Israeli Election: Rivlin taps Netanyahu to form government; and right-wing to try to cobble 61 seats
Inside Israel: Israel tells ICC it has no jurisdiction; Rabbinate will not recognize Orthodox courts abroad; Netanyahu witness continues shocking testimony; and Israel to allow immigrants’ vaccinated family members in
Israel’s Neighbors: Iran blames Israel for attack on military ship; U.S. prepared to lift Iran sanctions; Sudan undoes its Israel boycott; and U.S. presses Israel on Jordan water request
Inside the U.S.: Biden restores Palestinian aid; 2019 Hannukah terrorist deemed unfit; pro-Israel congressman dies; neo-Nazi pleads guilty for threatening journalists; and Helen Mirren to play Golda
Celebrate & Remember: Israeli treatment that may cure blood cancer; and remembering Yitzhak Navon
Netanyahu gets first shot at forming new government in Israel
Rivlin taps Netanyahu to form government: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tapped Prime Minister Netanyahu with the first shot at forming the next government in Israel. Netanyahu received 52 endorsements for prime minister, more than any other candidate, but short of the 61 seats needed to form a government. Rivlin called his decision “not an easy moral choice,” given Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial. Instead of meeting with Netanyahu to announce his decision, or partaking in the ceremonial meeting of the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, and Knesset Speaker, Rivlin boycotted, showing his displeasure at Netanyahu’s continued service in his role. Netanyahu will have a month to try and form a government at which he is likely to fail given the number of parties which simply won’t work with him. Following that, Rivlin will ask another candidate to try and form a government, likely Opposition Leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid.
Right-wing will try to cobble 61 seats: As the coalitions merge and fall apart, the right-wing is in control of the situation, with over 70 seats in the Knesset. The math falls apart for Netanyahu based solely on the number of parties that won’t support him as leader. In an attempt to avert a fifth election, Both the ultra-Orthodox parties of Shas and UTJ, however loyal to Netanyahu they have been in the past, are said to have told Netanyahu that they would not support him next time. Gideon Sa’ar of the right-wing party A New Hope, which opposes Netanyahu’s continued leadership, turned down an offer by Netanyahu to form a temporary government. The temporary government would be an effort to avoid the binding rotation agreement that requires Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to become prime minister should nothing happen before the fall. And Opposition Leader Yair Lapid has been in talks with right-wing Yamina head Naftali Bennett, despite the fact that Bennett is also talking with Netanyahu. Bennett was invited to the Prime Minister’s residence for the first time in over 10 years since he was banned by Sara Netanyahu (who apparently loathes him!). In a heated Twitter exchange with Arab-Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, Religious Zionism’s extremist leader that prompted outrage from liberal Jewish leaders, Bezalel Smotrich, Tweeted that: “A true Muslim must know that the Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel and over time, people like you who don’t recognize that will not remain here.” As a result of Religious Zionism’s most controversial figure, Itamar Ben-Gvir, giving a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tibi boycotted. Ben-Gvir subsequently called Tibi “a terror supporter who shouldn’t be in the Knesset.”
Israel tells ICC it lacks jurisdiction; rejects probe
The International Criminal Court building, The Hague, Netherlands
Israel tells ICC it has no jurisdiction: Israel has replied to the International Criminal Court’s notification of its investigation into potential war crimes committed by the Palestinians or Israel. Responding to the official notification, Israel wrote that the investigation is illegitimate because a) as a nonparty to the institution, the ICC has no authority to investigate Israel and b) because Israel committed no such crimes. It had been unclear as to whether Israel was going to respond at all. Speaking to assembled Israeli leaders, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “While IDF soldiers fight with supreme morality against terrorists that commit war crimes daily, the court in The Hague decided to denounce Israel. There is no other word for this than hypocrisy. A body established to fight for human rights turned into a hostile body that defends those who trample human rights.”
Rabbinate reverses; will not recognize Orthodox courts abroad: Despite agreeing to recognize the legitimacy of Orthodox Jewish courts outside of Israel, the Israeli Rabbinate has apparently walked back that 2018 decision. The decision had made conversions and divorces performed at a certain number of Orthodox courts outside Israel automatic in Israel too: “If a document concerning conversion or divorce conducted abroad arrives at a marriage registrar or a rabbinical court, whether or not the court in question was included in the lists of rabbinical courts recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the document will be transferred to the Department for Marriage and Conversion of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.” Now, though, the Rabbinate is saying that those lifecycle events must be approved by its own agency as well. This is crucial for potential immigrants who seek to make Aliyah under the Right of Return and who must prove they are Jewish before the Rabbinate. Rabbi Seth Farber said: “The directive is a sweeping policy reversal without legal basis, and represents a clear attempt by the Chief Rabbinate to consolidate power at a time when its authority over conversion issues is under threat. The Rabbinate has redoubled its efforts at centralization. In its drive to retain its monopoly over conversions, and to serve as the sole authority that determines who is a Jew, the Rabbinate is using converts as political pawns.”
