Israel news summary

Israel News for 3-11-19

Election Update
A new poll released by Yediot Achronot yesterday shows Likud trailing Blue and White (BW) by only 4 seats, down from 6 just 2 weeks ago. The poll also shows that 38% of voters support PM Netanyahu vs. 31% for BW leader Gantz. And 53% believe that Netanyahu will form the next government vs. 27% who think Gantz will.

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Roy Folkman, a senior member of the Kulanu party, ruled out any possible coalition with left-wing parties after next month’s election, emphasizing that Kulanu is a “right-wing party”. He said, “I’ve said that we are natural partners of the Likud, and we will be partners of a right-wing, nationalist government. Of course we won’t go with a left-wing coalition. The only way that I could think of that it could possibly happen is maybe in the case of a unity government, but I think the odds of that happening are very low.”

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Nation State
Responding to an Instagram post by Israeli TV personality Rotem Sela saying, “Dear God, there are also Arab citizens in this country. When will anyone in this government tell the public that this is a country of all its citizens, and all people are born equal.” — PM Netanyahu posted, “Dear Rotem, an important correction: Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else. As you wrote, there is no problem with Israel’s Arab citizens. They have equal rights and the Likud government has invested more than any other government in the Arab population.”  He added that a government including Arab parties would “undercut the state’s security.”

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Palestinian Authority President Abbas has appointed Mohammad Shtayyeh as the new Prime Minister. Shtayyeh pledged, “to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital whose borders are the 1967 lines.”

He also said, “The Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are waging a struggle to protect the city from Judaization and to preserve it as an Arab Palestinian city. The struggle to preserve the narrative about the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the city of Jerusalem goes through strengthening the steadfastness of the Muslim and Christian residents of the city against the Jews.”

Shtayyeh is a senior member of Fatah and a longtime ally of Abbas. His appointment is viewed as part of a plan to shun and isolate Hamas. Hamas and Islamic Jihad condemned Shtayyeh’s appointment and said that it contradicts the reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian factions.

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Trade Talk
US trade negotiators will be visiting Israel this week for discussions on upgrading the existing agricultural trade agreements and reduce tariffs for American farm exports to Israel. according to a separate 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, under the existing agreement, “virtually any product produced in Israel that can be competitive in the U.S. market, can enter the U.S. duty-free. In contrast, U.S. products continue to face high tariffs in many sectors limiting their access to the Israeli market.”

In 2017, the U.S. ran a trade deficit of almost $14 billion with Israel. The US is Israel’s biggest trading partner with annual trade worth $30 billion. The US is expected to push for the dropping of tariffs on American products sold in Israel. Open competition will benefit Israeli consumers by lowering prices on many goods including food and electronics.

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This Shabbat I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Michael Koplow, the Policy Director at the Israel Policy Forum, analyze and explain the issue of annexation of Judea and Samaria. His analysis was based primarily on a study conducted by Commanders for Israel’s Security, a non partisan movement of over 280 retired generals and equivalents in Israel’s security services, including the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and Israel Police.

The Commander’s study is unequivocally against the unilateral annexation either the entire West Bank, or even just Area C (which includes the areas with an Israeli presence and encompasses 60% of the West Bank), for the following reasons:

1. The cost of securing the area and of providing the Palestinian residents with social services will be prohibitive (tens of billions of dollars annually).

2. The international ramifications, including government sanctions and private BDS actions, will be crippling to the Israeli economy.

3. Israel will eventually be forced to grant citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinians in the territories or face being labeled an apartheid state and be isolated and shunned like was the case with South Africa. Granting them citizenship will destroy the concept of a Jewish democratic state in Israel.

4. The annexation of territory will cause the downfall of the Palestinian Authority (which will lose the little credibility it still has) and will force Israel to take full security and administrative control over the entire territory, again causing a huge strain on the Israeli economy and the IDF.

Dr. Koplow stressed that the issue of annexation is at the top of the list of priorities for the Likud and all of the parties to its right, and will be implemented (in some form) in any new right wing government. He believes that the results will be catastrophic.

To clarify, Koplow’s own political viewpoint is center, leaning right. He is NOT a leftist.

In order to fully understand the underlying issues and to make up your own mind, I highly recommend you read the actual report put out by the Commanders for Israel’s Security.

To read more about this issue and download the report click here.