Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-30-2019

News Update

Yesterday US air strikes hit several bases of the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group, killing at least 25 militants and wounding around 55. The strikes were in response to rocket attacks by Hezbollah against US bases in Iraq, the last of which killed an American contractors and wounded several US servicemen.

Israel’s current government is set to approve around 2,000 new homes in the West Bank settlements. Settler leaders praised the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister for approving the plan. The move comes in the wake of the November announcement by US Secretary of State Pompeo that the US was softening its position on Israeli  settlements and that they were not against international law.

The Security Cabinet approved Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s proposal to deduct NIS 150 million from the tax money that Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority because that money is earmarked for distribution to the families of terrorists. The Abbas administration paid 150 million shekels ($43.37 million) in stipends for terrorist casualties in 2018.

[ In the last couple of weeks there have been a string of anti-semitic attacks in the NY area, including terrorist attacks like the shooting in Jersey City and the stabbing attack in Monsey. We must must all stand strong and speak out against anti-semitism, and urge our civic, political and religious leaders to do the same, regardless of our communal or religious affiliation. ]

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-26-2019

News Update

A wave of torrential downpours and strong winds swept through Israel early today. The storm system, which comes after a period of unseasonably warm and dry weather, hit the north in the early morning hours and was making its way south, with low temperatures, heavy showers and strong gusts expected to last until Saturday.

Before the current rainstorm, measurements showed that this year’s annual rainfall in northern Israel stood at around 50% percent of the yearly average, but this number has soared to over 110% of the region’s expected quantity of precipitation in a little over 24 hours. Major flooding was reported in northern and central Israel as entire streets became submerged in Tayibe, Umm al-Fahm, Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Qalansawe and Kafr Qara. The Sea of Galilee reportedly rose by 6 cm within 24 hours.

Israel granted permits to Christians living in Gaza to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem for Christmas. There are around 1000, mostly Greek Orthodox, Christians living among the 2 million inhabitants of Gaza.

PM Netanyahu is facing off against challenger Gideon Sa’ar in primary elections for the leadership of the Likud party today. Preliminary results are expected after midnight tonight. Netanyahu is expected to easily win, but a strong showing by Sa’ar of at least 30% of the vote would make Sa’ar the clear heir apparent to Netanyahu for the leadership spot.

Iran’s top-rated chess champion Alireza Firouzja, the world’s second-highest-rated junior player, has decided not to play for his country, in an apparent reaction to Tehran’s informal ban on competing against Israeli players. Firouzja is currently living in France, and may decide to play under the French or American flag.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-23-2019

News Update

Syrian state media and Syrian opposition sources are reporting that missiles fired from Israel early this morning killed three Iranians near Damascus. Syrian TV reported that one of the missiles was shot down. The attack reportedly targeted Iranian and Syrian military positions near Damascus. Lebanese daily newspaper Al Akhbar also reported that Israel struck several arms depots near the Syrian town of Sayyidah Zaynab, some 10 km south of Damascus.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will launch a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians. PM Netanyahu responded to the news saying, “While we are moving forward in new areas of hope and peace with our Arab neighbors, the ICC in The Hague has taken a step backwards, it finally became a weapon in the political war against the State of Israel. The prosecutor’s decision against Israel is absurd. Who are they accusing here? Iran? Turkey? Syria? No – Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. This is terrible hypocrisy.”

Israel’s Supreme Court will debate the issue of whether the Prime Minister can legally form a government while under indictment. The court has ordered the attorney general to form a legal opinion on the matter to be presented prior to the court’s debate.

An Egged bus traveling from Jerusalem to Haifa overturned near Ben Gurion Airport Sunday night and slammed into a concrete stop. Three women and one man were killed and 14 other passengers injured. The driver was charged with negligent homicide. One of the fatalities was identified as 79-year-old Yosef Kahalani, a grandfather who was returning home after a visit to Jerusalem.

Important Update:

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Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-20-2019

News Update

Education Minister and Jewish Home party leader Rafi Peretz met with far right Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir today and the two agreed to join their parties for the upcoming Knesset election.

