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

Despite Corona restrictions, alot going on and its a bit complicated - lets jump right in! Sometimes you got to just pretend to understand, that's what I do. But seriously, feel free to ask any questions, I might have answers. 

Corona Israel UpdateWith a significant decrease in infections this week and mirroring the actions of the G-d fearing sections of the US, Corona restrictions have begun to be lifted throughout Israel. After over 2000 leftists protested together in Tel Aviv (they were protesting the lack of democracy in a country that has had 3 elections in just the last year!), it became virtually impossible to justify forbidding minyans - which are now allowed in open areas and up to 19 people. There are now many minyans again at the Western Wall throughout the day. 

More business were allowed to be opened and many people went back to work. Similar to what happened with the protest, IKEA opened today. Needless to say the shops of open-air markets, like Machaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem, that are still closed, did not appreciate this and have now threatened to open this Sunday regardless of government policy - so Middle Eastern of them! Much to the dismay of parents, the overwhelming majority of schools remain closed, but special-ed schools did reopen this week. 

I predict the pattern will continue: just as the huge protest led to minyans being allowed and IKEA opening will lead to open-air markets opening, ultra-orthodox schools will likely reopen next week and lead to all schools opening. The Government is clearly worried about a potential outbreak on Israeli Independence Day on Wednesday next week, so they are trying to keep things under control until then. After that, I think most things will be opened again. 

Israel Coalition Government Update

Breakthrough! After 3 elections in one year, it now looks like a coalition government is being formed between Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud/his right-wing allies and Benny Gantz's Blue and White party and the Labor party. Its not final yet, but seems to be a done, very complicated deal. On paper it looks more like a divorce settlement than a wedding contract. Its very long and complicated, but here are some of the main points agreed upon:

-Prime Minister Netanyahu will stay Prime Minister for now and the position will then rotate to Benny Gantz after a year and a half. 

-There will be something like 36 government ministers - a new record! They will be split more or less evenly between Blue and White/Labor and Likud/Allies.

-No major appointments, like police chief and attorney general, will take place in the first 6 months of the government.

-Placing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and/or on the rest of the Jewish communities located in Judea and Samaria will come up for a Knesset vote after July 1. (The "Palestinian Authority" is thrilled by this! Actually they are threatening all kinds of not very intimidating threats! Just like they always do. Its like listening to a broke terrorist record. Remember records? I always try to make a least one joke specifically for the old people who read this) 

-If the Israeli Supreme Court rules that Prime Minister Netanyahu, since he is currently under indictment, cannot legally form a coalition government, then the agreement will be cancelled and 4th elections will be announced immediately. 

-Designated "Right-wing" Knesset members will have a veto on upcoming appointments to the Supreme Court (and there are a good chunk of them)

Who is in (and with what) and and Who is out 

Out:

-Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Moshe Yaalon (Telem), the arabs, Meretz, Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu)

In: 

-Likud - Maintain many ministries, some the same, some different. Seemingly its a better deal for Netanyahu personally than for Likud as a whole. Its good to be the king! King Bibi! 

-Blue and White - Benny Gantz will get to be Prime Minister if the government lasts more than a year and a half or if Netanyahu quits before then. They get many ministries, very disproportionate to how many Knesset members they bring to the government. Finally, they leave their former bitter partners from Yesh Atid and Telem in the dust! 

-The Ultra-Orthodox Parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) - They got "everything" they wanted. Their word. Same and expanded positions from last government, preservation of status quo between religion and state, and authority over the new draft law to the army.

-Labor - They get 2 ministries, pretty nuts considering they hardly got any votes in the election and only got in by partnering with others. Nonetheless, they played their cards right. Their leader, Amir Peretz, already endorsed placing Israeli sovereignty over all of Gush Etzion, so this might just work. 

?

-Yameena - Not clear what they are going to do - join or go to the opposition. They definitely are going to get alot less and lower positions in this deal than in the previous government. They may even split up (they are made up of 3 separate parties), with some joining the government and others heading to opposition.  I think they will all join. Not so much political guts over there. 

Destruction in Kumi Ori

Speaking of Yameena, their leader, Naftali Bennett, is currently the Defense Minister. Today he ordered approximately 500 border policemen and privately contracted construction workers to demolish 6 residences around the Jewish community of Yitzhar in the Shomron (northern "west bank"). Two of the structures were located in Area B, which is under Israeli security control and "palestinian authority" administrative control. In one of the houses lived a family in which the woman is currently 9 months pregnant. She is now homeless during the Corona crisis. Ironically, the Defense Ministry previously very publicly announced that due to the Corona crisis, demolitions of illegal residential structures would not be carried out at the present time. Apparently this only applied to arabs and not Jews. In further irony, Israel has repeatedly claimed no authority to demolish illegal structures built in Area B, apparently unless they are built by Jews. 

None of these structures were built on privately owned land, so no one had a personal claim against them. This was a government decision, possibly one of the last for Naftali Bennett for a while. And maybe that is for the best. 

Shorts:

-On Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), the Shnerb Family, who lost their teenage daughter to a terrorist attack less than a year ago, had a baby girl! The happy father, on the birth of their 12th child, was quoted as saying, “Neither the Nazis, yimach shemam, nor the cursed terrorists will defeat us, We’ll continue to live with great emunah and bring new life to the world.”

-Israel reportedly bombed Iranian proxy targets in Syria, killing at least 9 foreign fighters.

-Anything connected to Iran is connected to Israel these days. President Trump tweeted: "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea". Iran has been doing this for a while. Now they will either stop or get fired...on.

-Kinneret is now 13cm (5 inches) from being full. Rain is forecasted for this coming weekend. I think its going to get there! 

-My Grandmother, an avid golfer,  turned 95 this week! Happy 95th B-day Grandma Betty!