News Digest — 12/22/22

‘I Have Succeeded’: Netanyahu Announces He Has Formed A Government

Just 18 minutes before the deadline, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a phone call to President Isaac Herzog that he had succeeded in forming a government.

“Thanks to the enormous public support we received in the last elections, I am informing you that I have been able to establish a government that will act in the interest of all the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told the president.

He also tweeted the news in two words: “Ala c’yadi” – Hebrew for “it came into my hands” – meaning that he had succeeded.

Netanyahu will officially inform Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, as required by law.  Following the Knesset legislative session on Monday (26th), after the conclusion of the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, the prime minister-designate will have seven days to swear in the government.

After his Likud Party and its “natural allies” achieved victory at the polls on Nov. 1, together winning 64 of the 120 Knesset seats Netanyahu had anticipated an easier job in forming a coalition, announcing it would be ready in time for the opening of the 25th session of the Knesset on Nov. 15.

However, the demands of his prospective coalition partners – Religious Zionism, Ofzma Yehudit, Noam, Shas and United Torah Judaism – delayed the matter.  As the initial 28 days granted to form a government were winding down, Netanyahu requested a two-week extension, but was granted by Herzog 10 additional days.

The extra time was also needed in order to pass laws necessary to satisfy allied political partners.

Religious Zionism won an unprecedented victory at the polls, with 14 seats – the most it has ever had in the history of the State of Israel.  The conditions set by the party for joining the coalition will strengthen the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.



British Prime Minister ‘Looks Forward’ To Celebrating Israel’s 75th Independence Day – In Israel

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted a Hanukkah reception Wednesday (21st) at 10 Downing Street, where he not only expressed fondness for the British Jewish community, but also said that he “can’t wait to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary, in Israel,” The Jerusalem Post reported.

“I look forward to next year, when we will come together to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence.  I can’t wait to get over to Israel myself to join the celebrations,” he said. 

Sunak first announced his intention to visit the Jewish state on Independence Day – during an address he gave last week at a Conservative Friends of Israel event.

“Next year I will visit Israel on what will be its 75th birthday and landmark year after so many years of struggle – and also success,” Sunak told his audience, according to the UK Jewish News.

“I will fight very hard for the security of the Jewish state,” he stated.

At the Hanukkah reception, on the fourth night of the eight-day festival, the prime minister lit the central candle of the menorah together with UK Chief Rabbi Efraim Mirvis.

“As a proud Hindu, I’ve often been struck by the similarity between Hanukkah and Diwali, though with latkes instead of laddus, dreidels instead of diva lamps,” Sunak said, according to the Post.

“Another name of Hanukkah is Chag Urim, meaning Festival of Lights. Hindus celebrate their own Festival of Lights, or Diwali, which lasts for five or six days, depending on the location.”

“Both holidays are festivals of light, celebrating the triumph of good over evil,” Sunak said.

“Recent years have been particularly challenging for the UK’s Jewish community.  We’ve seen a resurgence of antisemitism.  But we will eradicate that hateful scourge together.”

“I may be the UK’s first Asian Prime Minister, but in India we had our first Jewish prime minister 150 years ago,” he said, referring to Benjamin Disraeli.

“This is the Britain I love.  One which embraces all people, where you can practice your faith free from fear and where we tackle antisemitism in all its forms and where we celebrate the incredible contribution made by members of the Jewish community to our national life.”

He concluded with optimism, saying that “in the spirit of Hanukkah, let’s look ahead to 2023 with confidence, that light will always overcome darkness and that joy and hope will always prevail.”



Israeli Forces Nab Hamas Member Over Northern West Bank Shooting Attack

Israeli security forces on Wednesday afternoon (21st) arrested a member of the Hamas terror group suspected of being involved in a shooting attack in the northern West Bank over the weekend, police and the Shin Bet security agency said.

On Friday (16th), Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an Israeli-owned car near Havat Gilad, south of Nablus.  The Israeli motorist was unharmed in the shooting, but the gunfire – at least four shots – shattered the car windows and struck the driver’s headrest.

Border Police troops on Wednesday (21st) entered Nablus to arrest Mujahid al-Talfiti, 25, over his alleged involvement in the attack.  Two other suspects were arrested over the attack earlier this week.

Palestinian media reports said al-Talfiti was detained after Israeli forces surrounded a building where he was residing.

Al-Talfiti had been formerly jailed in Israel over various terror activities and his affiliation with the Hamas terror group, according to the Shin Bet.  There were no reports of any major clashes during the raid.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the road.

The incidents have come amid an Israeli anti-terrorism offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people dead in Israel and the West Bank since the start of the year.

The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, and left 169 Palestinians dead, many of them died while carrying out terror attacks or in clashes with security forces.   



Defense Minister Decides To Retain Body Of Deceased Terrorist

Following a situational assessment and in accordance with the recommendation of senior security officials, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has decided that Israel will not return the body of deceased security prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid to his family for burial.

Abu Hamid died a day ago in an Israeli hospital succumbing to terminal illness.  Prior to his death, when it became clear that he was taking his final breaths, Abu Hamid’s mother was granted special permission to visit him in the hospital.  He was not married.

The decision to retain the body in Israel follows a cabinet decision made two years ago, for the purpose of acquiring bargaining chips in any potential prisoner exchange.  Indeed, Hamas in Gaza has been holding the bodies of two slain IDF soldiers since 2014 (Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul), as well as two living Israeli citizens, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.  The cabinet decision referred specifically to the bodies of terrorists convicted of murder, causing bodily injury, or being found in possession of illegal weapons, even if the terrorists were not affiliated with Hamas.

Abu Hamid was one of the founders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and was also considered to be the “right hand man” of Marwan Barghouti.  In 2002, he received seven life sentences as well as another 50 years behind bars.

In recent years, after Abu Hamid’s diagnosis of lung cancer became known, Palestinian Arabs launched a campaign for his early release.  Following his death, the Palestinian Prisoners Authority blamed Israel for causing his demise, an accusation that was echoed by other prominent PA figures.  The PPA released a statement saying that, “The prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid died in Assaf Harofeh Hospital due to the intentional negligence of the Occupation authorities and as a result of the intentional killing policy of the Israel Prison Service with regard to sick prisoners.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz rejected the false accusations that Israel was in any way responsible for Abu Hamid’s death.  The Israel Prison Service issued a statement saying that, “The prisoner, who was born in 1971 and was a single resident of Judea & Samaria, was sentenced to life for multiple murders and enemy action, security-related offenses, and attempted murder.  This was his fourth prison sentence.  An announcement has been sent to his family.  As with every other case of this kind, the incident will be investigated.” 



Biden Said Iran Deal ‘Dead’ In Newly Surfaced Footage

U.S. President Joe Biden said last month that the nuclear agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program was “dead,” but he would not announce that publicly, according to a video that surfaced Tuesday (20th).

The video which appears genuine and was apparently recorded on November 3rd during Biden’s visit to California, shows him being asked by a woman, an apparent activist, to announce that the deal – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – is no longer in effect.

“President Biden, could you please announce that the JCPOA is dead,” the woman, who appears to be wearing a hair ribbon in Iran’s flag colors, asked as Biden passed her, shaking hands.

“No,” Biden replied.

“Why not?” the woman retorted.

“It is dead, but we are not going to announce it,” the U.S. leader said, adding that it was a “long story.”

The woman and others next to her, urged him not to make deals with the Tehran government: “They don’t represent us,” she said.  “They are not our government,” another added.

“I know they don’t represent you.  But they will have a nuclear weapon,” Biden said as the video clip ended.

Asked about the video, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said “nobody was questioning its authenticity.”

“The president’s comments are very much in line with everything we’ve been saying about the JCPOA, which is just not our focus right now,” Kirby told reporters.  “There is no progress happening with respect to the Iran deal now.  We don’t anticipate any progress anytime in the near future.”



New York Graffiti Artist, A Non-Jew, Celebrates Rescuer Of Jews In Holocaust

Native New Yorker Fernando Romero unveiled on Sunday (18th) his huge mural of a Gentile hero who rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust, which he had sprayed onto a wall in the Soho neighborhood of the city.

The graffiti artist painted a 35-foot-by-12-foot, black-and-white image of Tibor Baranski, alongside the words “Saved 3,000 Jewish lives” in vibrant orange and yellow letters on a pink background.

The work is part of a worldwide Mural Project of Artists4Israel and the Combat Antisemitism Movement to honor the Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jews who risked their lives during World War II to save Jews without any recompense.

The well-known artist was thrilled to participate in the project, saying in a statement, “I’m not Jewish, but I’ve painted in Israel and am blown away by the Jewish experience.  We all have the ability to fight for peace.  I look forward to continuing to spread love, positivity and unity in areas where people need it most.”

The massive works are being painted by top urban artists either in the hometowns of those Righteous Gentiles or in places where antisemitism is soaring, with the aim of educating the local populace in a way that is relatable and effective.

“Our goal with this project is to educate people about the terror of unchecked antisemitism, which is very important as antisemitism seems to be growing,” said Artists4Israel CEO Craig Dershowitz, “and to pay homage to those heroes who stood up in the face of hatred and fascism and did above and beyond bravery to rescue those in need.” 

In addition, “We realized there was a lot of shame and blame in how we were approaching the discussion of antisemitism.  We wanted to create heroes within countries and societies and communities … and say, ‘here’s an opportunity.  This is what standing up to hate and fascism looks like.”

Murals have already been painted in Portugal, Greece and other countries.  New York was chosen because of the record-breaking number of antisemitic incidents that have been recorded in the city in the past year.  According to the New York Police Department, antisemitic hate crimes jumped 125% in November as compared to the same month last year.

“The timing of the unveiling event on the first night of Hanukkah was a bonus,” Dershowitz added.

“The fact that [the unveiling night] ended up being a holiday about being a light to the nations – all of that just fits so perfectly with what we are doing,” he said.