News Digest — 10/2/19

Report: Blue And White Causes Crisis In Forming Government To ‘Weaken’ Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be meeting his political rival MK Benny Gantz Wednesday (2nd) due to a “strategic” decision within Gantz’s Blue and White faction to “weaken Netanyahu,” reports Israel Hayom.

Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud party finished neck and neck with the largest parliamentary representations in the September 17 Knesset election.

President Reuven Rivlin granted Netanyahu a mandate on September 25 to work on forming a governing parliamentary majority.  If Likud and Blue and White could join forces in forming a unity government, they would have an immediate majority in the Knesset.

Talks between teams from the two sides have so far failed to produce a breakthrough.

Another meeting was expected Wednesday (2nd) but Blue and White announced Tuesday evening (1st) that it was calling it off.

In addition, Netanyahu reportedly had offered to sit down with Gantz in a bid to hammer out differences, but in the same statement on Tuesday (1st), Blue and White said the conditions were not right for holding the top-level encounter, and therefore the sit-down would not take place either.

“Netanyahu won’t toy with us.  Benny Gantz will be prime minister, and Netanyahu will climb down and resign.  His time is over,” said a senior Blue and White official, according to Israel Hayom. 

In reaction to the Blue and White statement that neither the teams nor the leaders would meet on Wednesday (2nd), Likud issued a statement, saying that it was “shocked.”  Netanyahu’s party accused Blue and White of forcing the Israeli people into a third parliamentary election.

After the April 9 election, Netanyahu failed to form a government coalition when former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman decided not to join.

The Knesset legislated another election which took place on September 17.

The outcome of the recent repeat ballot produced similar results of a divided parliament increasing calls for unity talks between the two largest factions.



Fatah Rebuffs Initiative To End Rift With Hamas

The Palestinian-ruling Fatah faction has dismissed as “futile” a new initiative aimed at resolving its dispute with Hamas.

Fatah’s rejection of the initiative, announced by eight Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip last week, is seen by Palestinian political analysts as a setback to Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to hold general elections.

During his recent speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Abbas said that upon his return to Ramallah, he would call for holding long overdue general elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Hamas and several Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad, have welcomed Abbas’ call for holding elections.  They said, however, that before holding the vote, Fatah and Hamas need to implement the previous “reconciliation- agreements” they signed over the past 12 years.

The last “reconciliation-agreement” was signed in Cairo in October 2017.  Under the terms of the agreement, the Palestinians were supposed to hold general elections within one year and reach agreement on the formation of an interim government.  The agreement collapsed in 2018.

Political analysts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said on Tuesday (1st) that the gap between Fatah and Hamas remains as wide as ever.

A Gaza-based analyst said that failure of reconciliation between the two groups “means that the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip will continue for many years.”  Fatah and Hamas, he added, “continue to tell our people that they want to end the division. But most Palestinians no longer believe them.”



Israel Quietly Lets In Thousands Of Gaza Workers To Ease Tensions  

GAZA CITY – Israel is quietly allowing thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to conduct business and work menial jobs, apparently as part of understandings with the ruling Hamas terror group aimed at preventing a fourth war in the territory.

Israel effectively revoked thousands of work permits when it joined Egypt in imposing a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.  The blockade, along with three wars between Hamas and Israel, has devastated the economy in Gaza, where unemployment is over 50%.

Israel says the blockade is vital to prevent Hamas, an Islamist terror group committed to destroying Israel, from importing weaponry for use against the Jewish State.  Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005, dismantling some 20 settlements and evicting 7,000–8,000 Jewish residents.  Hamas ousted the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas from the Strip two years later in a violent coup and has retained an iron grip on Gaza ever since.

In recent months, Israel has quietly provided some relief as part of an unofficial, Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, in exchange for reduced rocket fire from the territory and the scaling back of weekly protests along the border.  It has allowed Qatar to deliver millions of dollars of cash to allow Hamas to pay its civil servants and has allowed the United Nations to step up aid efforts.

Now it appears, Israel has expanded a program in which it had long provided hundreds of permits to business owners to travel to Israel and the West Bank for commerce.  Palestinian officials say it is now providing some 5,000 so-called merchant permits and awarding them to Palestinians working as laborers in construction, agriculture and manufacturing.

The Israeli military body that administers civilian affairs in Gaza did not respond to requests for comment. Hamas officials also declined to comment.



Some 130,000 Sephardic Jews Apply For Spanish Citizenship By Deadline

More than 130,000 descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled en masse from Spain in 1492 have requested Spanish citizenship in the past four years, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday (1st), hours after a deadline for applications expired.

About half of the 132,226 applications were submitted in the past month alone as the deadline drew near, it said.  The bulk of applications came from Latin American countries, mainly Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.

For the past four years, Spain allowed the foreign Sephardim – old Hebrew for Spaniards – to apply to become Spanish nationals without giving up their current citizenship.  They had to present proof of their Sephardic background through their surnames, language or ancestry.

Around 300,000 Jews lived in Spain before the so-called Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand—whose reign saw the founding of the Spanish Empire, which ordered Jews to convert to the Catholic faith or leave the country.

Spain has said it owes its descendants a debt of gratitude for spreading the Spanish language and culture around the world.

Most of the expelled Jews settled elsewhere in the Mediterranean and Middle East.  In Israel, the Sephardim make up around a quarter of the population.

The old Jewish quarters in medieval Spanish cities such as Cordoba and Toledo now attract thousands of tourists every year.



ZOA To Donors: Stop Funding Columbia University

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned Columbia University for inviting anti-Semitic “Israelophobic” Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to address the University’s World Leaders Forum last week.

The ZOA noted that “other enemies of the Jewish people, like Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been welcomed by Columbia, giving it the perverse distinction of being a pioneer in the Western hemisphere in seeking out and honoring vicious anti-Semitic leaders.”

In his remarks on Wednesday (25th) at Columbia, Dr. Mahathir resorted to repeating many of his earlier statements and positions on Jews: He used insulting anti-Jewish language, calling Jews “hook-nosed,” insisted that Jews “rule the world by proxy,” questioned the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and defended his right to free speech with immunity, when criticized for his vicious Jew-hating statements.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We are appalled and disgusted that Columbia University has repeated its terrible mistake of inviting Holocaust denying anti-Semites, like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to address its prestigious forums.  Although criticized widely at the time, Columbia seems to have learned nothing from the invitation it extended to Ahmadinejad.”

“By inviting Mahathir to address the University’s forum, Columbia granted a podium and, no less worrying, bestowed an aura of respectability, upon a Jew-baiting and Israel-hating anti-Semite.”

“It is as if Columbia could hardly wait to extend an invitation to Dr. Mahathir.  Columbia’s donors and alumni, who might once have understandably felt inclined to bestow gifts upon the university that once gave them a superb education, should cease writing checks to Columbia University until it apologizes for its conduct and comprehensively stops enabling Jew-haters and advocates of Israel’s destruction.”