No-confidence motion against Netanyahu fails to pass: On Monday, the Knesset formally opened its winter session, and one of the first items on its agenda was a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought by opposition leader, Yair Lapid. The motion sought to oust Netanyahu and replace the current government with an alternative one. Despite rumors brought on Sunday by Likud member and Coalition Chairman, Miki Zohar, that Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party were “dangers to the Nation” who planned to desert the coalition and cooperate with Lapid, the Knesset voted down the no-confidence motion. The coalition has faced massive infighting over the past few months, as the Blue and White and Likud parties continue to feud, sparking legislative deadlock. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which decides how the coalition will vote on bills, virtually never meets and when it does, it postpones voting on any bill not related to the coronavirus.
Treasury director resigns as budget battle continues: Director General of Israel’s Finance Ministry Keren Turner Eyal has announced her resignation, and associates say her departure was sparked by concern over political pressure within the treasury from Finance Minister Israel Katz. In August, Eyal was criticized for tweeting support for Shaul Meridor, the former budget chief, who resigned citing the ministry’s complete mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. Eyal is the third senior official at the Finance Ministry to resign this year, as officials continue to express concerns about Katz stifling dissent and pushing policies that further the political goals of Netanyahu. Following a warning letter from Benny Gantz last Thursday that accused the government of delaying a 2021 budget for political reasons, Minister Katz promised a 2021 budget that will be ready in December. If the Knesset fails to pass the budget by December 23rd, then Israel will face its fourth election in just two years.
Coalition Chairman says Likud not obligated to fulfill PM rotation: Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar has expressed his party’s reticence to pass a budget and follow through with the terms of the prime ministerial rotation deal with Benny Gantz, hoping to force an early election. Zohar told Israeli media that “elections are an excellent option now” and added that Blue and White breached the coalition agreements, thereby obviating its right to the rotation deal. A poll last week found that nearly fifty percent of Israelis support an early election, which would likely result in a dangerously close victory for Netanyahu’s Likud party. If this early election occurs, the future of the Knesset’s leadership is uncertain, as the right-wing Yamina coalition, led by Naftali Bennett, only trails Netanyahu and Likud by three mandates.
Protest ban to expire on Tuesday; mass demonstration scheduled for Saturday
Protest ban to expire on Tuesday: Nationwide unrest continued this weekend, as tens of thousands of protesters gathered on Saturday in hundreds of locations across the country to call for Netanyahu’s resignation over his handling of the pandemic and involvement in multiple corruption scandals. The government-imposed law that banned mass protests for the past two weeks in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus meant many smaller protests erupted rather than the large demonstrations in weeks prior. The protest restrictions will expire Tuesday at midnight and Netanyahu reportedly said he will not block any efforts to allow the mass protests to resume. Numerous groups are planning a major demonstration in Jerusalem outside of Netanyahu’s Balfour Street residence on Saturday night. Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for more police officers at the demonstrations due to violence against protesters and warned that the violence could end in “murder” considering the current tensions.
Israel surpasses 2,000 deaths; positive new cases continuing to decline: More than 1,000 people in Israel have died from the coronavirus in roughly a month, doubling Israel’s total deaths in that time. According to Health Ministry statistics, the death toll now stands at 2,021, marking a grim new milestone despite transmission rates declining during the month-long nationwide lockdown. As hospitals are continuing to struggle with large numbers of serious cases, Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said it will no longer accept new COVID-19 patients who need extra nursing care. Israel’s Health Minister said he’s optimistic about lifting some lockdown measures next week and the government is set to debate on an exit strategy today. The plan to lift the restrictions will happen gradually over the course of four months, as the country meets certain benchmarks for daily new infections.