According to the terms of the deal, the Jewish Home will retain the top spot on the list for Peretz, while Otzma will get the third, sixth, and ninth slots on the joint list. The deal does not yet include the National Union party, led by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, but it is expected to join the joint list shortly.

The latest election poll shows that a Netanyahu led right wing block would get 56 seats, against the center-left’s 57. Leiberman’s Yisrael Beyteinu would get 6 seats, enough to make him kingmaker (or spoiler) again. So basically we’re looking at another deadlock. Unless Gideon Sa’ar defeats Netanyahu for the leadership of the Likud party, in which case he would be able to join in a unity government with Blue and White.

Several vehicles were found torched and graffiti messages spray-painted in the Palestinian village of Fara’ata in the West Bank this morning. One of the graffiti slogans said, “Quiet will be met with quiet, regards from Kumi Ori.” Kumi Ori is a controversial Israeli outpost in the West Bank which has become a rallying point for extreme right-wing settlers.

If you’re looking for a rundown of what the 2020 candidates for US President think regarding Israel policy, click here.

And if you happen to be at the luxurious Latvian resort town of Jurmala during busy summer season, you can catch some prayers at the new, 5 star, synagogue that caters to Jewish oligarchs. Click here

The 8 day holiday of Hanukkah begins this Sunday night. We will also be kicking off our annual fundraising drive and ask you to show your financial support for the work we do. You can get a head start by giving today :)

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-18-2019

News Update

The Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI) announced today that it had arrested 50 Palestinian terror suspects in recent weeks, including those believed to have murdered 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in an attack at a West Bank tourist spot in August. The suspects belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and plotted to carry out “major terrorist attacks.” A large number of firearms and bombs were also found.

An IDF aircraft killed an armed terrorist who was approaching the security fence along the Gaza border yesterday.

Sources say that the Israeli military is considering cancelling rocket alert sirens, leaving the civilian population to rely solely on the Iron Dome defense system. The reason is because most Israeli injuries during the rocket attacks have been caused by running to find a bomb shelter. A large number of people are also often treated for shock due to anxiety involved with hearing the sirens.

During the last bout of violence, during which 450 rockets were fired at Israel, 60% of the rockets landed in open areas. Out of the remaining 40% that had been heading for residential areas, 90% were intercepted by the Iron Dome.

According to the IDF, due to the Iron Dome’s improved capabilities, it’s appropriate to reexamine the current policy and take a calculated risk in an effort to reduce the number of casualties.

The military emphasized, however, that the proposal only intends to stop the sirens during occasional rocket fire that occurs when “rouge” elements in Gaza fire rockets. During a war or a military operation the sirens would sound anytime a rocket fire is detected. In addition, the sirens policy in Israeli communities bordering Gaza also wouldn’t change since not all projectiles fired from such a short distance can be intercepted. The Home Front Command is against getting rid of the sirens. 

British newspaper The Telegraph is reporting that Hamas senior leaders are planning their attacks against Israel from offices in Istanbul, with the consent of Turkey’s president. Both Hamas and Turkish officials denied the report.

The high-speed express train line between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv was inaugurated today, 11 years after it was due to open and at more than twice the original cost. The train, which will open to the public on Saturday night, will take 28 minutes each way. The new train line is 57 kilometers long, runs over nine bridges and through five tunnels and cost NIS 7 billion to build.

The Hebrew weekly Makor Rishon reports that around 25% of the new immigrants to Israel from Russia and Ukraine just come to obtain an Israeli passport and then immediately return to their original countries. A cottage industry of companies promising expedited Israeli citizenship, and the passport that comes with it, have sprung up in Russia since the passage of a law allowing new immigrants to receive the travel document within the first three months of their aliyah. [Who knew that an Israeli passport was so valuable?]

Meanwhile, more than 40 Israeli civilians who landed on an El Al flight at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport today were detained and had their passports confiscated. All were released after two hours of questioning and fingerprinting.

Prince Charles, the future King of England, plans to visit Israel in January to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Intel has acquired Tel Aviv-based artificial intelligence chip developer Habana Labs Ltd. for $2 billion. Habana will continue to operate as an independent business unit under its current management team and will remain in Israel. In 2017 Intel bought Jerusalem-headquartered automotive chip developer Mobileye for $15.3 billion. Intel employs 12,000 people in Israel directly and another 1,100 through its subsidiary Mobileye. The State of Israel will collect somewhere between $350-$500 million of tax revenue from the sale. 

