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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘municipal’

How Jerusalem’s Arabs Act Against Their Own Interests

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

As Israelis prepare to cast their ballots in the municipal elections next week, tens of thousands of eligible Arab voters in Jerusalem will once again boycott the democratic process.

In the past few days, the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], Hamas and several other Palestinian organizations have called on the Arab residents of Jerusalem to stay away from the ballot boxes.

These organizations maintain that Arab participation in the municipal election would be interpreted as recognition of Israel’s decision to annex the eastern part of the city in the aftermath of the 1967 Israeli-Arab war.

As such, the vast majority of the Arab residents have since been boycotting the local election, mainly out of fear of being dubbed “traitors” by various Palestinian organizations.

But if anyone stands to lose from the boycott it is the Arabs themselves.

First, the boycott has done nothing to undermine Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Some would even argue that Israeli dominion over the city has never been as strong as it is these days, especially in wake of the Arab residents’ failure to take part in crucial decisions concerning their neighborhoods and villages.

Second, the boycott has severely harmed the interests of the Arab residents, who have been denied the chance to have representatives in the municipal council who would fight for better services and the improvement of their living conditions. The Arabs make up 25-30% of the city’s eligible voters, which means that they could have 7-8 representatives in the 31-seat municipal council. The boycott has denied the Arabs the opportunity to be directly involved in the planning of their neighborhoods.

While it is true that some Arabs boycott the municipal elections for ideological reasons, there is no denying the fact that many are also afraid of being targeted by extremists if they present their candidacy or go to the ballot boxes.

A few Arabs who in the past dared to challenge the boycott have faced death threats. One of them was newspaper publisher Hanna Siniora, who back in 1987 announced his intention to run in the municipal election. Siniora’s car was torched by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a move that forced him to retract his candidacy.

Eleven years later, another Arab, Mussa Alayan, defied the boycott by running at the head of an independent list. He received fewer than 3,000 votes and did not make it to the city council. Alayan could have probably become the first Arab council member had he and his supporters not faced a brutal and violent campaign by Palestinian activists.

Yet while Arab residents are boycotting the election, most of them continue to deal with the same municipality which they are not supposed to recognize. They even continue to pay taxes and fees to the municipality.

The Jerusalem Municipality has more than 1,500 Arab employees, and its various departments continue to provide many services to the Arab neighborhoods and villages in the city. These activities are taking place despite the Arab boycott that has been in effect since 1967.

Arabs who complain about lack of municipal services often seek the help of representatives of left-wing parties in the municipal council, such as Meretz.

Today, many Arabs in Jerusalem are not afraid to declare openly that they prefer to live under Israeli rule, and not under that of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. The problem remains, however, that the overwhelming majority is still afraid of the radicals.

What is needed is a strong Arab leadership that would not hesitate to stand up to the radicals and question their goals. Such a leadership would have to make it clear that there should be a complete separation between the political issues and the day-to-day affairs of Jerusalem’s Arab population.

Until such leaders emerge, the Arabs in Jerusalem will, by boycotting the municipal elections, unfortunately continue to act against their own interests.

Chief Rabbinate’s Website Hacked

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Arab hackers, hacked the Chief Rabbinate’s website tonight.

Arab hackers have been attacking Israeli government and municipal websites all evening. They succeeded in changing the homepage on a few of them.

Rabbinate Lifts Restrictions on Tzohar Rabbis Officiating at Weddings

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has agreed to lift restrictions on rabbis from the Tzohar organization conducting weddings.

Under the agreement inked Thursday, Tzohar rabbis who meet certain criteria will be able to marry couples. In return, Tzohar pledged to withdraw a lawsuit against the Rabbinate and try to stop legislation that would have taken away the Rabbinate’s hegemony over who conducts marriages (See “New Knesset ‘Tzohar Law’ to Curtail Chief Rabbinate’s Control on Weddings Passes First Reading“).

The criteria include taking a test in the Jewish laws of marriage, the approval of three head municipal rabbis and a certificate of ordination from the Rabbinate.

Until now, community rabbis and yeshiva heads not officially employed by a local religious council needed special permission from the rabbinical council to officiate at weddings.

Tzohar helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in the wedding ceremony, marrying about 3,000 couples a year free of charge.

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many Israeli couples travel to the nearby island of Cyprus to marry in secular ceremonies.

Sell These Bonds Before You Make Aliya!

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

If you’re in a high tax bracket in the United States, you may own some municipal bonds in an effort to minimize your tax bill.

First of all, what are muni bonds? As their name suggests, these are issued by government entities. When you purchase a municipal bond, you are essentially lending a sum of money to the issuer for a set period. Over this time, you receive interest payments and once the bond matures, you are paid back the original sum of money that you invested (presuming that the issuer doesn’t default).

In the United States, the great thing about buying “munis,” as we often refer to municipal bonds, is that some of them are tax exempt, meaning that the income they generate may not liable to federal, state, or even local income taxes (check with your accountant to understand your specific situation).

So what happens if you are a municipal bond holder and you decide to make aliya and move to Israel?

As an Israeli citizen, you are required to report your income worldwide to the Israeli tax authorities, and pay taxes on it. Israel taxes income from municipal bonds because the Israeli government doesn’t recognize the beneficial U.S. tax status that these bonds hold. As of May 2012, the tax rate you would pay on the interest would be 25%. New olim may still enjoy a tax break on all of their investments based on the 10-year tax holiday that they get. However, in many cases, when you move to Israel, you might want to consider selling your municipal bonds, because due to their tax-advantage status, munis tend not to have as high yields as other bonds. If you’re looking for fixed income, consider other types of bonds (such as corporate bonds, treasury bonds, and even bank deposits). As with all investments, there are risks with every type of bond, so be sure to get personalized advice from a licensed professional before investing.

Bond trading can be complicated, but I’ve tried to simplify a few of the important concepts in my article, Premium Bonds Are Not The Opposite of Junk Bonds.

If you are still concerned about what holding a potential oleh (immigrant to Israel) or new oleh should have in his investment portfolio, consult a financial planner with knowledge of the markets on both side of the Atlantic for further advice.

Strike Ends, but Negotiations to Continue

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

A two-day strike that disrupted municipal services nationwide came to an end late Tuesday night as the Union of Local Authorities and the Prime Minister’s Office found middle ground on a range of economic issues.

The most significant outcome of the understandings reached by the two sides was the granting of discounts on water tax rates, which have already risen sharply over the past year, and a freeze on planned changes to municipal tax rates that would primarily benefit large families but dig into the budgets of financially strapped towns.

Still unsolved are about a dozen issues, including education and special needs programs, the distribution of national lottery revenues and other services, with both sides insisting that the other should bear the burden of financing the programs. According to the agreement reached late Tuesday night, these issues will be examined by a committee that is to be established in the coming days.

Responses to the agreements were divided along party lines. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, of Shas spearheaded support for the ULA’s list of demands, with support from Labor and Kadima. Most of the mayors who agreed to end the strike were affiliated with the Likud Party – following the lead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who strongly opposed the ULA’s demands, which he said would cost the government billions of shekels.

On Wednesday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that the Bank of Israel had adjusted its expectations for economic growth in 2012 downward, from 4% to 3.2%.

Strike Halts Public Services Across Israel

Monday, January 16th, 2012

A general strike of municipal workers shut down numerous public services on Monday, plunging schools and public transportation systems into chaos that hit the public particularly hard.

Parents across the country scrambled to find solutions for their children’s care, while the lack of buses and trains threw workers’ and soldiers’ schedules into disarray. Also affected by the strike are a range of public services, including garbage collection, social welfare services and parking inspectors.

The Union of Local Authorities launched the strike after late-night talks with the Prime Minister’s Office broke down. The ULA is demanding that the government relieve dozens of municipalities of their financial burdens. In recent years, the government has demanded that local authorities reform their finances, going so far as to remove several mayors from office over financial mismanagement.

