‘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.”

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.

President launches new Q&A app on FB

Shimon Peres invites Facebook followers to submit questions which he will personally answer

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President Shimon Peres launched a new social media application on his Facebook page Monday, urging readers and followers to submit their questions to him, without specifying the limits to the genre of queries people are invited to send. It’s safe to assume they will be moderated.

The project, which sets a deadline of October 31, is called “You ask, President Peres answers.”

Peres’s office indicated that the questions with the most “likes” will personally be answered by the president in writing and/or video messages.

The application “creates a direct link between President Peres and people all over the world who are interested in the State of Israel,” his office said in a statement announcing the new initiative.

As of Monday, the president had just over 182,000 followers on Facebook. Throughout his presidency, he and his team have remained avid social media users, publishing pictures, statements, videos — and even a music jam titled “Be my friend for peace” featuring the nonagenarian — on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

His online presence is dubbed “Peres 360,” which creates “transparency and accessibility to the president through social media,” his office said.

Pope to visit Israel next year

Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, says the pope has raised the possibility of visiting Israel in March 2014 • “We are planning to visit Israel together in the coming year,” Skorka says.

 While the exact date is not yet known, Pope Francis will visit Israel in 2014, likely in March or July. The trip has not yet been coordinated with Israel's Foreign Ministry. In May, President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis to visit Israel, and the pope responded that he intended to. Two weeks ago, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) met with Pope Francis and also invited him to visit Israel. The pope told Edelstein that he was considering coming in July to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's historic 1964 visit to the Holy Land. Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, said that in a recent conversation the pope had raised the possibility of visiting Israel in March. "We are planning to visit Israel together in the coming year," Skorka said. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, "The Holy See announced that he plans to visit Israel."


While the exact date is not yet known, Pope Francis will visit Israel in 2014, likely in March or July.

While the exact date is not yet known, Pope Francis will visit Israel in 2014, likely in March or July.

The trip has not yet been coordinated with Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

In May, President Shimon Peres invited Pope Francis to visit Israel, and the pope responded that he intended to. Two weeks ago, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) met with Pope Francis and also invited him to visit Israel. The pope told Edelstein that he was considering coming in July to mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s historic 1964 visit to the Holy Land.

Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a personal friend of Pope Francis, said that in a recent conversation the pope had raised the possibility of visiting Israel in March.

“We are planning to visit Israel together in the coming year,” Skorka said.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said, “The Holy See announced that he plans to visit Israel.”