Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-18-2021

News Update

Israeli fighter jets attacked Hamas military targets in Gaza last night in response to incendiary balloons which were launched into Israel throughout the day and caused at least eight fires near the border.

Israeli forces struck and destroyed a Syrian military outpost near the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights yesterday. According to the IDF, local Hezbollah officials were seen over the past month in the outpost located near the Syrian border town of Quneitra.

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid yesterday and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways” and other regional security issues, including Iran.

Ynet photographer Eli Mandelbaum was attacked by Palestinians who threw Molotov cocktails at his car outside the  settlement of Beitar Illit, where he resides. Mandelbaum managed to escape unhurt.

Police have arrested Yusuf Albaz, the leading imam of the central city of Lod, on suspicion of incitement to violence, terrorism and threats, based on social media posts he published yesterday calling for violence against police.

Defense Minister Gantz wants the government to launch an official investigation into the disaster that occurred in Meron on Lag B’omer, where 45 people were killed. He said, “It is a moral debt to the families, and no less, an important step meant to prevent such tragic events in the future.” His proposal will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

PM Bennett announced that Israel would give the Palestinian Authority over 1 million Pfizer vaccine doses. Under the terms of the deal, Israel will transfer to the Palestinian Authority between 1 million and 1.4 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination doses, which will soon expire, in exchange for a consignment of Pfizer vaccination doses due to be delivered to the Palestinian Authority in September-October 2021.

Former PM Netanyahu is apparently not too eager to leave the official PM residence in Jerusalem. Sources say it will take him several more weeks to move out. He has a villa in Caesarea. In the meantime, PM Bennett continues to reside with his family in his home in Raanana.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-16-2021

News Update

A Palestinian woman tried to run over and stab soldiers working along the separation barrier near the town of Hizma, north of Jerusalem today. She was shot and killed. One soldier was very lightly.

Israeli fighter jets attacked Hamas targets in Gaza overnight in response to dozens of incendiary balloon attacks into Israel yesterday, which cause 26 fires.

Thousands participated in the March of Flags, which passed the Damascus Gate and went through the Jaffa Gate down to the Western Wall. Police and security forces broke up the marchers into groups of 50, which they then escorted from the Jaffa gate through the Arab market, to prevent the marchers from potentially attacking or damaging Arab property. A mass prayer gathering was held at the Western Wall at the end of the march. Police arrested 17 Arabs for throwing rocks and clashing with police at several points along the parade route.

A scientific poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 53% of Palestinians believe Hamas is “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people,” while only 14% prefer Abbas’ secular Fatah party.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco sent a congratulatory letter to PM Naftali Bennett on his inauguration saying, “On the occasion of your inauguration as Prime Minister of Israel, I express my sincere congratulations and best wishes for your success in your mission. I take this opportunity to emphasize that Morocco has adhered to its role and efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace in the Middle East that will ensure security and stability for all the peoples living in the region.”

Judges in the corruption trial of former PM Netanyahu have denied his request to postpone the trial until after the Jewish High Holidays in September.

Former deputy secretary of state Thomas Nides has been appointed as the US ambassador to Israel. Nides worked as part of the team that led to the approval of a $38 million, 10-year loan guarantee package for Israel, under the Obama administration. He also fought against limiting support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and for UNESCO. His latest position was managing director and vice chairman of Morgan Stanley investment bank.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake was felt in southern Israel last night. No injuries or damage were reported. The IDF’s Homefront Command said the epicenter was 68 kilometers northeast of Eilat.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-14-2021

News Update

The new Israeli government was sworn in yesterday after it won a confidence vote of 60 to 59 in the Knesset. Naftali Bennett has replaced Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister.

Netanyahu did not go down without a fight. Just hours before the Knesset vote, Police and building inspectors arrived at the Bedouin village of Bir Hadaj in the Negev, which is home to Ra’am MK Said al-Harumi, to demolish several homes in violation of building codes, including some belonging to his relatives. According to sources close to al-Harumi, Netanyahu and departing Interior Minister Aryeh Deri promised to stop the demolition process in exchange for his refusal to vote with the new coalition. But al-Harumi did vote for the coalition.

In his speech following the vote of confidence for the new government, Netanyahu called the election results a fraud and lie, in that Bennett stole the votes of hundreds of thousands of right-wing voters who would never have agreed to join a unity government with the center and left. He claimed that those voters actually wanted him to remain as prime minister. He also called the new government weak and unable to deal with the issues facing Israel, and he promised to come back to power very soon.  For now, Netanyahu takes his place as leader of the opposition.

