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Supermarket Law, Deep Distrust, Bad for Bitcoin


Knesset Approves First Reading of 'Supermarket Law'

Israel National News, December 12th 2017

Recap:

The Knesset approved the first reading of the “Supermarket Law,” which will grant the Interior Minister powers to shut down supermarkets operating on Shabbat.

The Context:

  • Under the proposal, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri will be the final say on what work is permitted to take place on Shabbat [1]. Deri threatened to resign from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which retains only a slim majority in the Knesset, if the law didn't pass its first reading. Netanyahu shortened a trip to Europe to exert pressure on MKs who threatened not to support the bill.

  • If the bill becomes law, it will require stores to receive permission from Deri to remain open on Saturdays, which Deri is not expected to give. Tel Aviv is exempt since the Supreme Court ruled that the city could allow mini-markets to stay open [2]. Knesset Member Israel Eichler believes the bill is vital since “the only Diaspora Jews who remain with any connection to the Land of Israel and/or Judaism are the ones who kept the Sabbath.” In 2016, Eichler was criticized for comparing Reform Jews to the mentally ill [3].

  • Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose party Yisrael Beytenu broke rank from the coalition and will vote against the bill, said, “I am for Jewish tradition, I am for Jewish values, and I strongly oppose religious coercion. Like most Israelis, I make kiddush on Friday night, and on Saturday morning get into the car.” Liberman criticized Deri for being “totally racist” and hoped for the bill's failure [4]. Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay criticized the bill for servicing “a minority, not the majority [5].”

Conversation Points:

  • With orthodox Jews representing 10% of the Israeli population, does the “Supermarket Law” service a minority or the majority?

  • Should the government always push legislation that promotes Israel’s Jewish character?

  • Is the “Supermarket Law” a form of religious coercion?

  • How much influence does Netanyahu wield if he is beholden to parties that can break his majority on any given vote?

Poll: 45% of Israelis Believe Country’s Democracy in ‘Serious Danger’

Marissa Newman, Times of Israel, December 12th 2017

Recap:

45% of Israelis believe Israel’s democracy is in “serious danger,” according to a sampling of 1,024 Israelis (160 of them Arabs).

The Context:

  • Amidst a slew of corruption allegations engulfing Israeli politicians and a Chief Rabbinate disconnected from the majority of Israelis, the recent poll by the Israel Democracy Index underlined Israel’s deep distrust in its leaders [6].

  • Just 29% of Israelis trust the government and 80% believe politicians are more concerned with their own interests than the interests of their constituents. Nearing the bottom of the list of public trust in institutions was Israel’s Chief Rabbinate (20%), while the IDF again came in first place, with 81% of all Israelis in favor.

  • Only 23% of Jewish right-wing and Orthodox voters, the base of support for Netanyahu's coalition, fear that Israel's democracy is in danger [7].

  • 50% of respondents said they believe life in Israel is more difficult than in other Western countries although more than 80% said they would not emigrate even if they received citizenship in another Western country [8].

Conversation Points:

  • Should leaders react to each and every poll?

  • What could the Israeli government do to shore up its popularity amongst its citizens?

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Bans Bitcoin Related Companies

Max Schindler, Jerusalem Post, December 12th 2017

Recap:

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) announced it will blacklist bitcoin-related companies from being traded or listed publicly. The global market value of all digital currencies grew in 2017 to $300 billion from $18 billion [9].

The Context:

  • Bitcoin – a digital payment method – has gone from trading at $2,000 to around $17,000 within a few months - along with sudden 20% plunges. The cryptocurrency’s supply and demand remain unclear, and there is no central bank backing bitcoin as legal tender. The fluctuations raise concerns that it could be similar to the dot-com bubble.

  • Outgoing Israeli Security Authority Chairman Shmuel Hauser supported the TASE decision saying, “we want to make sure that fintech will not be a revolution that creates anarchy. We don’t want fintech to be viewed as a jungle of investments in which the interests of the public are not protected [10].”

Conversation Points:

  • Do bitcoin-related businesses require the recognition of legacy financial institutions for long-term survival?

  • Is TASE contradicting itself by seeking innovative companies yet removing bitcoin-related businesses from its exchange?

Notes:

  1. 'Shabbat Law' wins coalition backing, Yoel Domb, Israel National News, December 10th 2017

  2. GOVERNMENT IN PANIC AS MAJORITY FOR MINI-MARKETS BILL UNCERTAIN, Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, December 11th 2017

  3. American Jews Assimilated Because They Work on Shabbat, Charges Israeli Lawmaker, Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz, December 11th 2017

  4. GOVERNMENT IN PANIC AS MAJORITY FOR MINI-MARKETS BILL UNCERTAIN, Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, December 11th 2017

  5. Ibid.

  6. Israel survey finds deep divisions, displeasure with leaders, Josef Federman, Fox News, December 12th 2017

  7. Ibid.

  8. Poll: Most Israeli Jews Believe Orthodox Jews Are 'Gradually Taking Over the Country', Judy Maltz, Haaretz, December 12th 2017

  9. Bitcoin firms won't be included in Israel share indexes: regulator, Steven Scheer, Reuters, December 12th 2017

  10. Israeli Regulator Won’t Allow Bitcoin Firms Be Included in Stock Indices, Avi Mizrachi, Bitcoin.com, December 12th 2017


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