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....

This Week Today
Current Events from Israel

Its all about the elections now! Everyday is a different drama. Aside from alot of rock throwing, very little terrorism this week, so that's good. Quiet in the north, quiet in the south, so that's good too.

Break-ups Done Trashy Talk Show Style
Everyone knew there would be new parties created for the upcoming election for Knesset, but I don't think anyone anticipated all the drama. Jerry Springer would be proud!

First, the leaders of the Bayit Yehudi Party (Jewish Home) announced on Saturday night that they were leaving their party, that they are in charge of, to form a new party. Ostensibly they were attempting to shed the overly religious nature of their previous party and attract less observant voters. This could also serve as a mechanism to catapult them further ahead in the competition for Prime Minister if Netanyahu would retire or be indicted or both. Obviously there was shock on the part of a good number of people in Bayit Yehudi following the announcement of this secretive decision, but that wore off pretty quickly. Now folks are scrambling to get spots on both lists. The polls, always wrong as they are, rule the day and push the political actors to act.

But it only got better from there. A few days later, a press conference was called by the leaders of the Zionist Union - a partnership between the Labor Party (led by Avi Gabbay) and HaTnua Party (led by Tzipi Livni). As Livni sat there next to the podium, Gabbay spoke about how much he values partnerships, but that he doesn't value the partnership with Livni and wished her luck in the election, then he walked away. As Livni sat there stunned, the crowd began to chant: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Just kidding, but would have been very appropriate. After she collected herself, Livni said that she would respond at a later time and walked away. Only actual punches thrown could have been better.

Additionally, other parties were created as well. The polls seem to like them for now. Meaningless. There is also talk of lowering the electoral threshold to allow in more small parties to the Knesset because of all the break-ups. But now there are reports that a bunch of parties might be partnering together to limit the risk of not winning any seats. Anyway, even more drama ahead.

The Attorney General Thinks He Should Be in Charge
The Attorney General announced this week that, contrary to his previous statements, he would be making a decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Netanyahu by the end of February (Black History Month) instead of after the election. Its pretty similar to America where some folks don't like how the elections go so they try other ways of removing people from elected leadership positions. Undoubtedly, Robert Mueller would make a great Israeli Attorney General.

Did I Mention Its Election Season?
Since its election season, that means that politicians have to start showing results in order to be re-elected, at least theoretically. So after years in office, now its really time to get to work. This past week, virtually all right-wing members of the current coalition Government have been scrambling to create successes. Some of these are short-term, like Uri Ariel banning the importation of produce from the palestinian authority into Israel. However, some of them have far-reaching effects.

Hundreds of housing units were approved for construction last week in various Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Hundreds more advanced in the planning stages. Some of these approved plans, when built, will actually double the size of some of these communities - that is quite significant! Additionally, almost all the plans approved are outside of "settlement blocks" and quite significant from a geo-political perspective. Finally, there are rumors of potential approval of what is known as E2 - Givat Eitam - an area of Efrat, just south of Bethlehem. Currently Efrat has approximately 10,000 residents and the approval of 2500 residences in Givat Eitam would more than double that. 
Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

Final Thought: 
This election season is only going to get more and more exciting. In the meantime, take care of yourself and each other.

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem