Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-23-2019

Election Results

After meeting with all of the parties who won seats in the election, President Rivlin will make a decision on Wednesday as to whom he will give the chance to form a new government.

It seems as though Blue and White would have more votes than Likud and get the chance to form the government, assuming that the Joint Arab list would support them, as they had indicated. But at their meeting with the President, the Arab list could only provide 10 votes, since one of its party’s, Ba’lad – with 3 seats, refused to support Blue and White. That left Blue and White with only 54 votes (BW – 33, Arabs 10, Labor 6, Meretz 5).

On the other side, Yamina (7), Shas (9) and UTJ (7) all pledged to support Netanyahu (Likud – 31), giving him a total of 55 seats.

Rivlin has called Likud and Blue and White to a meeting tonight to urge them to form a unity government. But with his lead in the vote count, it looks like PM Netanyahu has managed to stay in power once again, one way or another, at least for the time being. Unless they agree to form a unity government, it looks like Lieberman and Yisrael Beytenu’s 8 votes hold the keys to the kingdom.

Gymnastics Medals
Israeli rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram won a bronze medal in the all-around world championships and qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The bronze medal awarded on Friday in Baku, Azerbaijan was her sixth medal of the competition.

Ashram, 20 and a resident of Tel Aviv, also earned three silver medals in competition with hoop, clubs and ribbon and a bronze medal with a ball. She was part of the team competition in which team Israel won a silver medal behind Russia.

For further reading click here.

Amazon Launches
Amazon launched its local delivery service in Israel yesterday. For the time being its Israel website is only in English but a Hebrew website should be available in the coming few weeks. Product prices on the new Israel site are in shekels and the website includes a feature enabling consumers to filter out products from abroad. Local delivery should mean that products are cheaper and shipped more quickly.

Amazon’s Israel operations have been launched after 30 months of preparations coordinated by representatives from Amazon’s Berlin office. Israel operations are headed by Rolf Kimmeyer.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-20-2019

Election Results
With around 99% of the votes counted, the results seem to be finalized, with the only change being an extra mandate for Blue and White and one less for Yisrael Beytenu.

Here are the current results (according to News 12):
Blue and White – 33
Likud – 31
Joint Arab List – 13
Shas – 9 (ultra-Orthodox)
Yisrael Beytenu – 8
UTJ – 8 (ultra-Orthodox)
Yamina – 7
Labor-Gesher – 6
Democracy Camp – 5

There is no clear path for either the major block to form a government independently. That leaves the only option being a national unity government between Likud and Blue and White, either with other parties or without them.

PM Netanyahu released a video inviting Benny Gantz and Blue and White to join a unity government. Of course, that government would apparently be led by Netanyahu. Blue and White have apparently rejected the offer, with Gantz saying that he will form a broad, liberal unity government — apparently with himself at the head. But a unity government with Likud would require Netanyahu to step down as leader, and no one expects that to happen.

Without a partnership with Likud, there doesn’t seem to be any path for Gantz to form a coalition. Even if he includes the Arab parties, it would only get him 57 votes, 4 short of the majority. Lieberman will not sit in a government with the Arabs, nor will he sit with the religious parties unless they agree to his requirement, which they have categorically refused to do under any circumstances.

On the other side, Netanyahu can only garner 55 seats with the religious parties and Yamina. He reportedly offered Labor leader Peretz the finance ministry in order to bring his 6 seats into the coalition, but Peretz refused.

What will happen now?

Will either Gantz or Netanyahu manage to make magic and pull together a coalition?

Will Netanyahu step aside for the sake of unity?

Will there be another election?

 

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-18-2019

Election Results
With around 90% of the votes counted, the results indicate that we’re in for another round of uncertainty as to who will be able to form a government, or if it’s even possible to do so at all.

Here are the current results (according to News 12):
Blue and White – 32
Likud – 31
Joint Arab List – 13
Yisrael Beytenu – 9
Shas – 9 (ultra-Orthodox)
UTJ – 8 (ultra-Orthodox)
Yamina – 7
Labor-Gesher – 6
Democracy Camp – 5

Based on these results, the right wing block including the religious parties could have 64 seats, enough to form a government. Unfortunately, Yisrael Beytenu leader Lieberman has vowed not to join a coalition with the religious parties unless they agree to his version of the draft law, which they will not do. And without his 9 seats, the right is left with only 55 seats, 6 short of the required 61.

The extreme right Jewish Power party did not pass the minimum threshold, possibly as a result of the much higher Arab voter turnout that raised the overall number of total voters, and thereby raising the threshold. This factor could have also effected the other smaller parties.

