‘There won’t be equal burden, but rather a reduction in inequality’

MK Ayelet Shaked is pinning her hopes on integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into the workforce • “Whoever talks about equalizing the burden is wrong — enlisting in the military is a privilege, not a burden.”

Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi

Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi

Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, the head of the Knesset’s Special Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden, responded on Tuesday to criticism committee’s bill.

Shaked said the bill would not bring about complete equal sharing of the burden. “It is not a law of equality, but it is meant to reduce the inequality,” Shaked told Israel Hayom in an interview.

Shaked said targets for enlisting ultra-Orthodox men into military and civil service — some 5,200 men according to proposals in the new law — are no different than what is actually happening in reality. “If the state would budget ultra-Orthodox enlistment, and the army would take the situation seriously like it did last year — the new law would be unnecessary and there would be no need to replace the Tal Law.

“Whoever talks about equalizing the burden is wrong. There isn’t equality, there is a reduction in the gap of inequality, and there is no burden because serving in the army is a privilege. Our goal is to make sure the ultra-Orthodox sector will integrate into the workforce, which is a very important goal.”

Shaked said she had asked the army to look into alternatives to extending women’s military service, and that she would not give up on shortening the time for men.

Discussions continued Tuesday as the committee argued over the military service of Zionist yeshiva students. Representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community, MKs Moshe Gafni, Meir Porush, and Ariel Atias actually came to the defense of the Zionist yeshiva students who serve in the army, after learning that the new law allows them to study until the age of 23 before enlisting.

“You want to destroy the rabbinate and the judgeship. If they enlist in the Israel Defense Forces at age 23, they won’t have rabbis and teachers at an advanced level. Why not let them continue studying?” MK Gafni said.

“If you pass this law, we will not obey it,” Porush said.

On the other hand, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said he has great respect for Zionist yeshiva students because 80 to 85 percent of them serve in combat units.

After a heated debate, the committee approved the clause that would allow yeshiva students to defer their military service, and continue studying, until the age of 23 — with the exception of 300 students that can delay their service until age 26.

The committee also discussed the enrollment of Chabad men. “Every year, dozens of Chabad students evade the military by going abroad at age 17 or 18 for a few years. Those who come back are sentenced and forced to serve,” the Israel Defense Force representative, Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon said.

The committee decided to vote some time next week on further reservations to integrating yeshiva students in the IDF.

“After cancelling the Tal Law that was not equal, we are heading towards an agreement which is even less equal. What is being done here is in legal doubt,” said Professor Yedidia Z. Stern, Israel Democracy Institute vice president of research, adding that talks of criminal penalties can’t hide the fact that next year there will be fewer haredim enlisting.

At a graduation ceremony for the IDF Ground Forces officer training course on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I want to see on this parade ground a more equal representation of all parts of our society. This is true and correct for everyone and we are currently working in this direction.”

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Antisemitic incident: Jews asked to get off at Auschwitz on Belgian train

An unidentified passenger on Belgian train line hijacks PA system and makes anti-Semitic announcement.

Passengers aboard a Belgian train from Namur to Brussels were stunned to hear an unusual message on the train’s PA system: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark and take a short shower.”

The Janaury 31 incident led the Belgian rail company SNCB to file a police complaint over incitement to hatred.

TV station RTL reported that the unidentified passenger hijacked the PA system at 5 pm, peak time. He made his anti-Semitic remarks in French, according to the station.

The incident was reported to Viviane Teitelbaum, a Jewish lawmaker in the assembly of the Brussels region.

Teitelbaum told RTL he spoke to a person who was on the train, who told the lawmaker he suspects the passenger is a part of a group of teenagers who managed to grab a conductor’s keys, that allowed them to gain access to the PA system.

A similar incident occurred in 2012 on the same train line, when the perpetrators – who were never caught – said “Welcome to this train heading to Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark at Buchenwald.”

