Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-31-2020

News Update

The IDF attacked six Hamas targets in the southern part of Gaza in response to the launch of three rockets into Israel earlier. Among the targets hit was an underground Hamas facility used to manufacture weapons. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted two of the rockets and a third landed in open fields near the town of Sderot.

Earlier Thursday, the IDF attacked several Hamas observation posts and positions along the Gaza-Israel perimeter fence. The strikes were carried out in response to several incidents including the flying of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory and the shooting at an IDF post.

Naama Issachar, the Israeli-American woman jailed in Russia on drug charges, landed in Israel yesterday after 9 months in a Russian prison. She was pardoned by Russian President Putin. Issacher and her mother, who came to Moscow to meet her, were greeted by PM Netanyahu, who was in Moscow for meetings with Putin and were flown back to Israel on the Prime Minister’s plane. [a month before elections — good timing.]

Media reports have suggested that the pardon deal may have been eased by promises made by the Israeli government over the ownership of a building in Jerusalem which is important to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Alexander Courtyard, situated in Jerusalem’s Old City, has been contested for years and an Israeli court recently ruled in Russia’s favor.

[Hopefully, Israelis will learn not to carry drugs when traveling on international flights?]

Speaking of flights, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has banned all flights from China to Israel, as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier Thursday, Israeli airline El Al said it will suspend all flights to China for at least two months.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups have finally found an issue that they can agree upon and unite around: opposition to the Trump peace plan. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas invited all the factions to Ramallah for an emergency meeting that coincided with the U.S. announcement. Now they can officially reject all attempts at peace negotiations, united.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced today that Israel would implement a ban [starting Sunday] on importing agricultural products from the Palestinian Authority. The ban comes in response to a Palestinian ban on all Israeli cattle and livestock back in September. The Palestinian has hurt Palestinian butchers and merchants, since more than 90% of the beef calves consumed in the West Bank came from Israel. Palestinian merchants have protested the ban.

PM Netanyahu announced today that the cabinet meeting to be held on Sunday will be cancelled. The PM had said previously that he would push for cabinet approval of the annexation of the Jordan Valley at that meeting. But pressure from the US has made him change his plans. US advisor Jared Kushner has said in recent media interviews that the US does not want Israel to make annexation moves until after the Israeli elections.

Business is booming at Iran’s largest flag factory which makes U.S., British and Israeli flags for Iranian protesters to burn. The factory produces about 2,000 U.S. and Israeli flags a month in its busiest periods, and more than 1.5 million square feet of flags a year.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-29-2020

News Update

At a press conference with PM Netanyahu yesterday, President Trump revealed his 80 page peace plan. The plan recognizes Israel’s West Bank settlements and calls for a 4 year freeze in construction while details of a Palestinian state are negotiated. The plan provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state in Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, including twice as much land as the Palestinians currently control.

The Palestinian area, not all contiguous, would be connected by a series of tunnels, roads and bridges. For example, the West Bank would be connected to Gaza via a tunnel running through Israeli territory.

The Palestinians would also have their capital in the Abu Dis neighborhood, which is technically within the boundaries of Jerusalem. The plan also provides the Palestinians with around $50 billion of economic incentives.

Trump revealed the plan to both Netanyahu and Gantz in separate private meetings on Monday. Gantz and his Blue and White party enthusiastically are backing the plan. The Palestinians have categorically rejected the plan. [they apparently don’t believe in negotiating]

Part of the plan called for the possibility of land swaps, which could include transferring 10 major Arab cities and towns currently in Israel to Palestinian control. The towns include Kafr Kara, Arara, Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Umm al-Fahm, Kalanswa, Taibeh, Kafr Qasem, Tira, Kafr Bara and Jaljulia. The mayors of these towns and other officials have condemned the plan, even though it would not require them to move. Only the borders would be redrawn. So apparently, Israeli Arabs are not so keen on being part an independent Palestinian state, and would rather remain Israeli citizens.

Here is the Trump plan map:

peace plan

The United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington released a statement saying, “The plan announced today offers an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a US-led international framework,” and that the UAE, “appreciates continued US efforts to reach a Palestine-Israel peace agreement. This plan is a serious initiative that addresses many issues raised over the years.”

PM Netanyahu said yesterday that he intends to bring a proposal for applying Israeli jurisdiction to the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the West Bank settlements to a cabinet vote “presumably on Sunday.” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said after Trump’s announcement that Israel can “annex settlements at any time.” He told reporters at the White House that “Israel should not wait at all for annexation of the settlements.” However, senior Likud officials said today that the cabinet vote will not happen, for technical reasons.

According to government statistics, the population of West Bank settlements rose to 463,353 people as of Jan. 1, up 3.1% from 449,508 a year earlier. This does not include over 300,000 Israelis living in areas of east Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday filed an indictment against PM Netanyahu at Jerusalem District Court, on three separate charges of corruption. This is the first time in Israel’s 71-year history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-27-2020

News Update

Blue and White leader Gantz and PM Netanyahu are set to meet, seperately, with President Trump today at the White House, where Trump will reveal his peace plan to them.  On Tuesday the President will deliver joint remarks with the 2 Israeli leaders. According to a White House official, Trump will tell the Israelis that they have 6 weeks to get the plan going.

Palestinian lawmakers backed by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, said Sunday that the day President Trump presents his Middle East peace plan would be a “Day of Rage” with riots and protests in the West Bank. PA President Abbas released a statement saying, “The Palestinian leadership, with support of the people, will hamper all attempts to bring to an end the Palestinian issue, as has done numerous times in the past.” [And that says it all]

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signed an order allowing Israeli Muslims to travel to Saudi Arabia for religious worship and business trips. The announcement also confirmed that for the first time ever, Jewish Israelis will also be permitted to go to Saudi Arabia on business trips. While some Israelis are believed to already visit Saudi Arabia, this requires either a foreign passport or special permission. The interior ministry said Israeli visitors would require an official invitation to enter the kingdom. It said the decision had been coordinated with Israeli security officials and other “relevant” bodies, including the foreign ministry.

Naama Issachar, the American-Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges, has formally requested a pardon from Putin. During his visit to Israel last week, Putin met with Issachar’s mother and assured her “everything will be alright” – hinting that her daughter would soon be released.

The Shin Bet revealed that it discovered and dismantled a Hamas spy ring in Israel several weeks ago. The spies included Israeli Arabs with relatives in Gaza.

Israel Army Radio is reporting that PM Netanyahu will not push to annex the Jordan Valley in the near future. Instead, the report says, he is planning to annex the city of Maale Adumim, the third largest Israeli town in Judea and Samaria, located just to the east of Jerusalem.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin is in Poland to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Rivlin met with Polish President Duda, who refused to attend the commemoration event in Jerusalem last week. Later today, Rivlin will participate in a ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau along with survivors of the death camp, President Duda of Poland, President Steinmeier of Germany, the President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder and the head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Dr. Piotr Cywiński.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-24-2020

News Update

More than 40 world leaders gathered in Jerusalem yesterday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The event is organized by World Holocaust Forum in cooperation with Yad Vashem and President Reuven Rivlin. Both PM Netanyahu and US VP Mike Pence spoke out against Iran, in addition to global anti-semitism.

Russian President Putin said, “Remember that there were collaborators in these horrific acts and their cruelty surpassed Nazi cruelty in many European countries. The Red Army brought about liberation from the Nazis, and we paid a price we never dreamed of paying.” He was clearly referring to Poland, where all of the death camps were located and where a significant percentage of the population either actively participated in the murder and persecution of the Jews, or passively supported it. Polish leaders refused to attend the commemoration.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prince Charles and German President Frank Walter Steinmeier also addressed the gathering. Steinmeier said, “The industrialized and mass murder of six million Jews, the most heinous crime in modern history against humanity, was committed by my people. I stand here and bow my head in deep sorrow.” He added, “The heavy historical journey of guilt is upon me, and I am grateful for the spirit of reconciliation. We are fighting anti-Semitism and are trying to stand against the poison of nationalism. We stand alongside Israel.”