Secret ultra-Orthodox coronavirus at-home treatment network: According to a report by Israeli media, a network of ultra-Orthodox volunteers has been seen secretly treating thousands of coronavirus patients in their homes for months, without the knowledge of government authorities. Over 2,000 patients have been treated throughout the past 6 months, using over 200 oxygen machines owned by the network. A volunteer for the network said that there are about 170 patients who are currently in severe condition and assisted by oxygen. The organizers claim only 3 patients treated by this network have died. One of the doctors taking part in this project anonymously said, “I, as a doctor, treat human beings. Our goal is not to help people circumvent the law. Our goal is to help the system and take some of the load off it. There is no issue here of a ‘state within a state.’”
Rabbi bridges the gap between LGBT+ Jews and the Orthodox community: Prominent Israeli Orthodox Rabbi Benny Lau published a set of guidelines for the observant LGBT+ Jewish community, most notably affirming the desires and rights of LGBT+ Jews to start families. He stated that “The ability to be parents does not characterize one community or another” and that LGBT+ parents are equally capable of building strong families. The guidelines attempt to bridge the gap between traditional religious law and the desire to welcome LGBT+ Jews into the religious community, and emphasize that, despite the traditional teachings of the Torah, religious communities should not turn their backs on their LGBT+ members.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Israeli cabinet unanimously approves the UAE peace agreement, as some worry about an arms race
Peace agreement with UAE approved; Arab social media critical: The Israeli Cabinet voted on Monday to approve the peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates. Netanyahu and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, spoke on the phone, creating plans for UAE and Israeli delegations to visit each other’s countries and sharing their excitement for cooperation between the two countries in “investment, tourism, energy, technology and other spheres.” A report commissioned by the Strategic Affairs Ministry found that only 5% of Arab social media comments about the Abraham Accords were positive, while nearly 90% of Arab social media commenters had negative views. Concerns about the accords in the Arab world centered around “treason,” “interacting with Zionists,” “hypocrisy,” and “surrendering to US interests.”
Israel to resist US sale of F-35 jets to Qatar: After reports that the United States and Israel gave their blessings for the United Arab Emirates to purchase of F-35 jets when news of Abraham Accords broke, Qatar reportedly filed a request for the purchase of these aircrafts last week. Israel’s Intelligence Minister, Eli Cohen, said Israel would oppose any such sale, citing the need to maintain military superiority in the region. Qatar maintains ties with Iran and Gazan terror group Hamas and has ruled out peace with Israel in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Bahrain is also hoping to purchase advanced military technology after signing peace accords with Israel adding to a growing concern that the normalization deals could spark an arms race in an already fraught region.
Sudan civilians planning delegation to Israel: According to KAN news, Sudanese civilians are planning for a private delegation of athletes, artists and businessmen to visit Israel in November. Former Sudanese Member of Parliament and businessman Abu Al-Qasim Bartham is planning to lead the delegation. Although this visit is not being planned mutually with Israeli government officials, he hopes Israel will approve it. Bartham’s goal is to “break the psychological barriers” of Israeli and Sudanese civilians. Rumors of a possible normalization deal between Israel and Sudan have been spreading for months, as Sudan has reportedly considered agreeing to normalization if the U.S. and United Arab Emirates accommodate Sudan’s requests for economic aid and if the U.S. removes Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list.
Abbas meets with President of the World Jewish Congress: Ron Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday. Abbas’s offices offered no details about the meeting, other than a tweet confirming that it had occurred, while the WJC issued a statement that Lauder was there “for a private visit at Abbas’ invitation, to discuss a range of issues regarding Palestine and the Middle East.” Lauder arrived on a Jordanian helicopter and held a long meeting with the Palestinian president before returning to Jordan. The Palestinian government has cut off ties to the Trump administration, which they accuse of having a pro-Israel bias, and an anonymous Palestinian official says that Lauder was not carrying a message from the White House. Palestinian leadership is currently facing immense pressure to resume peace negotiations with Israel and to rescind its decision to renounce all signed agreements with Israel.
Hamas and Israel reach agreement for a 6-month ceasefire: Channel 12 reported on Sunday that Hamas and Israel have reached an agreement for a 6-month ceasefire. On the heels of an economic and humanitarian crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, Hamas has agreed to halt violence against Israel for six months in exchange for $100 million from Qatar. Local Israeli leaders in the South, including Mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi, have expressed dissatisfaction with the ceasefire as only a temporary fix to the violence: “instead of eliminating terrorism, the Israeli government supports the transfer of money to a terrorist organization for half a year. We don’t buy it, and of course we do not welcome it.”
Facebook finally bans Holocaust denial and distortion posts
Facebook to remove Holocaust denial posts: On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new Facebook policy to ban posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and redirect searches about the Holocaust to authoritative sources. Zuckerberg attributes the decision to increased antisemitic violence, hoping to draw “the right lines between what is and isn’t acceptable speech.” This decision follows the #NoDenyingIt campaign, organized by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which posted videos of survivors’ pleas to remove holocaust-denying hate speech from the platform. President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Marie van der Zyl said this decision “confirms that Facebook has finally accepted…that Holocaust denial is not just a form of misinformation but is itself a form of hate speech, inextricably tied to the most vile antisemitism.”
Man arrested for spray-painting swastikas in Paris: A 31-year-old man was arrested on the scene Saturday night for spray-painting 20 red swastikas on columns in Place de la Concorde and Rue de Rivoli in Paris near the Louvre museum. The swastikas offer an eerie evocation of Nazi-era Paris, when red Nazi swastika flags lined Rue de Rivoli. This incident follows a sharp rise in antisemitism in France, where antisemitic incidents increased 27 percent in 2019. A survey conducted and released by AJC Paris at the end of 2019 found that 70% of French Jews say they have been victims of at least one antisemitic incident, 23% have been targets of physical violence at least once, and 10% have been attacked several times.
Tributes to German victims defaced with swastikas: One year after the deadly antisemitic attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, graffiti tributes memorializing the two victims have been vandalized with red swastikas. The swastikas were painted over the tributes that read “Never forget – Kevin and Jana,” the two victims killed in the attack. Last year, a heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue on Yom Kippur, and after he failed, he shot two people to death nearby. Since last year, antisemitic crimes have risen in Germany 13%. Foreign Minister Heiko Mass voiced his regret at antisemitism in Germany on Friday saying, “One cannot say that the problem has left us — and the fact that we have to protect Jewish institutions in 2020 is actually a state of affairs that is not acceptable.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today, we celebrate a Jewish Museum of Maryland exhibit exploring Jewish contributions, expressions, and interactions with all things space. The exhibit includes content dating as far back as AD 358, when Hillel II created the Jewish calendar based on the lunar cycle, through to Leonard Nemoy’s now-famous “Vulcan salute”, based on Birkat HaKohanim. Touching on “everything from Maimonidies to Mel Brooks”, the exhibit explores the parallels between space exploration, in all its facets, and the Jewish experience. Tracie Guy-Decker, the deputy director of the museum, highlights the connection between the Jewish history of travelling the world looking for identity, and exploring space looking for meaning.
Today in 1843, B’nai B’rith was founded at Sinsheimer’s cafe on Essex Street in New York by twelve German Jewish immigrants. Originally founded to assist new Jewish immigrants in acclimating to their new homes in America, B’nai B’rith grew to become the oldest and largest Jewish service organization in the world, with chapters globally. B’nai B’rith now works within four major pillars to (1) monitor and combat antisemitism and other human rights issues throughout the world, (2) support and defend Israel at the United Nations, world capitals, and other international organizations, (3) advocate and provide housing for senior citizens, and (4) help communities through natural disaster responses and local community interventions. In 1913, B’nai B’rith founded the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a non-profit with the mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” and in 1925, B’nai B’rith adopted Hillel International, the on-campus organization dedicated to ingraining a sense of Jewish identity and belonging for college students around the world.