Israel Briefs 11.8.11

The latest news out of Israel. 

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PM Netanyahu Meets with OECD Deputy Secretary-General Rintaro Tamaki

Israel received strong praise for its environmental accomplishments on Monday in its first review from the OECD.

OECD Deputy Secretary-General Rintaro Tamaki commended Israel for its “exceptional work [in] investing considerable resources in socio-economic development while reducing harm to the environment and efficiently using natural resources,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.

Tamaki continued to tout Israel’s desalination facilities, describing them as “among the most energy efficient."

Netanyahu brought up the country’s “green growth” plan, socio-economic growth and development without harming the environment, and the two discussed Israel’s environmental achievements, including reducing Israel’s dependence on oil, the development of a national rail network, and a natural gas pipeline to Haifa, which significantly reduced air pollution in the area.

--JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: A Jewish bride. Credit: Eliel Joseph Schafler.)

By banning Tzohar, rabbinate tightens its control over marriage

The Tzohar organization, a non-profit association of religious Zionist (Modern Orthodox) rabbis whose goal is to present Orthodox Judaism in a way that appeals to less observant Israeli Jews, has been forced by the Religious Services Ministry to shut down its flagship wedding program, the organization announced on Tuesday.

The organization had been marrying 3,000 couples a year free of charge. The program was popular among couples as an alternative to marriage through the Chief Rabbinate, regarded by many as religiously coercive and difficult to work with. Couples would register for their marriage license through Tzohar and a rabbi would study with them, counsel them and lead them through the marriage process, free of charge. 

However, according to Tzohar, Religious Services Minister Ya'akov Margi (Shas) recently decided, "for economic and political reasons," to shut down the group's wedding project, possibly due to Tzohar's enormous popularity diverting income away from ultra-Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the rabbinate who charge fees to officiate at weddings.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has agreed to resign in the face of the escalating debt crisis. Credit: PD-Spain.)


Israelis doing business with Italy stand to lose NIS 1 billion

Italy's financial crisis may cost Israel up to NIS 1.25 billion ($347 million), according to an announcement by the Israeli Credit Insurance Company on Monday. According to the company, Israeli exporters to Italy may not receive monies owed to them by their Italian clients because of a new Italian law, the "Concordato Preventivo" (preventative agreement).

The aim of the law is to help Italian companies weather the financial crisis and erase their debts to suppliers with relative ease, without detracting from their operations. Since the law went into effect, the Israeli Credit Insurance Company has paid out more than NIS 20 million ($5.4 million) to several Israeli textile and plastics exporters, after several Italian manufacturers had their debts to Israeli suppliers erased under the law.

The amount that will not be repaid to Israeli firms under the new Italian law is unknown. Israeli exports to Italy in the first nine months of 2011 came to $1.05 billion.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


After four-hour strike, judge orders public sector back to work

A nationwide strike was largely averted on Monday when the National Labor Court ordered public sector employees back to work at 10 a.m., thus putting an end, at least for now, to what was meant to be an open-ended strike, called by the Histadrut labor federation on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Israeli contract workers.

The ruling came in response to a petition by the Manufacturers Association of Israel, who argued that the strike would cost the Israeli economy some NIS 330 ($90 million) per day. 

The strike is meant to pressure the government to scale back the number of contract workers, who are employed through manpower companies, and instead hire them directly, thereby allowing them to enjoy the benefits other public sector employees receive by law.

In her ruling, Judge Arad ordered the sides to resume negotiations and report back to her by Thursday, when she is expected to issue a new ruling.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: Individuals dressed as Anonymous, wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Credit: Vincent Diamante.)

Hacker or hardware – what crashed Israeli government websites?

Dozens of government websites crashed on Sunday, becoming inaccessible to the public, a mere two days after the international hacker organization Anonymous threatened to hack Israeli sites in response to the IDF interception of a two-ship Gaza-bound flotilla on Friday.

Government officials, however, were quick to attribute the crash to a simple server malfunction. E-Government Director Carmela Avner confirmed that the crash had been caused by a hardware glitch in one of the servers. "We can say with 100 percent certainty that there has been no attack by Anonymous or any other group," she said.

Despite the denials, the timing of the crash raised eyebrows. Just last Friday the Anonymous organization posted a film on YouTube, which cited Israel's interception of two Irish-Canadian flotilla ships last Friday, asserting "We do not tolerate this kind of repeated offensive behavior against unarmed civilians."

On Sunday morning, websites of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), Mossad, Israel Defense Forces, Government Payment site, Health Ministry, Justice Ministry, Interior Ministry, Science and Sport Ministry, Housing Ministry, Israel Lands Administration, the president, the Population and Immigration Authority and the Atomic Energy Commission all crashed in rapid succession.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

(Click photo to download. Caption: A mural in Jebaliya, northern Gaza Strip, depicting missing Israeli pilot Ron Arad. The same mural also shows Gilad Shalit, as well as an aged version of him in 2036 with the words, "Fear the unknown fate." Credit: EPA/Ali Ali.)


'I will never leave you again'

A collection of personal letters written by missing-in-action Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad to his family during the first few weeks of his captivity has been released.

Arad was taken captive in Lebanon in 1986, after being forced to eject from his airplane. Officially classified as still missing in action, Arad is believed to have later died in captivity, after being transferred to Iran.

The letters, handwritten on pages torn out of books, are mostly addressed to Arad's wife, Tami, and to his daughter, Yuval, who at the time of his abduction was only 1 year old.

The personal letters expose Arad's difficulties in captivity, his intense yearnings for home, his pleadings with his wife not to forget him and a special poem to Yuval.

The pages of his diary remained in Lebanon for 22 years; a copy only reached Israel in 2008 as part of the prisoner exchange deal made for the bodies of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured by Hezbollah in 2006 setting off the Second Lebanon War.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Intercepted flotilla activists say they wanted to create provocation

Israel forces successfully intercepted another flotilla attempting to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza strip on Friday, with no injuries or violence reported by either side.

Two ships carrying more than 20 activists sailed from Turkey on Wednesday in the latest attempt to break the now more than five-year blockade, designed to prevent arms smuggling, imposed on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The "Flotilla 13" Naval Commando Unit boarded the vessels and discovered that they carried no humanitarian aid and also had no weapons on board. Twenty-one activists were detained after being escorted to the Port of Ashdod by Israeli forces.

According to the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority, the activists admitted they had come to "stage a provocation." According to the officials at the authority, the activists specifically asked not to be granted a speedy release because, as one said, "We want to be in prison so as to keep your [law enforcement] apparatus busy."

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service


Rockets continue to fall in Israel after IAF strike kills one militant, wounds three

Rockets continued to be fired on the south of Israel from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, with two rockets falling near Ashkelon Sunday morning. The sirens sounded in Ashkelon after an IAF airstrike killed a Palestinian member of Islamic Jihad and wounded three others in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

The rockets fell into open spaces and caused no damage or injuries. They come after 12 Palestinian gunmen and one Israeli civilian died last week in a drawn-out exchange of rockets and fire. That fighting appeared to end when Egypt brokered a cease-fire with both parties, but Sunday's rockets could point to a continuation of the hostilities. 

Meanwhile, former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Avi Dichter said on Saturday that Israel will need to reclaim the Gaza Strip in order to dismantle the terrorist groups based there. "We cannot have a dialogue with more than one Palestinian Authority, one law and one military," he said, and continued that a takeover of the Gaza Strip, which Israel left in 2005, would take not months but years.

--Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Posted on November 8, 2011 and filed under Israel.