News Digest — 11/22/19

Making Unhappy History, Knesset Enters 21-Day Grace Period For Forming Coalition

Israel’s political system made history Thursday (21st), entering for the first time a specially designated 21-day grace period in which any member of the Knesset will have the opportunity to become prime minister.

Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz said Wednesday night (20th) that he had failed to form a coalition government, handing the mandate back to President Reuven Rivlin after 28 days.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also failed to cobble together a coalition after he was given the first chance to form a government after the September 17 elections.

Rivlin’s office said Wednesday (20th) the president would inform Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Thursday morning (21st) that the three-week grace period had begun.

During this time, 61 serving MKs – an absolute majority of the Knesset – may ask Rivlin to appoint as prime minister any member of Knesset who agrees in writing to take on the role.

That includes those who have already failed to do so in previous rounds, according to Article 10 of Israel’s Basic Law: The Government, so Netanyahu and Gantz are both still in the running.

Any MK who wins majority support during the 21-day period, which began Thursday (21st) and ends at midnight December 11, would then be appointed prime minister-designate by the president, the law states.  That MK then has a further 14-day window to form a government and get it approved by the Knesset.

If no such government is approved, the 22nd Knesset must be dissolved and Israel will find itself headed to its third election in the span of a year.



Gathering In London, Arab Intellectuals Advocate Stronger Relations With Israel

Dozens of representatives of Arab civil society from 15 countries gathered in London on Tuesday (19th) and Wednesday (20th) for a remarkable two-day conference calling for the end of Israel’s isolation in the Arab world.

Calling itself the Arab Council for Regional Integration, the newly established forum’s members have repudiated the BDS movement against the Jewish state, asserting that efforts to prevent normalization between their respective nations and Israel has caused more harm than good.

“Arabs are the boycott’s first and only victims,” Egyptian attorney Eglal Gheita told attendees, The New York Times reported.

According to the Jewish Journal, a number of the 32 initial participants took a significant risk by taking part, and despite the conference’s emphasis on building ties, no Israelis were present, a measure taken in order to prevent attendees’ prosecution for fraternization.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday (20th), Gheita and Arab journalist Mostafa El-Dessouki explained that they believed that “boycotting Israel and its people has only strengthened both, while doing great harm to Arab countries, and not least to the Palestinians” and that “for the sake of the region, it is long past time to move forward to a post-boycott era.”

Arabs, they asserted, “lost the economic benefits of forming partnerships with Israelis” such as obtaining desalination technology, and the boycott,”impeded Arabs from resolving tensions between Israelis and Palestinians” and empowered hardliners like Hamas while marginalizing “Palestinians striving justly and peacefully to build institutions for a future state.”

While the movement’s members admitted to being marginal within their own societies, (with only two politicians attending the conference), they hoped that their position would eventually influence the thinking of their contemporaries.



Israeli Water-From-Air Tech Featured In Time’s 100 Best Innovations

An Israeli company leading the field in water-from-air technology has had one of its products featured among Time Magazine’s Best Inventions 2019.

The GENNY by Watergen looks like a standard water cooler but is able to filter up to 27 liters a day of clean, drinkable water directly from ambient air.  The company, based in Rishon LeZion, says their invention will help cut down on domestic plastic waste by allowing families to ditch water bottles. All the unit needs to work is a source of electricity or solar power.

The GENNY harvests water using patented heat-exchange GENius technology by collecting water vapor in the air and cooling it to its dew point.  The water then undergoes physical, chemical and biological treatments followed by a mineralization process to produce safe, clean and fresh-tasting drinking water.

Designed to operate even in high air pollution conditions, the unit’s air filtration system then vents ultra-dry clean air back into the room making it suitable for domestic use.

Although Time opted to feature the GENNY, which is designed for domestic or small-scale use, the company’s focus is geared more toward water-technology solutions for disaster relief of impoverished communities.

By making the process markedly more energy efficient in comparison to their competitors, Watergen can produce 4 liters of water for every kilowatt of energy at a cost of 2-4 cents per liter – “a renewable solution that costs less than local purified packaged well water,” the company says, allowing them to provide an economically viable product.

In October the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Uzbekistan to roll out large-scale generators to towns and cities across the country to relieve the water shortage suffered there.

The company has also donated systems to authorities in Brazil, Vietnam and India, as well as assisting with relief efforts during the California wildfires in 2018, and provided clean water to residents hit hard by the devastating impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

They even have mobile water generating emergency response vehicles: fully customized heavy-duty trucks housing units with the capacity to generate 900 liters of water, taking fresh drinking water directly to where it’s needed the most.

“Our main target is to save and improve people’s lives all around the world,” company chairman Mikhael Mirilashvili told The Jerusalem Post in March.  “We also aim to remove plastic from the earth, to reduce the global carbon footprint, and of course make our planet cleaner and safer,” he added.



Angela Merkel To Visit Auschwitz For First Time

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will make her first visit to the site of the Auschwitz Nazi camp in her 14-year tenure.

The visit to the former death camp in Poland is scheduled for December 6, the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday (21st).  She will participate in events there to mark the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.

Former Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl visited Auschwitz during their time in office.

As chancellor, Merkel has visited other Nazi camps, including Dachau and Buchenwald, as well as the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorail Museum in Jerusalem.

In January, Auschwitz will mark 75 years since its liberation.



Police Say Attack On 76-Year-Old Berlin Man Was Anti-Semitic

A 76-year-old man was punched in the face by a male teenager in broad daylight in Berlin in what police are calling an anti-Semitic incident.  

The suspect was released to the custody of his father, according to news reports.  The victim who was injured on his forehead and nose, was not Jewish, police later said.

The incident occurred Monday morning (18th), when the 16-year-old boy and four companions reportedly blocked the man’s path.  When the man asked that he be allowed to pass, the boy demanded, “What do you want, you Jew?”

As the man tried to respond, the boy – named by the German language BZ newspaper as “Steven” – reportedly punched him several times in the face.

A witness, Vincent Seidel, 29, pulled the teenager off the man and held him to the ground with his knee until police arrived.  Seidel, too was reportedly punched by the youth.

State security police are investigating the case.

The incident follows a similar attack in the same Berlin district on October 28, when a 70-year-old Jewish man was insulted with anti-Semitic comments and physically injured by unknown assailants.  The man reportedly was not wearing anything that would identify him as Jewish.