Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-31-2023

News Update

Syrian state media is reporting that Israel conducted airstrikes in Damascus early this morning. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strikes targeted an arms depots for government forces and Iran-backed groups just south of Damascus. This is the second alleged Israeli strike in the last 2 days.

After halting the judicial reform process, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised National Security Minister Ben Gvir that he would fulfill his request to establish what could be called a “National Guard” as an independent security force, not under the direction of the police. Ben Gvir claims that the force will be used to combat crime with a focus on offenses emanating from within the Arab-Israeli community, or “extortion in areas with criminal organizations and mixed cities.”

Tens of thousands of judicial reform supporters marched in Tel Aviv last night in what they called a “Freedom March.”

Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Tel Aviv this week. The country, which gained independence in 1991, has a Shia Muslim majority. There are also 18,000 Jews living there. Israel has had diplomats there since 1993.

The U.S. State Department said that Israel has not met the eligibility requirements to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Israel is yet to grant free passage for Palestinian Americans at its airports and into the West Bank, which Washington says is required for Israel to meet the condition of reciprocity to join the program, which would allow Israelis visa-free access to the United States. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel would address the issues preventing it from joining the program, but did not give any details on how that would happen.

Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley blasted US President Biden for pressuring Israel to halt the judicial reform process. She said, “It’s outrageous for Joe Biden to lecture Israel on a matter that is entirely their domestic concern. We would never want the Israeli government to push America on issues surrounding our Supreme Court, and they wouldn’t do it. We should let Israelis decide this themselves.”

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-29-2023

News Update

Talks regarding judicial reform began last night between the coalition and the opposition in the President’s Residence. This comes after Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Monday night that he was pausing the reform process. According to the latest survey, just 41% of Israelis believe there is a realistic chance the talks will yield a compromise agreed upon by both sides. Fifty-two percent believe there is no chance whatsoever for a compromise.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, US President Biden said he hopes Prime Minister Netanyahu “walks away” from the judicial reform initiative. In response Netanyahu tweeted, “Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad, including from the best of friends. My administration is committed to strengthening democracy by restoring the proper balance between the three branches of government, which we are striving to achieve via a broad consensus.” And then, “I have known President Biden for over 40 years, and I appreciate his longstanding commitment to Israel. The alliance between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and always overcomes the occasional disagreements between us.”

Florida Governor DeSantis will visit Israel at the end of April, for Israel Independence Day. For more, click here.

Israel’s Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich today signed an order canceling the tax on sugary drinks introduced by his predecessor Avigdor Liberman. Smotrich tweeted, “Ahead of Pesach and as part of the fight against the cost of living we have cut the tax on sweetened drinks. We are talking about a significant reduction in the public’s shopping basket.” It turns out that the Arab population is, by far, the largest consumer of sugary drinks and, therefore, stands the most to gain from the tax cancellation. The second largest sugary drink consumers is Israel’s Haredi community.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-27-2023

News Update

Israel is in turmoil today as a result of the massive protest movement against the judicial reforms the government is seeking to push through. The Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor union, has called a strike. The country’s hospitals will only be dealing with emergency situations. The union of workers of Israel’s Airport Authorities (IAA) announced it was stopping all flights from the Ben Gurion International Airport. Banks are closed. Government offices are closed, including Israeli embassies and consulates abroad. Highways are shut down. Many private sector businesses, including malls, will also be shutting down. Massive demonstrations are in process or are planned for later tonight. A massive pro government demonstration is also planned for later tonight in Jerusalem.

The size and intensity of the protest against the government throughout the country have increased after Prime Minister Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Gallant after Gallant publicly called for a halt to the judicial reform process because he felt that the split in Israeli society is weakening the IDF and jeopardizing Israel’s security. Many Likud supporters are angry at the firing of the Defense Minister and have joined the demonstrations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly told the leaders of the coalition that he will halt the judicial reform process. Several government ministers pressed the PM to halt the reforms. The ultra-Orthodox parties said that they would support a halt to the reforms. Betzalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party and Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party expressed their opposition to the halt.