VP Pence officially invited PM Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman Gantz to Washington next week to meet with President Trump. The President is expected to reveal his peace plan before meeting with them. No invitation was extended to the Palestinians. While the details of the plan are secret, some details that have apparently been leaked included total Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and annexation of parts of the West Bank containing Jewish Settlements. Gantz will reveal later today whether he will accept the invitation.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-22-2020

News Update

Three terrorists infiltrated into Israel from Gaza near Kibbutz Kissufim yesterday. An IDF force intercepted the terrorists and opened fire on them. The terrorists threw at least one grenade at the soldiers. All 3 terrorists were killed. No soldiers were injured.

Israel’s state-owned electricity utility said it was ending power cuts to the Palestinian Authority, after the PA paid over half of its outstanding debt for electricity — 920 million shekels.

In a speech yesterday launching his election campaign, PM Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley. Now, right wing politicians including Defense Minister Naftali Bennet, Avigdor Lieberman, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich and many others are calling on the PM do carry out his pledge immediately. Blue and White leader Gantz issued a similar challenge to Netanyahu, tweeting: “You can apply Israeli law in the Jordan Valley in a cabinet decision within two hours, without any Knesset discussion. Let’s see you.”

Netanyahu also stooped to new lows when he mocked Gantz’s slight stutter. He actually imitated the stutter, to applause and laughter from his audience.

For the first time since the Degania Dam on the Jordan River just south of the Kinneret was built in 1964, it has been opened for the free flow of water into the lower Jordan River. The Water Authority announced that Mekorot National Water Company will initially allow a flow of 1,000 cubic meters an hour (8.76 million cubic meters a year), and will gradually increase the flow to 30 million cubic meters a year.

The water flow from the Kinneret is part of the multiyear plan to revive the ecology along the lower Jordan River, which has suffered for decades from the pouring of brackish water and sewage into the river. The program begun today includes the construction of sewage treatment plants to improve the quality of the water flow into the lower Jordan River from Tiberias and its environs.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-20-2020

News Update

PM Netanyahu has appointed ministers to take over the portfolios that he was forced to abdicate as a result of the indictment against him. Tzachi Hanegbi will take over as agriculture and rural development minister, a position he will hold in addition to his role as minister of regional cooperation. Science, Technology and Space minister Ofir Akunis will also assume the post of labor, social affairs and social services minister, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely will become Diaspora affairs minister.

Jordan’s parliament unanimously passed a draft law to ban imports of Israeli gas, just days after gas imports began. The draft will be sent to the government cabinet to be approved.

The Kremlin announced today that President Putin will meet with PM Netanyahu on Thursday to discuss the pardoning of Naama Issachar, the 26-year-old American-Israeli sentenced to 7.5 years in a Russian prison for drug “smuggling”. She was arrested at a Moscow airport with 9 grams of cannabis in her luggage, on a stopover flight from India to Israel. Putin will be in Israel this week for a Holocaust remembrance service.

The Blue and White party has launched a campaign aimed at religious zionist voters. The party is seeking to attract moderate voters who are unhappy with the extremist leanings of the right wing religious zionist parties including Jewish Home, National Union and Jewish Power. Several candidates at the top of the Blue and White list are affiliated with the Religious Zionist sector including Elazar Stern, Yoaz Hendel, Hili Trooper, Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Tehila Friedman, Michal Kotler, Moshe (Kinley) Tur-Paz, and others.

Stormy weather continues across Israel, with warnings of local flooding in coastal cities and the lowlands, as well as snowfall on Mount Hermon. The Water Authority said that the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) is now just 1.865 meters below its maximum capacity.

