European Jewish Congress
Israel Press Review of 06/12/2016
Israeli Press Review
Israel Press Review of 06/12/2016

Major Headlines 
  • Lapid promises recognition of Reform and Conservative Jews if elected prime minister

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, who is currently riding high in the polls as a potential alternative to Binyamin Netanyahu, has promised he would grant full recognition to the Jewish Reform and Conservative movements in his “first week in government,” Ha’aretz reports.

Speaking to a gathering of Jewish journalists convening in Jerusalem on Monday, Lapid declared as “unacceptable” the government’s treatment of non-Orthodox Jews. In particular, he denounced its failure to deliver on a promise to build a special prayer section at the Western Wall where men and women could hold mixed services.

“Israel is now becoming the only country in the world in which there is no freedom of religion for Jews,” he said. The government had approved the egalitarian prayer plaza in January, but under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has refrained from implementing the decision.

According to a poll published over the weekend, if elections were held today, Lapid’s opposition party would win as many seats as Netanyahu's Likud, giving him a reasonable shot at replacing the prime minister.

Lapid noted that when the government had campaigned against the Iranian nuclear deal in the US Congress, it had enlisted the help of several Jewish congressmen who belong to the Reform movement. “And then the Israeli government tells them that their synagogues are not synagogues and that Reform Jews aren’t Jews.”

Also addressing the gathering, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett – the leader of the Orthodox, hard-right Habayit Hayehudi party – said he had paid a “significant political price” for supporting the Western Wall agreement, and even before that, for building a makeshift egalitarian prayer space at the site as a temporary measure.

“In my political base, it’s not very popular to be the guy who set up that plaza,” he said. “I’m never happy to pay a political price, but I do it without second thoughts because it’s the right thing.”

Click here to read the full article in Ha’aretz


  • Controversial settlement bill moves forward with preliminary Knesset approval

The coalition lived to see another day on Monday, with legislation retroactively legalising nearly 4,000 settlement homes moving forward after intense negotiations, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett came to agreements regarding the Amona outpost, slated to be demolished on December 25, and the promotion of the settlement bill, which has major implications for thousands of Israeli residents of the West Bank and the legal status of their homes.

Bennett said, "If the bill passes, we can say that the 1977 revolution [in which the Right won its first election] is back, because the nationalist camp is in charge again.”

"This is a historic day in the Knesset, which went from establishing a Palestinian state to Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. Have no doubt: The settlement bill is leading the way to annexation," Bennett stated.

Netanyahu said in a Likud faction that the solution will prevent the demolition of many "Amonas," homes built on private Palestinian land, a matter that bothered him and others to whom settlements are dear.

"We're finding solutions that didn't exist before today, within the framework of the law, in order to solve this problem," the prime minister said.

At the same time, Netanyahu said the timing is diplomatically sensitive, and he asked all coalition MKs to show restraint, "for the good of settlements and the State of Israel."

A new version of the bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Monday evening, and brought to a preliminary vote in the plenum hours later, where it passed 60-49 following a debate peppered with non-stop shouting from the coalition.

Click here to read the full article in Jerusalem Post


  • Large delegation of African agriculture ministers visit Israel

In yet another sign of Israel’s blossoming ties with Africa, the 15-nation Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) chose Israel as the site for its first-ever seminar outside of Africa. The three-day agricultural summit, attended by representatives from 13 West African states, began Monday in Jerusalem.

The seminar, “Enhancing Sustainable Agricultural Productivity in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions,” includes the agricultural ministers from seven states: Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo, the Jerusalem Post reports.

In addition, senior officials also arrived from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. The two ECOWAS countries who do not have diplomatic relations with Israel – Mali and Niger – did not send representatives.

ECOWAS represents countries that have a combined population of some 320 million.

Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Eitan Weiss said this is the largest African delegation to arrive in Israel for years, “which is why this is a big deal.”

The seminar, which will introduce the African delegates to Israel agricultural developments, is under the auspices of MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Israel’s ties with ECOWAS received a significant boost late July when the organisation’s commissioner, Marcel Alain de Souza, visited Israel. Netanyahu and de Souza signed a joint declaration of intent for greater cooperation between Israel and the organisation, and the two discussed deepening their cooperation, particularly in the fields of agriculture, desertification, water, education and health.

Click here to read the full article in Jerusalem Post

Tuesday, December 06, 2016
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