[Whatever position you hold regarding the judicial process, the most important thing now is to mend the rift in the nation and bring unity to the people of Israel. Only then can cooler heads sit together and come up with a compromise agreement to reform the judicial system in a way that is acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the population. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the demonstrations will have ended and there will be peace in Israel.]

The IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police arrested 10 suspects of terrorist in the West Bank on Sunday night.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-24-2023

News Update

IDF forces killed Abu Khadija, the terrorist who founded the Tulkarem Brigade, in a raid in Tulkarem Thursday morning. Abu Khadija was recently involved in numerous shooting attacks against Israeli settlements and security forces. The terrorist tried to shoot at the troops who tried to arrest him.

The Prime Minister said, in a televised address last night, that the judicial reform process would continue moving forward. He said, “Opponents are not traitors and proponents are not Fascists,” he said. “Those who support our reform, have for decades felt that the Supreme Court did not represent them or their views, and those who oppose it, fear that it would end democracy. A democratic government must address both sides of the issue. It must display the will of the majority of voters and also protect individual rights. In order to prevent a rift in our population, the concerns of each side must be heard.”

The Attorney General warned PM Netanyahu: “The legal situation is clear: you must refrain from any involvement in initiatives to change the judiciary, including the makeup of the committee for the appointment of judges, as such activity is a conflict of interest. Your statement last night and any action you take in violation of this matter is illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest [since he is currently on trial for corruption charges].”

Yesterday, the Knesset ratified a law that restricts the conditions under which an Israeli prime minister can be removed. For more, click here.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni withdraw legislation he proposed that would outlaw missionary work in Israel. The proposed legislation drew anger from the evangelical movement in the US, which staunchly supports Israel and settlement expansion. Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted, “We will not advance any law against the Christian community.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife are in London today. The PM will meet with British PM Rishi Sunak and then with Home Secretary Suella Braverman. The main topic of discussion will most likely be the Iranian threat. The leaders will also discuss a free trade agreement, the war in Ukraine and the Palestinian issue. The Netanyahus will stay in London on Saturday and head back home Saturday night.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-22-2023

News Update

Syrian state media reported that an Israeli airstrike hit the Aleppo airport early Tuesday and put it out of service. According to the state television report, four missiles hit the airfield, activating air defense systems, and large blasts rocked the area.

The U.S. State Department summoned Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog today to protest the passage of the amendment to the Disengagement Law by the Knesset that will allow Israelis to return to evacuated settlements in northern Samaria. In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel had no intentions of establishing new settlements in areas from which Israelis were previously banned.

Security forces are on high alert ahead of the start of Ramadan, on Thursday. For more, click here.

The Iron Dome air defense system shot down a Hamas drone flying over Gaza. The drone did not enter Israeli territory.

The man shot and wounded while driving with his wife through Huwara described the attack and how he fired at the terrorist. To read what he said, click here. 

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-20-2023

News Update

David Stern, a 41 year old former US marine, martial arts expert and firearms instructor currently living in the settlement of Itamar, was shot and seriously wounded while driving with his wife through the village of Huwara yesterday. The attack took place near where 2 Israeli brothers were murdered by a terrorist a few weeks ago. Stern managed to fire back and hit the terrorist. IDF forces later captured the terrorist, who was hiding in a nearby house with serious wounds. The terrorist fired at Stern’s car using a homemade submachine gun.

Israel, the United States, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority issued a joint statement Sunday evening in which they said that Israel has pledged not to discuss the construction of new housing units in the settlements for four months and not to approve outposts for six months. Meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Israel and the Palestinian Authority reaffirmed their commitment to promoting security, stability, and peace. They also emphasized the importance of creating a diplomatic prospect for peace and addressing pressing issues through direct dialogue. Both sides have pledged to stop unilateral actions, although the construction in the settlements and the approval of outposts were the only specific mentions. They also agreed to establish a mechanism to prevent and control violence, incitement, and inflammatory statements and actions.

The Israel Police said they were stepping up the security measures ahead of Ramadan, that starts later this week. In previous years there has been rioting and violence on the Temple Mount during Ramadan.

US President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday and urged him to reach a compromise on the judicial reform initiative. This is an unusual intervention by a US President in Israel’s internal affairs. According to a White House statement, Biden “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship, that democratic societies are strengthened by genuine checks and balances, and that fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.” Biden and Netanyahu also spoke about the Iran threat and the fear of escalating tensions with the Palestinians during Ramadan.

According to the statement from the Prime Minister’s office, Netanyahu informed Biden about the terrorist shooting attack in Huwara, in which a U.S.-Israeli citizen was wounded, and assured him that Israel will “continue to take action against terrorists and architects of terror.” He also reassured Biden that Israel will remain a strong and vibrant democracy committed to his government’s legal reform and thanked the U.S. leader for his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.

In a show of apparent compromise, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the government would hold off on moving forward with the judicial reform until April 30, when the Knesset reconvenes after the Passover break. The original plan was to push through the legislation before the Knesset goes on break on April 2. The government also announced a slight modification of the legislation on Supreme Court judge selection, which appears to give the government less control than the original proposal. Now we wait and see what the opposition says.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-17-2023

News Update

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Scholz and German President Frank-Water Steinmeier and discussed the threats posed by Iran as well as the sale of Arrow-3 defense systems to Germany. Scholz urged Netanyahu to accept the compromise proposal presented by Israel’s President Herzog, regarding the judicial reforms. Netanyahu said that Israel will remain a liberal democracy, but that the President’s proposal does not reflect the will of the majority of the people. Scholz also said that expansion of settlements does not contribute to peace in the Middle East and that Germany was working to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Israeli forces conducted a raid in Jenin yesterday to arrest wanted terrorists. A firefight broke out, during which 4 terrorists were killed, including 2 Hamas leaders.

Around 650 reservists in IDF intelligence and cyber units said yesterday that as of Sunday, they would no longer report for duty because of the judicial reform being advanced by the government. Reservists from other elite units and Air Force pilots who have warned they would not volunteer for duty if the judicial reform becomes law.

A Gallup poll published yesterday showed that 49% of US Democrats are sympathetic to the Palestinians vs 38% who are sympathetic to Israel. The poll also showed that 78% of Republicans are sympathetic to Israel vs only 11% for the Palestinians. For more, click here.

[Some readers have asked about my views regarding the judicial reform process. I think Israel’s judicial system has some major issues that need to be worked out. I also think some parts of the judicial reform package need to be compromised on by both sides because they likely are too drastic in their current form. The government’s main argument in pushing ahead with the process to make the judicial reform law is that the voters gave them the mandate to do so by voting for them in the election. While it’s true that democracy is based on majority rule, I think that faced with an issue that splits the country so drastically, the government needs to pause and try to come up with a compromise solution — even if they do have enough votes to pass it as is. Israel is still a very young country, and the systems that govern it need to be developed more, in a thoughtful manner, with all sides participating in the process. It’s time to work together to make Israel a better functioning democracy, and judicial reforms, based on compromise, is a good place to start.]

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-15-2023

News Update

The IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police arrested 15 terror suspects in overnight raids throughout the West Bank.

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron told CNN that, “Right now, the changes in the judicial reform could weaken some of this independence [of the judicial system]. Moreover, the process itself is hasty and does not have a wide agreement in the public.” Yaron said one of the reasons an orderly and broadly agreed-upon process was important was to stop companies from directing investments away from the Israeli market, something that several major firms have already announced they will do. He also said that he believes that the government will not interfere with decisions and moves made by the Bank of Israel.

Protestors against the judicial reform are planning to block the road to the airport later today to disrupt the departure of the Prime Minister, who is flying to Germany for a 2 day state visit.

Israel’s State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said in a new report published Tuesday that an estimated 93% of at-risk buildings in northeastern Israel will collapse in the event of a powerful earthquake. The findings indicate that 93% of buildings earmarked for reinforcement in Beit She’an, Tiberias, Safed, Kiryat Shmona, and Hazor HaGalilit, which are communities anticipated to be severely impacted during an earthquake, have not been addressed yet. Also, 38 out of 54, or 70%, of schools that were previously found to not meet standards were also not strengthened yet. According to the report, it would take decades to safeguard all the buildings currently at risk from earthquakes if the current pace is maintained. Costs for reinforcement of at-risk buildings and other protective measures were estimated at around NIS 2.34 billion ($650 million).

Devora Paley, the mother of 2 young boys who were murdered in a Jerusalem terror attack last month, gave birth to a baby boy today. He is the family’s tenth child. Avraham Paley, 42, Devora’s husband, was seriously injured in the attack, and was recently released from Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center, after spending two weeks in a coma.

Israel’s national baseball team was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic after losing to Puerto Rico 10-0, without getting a single hit or getting a runner on base. The Israeli team kicked off the tournament with a surprise win over Nicaragua. It then lost to Dominican Republic. For more, click here.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-10-2023

News Update

Last night a terrorist opened fire on a crowd of Israelis outside a restaurant on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. Three men in their 30’s were shot and wounded. The terrorist was shot and killed by police. The terrorist, 23, was a member of Hamas from the village of Ni’lin. Security forces raided the village to search for additional suspects and evidence, and to map the house of the terrorist for demolition. They arrested to terrorist’s father and brother, also members of Hamas. Two other men turned themselves in to police in Ramle and are suspected of transporting the terrorist.

Also last night, a terrorist left a bomb in a bag on a bus in the settlement of Beitar — but the bomb failed to detonate.

Security forces conducting a raid in a village near Jenin yesterday came under fire from 3 terrorists in a moving vehicle. Troops returned fire and killed all 3 terrorists. It turns out that 2 of the 3 terrorists were targets of the arrest raid and were planning to carry out shooting attacks against Israelis.

President Issac Herzog addressed the nation yesterday and said that judicial reform legislation being pushed through the Knesset are wrong, destructive, an affront to Israel’s democratic values, and must be replaced. He said he had, over the past 10 weeks, met with all sides and can say that most disagreements have been resolved and that a resolution to the crisis was within reach. He added, “We cannot allow a small detail – no matter how vital, to lead the country to disaster. The time to stop this is now.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Saudi Arabia asked the US to provide security assurances and help to develop its civilian nuclear program as a condition for normalizing ties with Israel. For more, click here.

The US has approved a visa for Finance Minister Smotrich, after talk of denying him the visa because of comments he made about destroying the village of Huwara.

Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-8-2023

News Update

Israeli forces mounted a major raid into Jenin yesterday to capture several wanted terrorists including the one who murdered the Yaniv brothers in Huwara last week. Shootouts broke out between the troops and terrorists. Six terrorists were killed, including the Huwara terrorist. Two Israeli commandos were lightly wounded. About a dozen other terrorists were wounded. Troops fired missiles from a helicopter as well as hand held missiles.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement, “IDF, Shin Bet and Yamam fighters today eliminated the despicable terrorist who murdered in cold blood the two lovely brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv.” Our brave warriors operated surgically in the heart of the murderers’ den. I praise them and send recovery wishes to the wounded from among our forces. As I say again and again, time and time again: whoever hurts us – their blood will be on their head.”

An explosive device was activated near an IDF bulldozer doing maintenance work at the Gaza border today. No IDF injuries were reported. In response, IDF tanks shelled Hamas military positions in Gaza.

According to the Syrian military, an Israeli air strike caused material damage to the Aleppo airport, putting it out of service. Israel did not comment on the report.

A compromise proposal for the judicial reform plan espoused by the government is being seriously considered by several top government ministers. For more, click here.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that marriages conducted overseas through video conference calls must be registered as marriages in Israel. Since there is no civil marriage in Israel, couples who do not want to get married in a religious ceremony through their respective religious administrative authority (like the rabbinate) would often travel to Cyprus or some other country and get married there in a civil ceremony. Then they would return to Israel and have their marriage registered by the government. Now they can save the travel and get a civil marriage at home, online. For more, click here.

El Al is launching 4 new routes, to Porto (Portugal), Dublin, Tokyo and Istanbul. For more, click here.