The new government is composed of parties spanning the political spectrum, from far-right to far-left, and the first Arab party to ever sit in a government.

Naftali Bennett will serve as PM for the the first 2 years. Bennett is the head of the right wing Yamina party, which is pro settlement expansion and against a Palestinian state. He most recently served as Defense Minister under Netanyahu. Bennett was born in 1972 in Haifa, to parents who immigrated to Israel from the US in 1967. As a child he spent several years in the US with his parents and went to elementary school in NJ for a couple of years. He returned to Israel at age 10. Bennett served as a commander of elite commando units in the IDF. He was a successful high-tech entrepreneur and sold 2 companies before entering politics. Bennett is the first orthodox Jew to serve as Prime Minister. US President Biden called to congratulate Bennett last night.

Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party — which is the second largest party in Knesset, will serve as foreign minister for the first 2 years and then take over as PM. Benny Gantz, head of Blue and White, will remain Defense Minister. Gideon Sa’ar, head of the right wing New Hope party, will be Justice Minister. Avigdor Lieberman, head of right wing Yisrael Beteynu, will be Finance Minister. To read more about these and the other new ministers, click here.

The first test of the new government will come on Tuesday, when the nationalist March of the Flags is scheduled to take place in the Old City of Jerusalem. Hamas is threatening more rocket fire and additional Arab violence in Israel could be triggered  by the march.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-11-2021

News Update

U.S. officials conveyed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz that they expected Israel to avoid moves that could further escalate tensions, and especially what they call “far-right provocations.” The warning related to the “March of Flags”, which is scheduled to take place in the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday. The march has been postponed from its usual date, on Jerusalem Day, because of fear of igniting Arab violence. Last night Jewish and Arab protestors faced off near the Damascus Gate. Five people were arrested for disturbing the peace.

Israel has reportedly asked Egypt to halt the entry of cement and other construction materials into Gaza, to prevent Hamas from using them to create weapons. Israel also reportedly told Egypt that it has no opposition to Egyptian engineering teams entering Gaza helping to clear debris left by IDF airstrikes, but did not want them to repair the subterranean tunnels used by Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions.

During an undercover IDF raid into Palestinian Authority controlled Jenin on Thursday to arrest terror suspects, Palestinian police officers fired on the Israeli forces, even after the force identified itself as IDF. The IDF force fired back, killing the 2 Palestinian policemen. One Islamic Jihad terrorist was also killed and another suspect apprehended.

Last night the IDF arrested a terrorist trying to cross into Israel from Gaza. He was carrying an improvised explosive device, grenade and two knives.

The new government is expected to be approved and sworn in on Sunday.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-9-2021

News Update

The Knesset will vote Sunday, June 13, to approve the new government. If the new government is approved, which is expected — since it has a majority of votes, then it will be sworn in that same day. Naftali Bennett will replace Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, after Netanyahu served 12 years in the office. Bennet will serve as PM for 2 years, and then Yair Lapid will take over for the next 2 years. The new coalition includes Yesh Atid and Yamina, along with centrist Blue & White, Meretz and Labor from the left, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu on the right and for the first time in Israel’s history an Arab party – the Islamist Ra’am.

Israel reportedly attacked targets near Damascus last night. At least 8 soldiers were killed in the strikes.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Gilad Erdan, met with the head of the Associated Press news agency, Gary Pruitt, at its New York headquarters yesterday and explained that the media building Israel destroyed in Gaza during the recent fighting, which housed the AP bureau in Gaza, was being used by Hamas to jam the Iron Dome defense system. The airstrike also destroyed the office of Al Jazeera. He praised the role of the Associated Press and said he did not imagine its employees were aware of the alleged use of the building by Hamas. Erdan said that Israel is willing to assist the Associated Press in rebuilding its office in Gaza.

The cabinet voted yesterday to allow the controversial flag march to take place in Jerusalem’s Old City next Tuesday, June 15, with a route to be decided between the rally’s organizers and police. The decision came following a compromise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Families of Israeli terror victims are suing for 1 billion shekels compensation from Qatari banks that they say have funded terrorist activity by Hamas, according to a collective lawsuit filed on behalf of 120 plaintiffs at the Jerusalem District Court today.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-7-2021

News Update

The new government could be sworn in on Wednesday, but PM Netanyahu is attempting to postpone the swearing in until next week as he continues to try and break up the coalition.

Officials in the new, incoming government have informed the Biden administration that the new government will resume final status talk with the Palestinian Authority as soon as it is sworn in. Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White), who is slated to retain his position in the new government, reportedly made similar comments to senior US officials during his trip to Washington last week. However, Naftali Bennett’s office said that he was unaware of any such messages to the Biden administration.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has admitted that an UNRWA school damaged by an airstrike during the recent Gaza fighting contained a tunnel beneath it.

The annual flag parade in Jerusalem, which was postponed from Jerusalem day (last month) to this coming Thursday, has been cancelled by police fearing that it will incite Arab violence.

The IDF ordered residents of some towns near the Lebanese border to remain indoors as a result of a suspected infiltration of the border. The IDF subsequently removed the restrictions, but it continues to conduct searches in the area.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-4-2021

News Update

Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett have succeeded in forming a unity government comprised of parties spanning the political spectrum, from Left to Right, and including an Arab party, Ra’am. It will be the first time that an Arab party has ever been part of a government. Bennett will serve as Prime Minister for the first 18 months and then Yair Lapid will take over. Lapid will start off as Foreign Minister. Benny Gantz will remain as Defense Minister. Avigdor Lieberman will be Finance Minister and Gideon Saar Minister of justice.

In its first show of power the new coalition succeeded in winning a Knesset vote to replace Knesset speaker Yariv Levin of Likud with Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, in order to prevent Levin from delaying the installation of the new government to allow PM Netanyahu to try and break up the coalition. The 6 Arab List MK’s joined in the vote to replace Levin. The new government can now be sworn in as early as Monday.

Netanyahu is still doing everything he can to try and break up the new coalition. Demonstrations were held in front of the homes of Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. More demonstrations are planned for the weekend.

As the first Arab party to sit in a government, the Ra’am party agenda focuses primarily on improving the economic situation and standard of living of the Israeli Arab population. It’s hard to imagine that the party will support legislation that relates to settlement expansion or other issues that are opposed by the Palestinians, in which case it will have the power to either block the legislation or bring down the government. However, it is likely that the opposition, which will be comprised of Likud and the religious parties will most likely support legislation that lines up with their ideology, so the threat of Ra’am be able to scuttle right wing legislation is highly unlikely. It’s also important to remember that PM Netanyahu offered Ra’am to join his government along with lots of incentives before Ra’am agreed to join the Lapid-Bennett coalition.

Honduras will open its embassy in Jerusalem this month. Israel will open a diplomatic office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s capital city.

Egypt has sent a convoy of engineers and building equipment to Gaza.

Around 8,000 people took part in the annual LGBT march in Jerusalem yesterday. The march was heavily guarded by thousands of security personnel.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 6-2-2021

News Update

Isaac Herzog, 60, was elected as the 11th president of the State of Israel today by a vote of 87 to 33 Knesset members. The vote taken via secret ballot. Herzog is the current Jewish Agency chairman and a former head of the Labor party.  His father, Chaim Herzog, was the 6th president of Israel and his grandfather was the country’s first chief rabbi. His father immigrated to Israel from Ireland in 1935. The job of president is primarily ceremonial, similar to the monarchy in England.

Today is the last day for Yair Lapid to form a government. Demands by Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked for a seat on the Judicial Selection Committee, a position already promised to Labor leader Merav Michaeli, and by Ra’am leader Abbas to reverse, or at least temporarily suspend, a law that facilitates the demolition of homes build in violation of code (which is prevalent in Arab communities) threaten the formation of a unity coalition.

David Barnea, 56, is the new director of the Mossad. Barnea said that Israel would take any steps necessary to assure that Iran does not get nuclear weapons, despite any international agreements that could be in effect.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is due to meet with US defense secretary Lloyd Austin and national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Washington today.

Defense Ministry officials said that Israel’s military exports reached $8.3 billion in 2020, a 15% increase from the previous year. That makes Israel one of the world’s top 10 exporters of arms. Sales to Asia and the Pacific region, including Israel’s allies in the Persian Gulf, comprised 44%, with 30% going to Europe, 20% to North America, 4% to Africa and 2% to Latin America. Israel does not do business with dictatorships or controversial regimes. Israel is the top supplier of arms to Azerbaijan.