Iran threatens U.S, Israel

Chief of staff warns Tehran’s enemies and regional states against military action, calling American threats ‘political bluff’

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on stage during a meeting with Iranian air force commanders in Tehran

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Washington has many military bases in the region, including in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said late last month that if diplomacy with Iran fails, “the military option of the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do.”

But Firouzabadi accused the US of bluffing.

“Over the past decade, they brought their forces but came to the conclusion that they can’t attack us, and left,” he said, dismissing the US military threat as nothing but a “political bluff.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the West should not have any delusions about using a military option.

“I say explicitly, if some have delusions of having any threats against Iran on their tables, they need to wear new glasses. There is no military option against Iran on any table in the world,” he said.

On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi said the US knows that its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf would be sunk if it launched a military strike on Iran.

“The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk with 5,000 crews and forces in combat against Iran and how they should find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” said Fadavi, according to Fars news agency.

“They cannot hide themselves in the sea since the entire Middle East region, Western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for them to hide.”

Also Sunday, Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan touted the Iranian military’s ability to respond to an American attack, Fars reported.

“The Iranian Armed Forces are an intertwined and coherent complex that can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the commander-in-chief,” Dehqan said in a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution that brought the current Islamic regime to power.

“The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty Armed Forces of the Islamic Iran,” he added.

The bellicose rhetoric follows Saturday’s announcement by an Iranian admiral that Iran had dispatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Tehran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”

On Friday, Iranian state TV ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben-Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a simulated retaliation for a hypothetical Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.

Iran is due to resume talks on Monday in Vienna with the P5+1 — Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany — aimed at reaching a comprehensive nuclear accord following a landmark interim agreement struck in November.

Western nations have long suspected Iran of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian program, allegations denied by Tehran, which insists its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

Neither the United States nor Israel has ruled out military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, if diplomacy fails.

Abbas’s new red line: Israeli withdrawal within 4 years

‘Palestinians will not sign a deal without explicit recognition of East Jerusalem as their capital, full prisoner release’

Preempting the American framework agreement for a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal expected within weeks, the Palestinian presidency on Wednesday issued a list of “red lines” stating PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s nonnegotiable positions.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, told the official PA daily Al-Ayyam that the American paper must include an Israeli withdrawal “from all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967″ within a time frame of three to four years, followed by the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The agreement must also explicitly refer to East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

Abbas’s list of “red lines,” sent to the Middle East Quartet ahead of its meeting in Germany in early February as well as to US President Barack Obama, also includes a call to solve the refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, and a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“These are the red lines of the Palestinian position, since without these principles there can be no just and comprehensive peace in the region,” Abu Rudeineh said.

The four-year time limit for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank contradicts comments made by Abbas in an interview with The New York Times on February 2, where he allowed five years for a full Israeli pullback. Abbas made no reference to the comprehensive prisoner release in that interview, though he voiced this demand in a public speech to East Jerusalem activists in January.

In a televised interview for the INSS conference in Tel Aviv a few days earlier, Abbas set the limit for Israel’s withdrawal at three years.

In any event, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath was doubtful on Monday that negotiations with Israel would continue beyond their original April deadline, due to American support for Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state and to maintain a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.

“Negotiations will not be extended [beyond their original nine-month time frame] if these conditions persist,” Shaath was quoted by the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi as saying.

Strike inevitable as Iran mocks World Powers

With an interim agreement reached and signed in Geneva between the P-5+1 and Iran on Saturday, the US Government seems content while subsequent events clearly indicate Iran is not planning on keeping its end of the bargain leaving Netanyahu no option but to order a strike.

A couple of quick pen strokes signaled the sealing of the (interim) agreement in the early hours of Sunday after four long days of negotiations. Soon thereafter, near-euphoric headlines emerged around the world notifying the international community of this happening. Yet there is little to rejoice about.