“It is important that we continue behaving with economic responsibility and not scatter money mindlessly,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in response to the ULA’s demands. “If the economy crashes,” Netanyahu said, “the citizens will pay the price.”

A Statue For Condoleezza?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Now that Hamas has taken over Gaza, further exposing Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah as ineffective and quite possibly inconsequential players, its leading lights might want to erect a statue of Condoleezza Rice somewhere in beautiful downtown Gaza City.

It was the U.S. secretary of state, after all, who insisted that Hamas be allowed to participate in the Palestinian legislative election of January 2006, despite objections from both Israel and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Abbas. And when Hamas scored a solid victory and became the Palestinian Authority’s governing majority party, Ms. Rice voiced surprise and consternation.

“I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” she said, presumably referring to her staff and U.S. intelligence. “It does say something about us not having a good enough [finger on the] pulse.”

Contrary to Rice’s professed ignorance, it was not at all difficult to discern a Hamas victory on the horizon, particularly if one had been paying attention to newspaper reports over the preceding eight or nine months. Rice herself should have been the last person taken by surprise, based on her own remarks during that period.

On March 18, 2005, The Washington Times ran a story by Joshua Mitnick titled “Palestinians Worry As Hamas Popularity Grows.” Wrote Mitnick: “A new poll has confirmed Palestinian fears that Hamas is rapidly gaining ground among voters and could defeat President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in parliamentary elections this summer.”

Mitnick also noted that in an interview with his paper the week before, Rice had voiced the hope that Hamas’s involvement in the political process would force the group to assume a more moderate stance.

“When people start getting elected and have to start worrying about constituencies…things start to change,” she said, pointing out that in recent municipal elections Hamas had focused on improving education and social services.

On Sept. 21, 2005, The New York Times’s Joel Brinkley reported that Rice, reacting to Prime Minister Sharon’s declaration that Israel would withhold cooperation with scheduled Palestinian legislative elections in January if Hamas were involved, had “urged Israel…to allow Palestinians to carry out their legislative elections in January without Israeli interference.”

“This is going to be a Palestinian process,” said Rice, “and I think we have to give the Palestinians some room for the evolution of their political process.”

In December 2005, Hamas scored major victories over Fatah in the fourth round of a series of municipal elections that had begun in 2004, capturing nearly 70 percent of the seats in Nablus, 53 percent in Al Bireh, and breaking even in Jenin.

The following month, Hamas, running with Rice’s blessing, won control of the Palestinian government. Responding to Rice’s stunned reaction, Lebanese journalist Rami G. Khouri, writing on the website TomPaine.com, expressed his shock at Rice’s shock:

“Though the Hamas victory was surprising in its magnitude, it was no surprise otherwise, because it was the sixth consecutive strong showing by Islamist groups running in political elections in the Middle East in the past year.

“One after the other since last spring, we have witnessed the Hamas victory in municipal elections, Hizbullah’s strong showing in the Lebanese parliamentary election, the Iranian presidential victory of populist hard-line neo-Khomeinist Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, the Muslim Brotherhood’s big wins in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, the Shi’a-dominated Islamists’ victory in the Iraqi parliamentary election and now Hamas’s triumph in Palestine.

“If the United States government, with all its capacity to collect and interpret information, did not see Hamas doing very well in the Palestinian election in the wake of these other Islamist victories, then it is either willfully blind or totally incompetent – and neither possibility is a very comforting thought.”

In a revealing interview with David Samuels in the June issue of The Atlantic, Rice seemed stymied when asked if there was one book that had influenced her view of the Middle East. She could not come up with a single title, instead offering, rather lamely, “I probably read dozens of books on the Middle East, but several of them I’d read before. I’m actually, believe it or not, for an academic, an aural learner. So I tend to have people in and talk about places. And to engage people who know those regions very, very well.”

Rice, a Soviet specialist for most of her public career, is clearly operating in unfamiliar waters. As former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage put it to Samuels, perhaps unkindly but all too accurately: “I mean, she was an expert in one country that no longer exists.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/a-statue-for-condoleezza/2007/06/20/

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