This Week Today - Current Events from Israel

Ben Packer,

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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 ( and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives ( He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

This Week Today

Current Events from Israel

The big news for Israel this week is not even taking place in Israel, its in Bahrain baby! 

"The Jewish People have a place amongst us...Israel is a country in the Middle East. Israel is historically part of the heritage of this whole region." - Foreign Minister of Bahrain

At this time, a historic event is currently being held in the island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. The Trump Administration organized a regional economic conference to include all countries in the region. Of course not everyone agreed to go and the "palestinian authority" boycotted as well (They could rightfully argue that they aren't a country, so....). However, in addition to a nice chunk of real countries, individuals from others, including from areas currently administered by the "palestinian authority" are indeed attending. 

Despite the "palestinian" boycott, why is this such a HUGE achievement for Israel? It is because it proves that Israel was right. For years, Israel has been arguing that the way to solve the problems of the Middle East is through regional cooperation. The US, Europe and others have always demanded that Israel first reach an agreement with the "palestinians" and then regional stability would follow. President Trump  has adopted the long-held Israeli approach and  this conference is the result. It was also historically argued by many that the Sunni Muslim Middle Eastern countries would never come to accept Israel - well, well, well. A bunch of BFF's these days! The "palestinian authority" is very upset at how well things are going in Bahrain and organized a few small protests - NOBODY CARES!!! 

To top off all this goodwill and diplomacy, a Jewish morning prayer service was held in a long abandoned synagogue in Bahrain. Who could have imagined such a thing?! The prayers were followed by festive dancing. This is likely only the beginning! 

Russia, America and Israel Summit - in Israel! 

Another (smaller) meeting is also taking place at this time between American, Russian, and Israeli security officials concerning the situation in Syria, Iran and other regional issues.- and the meeting is taking place in Israel! How crazy is that?

It doesn't appear that an official agreement will emerge from the summit. Israel and the US both want Iran out of Syria and Russia wants recognition of the Syrian government. There was hope that this could be a nice exchange. Doesn't seem likely right now, but there is hope for the future. Did I mention that this all took place in Israel?!!! 

Charges of Rape Dropped..for Now

In a crazy turn of events, Israeli military prosecutors have dropped the charges accusing an arab school janitor of raping a 7 year old Jewish girl and the ara/b has subsequently been released from custody. This doesn't mean (at all!) that he isn't guilty, just that the investigation did not go well or at least well enough at this time. Who was questioning the competence of the Israeli police last week? Once again, because of this brilliant (sometimes humorous) report, you folks are ahead of the curve! 

Israeli Election Drama Continues!

-Let's start with the biggest drama (but there is plenty): So Prime Minister Netanyahu's associates/allies have been publicly discussing the possibility of cancelling the upcoming elections currently scheduled for mid-September. Is this even legally possible? Depends on who you ask. Its kind of like the kashrus of scotch aged in sherry casks - most people say no, but....Anyway, while its not entirely clear if this is even possible, the bigger question is: what's the point? The whole reason for going to new elections was because Prime Minister Netanyahu couldn't put together a coalition government of at least 61 Knesset members. Can he now? Doesn't seem so. Is there a big surprise coming? Could be, but probably not. The most likely explanation is that there is a budget deficit and some programs/ministry budgets are getting cut. The upcoming elections could be viewed as a huge waste of money. Netanyahu doesn't want to be blamed for that and wants to show that he was willing to do whatever it takes to avoiding wasting all the money that could have gone to better things. That's my take. Let's see what happens. 

-The extreme rigtht-wing party, Otzma Yehudit, announced that they were severing ties with the United Right party. Why? Well, there was an agreement in place that said that if elected Knesset members from the combined party became ministers in the government, then they would resign their Knesset seats and allow folks further down on the list, including Itamar Ben-Gvir of Otzma, to enter the Knesset. However, since the current government is only temporary and not permanent and the law that allowed the previously explained agreement to work was also only temporary, therefore all ministers must be Knesset members and if they resign, they are out. And it seems unlikely that more ministers would be appointed from the same party to replace them. In conclusion, it doesn't seem like they really broke the agreement, but I don't think they were very nice about it and that's likely what has led to the schism. Could still easily change, or not. Hard to see Otzma running alone and, besides Moshe Feiglin's Zehut party, they don't have too many other parties to ask to partner. But also keep in mind that the United Right would have been nowhere near getting in without Otzma's voters. 

-Finally, the man who many Israelis think was the worst Prime Minister in Israeli history, has decided to run for the Knesset again with a new party, yet to be named. That's right, Ehud Barak is back. What he thinks he brings to the table, besides more division on the left, is anyone's guess. Maybe he's just bored? He should read this news update - its enough excitement for the whole week!!!