Read the rest of the article at:

blogs.timesofisrael.com/strike-inevitable-as-iran-mocks-world-powers/

No love lost between Lion and Barkat in TV debate on eve of vote

In a rather unpleasant mini-TV face-off Monday, hours before polls open nationwide for municipal elections, the rival candidates for the Jerusalem mayoralty, incumbent Nir Barkat and challenger Moshe Lion, each proclaimed they have the upper hand. But polls have consistently shown Barkat heading for reelection, by anything from 7% to 20%, and Lion suffered eve-of-vote blows Monday when sections of the ultra-Orthodox leadership indicated their support for him had wavered.

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While official Likud candidate Lion was officially endorsed by the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, he has not received backing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and one important Haredi faction has insisted on fielding an independent candidate, Haim Epstein — who could cost Lion thousands of votes. On Monday morning, a letter was placed on prominent Haredi Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach’s car, threatening him with death if Epstein, who is running on behalf of Auerbach’s Bnei Torah faction, did not withdraw from the race. “Shut down your party, otherwise you’ll forfeit your life,” read the note.

On Monday evening, the Gur Hassidic dynasty, whose followers constitute one of the largest ultra-Orthodox communities in the city, withdrew their support for Lion’s candidacy. The Belz community was expected to follow suit, further improving Barkat’s chances of winning the race. Lion shrugged off the blows, insisting that “at most, 5,000 votes” were involved, and that he would still triumph.

In its Monday newscast, Channel 2 brought the two candidates together for an interview, with Barkat appearing in a suit and tie and Lion flaunting a black-and-yellow of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer scarf. A picture released later showed Lion standing alongside MK Avigdor Liberman — one of his chief backers — in the crowd at the game.

Barkat looked confident in the interview and said he was certain of his reelection. “The people of Jerusalem have made up their minds. Most residents of Jerusalem understand what transpired during my term, what I had to work with and where the city is today,” he said. “Tomorrow you’ll see… Everyone understands what the alternative is – the shady deal.”

Barkat was referring to the alliance wrought between Aryeh Deri, leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party, and Liberman, head of the Russian-speaking secularists in Yisrael Beytenu. The two are united behind Lion, the Likud-Beytenu’s official candidate, in an effort to unseat Barkat, a right-wing but politically independent high-tech multimillionaire seen to represent the city’s slowly dwindling secular, tax-paying economic base.

“We know we’re going to win tomorrow,” Barkat said, looking squarely at the camera.

Lion was no less confident, though his choice of attire betrayed a last-ditch effort to win a few more votes. “It’s time Jerusalem had [a mayor] who can bring about a real revolution,” Lion said, explaining that he had 15 years of “action for the sake of Jerusalem, albeit quiet and understated,” behind him to back up his candidacy. “It’s a real mission for me. I hope that the truth will come to light tomorrow and that I win,” he added.

Asked why Netanyahu, the Likud party chairman, hasn’t endorsed him, Lion told Channel 2 that he had “nothing against” the prime minister, for whom he had worked in the past as PMO director general. “We have a fantastic relationship, overall,” Lion said. “To tell you the truth, I’m not at all concerned with it at the moment.”

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Asked by the interviewer if he had anything positive to say about his rival, Lion was less magnanimous. “After three months of lies and slander by his campaign managers, I don’t even have one good thing to say about him,” he said.

Asked the same question, Barkat said he wished Lion well in his future moves — indicating his conviction that Lion, who only recently relocated to Jerusalem from his home town of Givatayim, would not be taking over at City Hall.

At the end of the interview, Lion interjected with one of the staple cheers of Jerusalem soccer fans: “Yalla Beitar!” Later Monday, Lion posted on his Facebook page that, “In soccer, as in life, the heart and the soul always prevail.”

The Beitar fan base has a long history of anti-Arab sentiment, and, until earlier this year, the team was the only Israeli soccer team never to have signed an Arab or Muslim player. The team played against arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday — and won 1-0 with an 84th minute goal.

Some fans at Teddy Stadium describing a crowd incensed even more than usual – this time, not by Muslim players on the field, but by flyers accusing Barkat of left-wing sentiment. “That’s what Liberman and Lion would like Jerusalemites to think,” said one fan, apparently not a Lion supporter. “That’s how they ‘unite’ Jerusalem.