Tesla will soon begin selling 3 models in Israel. The registered models are the Tesla Model S, to be sold in both a 506 horsepower and a 707 horsepower version; the Model 3, equipped with a 390 horsepower engine; and the Model X six-seater, with a 707 horsepower engine. The cheapest model will cost over NIS 300,000 (approximately $86,700).

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-17-2020

News Update

Terrorists belonging to an independent faction connected to Islamic Jihad fired 4 rockets and one incendiary balloon into Israel from Gaza. In response, The IDF carried out strikes against Hamas targets in the northern part of Gaza. Security officials in Israel say they are concerned Hamas allowed the attack to take place in order to exert pressure on Israel and Egypt to resume talks with Hamas.

The Egyptian government had committed to increasing imports from Gaza through the Rafah Crossing if calm on the border is maintained. Egypt canceled a planned visit by its negotiating delegation to Gaza after Hamas leader Haniyeh traveled to Tehran to attend the funeral of Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani, though he had assured Egyptian intelligence officials he would not do so. Following this visit, Egypt began increasing the cost of products entering Gaza across the Rafah border including cooking gas, which has caused shortages for Gazans. Cairo also raised taxes on other products.

The Jewish Home party has joined forces with Israel’s more mainstream right-wing parties under the leadership of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, after being forced to break a previous agreement to join with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party under intense pressure from PM Netanyahu and the polls showing that Jewish Home would not pass the minimum threshold if it stuck with Otzma Yehudit.

In a phone call with Russian President Putin, PM Netanyahu raised the issue of Naama Issachar, the 26 year old Israeli woman jailed in Russia for drug smuggling. She was arrested in April while in transit at a Moscow airport, en route from India to Israel, and accused of carrying 9.5 grams of cannabis. She was sentenced to 7 and a half years in October. Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, said that Netanyahu spoke to her after his conversation with Putin and told her to remain strong and optimistic, and that he is doing everything he can to get her released.

The latest three polls published last night by Israel’s news television stations – Channels 11, 12, and 13 – show Benny Gantz’s Blue & White party consolidating its lead. Channel 11 projected Blue & White winning 36 seats and Likud 31 but the Channel 12 poll was 34-32 and the Channel 13 poll 34-31. All 3 polls show a continued stalemate between the Right and Center-Left.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-15-2020

News Update

Syrian government and opposition sources are reporting that an Israeli missile attack hit a Syrian airbase near Homs, killing at least 3 pro-Iranian operatives and injuring others. The base houses an Iranian weapons depot. It has been attacked several times in recent years.

450 police and Border Patrol troops began demolishing two illegally built structures in Kumi Ori today, an outpost outside the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, in Samaria. The structures housed two families and were demolished following a Supreme Court ruling last week rejecting a motion by one of the settlers who claimed Israel has no authority over the hilltop because it is part of a Palestinian administered area.

Local settlement officials condemned the demolition and said in a statement that ” the government of Israel is concentrating its efforts on the homes of Jewish settlers in Yitzhar though tens of thousands of buildings have been illegally constructed by Arabs in recent years.”

PM Netanyahu is pressuring the religious-Zionist parties to the right of Likud to unite ahead of the upcoming election. Netanyahu warned Naftali Bennett, who heads the New Right party, to form a union with Jewish Home or face losing his position as defense minister. At the moment the New Right has joined with Betzalel Smotrich’s National Union party and the Jewish Home party has joined with the far-right Jewish Power party. The PM wants one united right-wing list to assure that no votes are wasted, in the event that one of the factions does not pass the minimum threshold requirement running independently.

Meanwhile, the wife of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated PM Yitzhak Rabin, has filed to register a new political party called Mishpat Tzedek (Hebrew for fair trial). Her primary goal is to get a retrial for her husband.

Israel today launched a pipeline that began supplying natural gas from its Leviathan offshore field to Egypt. In a statement on behalf of both Jerusalem and Cairo, Israel’s Energy Ministry said: “The flow of natural gas from Israel to Egypt has begun. This is an important development that will serve the economic interests of both parties.” Gas from the field is also being sold to Jordan.

The Jerusalem-based non-profit Shavei Israel, in partnership with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), is opening a new English-language conversion institute in Jerusalem. The institute, named Machon Milton, will operate under the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and prepare candidates for the conversion process.
Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund said his organization and the RCA are launching the institute because of the growing need and demand for it, as only a handful of options currently exist in Jerusalem for English-speakers who wish to undergo formal conversion to Judaism. The institute is named in memory of Freund’s late grandfather, Milton Freund, who was a prominent Zionist and Jewish leader.
Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-13-2020

News Update

Israel’s Left-Wing parties — Gesher, Labor and Meretz — have agree to merge and run under one list in the upcoming election in March. The new faction’s list will be headed by Peretz, with the head of the Gesher party, Orly Levy-Abekasis acting as number two. Meretz leader Horowitz is set to be third on the party list. The parties feared not being able to pass the minimum threshold if they ran individually.

Moshe Kahalon, Finance Minister and former head of the party Kulanu (which merged with Likud), will be retiring from politics. He will probably remain in his post as finance minister until a new government is formed, unless Netanyahu decides to fire him and appoint a new candidate. Kahlon’s departure will most likely require Likud to find another candidate with a socially-oriented platform that would fill the vacated place on the party list.

According to the Bureau of Insurance Agents, damage to private property caused by the recent flooding in Israel is estimated to be around NIS 1.5 billion ($432 million). Although the estimates of the damage caused to public property is unclear, it is believed to be in the hundreds of millions, bringing the total cost to over NIS 2 billion ($577 million). The damage included 8 F-16 Air Force fighter jets, which were flooded at their base in Hazor, in the south. They are all expected to be operational within a few days, at a cost of tens of millions of shekels. The Air Force admits that the planes should have been moved to avoid the flooding damage.

Police raided a Jerusalem residential complex where they found dozens of women and children living in slave-like conditions as part of an ultra-orthodox cult lead by a rabbi in his 60s. The rabbi was arrested along with 8 other women suspected of assisting him. The investigation into the alleged cult was first opened several years ago but was recently renewed after several women who escaped from it came forward with the allegations to the authorities.


Israel news summary

Israel News for 1-10-2020

News Update

Syrian opposition sources and Lebanese media are reporting that Israel carried out airstrikes against a weapons depot near the Syrian-Iraqi border that killed 8 Iranians last night.  There was no comment from Israel.

Israel today released two Syrian prisoners, including one jailed for spying for Syria, in what it called a goodwill gesture for the Russian-assisted repatriation last year of the body of Zachary Baumel, the IDF soldier missing in action for close to 40 years. Both men were released “before the end of their imprisonment” in coordination with the IDF. PM Netanyahu confirmed the release, describing it as a “political gesture of goodwill, following the return of the late Zachary Baumel’s body from Syria to Israel.”

Republican and Democratic U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday to provide $3.3 billion in annual aid to Israel. The bill would put into law a “Memorandum of Understanding” reached between Israel and the Obama administration from four years ago that was the biggest pledge of U.S. military assistance made to any country. The current formulation of the bill does not include a clause to let state and local governments punish citizens for boycotting Israel, which is what prevented the original from passing last year.

As the storm systems that hit Israel over the last 2 weeks winds down, meteorological services say that the amount of rainfall that hit northern Israel is the largest since 1969. The storms caused major flooding and the deaths of several people.

According to global hotel search data from Google, Tel Aviv was in the top 5 most searched for destinations in December. Israel attracted a record 4.5 million tourists in 2019, up from 4.1 million in 2018.

Finally, the latest election poll shows no change in the balance between the Left and Right, which means…even more elections ahead?