On the left, even if Blue and White includes the Arab parties in a coalition, which no Israeli government has ever done and which they promised not to do, they would still be left with only 56 seats. And there’s absolutely no way that Yisrael Beytenu would join a coalition that included the Arab parties, and the feeling would most likely be mutual. It’s also almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which the religious parties would join a Blue and White led government that would include Labor and the Democracy Camp.

The obvious solution would be to form a unity government between Likud and Blue and White, which is exactly what Lieberman is pushing for and which he said is the only type of government that his party will join. The problem is that Blue and White has vowed never to join a government led by Netanyahu, because of the criminal investigations against him. And it’s very unlikely that the PM will step down or be ousted from his position as leader of Likud.

President Rivlin must now decide who he feels will have the best chance to form a new government. Of course, if no one is able to form a government, then new elections will be called again.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-16-2019

Elections Update
With the elections set to take place on Tuesday, the right wing religious Noam party has pulled out of the race. The move is seen as an attempt to prevent bleeding votes away from the rightist Yamina party. National religious rabbis, who support Yamina, put a lot of pressure on Noam to withdraw.

MK Yair Lapid, one of the leaders of the Blue and White party, on Sunday vowed not to be part of a government that included PM Netanyahu, but did not rule out including Netanyahu’s Likud party in a “central” unity government. He also ruled out forming a government with the Joint Arab list.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz announced that he would appoint former IDF chief of staff Rabi Ashkenazi as defense minister and former IDF chief and defense minister Moshe Ya’alon as education minister.

The most recent polls have Likud and Blue and White winning around the same number of seats. Avigdor Leiberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party is projected to win 10 seats, which would make his participation in any government seem mandatory. But he already brought down the last right wing government with his refusal to go along with a draft law that would allow exemptions for the Haredi community. So how will this time around be different?

For further reading click here.

Annexation
Early today PM Netanyahu told Army Radio that he plans to annex “all the settlements” in the West Bank, including the Jewish enclave in the city of Hebron. He said, “I intend to extend sovereignty on all the settlements and the (settlement) blocs,” including “sites that have security importance or are important to Israel’s heritage.”

The cabinet yesterday approved the new town of Mevo’ot Yericho, which is located in the Jordan Valley. The vote took place after the attorney general removed his opposition to holding a vote on the issue.

PM Netanyahu reiterated his pledge to apply Israeli law to Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley. He said, “We will apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea as soon as the next government is established in the next Knesset. I have appointed a work team headed by the director of the Prime Minister’s Office, which will formulate an outline for applying sovereignty.”

He added, “Applying Israeli sovereignty to all our communities in Judea and Samaria, including the blocs and the territory outside the blocs, and other areas that are essential for our security and our heritage – these things will come up in the “Deal of the Century” plan, which will come very soon after the elections.”

It’s no coincidence that this is happening the day before the elections.

For further reading click here.

Gaza Operation
According to a report in Haaretz today, PM Netanyahu had planned to conduct a wide scale military operation in Gaza last week, but was stopped by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who said that such an operation requires the approval of the cabinet.

The PM’s opponents on both the Left and the Right have criticized the PM for his “weakness” in dealing with the attacks from Gaza.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-11-2019

Annexation Promise
PM Netanyahu said at a press conference yesterday: ”Today, I announce my intention, after the establishment of a new government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. This is a historic opportunity, a one-time opportunity, to extend Israeli sovereignty on our settlements in Judea and Samaria, and also on other important regions for our security, for our heritage, and for our future.”

The PM added, “Out of respect for President Trump and great faith in our friendship, I will await applying sovereignty until release of the president’s political plan.”

Arab leaders, the UN and the EU all condemned any annexation attempts.

The Jordan Valley, which stretches from the Dead Sea in the south to the Israeli city of Beit Shean in the north, makes up around 30 percent of the West Bank. Israel has always said it intends to maintain military control there under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

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Rockets Fired
Today, terrorists fired three rockets at Israel from Gaza, triggering air raid sirens in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai and Netiv Ha’asara. One of the rockets exploded in a greenhouse near a town. No one was injured.

Yesterday, two rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza. Both were intercepted by Iron Dome and caused no damage. PM Netanyahu was speaking at a rally in Ashdod when the warning sirens went off. He was escorted off the podium by his security detail. Most of the rally attendees as well as several ministers remained in the venue and did not evacuate during the sirens. Likud deleted the video of the event from its Facebook page. His political opponents on the right and left attacked Netanyahu, claiming the rocket fire on Ashdod and Ashkelon was a humiliation.

After the siren, the PM returned to finish speech and tweeted: “Great support in Ashdod. You must vote to stop a leftwing-Arab government.”

Israeli analysts said it appeared that Gaza terrorist deliberately targeted the southern cities, knowing that Netanyahu and other politicians were holding rallies there.

In response to the rocket attacks, IDF jets carried out 15 airstrikes against Hamas military targets.
 
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Election Update
The latest poll, released on Tuesday, shows Likud leading with 33 potential Knesset seats over Blue and White’s 32. The Arab Joint List would get 10 seats, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would get 9 seats, Ayelet Shaked’s Yamina 7, UTJ (ultra Orthodox) 7, Shas 7. The Democratic Union – an amalgam of the left-wing Meretz party, Ehud Barak’s Israel Democratic Party and Labor defector Stav Shaffir – would get 6 seats, the Labor-Gesher union would receive 5 seats and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) 4.

For further reading click here.

Bolton Out
President Donald Trump abruptly announced in a tweet Tuesday that he has asked national security adviser John Bolton to resign, noting that he “strongly disagreed with many” of Bolton’s suggestions “as did others in the administration.” He added, “I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.” Bolton then tweeted, “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”

In any case, one of Israel’s staunches supporters in the White House is out.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-9-2019

Syria Attack
Syrian opposition forces are reporting that at least 18 people have been killed in an aerial attack targeting pro-Iranian militias in the town of Al Bukamal in eastern Syria. The IDF said that pro-Iranian militias in Syria made a failed attempt to launch missiles into Israel shorty before the attack.

For further reading click here.

Drone Downed
Hezbollah claims to have downed an Israeli drone today outside a southern Lebanese town, after it crossed the border. The IDF said one of its drones “fell inside southern Lebanon during routine operations”. In a statement, it did not say what caused the crash and noted “there is no concern information could be taken from it”.

For further reading click here.
 

Terror Attack
A 17 year old Israeli and his 60 year old father on their way on their way to a local dental clinic were injured in a stabbing attack near the Palestinian village of Azzun in the West Bank on Saturday afternoon. “A 15-year-old boy approached us and asked me in Arabic if we were Jewish,” said the 17-year-old’s uncle who wasn’t hurt in the incident. “I said no, we are Arabs. Then, he stabbed the father and the son, and the dentist came out to help and got us out of there.”

The Palestinian dentist, Dr. Amin, noticed the attack through the clinic window, rushed downstairs, pushed off the perpetrator, and rescued them.

The IDF forces transported the wounded from the area of the attack to the Eliyahu checkpoint, near the settlement of Alfei Menashe, where the two received treatment by the emergency medical teams called to the scene.

For further reading click here.

Gaza Update
Two Palestinians were killed and 70 wounded in violent demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border on Friday. The IDF said that troops guarding the border were faced with more than 6,000 demonstrators in “especially violent” protests at several points along the border fence. It said the demonstrators hurled “a large amount of explosive devices, grenades and firebombs” and damaged parts of the fence. 

On Friday night a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area near Sderot. Two women in Sderot were treated for shock after the rocket strike.

For further reading click here.

Voting Cameras
PM Netanyahu’s cabinet approved yesterday draft legislation that would mandate installing cameras in voting stations ahead of next week’s election. But the bill failed to pass in the Knesset today. Opponents called the law discriminatory against Arab voters (although I’m not sure why).

The proposed bill was opposed by the head of the Central Election Commission that oversees the vote, who said the last-minute introduction of cameras might “lead to chaos”. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who advises the cabinet on legal issues, also came out against the legislation, saying it could violate laws ensuring voters’ privacy.

For further reading click here.

Diplomatic Freeze
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has halted most diplomatic activity due to a budget shortfall.
The ministry on Sunday announced the cessation of all expenditures, limiting the travel of diplomats around the world and in Jerusalem, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The new guidelines, ordered by the Finance Ministry’s accountant general, were issued due to a “very large gap” between the ministry’s expenditures and its approved budget.

“During this sensitive time, when faced with diplomatic and strategic challenges, first and foremost among them the threat by Iran and its proxies — and on the eve of a U.N. General Assembly— the Foreign Ministry and its missions abroad will be almost entirely paralyzed,” the ministry said in a statement.

For further reading click here.

Warsaw Attack
Two Israeli law students studying in Warsaw were attacked by a group of Arabs from Qatar after they left a nightclub in the city. The attackers heard the students speaking Hebrew and asked them if they were Israeli. When they answered yes, the gang started beating them while shouting “f-k Israel” and “Free Gaza”. Security guards from the club, as well as bystanders, watched the attack without intervening.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-6-2019

Greenblatt Out
The White House has announced that Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, will leave the administration in the coming weeks. Greenblatt has been spearheading efforts at creating Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which the White House says will be released at least a month after the upcoming September 17th Israeli election.

President Trump tweeted, “After almost 3 years in my Administration, Jason Greenblatt will be leaving to pursue work in the private sector. Jason has been a loyal and great friend and fantastic lawyer….” He added that Greenblatt’s “dedication to Israel and to seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians won’t be forgotten.”

Jared Kushner praised Greenblatt and said “work has helped develop the relationships between Israel and its neighbors as he is trusted and respected by all of the leaders throughout the region.”

The Palestinian leadership welcomed Greenblatt’s departure.

Greenblat’s role is expected to be assumed by Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran.

For further reading click here.

US Blocks
The US blocked a UN Security Council statement about the recent tensions between Israel and Hezbollah. The statement, drafted by France, stated that “members of the security council condemned all violations of the Blue Line, both by air and ground, and strongly calls upon all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities.” The US opposed the fact that the statement failed to specifically condemn Hezbollah and that it put Israel’s right of self-determination on an equal footing with the terrorist group.

Meanwhile, Lebanese President Anoun warned Israel that it would bear responsibility for any attack against Lebanon.

For further reading click here.

PM in London
PM Netanyahu met with British PM Johnson is London yesterday. A Downing Street spokesperson later said the two leaders “agreed on the need to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon and stop wider destabilizing Iranian behavior”, while Johnson “stressed the need for dialogue and a diplomatic solution”. Netanyahu wants the UK to spurn a French plan to offer a $15bn credit line to help Iran sell oil.

For further reading click here.

Haifa Fire
At least 18 firefighting crews from the Haifa region as well as other parts of the country successfully battled a massive fire at the Haifa Port oil warehouse yesterday. Large containers of sunflower and olive oil are stored in the warehouse ahead of distillation and bottling.

For further reading click here.

Election Update
The latest polls show Likud and Blue and White each winning 32 seats in the upcoming election. Right wing Yamina and the Arab List are both projected to win 9 seats and Lieberman’s Yisroel Beytenu 10 seats. The Ultra Orthodox parties are at 15 seats and the left wing block at 13. Based on these projection, Avigdor Lieberman seems to hold the key to making or breaking any government.

For further reading click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 9-4-2019

Lebanon Report
A Lebanese newspaper today cited diplomatic sources saying that Israel offered Hezbollah an end to the recent escalation across the Lebanon border and a return to the UN resolution that halted hostilities after the 2006 Second Lebanon War. In exchange, Israel would commit to ending its strikes against Hezbollah operatives in Syria. Hezbollah reportedly rejected the Israeli offer.

According to the paper the Israeli offer was delivered by a Russian intermediary and included mediation efforts from France, Egypt and the United States. The U.S. added its own warning to Lebanon of increased economic pressure should tensions escalate further. 

On Sunday Hezbollah fired several anti tank missiles at an IDF base and Israel responded with a massive artillery bombardment.

For further reading click here.

IDF Warning
In a statement to media accompanied by satellite images, the Israeli military said that Hezbollah, with Iranian assistance, had been bringing specialized equipment to a weapons factory near the Bekaa village of al-Nabi Sheet with a view to setting up a production line for precision-guidance missiles. And that Hezbollah recently moved some of the equipment to “civilian locations” in Beirut as a precaution against strikes.

For further reading click here.

No Shelter
A report published by the Israel Builders Association claims that more than 800,000 civilians in the northern part of the country don’t have a bomb shelter or a secure space to take cover in the event of a missile attack. While the government approved a NIS 5 billion security plan a year ago, nothing has actually been done.

For further reading click here.

Diplomatic Handouts
As a result of budget cuts in the Foreign Ministry, some members of Israel’s diplomatic corps are turning to Jewish communities in their host nations to pay for travel and other expenses.

Due to the lack of funding, almost all ambassadorial trips have been frozen and the visits by ministry personnel abroad have been all but cancelled. The only way to circumvent this issue is with external funding and some in the Foreign Ministry say this phenomenon is only growing.

Nizar Amer, the acting spokesperson at the Foreign Ministry, said in response: ” Diplomatic representatives are from time to time invited to venues outside of their offices, and sometimes, in line with procedure, the host covers the expenses of the diplomats’ trips.”
 
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Fire Team
A team belonging to the Israel Fire and Rescue Services is on its way to Brazil to help fight the massive fires raging in the Amazon. The team is comprised of experts in the fields of rescue, intelligence and bush and forest fires, and is headed by Deputy Commander of the Northern District Yair Elkayam.

For further reading click here.

Orphan Born
Four months ago, Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, a 22-year-old American-Israeli member of the Ger Hassidic community, was killed as he sought shelter from a Hamas rocket in the stairwell of an apartment building in the southern city of Ashdod. He was survived by his pregnant wife and their two young children. Yesterday his wife gave birth to his son.

For further reading click here.