3.3-magnitude earthquake rattles northern Israel on Tuesday morning, no injuries or damage reported • Epicenter under Sea of Galilee • Rishon Lezion to host national earthquake drill.

A 3.3-magnitude earthquake rattled the Sea of Galilee region in northern Israel on Tuesday morning. It was the fifth earthquake to strike northern Israel in the past week.

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The epicenter of the earthquake was underneath the Sea of Galilee, 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) northeast of Kibbutz Ginosar. No injuries or damage were reported.

On Sunday, two 3.6-magnitude quakes shook the Sea of Galilee region, just four hours apart. The Geophysical Institute of Israel said that the epicenters of the two earthquakes were on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. The tremors were felt most strongly in Tiberias, Hazor, Safed and the village of Majar. Residents of the Golan Heights reported that the second earthquake was felt there as well.

Two other earthquakes hit the same area on Thursday and Friday.

According to the Geophysical Institute of Israel, it is impossible to tell whether the series of small earthquakes indicates a stronger earthquake will take place in the near future.

“The sequence of earthquakes does not indicate anything about the future,” said institute Director Dr. Uri Frieslander. “We can’t rule out a stronger earthquake, but it is certainly possible that these small quakes will not lead to anything. Small quakes have preceded a strong earthquake in the past, but in the same vein, there were incidents in which that did not happen.”

In light of the recent string of earthquakes, Tiberias and Safed have announced they will hold earthquake exercises. Also, the central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion announced on Monday that it will host a drill in three hours that will test the readiness of national emergency services for a major earthquake.

The Israel Defense Forces Homefront Command has updated its directives for the public, primarily emphasizing that during a quake it is preferable to leave buildings and get into an open space, as opposed to a missile strike, when the opposite is advised. If quickly getting to an open space is impossible, the next best option is to seek shelter in a fortified room or in the stairwell. The Homefront Command also told the public that during a quake the coast should be avoided by at least 1 kilometer, due to concerns over large waves, or to climb to at least the fourth floor of a building.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on Home Front Preparedness chairman MK Eli Yishai (Shas) said, “The wave of earthquakes hitting our region obligates us to conduct a comprehensive examination of the state and homefront’s readiness for any possible scenario that could arise as a result of an earthquake. We cannot and must not ignore from this phenomenon that is hitting us with increased strength recently.

“Moreover, I have called for a special meeting of the committee for the beginning of next week, to examine the country’s readiness, to highlight deficiencies if they exist and demand that they be fixed as soon as possible. It is our obligation to consider any possibility and not be caught complacent.”

The committee will meet to discuss the issue next Monday.

Gadi Ofer, the chief engineer for the Better Housing Association, said data for apartment buildings in Israel showed that some 60 percent would not withstand a strong earthquake. However, this figure is not accurate, and may be even higher because it disregards over 400,000 structures build prior to the legislated implementation of construction standards meant to protect against earthquakes.

“I am not certain how much we can trust buildings that were constructed even after the implementation of the earthquake standard, because these buildings plans were not professionally tested — for objective reasons — and only settled for a signed declaration by the building planner to that effect,” Ofer warned.

Better Housing Association CEO Reuven Tzadok, meanwhile, sought to alleviate concerns.

“Earthquakes cannot be prevented,” he said, “but it is possible to prepare for them and therefore minimize the damage they cause. Since it is impossible to predict the date and time of earthquakes, it is advisable to be prepared for them at all times.

“Being prepared, first and foremost, means making sure the building we live and work in can withstand an earthquake. In Israel there is a special statute (413) from 1980, which tells the engineer how he must plan the various elements of a building so that it can endure the forces created during a strong ground shift. The statute defines the minimum requirements for preventing the loss of life, but for preventing property damage. We encourage the private housing committees to make use of our engineering consultation service or consult with the center’s main office.