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

A very hectic week. It was hard to decide in which order to report the topics. In the end, I decided to start with the political situation because its the most dynamic, but the situation with Iran and its proxies (both in the north and south) is obviously quite serious as well, SO KEEP READING!!

Israel Coalition Government Negotiations Update

This is totally breaking news, but as of right now, Avigdor Lieberman has announced his final decision to not join separately with either Gantz (Blue and White) or Prime Minister Netanyahu (Likud). This comes just 11 hours before Gantz's mandate to form a government is scheduled to expire. Lieberman forcefully declared that he would neither join with the arabs nor with the religious parties. In fairness, the man has said this all along and has stuck to his very stubborn position. Lieberman has consistently demanded a unity government between Blue and White and Likud, but Netanyahu (Likud) refuses to abandon his right-wing/religious allies and elements within Blue and White refuse to join a coalition in which Netanyahu is still Prime Minister, for any length of time.  

Now what? Under these circumstances, it would seem impossible for Gantz to form a government. If that remains the case until midnight on Wednesday night, then there will be 21 more days for any Knesset member to try and form a government. Keep in mind, none of this has ever happened before. 

Possible Remaining Scenarios

1)  A group defects from Blue and White and joins with the right to form a right-wing government - only need 6 more to have a majority of 61

2) The above scenario happens after Netanyahu is indicted during the 21 day period and he steps aside. Same result, just without Netanyahu

3) Netanyahu is indicted and replaced as head of Likud. This allows for Blue and White to join in a unity government where the new head of Likud (not Netanyahu) goes first as prime minister

4) New elections!!! 

CeasefireThe Rockets from Gaza have stopped...for now. It appears that Islamic Jihad understood that Hamas wasn't planning on getting involved and that if they didn't stop shooting, Israel was going to hunt them all down. Nonetheless, they have claimed victory, of course. The reality is that Israel was able to kill their most active leader in Gaza, as well as about 20 other Islamic Jihad terrorists, all without suffering any serious casualties or damage. The approximately 400 rockets fired from Gaza were able to disrupt daily life for over a million Israelis and caused some economic loss. However, due to the short time frame of the flare-up, no damage was caused to the tourism industry or to other nationally important events, like the all-important soccer game with Lionel Messi! 

Now...Missiles from the North

Just after we finished with all that, for now, 4 missiles were intercepted overnight coming from the direction of Syria. The Iron Dome was able to shoot down all four. It is believed that the missiles were fired by pro-Iranian Shiite militias operating from Syria. Israel has now retaliated in a serious way by bombing numerous Iran-affiliated sites in Syria, killing at least 11, including Iranian forces. 

Nothing from Lebanon/Hezbollah as of yet, but they continue to suffer from the large economic protests throughout Lebanon, so they are a bit busy. But not as busy as Iran, where protests have erupted and turned quite violently quite quickly. There are now even reports of protesters killing 3 members of Iranian security forces sent to quell the protests. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks....Something between 100-200 protesters are also reported dead and now Iran has vowed to get serious, whatever that means. 

In short, Iran is fighting with everyone and everyone, including their own people, are fighting with Iran.

President Trump Does It Again!

Now for the BIG news this week!  US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, on live television, a significant change in US policy toward Israel. The US Government will no longer view Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as violations of international law. They had originally been established as such by the Carter Administration back in 1978, then changed by Reagan and then put back as "illegal" by Obama. So this is another Trump "correction" of Obama policies. Secretary Pompeo added that peace will only be achieved by negotiations between the parties and not through foreign interference and false accusations. The international community has gone bananas over this. That is undoubtedly President Trump's favorite part! 

What effect will this will have on the ground remains to be seen. Israel still doesn't have a functioning government than can easily enact new dramatic policies. With that said, the Knesset can still pass laws and, as a result of the Trump Administration's announcement, one bill to annex the Jordan Valley has now been fast-tracked and may come up for a Knesset vote as early as next week. Keep in mind that both the Likud and Blue and White parties officially support annexation of the Jordan Valley. In short, hard to see how this happens so quickly, but also hard to see how it doesn't. But we will know alot more about the future of the Israel government and the Jordan Valley next week.....

Santa Satmar Rebbe Comes to Town

With all this going on, one of the Satmar Rebbes (there are 2) arrived in the State of Israel this week on his first ever visit. Despite his refusal to recognize the Israeli State, he landed at the Israel airport, used Israeli roads, including traveling through land captured in 1967, to get to Jerusalem and held a huge event that was arranged and secured by the State and its security forces. As if this entertainment value was not good enough, the Rebbe apparently came with over $4 million to give out to his followers. This money will go directly into the Israeli economy. Would only be better if he came dressed in red and his beard were a little whiter - 'tis almost the season!  

Satmar plays a wacky game of anti-zionist rhetoric, but they come with alot of cash and if they didn't ban themselves from going to the Western Wall, it would be alot more crowded for the rest of us. Do they ever stop giving?!! So much thanks for the contributions and come back again soon! We'll have to remember to put some cookies and milk (cholov yisroel) for him at the airport.