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-16-2019

News Update

The New Right party launched its election campaign today, but party co-founder Ayelet Shaked was missing from promotional materials. The former justice minister apparently has not yet decided which party she is going to run with in the upcoming election. The New Right’s official slogan is: “The New Right, the Secure Right.”

PM Netanyahu said yesterday that he has been given assurances by the son of Brazil’s president that Brazil will move its embassy to Jerusalem next year. Brazil is the largest country in South America.

Lord Eric Pickles, the UK Special Envoy for post-Holocaust matters, told a conference in Jerusalem that the new conservative government in the UK would pass a law banning public agencies from engaging with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The new boycott law will not include goods produced in the West Bank because the territory is not considered part of Israel by international law.

Israel and Montenegro have signed a major defense contract worth $35 million. Israeli defense company Elbit Systems will supply the NATO member state with its high-tech Remote Control Weapon Stations (RCWS), which are installed on combat vehicles to allow the gunner stay inside the armored hull while firing.

Israeli boutique hotel chain Brown, together with IT company Aman Group, has won a tender to open a hotel at Ben Gurion Airport, the Israel Airports Authority and Brown announced Sunday. The 200-room hotel will be adjacent to the airport’s terminal 3, and is expected to include a fitness center, spa, restaurant, bar, and a conference center.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz today approved the export of natural gas from Israel to Egypt, from the Tamar and Leviathan gas reservoirs. Steinitz said, “A short time ago, I signed an approval for the export of natural gas from Isrsel to Egypt. In doing so, Israel becomes – for the first time in its history – an energy exporter and an important partner in the regional energy market”

He said, “The export of gas to Egypt, from the Leviathan and Tamar reservoirs, is the most significant economic cooperation between Israel and Egypt since the peace agreement was signed between the companies. This is a historic milestone for the State of Israel. The natural gas revolution makes us an energy superpower and will enable not only huge revenues for the country, but also a dramatic reduction in air pollution.” The deal is valued at $15 billion.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-13-2019

News Update

President Reuven Rivlin gave the Israeli public some encouragement regarding the upcoming unprecedented third round of elections scheduled to be held on March 2. He said, “We must not allow ourselves to sink into despair or grievance, which does no good. We must not lose faith in the democratic system or in its ability to create the reality we live in with our own hands. When the time comes, we will all exercise our democratic right and do it in the hope of a better future, as soon as possible, for us all.”

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said that if he becomes the next PM, he will consider agreeing to a pardon for PM Netanyahu if he agrees to retire from political life. He said, “We don’t want to see another prime minister behind prison walls.” Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman also raised the idea of a pardon saying, “No immunity, pardon in exchange for honorable retirement.” He added that he believes that most of the Knesset would agree to a pardon.

Moshe Feiglin, leader of the right-wing libertarian Zehut party, said that his party will not run in the upcoming election.

The latest poll shows Blue and White with a 6 seat lead over Likud. But that would still not give them the ability to form a government. The poll, by newspaper Yisrael Hayom, also showed that Netanyahu Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar would get the same number of votes as the PM. But unlike the PM, he would potentially be able to form a unity government with Blue and White.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-11-2019

News Update

A bill to dissolve the Knesset is expected to pass today and set March 2, 2020 as the date of the unprecedented third round of elections within a 12-month period. Recent polls show another deadlock between the left and right after the new elections are held. The only solution seems to be a unity government between Likud and Blue and White (BW), but BW leader Benny Gantz refuses to sit in a government led by a PM who is under indictment (Netanyahu). That’s why Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu’s main rival for the Likud party leadership, claims that if he is elected Likud leader, a unity government will be formed. Likud will be holding its election for party leader on December 26.

While Netanyahu is not legally required to step down after being indicted, Israeli law is unclear about whether he could be given authority to form a new government after the next election. The Attorney General will have to rule on the matter, if need be, and then there will most likely be court challenges, in either direction.

Satellite images have revealed that Iranian forces in Syria are building a massive tunnel along the Syria-Iraq border through which they intend to smuggle weapons, including missiles, and militants. The digging of the tunnel is overseen by the Al-Quds Division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

U.S. President Trump will sign an executive order today that will treat “Jewishness” as a nationality and not just a religion, making anti-Semitism subject to a law that bars discrimination on the basis of national origin at educational institutions that receive federal funding. The new law will consider anti-Israel activities as anti-Semitism, and is aimed at colleges and universities.

A 9 person Israeli medical team is heading to the Pacific island state of Samoa to help fight a deadly measles outbreak that has already claimed 63 lives since October.

Israeli retail drug store chain Super-Pharm is opening a new chain called Daily, through which it will market freshly prepared food for the first time. The first branch will be opened in the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange area in the second quarter of 2020, and the second in the commercial part of the Azrieli Sarona Tower in Tel Aviv. The new stores will be half the current standard size of Super-Pharm branches, and will have a department in the front part of the store with freshly prepared food such as salads, sandwiches, and pastries; a toiletries department; and a pharmacy. The cosmetics featured in regular Super-Pharm branches will not be sold in the new stores.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-9-2019

News Update

Likud and Blue and White have finally agreed … to a date for new elections – March 2 – unless something unexpected happens before midnight on Wednesday, and a government can be formed before the deadline expires. According to the latest poll, Likud and Blue and White would each pick up two additional seats, but the overall left-right balance would remain the same.

Russian media is reporting that Russian SU-35 fighter planes at an airbase in Syria were scrambled to intercept an alleged Israeli attack near a military base in southern Syria earlier this month. The reports have not been confirmed by Israel or Russia.

The Norwegian Parliament decided last week to cut funding for the education system of the Palestinian Authority, due to evidence of the existence of materials inciting violence, terrorism, and martyrdom in school curricula across the Palestinian territory. A statement by the ruling coalition said, “Examples of content found in Palestinian school books include references to violence, martyrdom and terror. The coalition considers this to be devastating to the peace process and the development of democracy in the region, as well as being an expression of irresponsible pedagogy, and finds it unacceptable that Norwegian funds support a school system that promotes such destructive values.” Norway previously promised to transfer around $24 million to the Palestinian Education Ministry by 2022.

The tires of around 100 vehicles in the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat were found punctured early today. Statements such as: “Arabs equal enemies”, “No place for enemies in our land” and “When Jews get stabbed do not remain silent” were also found graffitied on several houses and cars in the neighborhood. Police are searching for the suspects, who were captured on security video but cannot be identified.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 12-6-2019

News Update

IDF officials say that neither the destruction of the Hezbollah terror tunnels, nor Hezbollah’s recent domestic problems, have weakened the terror group’s desire to prepare for renewed conflict with Israel. Hezbollah has reportedly amassed an arsenal of 130,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel. They have also been attempting to import or develop guided missiles.

PM Netanyahu told reporters that it was Israel “full right” to annex the Jordan Valley. He said that he discussed his annexation plan with US Secretary of State Pompeo in a meeting in Portugal this week. Netanyahu also said that they agreed to move forward with plans for a joint defense treaty.

Israeli defense officials, including Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, have expressed concern that such a pact could limit Israel’s freedom to operate militarily. Netanyahu said he was aware of the reservations but assured that it was a “historic opportunity” and Israel would not be limited to act against Iran.

Israel will be selling its Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems to the Czech Republic in a deal worth more than $125 million.  This will be the first sale of Israeli military technology to a member nation of NATO.

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman said that all efforts to form either a unity government or a narrow right-wing government have been exhausted and that Israel is going to elections.

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said he intends to indict seven men, including close associates of PM Netanyahu, in a major bribery, money laundering and fraud case related to a possible conflict of interest involving a $2 billion purchase of German submarines. Netanyahu was questioned, but not named as a suspect, in the investigation known as Case 3000.

A new treatment developed by Tel Aviv University could induce the destruction of pancreatic cancer cells, eradicating the number of cancerous cells by up to 90% after two weeks of daily injections of a small molecule known as PJ34. The treatment is currently being tested on mice and can take another 2 years before it could be available for human use.