Netanyahu witness continues shocking testimony: The ex-CEO of Walla news, a prosecution witness in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s corruption trial, said he was instructed by the owners of Walla, who are co-defendants, to “destroy evidence” and “coordinate versions” of their story. Ilan Yeshua said: “[The owners] said that if [the police] asked about the reason for the website’s [biased] coverage, I should say there was none, and so would Shaul [the owner] and the prime minister. And then the investigators would have nothing.” Yeshua says he wrote a contemporaneous account of the intimidating meeting along with his lawyers. Yeshua also testified that the owner of Walla told him “I will kill you” when he published an article critical of Sara Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s wife.
Israel to allow immigrants’ vaccinated family members in: After much protest from immigrants (olim) in Israel, especially of the ‘Anglo’ immigrant community, the Israeli government has relaxed restrictions on family members visiting Israel. Vaccinated or previously infected foreigners who have direct family in Israel may now visit Israel. Within 72 hours of arriving in Israel, though, all visitors will be required to test for the coronavirus anyhow. The American Centers for Disease Control is nevertheless warning of travel to Israel, despite its sharply declining virus rates. The CDC lumped Israel in alongside the West Bank and Gaza, both of which are seeing increased transmission, rather than differentiating the three separate territories and populations. Gaza’s infection rate is skyrocketing, hitting an all-time high with 35% of coronavirus tests returning positive. The enclave is running out of oxygen to administer to patients, with over 15,000 confirmed active cases which in reality are likely five times higher.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Israel-Iran shadow war escalates as Iranian military ship struck
Source: @HassanRouhani / Twitter, September 25, 2018
Iran blames Israel for attack on military ship: An Iranian cargo ship was struck in the Red Sea on Tuesday, with no casualties or major damage reported. The MV Saviz, reportedly owned by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps terrorist organization, appears to have been a spy ship which had been stationed unmoving in the Red Sea for several years. Iran immediately blamed Israel for the strike, but added that the U.S. also “has a hand” in the event. According to American officials, Israel claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said is retaliation for Iranian strikes on Israeli vessels. Iran said it will “definitely” respond to the strike, further escalating the ongoing shadow war between the countries even while Iran negotiates its nuclear capabilities with world powers in Vienna.
U.S. prepared to lift Iran sanctions: Several days after the beginning of the Vienna-based indirect negotiations between the U.S. and Iran, a State Department spokesperson said that, despite continuous objections from GOP Senators, the U.S. is “prepared to take the steps necessary to return to compliance…including by lifting sanctions.” While Iran publicly called the comments “promising,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during Thursday’s Holocaust Memorial Day speech, claimed that Iran was the biggest threat to the Jewish people, and that any deal made between the U.S. and Iran is “worthless” and “will not obligate [Israeli forces].” Amid rising tensions between Israel and Iran, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is coming to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and other officials on Sunday.
Sudan undoes its Israel boycott: After 63 years, Sudan has revoked its official boycott of Israel. The decision still needs the approval of a joint session of both the Cabinet and the sovereign council. The 1958 decree had outlawed any diplomatic or business relationships with the Jewish state. Sudan began the process of normalization with Israel last year when it joined the Abraham Accords alongside the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Morocco. Famously, Sudan was the site of the Khartoum Resolution following the Six-Day War in which the Arab League pledged no negotiation, no recognition, and no peace with Israel.
U.S. presses Israel on Jordan water request: As the Israeli-Jordanian relationship hits turbulent waters, the U.S. government is asking Israel to agree to Jordanian requests to provide the Kingdom with more water. In a recent call with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought up the Jordnaian request and asked why it had not been approved. (Media reports said that Netanyahu personally held off on approval in retaliation for Jordan’s blocking of his flight to the U.A.E. prior to the Israeli election.) Blinken also commended Ashkenazi for attempting to mend fences with the Jordanians. Additionally, the Jordanians themselves brought up the issue with the U.S. government directly, according to Axios. Netanyahu has yet to approve the Jordanian request which officials in Israel and the U.S. have encouraged him to do.
INSIDE THE U.S.
Biden restores aid to Palestinians slashed by Trump; Republicans delay funds
Biden restores Palestinian aid: The Biden administration is restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians that were severed during the Trump era. The aid will be used for “humanitarian, economic, development and security efforts in the region.” $150 million of the $235 million will be delivered directly to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a branch of the UN often criticized by Israel as being ineffective and biased. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said the agency is “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic” and also said “I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing antisemitic content from its educational curriculum, are carried out.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “U.S. foreign assistance for the Palestinian people serves important U.S. interests and values. It provides critical relief to those in great need, fosters economic development, and supports Israeli-Palestinian understanding, security coordination and stability.”
Republican lawmakers in Congress havestalled the earlier approved $75 million in aid, saying that “resuming assistance…without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines U.S. interests.” The additional funding proposed by Biden has also hit a legal wall, as lawmakers say aid may not be given to the Palestinian Authority as long as the PA pays stipends to terrorists. However, administration officials insist that the aid will be given to humanitarian organizations, and not the PA directly.
