This Week Today - Current Events from Israel

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

Man was last week boring compared to this week! Let's get right to it. Its all alot more complicated than I'm telling it, so feel free to post or pm questions for clarification.

Gaza!!!

So things appeared to be calmed down between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Israel had allowed $15 million into the Strip from Qatar and that seemed to buy a little quiet. The plan was for the payments to continue at least over the next few months. Then Sunday night happened.

This past Sunday night, a team of Israeli commandos was exposed while on a mission in the Khan Yunis area of the Gaza Strip. What exactly was the purpose of their mission and many other details remain secret. What we know is that one of the members of the team was a Druze Lt. Colonel and that he was killed. It remains forbidden in Israel to publish his name and personal details other than his first initial - "M". Druze are a distinct religious minority in Israel and speak arabic and Hebrew. They are loyal citizens and serve in the military, often in combat roles. Obviously the loss of such a high ranking and decorated soldier is severe.

Another high ranking soldier was seriously wounded and the team was evacuated to Israel where the soldier was treated and is recovering in an Israeli hospital. It remains forbidden to publish any details about the wounded soldier, but I will just say that he's an amazing guy from an amazing family and leave it at that. G-d willing, he'll make a full recovery.

In the course of all this, at least 7 hamas terrorists were killed, including the commander of hamas forces in khan yunis. There was zero chance this was going to be the end of things.

Over the course of the next 2 days, over 400 rockets and other projectiles were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, including an anti-tank missile fired at a bus that had minutes before been carrying 50 Israeli soldiers. (video of the attack readily available online). Another Israeli soldier was severely wounded in that attack. In the barrage of missiles, one person was killed in Ashkelon (an arab from the Hevron area) and dozens were wounded, some seriously. Israel retaliated for the attacks with their own aerial attacks on evacuated hamas buildings, like their tv station.

There was widespread belief that the conflict would escalate into full scale war. But that didn't happen. What did happen was a ceasefire, negotiated by Egypt. The ceasefire was approved by the Israel security cabinet. Many Israelis, particularly those that endured the rocket attacks from Gaza, were furious! They immediately launched protests in the streets that will undoubtedly continue into the foreseeable future. And then this happened...

Defense Minister Lieberman Resigns

In a surprising move, citing his adamant opposition to the ceasefire, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman abruptly resigned his post today and removed his party from the governing coalition. This leaves Prime Minister Netanyahu without a Defense Minister and with a razor thin majority of 61 seats in the Knesset (reminder: 120 total seats). This difficult situation for Netanyahu was compounded by another coalition member, Bayit Yehudi, immediately demanding the role of Defense Minister be given to their leader Naftali Bennett and without this, they too would exit the coalition.

Israeli politics is a bit complicated, but its very unlikely that Netanyahu will make Bennett the defense minister and it very likely we are headed for national elections in the next few months (previously scheduled to take place next November). What happens between now and then is anyone's guess. There is the war with Hamas, other terrorism (there was an attack just now in Jerusalem), the yeshiva draft deferment law, other important legislation, demolition of illegal Khan al-Amar arab encampment, and plenty more that just cannot be delayed. Going to be exciting!

A New Mayor in Jerusalem - First Sephardic, National Religious Mayor

Moshe Leon has been elected mayor of Jerusalem. He is the first Sephardic and National Religious (Dati Leumi) mayor of Jerusalem in modern history. He won with 51% of the vote - very close. Will be very interesting to see exactly how he puts together his coalition on the city council, especially since his party didn't win any seats at all. He owes his victory almost exclusively to 2 Ultra-Orthodox parties (Degel HaTorah and Shas) and 2 right-wing parties (Meuchadim with Arieh King and Bayit Yehudi). This suggests that the potential for a very different leadership direction in Jerusalem is pretty much assured.

Hold on tight, this next week is probably going to be bumpy.

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem