse immigrant cultures. Add a sprinkling of spices, fresh produce grown under a Mediterranean sun and a pinch of sass and you’ve got what some are calling a world-class cuisine.

Science and Technology

15 ways Israel amazed and inspired the world in 2016. Israel ranks about 150 on the scale of countries for size, encompassing only about 10,800 square miles and a population under 8.6 million. Butits achievements over 68 years of modern statehood have drastically dwarfed its actual size.

New budget seeks to attract international tech giants to Israel. The Economic Arrangements Law that passed recently introduced an array of tax reforms with the goal of advancing the Israeli high-tech sector, and encouraging foreign and multinational companies to register in Israel. For example, for high-tech companies that register their intellectual property in Israel, corporate tax will be lowered from 16% to as low as 6%, and dividend tax will be cut dramatically from 20% to only 4%.

Teva fined $519 million by US government for foreign bribes. Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva will pay $519 million to settle US charges of bribery of foreign officials to win business in Russia, Ukraine and Mexico, US officials announced.

Israel planning major drive to boost number of engineers. Israel is planning a five-year, 750 million-shekel ($196 million) program to increase the number of engineering graduates by 40% and reduce a shortfall of some 1,000 jobs the country’s high-tech companies can’t fill every year.

In Depth

Israeli public opinion polls: The Peace Index. The Peace Index is a research project based on a monthly survey of Israelis that monitors public sentiment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and current events of a political or diplomatic nature. See the latest data here.

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