2019 Hannukah terrorist deemed unfit: The terrorist accused of attacking a Hannukah party at a rabbi’s home in Monsey in 2019 has been deemed unfit to stand trial by the government. The Assistant U.S. Attorney wrote: “There currently is not a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future the defendant will attain the capacity to permit the proceedings to go forward.” During the attack, the man wounded five people, one of whom, Josef Neumann, died of his wounds months later. The man’s lawyer said: “The government has now agreed with the position I took two days after the event — that the man is deranged. It took a long time to get here.” Should the judge overseeing the case agree, the man will be confined indefinitely to a state-run mental institution as a danger to society.
Pro-Israel congressman dies: Legendary congressman Alcee Hastings, Democrat of Florida, died at age 84 after a battle with cancer. Hastings was a prominent supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship within the Congressional Black Caucus and nurtured ties between the Jewish and Black communities. Ron Klein, Chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said: “Rep. Hastings understood Israel’s strategic relationship with the U.S. and was a consistent and strong supporter of the State of Israel. He also empathetically understood the shared experiences of the Jewish community and African-American community and was a leader in tying the two communities together.”
Neo-Nazi pleads guilty for threatening journalists: The leader of a neo-Nazi campaign to cyberstalk and intimidate journalists and Jewish activists pleaded guilty to threatening activists in three separate states. The defendant, Cameron Shea, was one of four involved who belonged to the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division. The organization, which has been linked to deaths in Florida and California, in this case sent threatening posters to journalists and employees at the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that combats antisemitism and other forms of prejudice. The posters displayed slogans like “You have been visited by your local Nazis,” “Your Actions have Consequences,” and “We are Watching.” Shea could spend up to 10 years in prison for the counts to which he pleaded guilty, while his co-conspirators pled not guilty and will face trial.
Helen Mirren to play Golda: Famed British actress Dame Helen Mirren will play Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in an upcoming film called Golda. Guy Nativ, an Academy Award winner, will direct the film. He said: “As someone who was born during the Yom Kippur War, I am honored to tell this fascinating story about the first and only woman to ever lead Israel. I could not be more excited to work with the legendary Miss Mirren to bring this epic, emotional and complex story to life.” This follows the news that Israeli actress Shira Haas will also portray Meir in an upcoming production.
Yesterday, Israel stood still as Jews around the world marked Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. For the first time, Jewish communities in Bahrain and the UAE recognized the day, with survivors honored in Israel and abroad.
We mourn the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime and collaborators, and we remember six communities among the countless destroyed, and six heroes:
Raul Wallenberg – Swedish diplomat in Budapest who personally saved about 10,000 Hungarian Jews Mordechai Anielewicz – Leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Hannah Szenes – Israeli paratrooper who fought and died against the Axis forces in Hungary/Yugoslavia Henry Morgenthau, Jr. – President Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary who bypassed the State Department to lobby the President on behalf of European Jewry Georg Duckwitz – German diplomat whose warnings saved Denmark’s 8,000 Jews Dimitar Peshev – Bulgarian political figure who is partially responsible for the mass rescue of much of Bulgaria’s 48,000 Jews
Today we celebrate an Israeli treatment that may cure blood cancer! An Israeli treatment for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, may offer very promising results. The common type of cancer, which has a 50% survival rate, affects white blood cells that produce antibodies. The cells start multiplying and accumulate in the bloodstream and within one’s bones too. Professor Cyrille Cohen, the head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University and one of the researchers on the treatment, said: “[multiple myeloma] can lead to bone lesions, anemia, kidney failure, and it exposes the patients to infections, since their immune system is weakened.” The treatment, according to Cohen, “reprogram[s] another type of the immune system’s cells, called ‘T cells,’ in order to teach them to fight the cancer inside the blood of the patient.” They do it by “draw[ing] some blood from the patient, separat[ing] the T cells, and in the laboratory add[ing] a new molecule which allows them to recognize the cancerous cells.” Rather than a drug manufactured by machine, “it is the patient’s own immune system that starts fighting the cancer, rather than an outside element. Moreover, this can be termed a ‘living drug.’ It is enough to inject the T cells once, and then they keep multiplying and working by themselves.”
On this day in 1921 (100 years ago), Yitzhak Navon, future President of the State of Israel, was born in Jerusalem under the British Mandate of Palestine. Navon was born to historic lineage; his father’s family arrived in Ottoman Turkey after being expelled from Spain in 1492, while his mother’s side was from Morocco. His father’s family immigrated to the Holy Land in 1670 and his mother’s in 1742, making him a true sabra of Israel. Navon had a storied career outside of politics, working as an undercover spy in Jerusalem and tracking down Nazis in South America after the Second World War. After rising in the ranks with David Ben-Gurion, Navon was elected Israel’s fifth president in 1978. Following his six year term, Navon returned to elected office, the only ex-Israeli president to do so. He became education secretary under Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir. Navon died in 2015 in the same city in which he was born, only now under the flag of the Jewish state.