News Digest — 12/29/22

Yoav Galant Named Next Defense Minister

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has begun a round of meetings with Likud MKs ahead of the swearing-in of the new Israeli government Thursday (29th). 

Netanyahu informed MK Yoav Galant that he would be appointed as Defense Minister in the new government.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz congratulated Galant and wrote on Twitter: “Yoav, good luck in maintaining Israel’s security.”

Galant had previously been a candidate to serve as the 20th Chief of Staff of the IDF and his appointment was approved by the government, but his candidacy was withdrawn following a petition to the Supreme Court and a State Comptroller report which found anomalies in construction work on his home.

Immediately after Galant’s appointment, Netanyahu met with MK Haim Katz and informed him that he would be appointed Tourism Minister.

Netanyahu then met with MK Israel Katz to appoint him  Foreign Minister, likely in a rotation.  Yariv Levin has already agreed to his appointment as Justice Minister.

Netanyahu still faces problems with the Likud party over the distribution of governmental positions.  On Tuesday (27th), Netanyahu met with Dudi Amsalem, who is refusing to accept any positions in the government after he was not named Speaker of the Knesset or Justice Minister.

MK Yuli Edelstein also does not intend to be appointed a junior minister.  Netanyahu wants to offer him the position of chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is considered prestigious, and it is possible that Edelstein will agree to the position.

The prime minister-designate also wants to appoint MK Danny Danon as a minister, but on the condition he gives up his Knesset seat under the Norwegian Law.  Danon told Israel National News that he has yet to receive this offer.



Israeli Government Guidelines Envision Settlement Of Judea And Samaria

Israel’s incoming government on Wednesday (28th) published a list of policy guidelines that includes a vow to promote settlement throughout the country.

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel.  The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria,” a clause in the document states.

It also reinforces a commitment to strengthening the status of Jerusalem, which by law is Israel’s unified capital.

The guidelines outline the incoming government’s desire to “preserve the Jewish character of the state and the heritage of Israel,” while “respecting the practices and traditions of members of all religions in the country in accordance with the values of the Declaration of Independence.”

The government also intends to maintain the status quo on issues of religion and state that have been in effect for decades, including with regard to the holy places.

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is slated to be sworn in on Thursday (29th).  



Palestinian Authority Seeks To Stop Gunmen From Holding Public Rallies

The Palestinian Authority security forces have stepped up the pressure on Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank as part of an effort to stop them from holding public rallies, Palestinian sources said on Wednesday (28th).

The  rallies, most of which have been taking place in the areas of Nablus and Jenin over the past year, have embarrassed the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership in the international arena, especially Western donors, the sources said.

The PA leadership has come under heavy pressure from the US and some European Union states to take real measures to end the phenomenon of gunmen roaming the streets of Palestinian communities, the sources added.

A Palestinian official in Ramallah, however, said there was no decision at this stage to use force to dismantle the armed groups or prevent them from holding “military parades.”

The official said the PA was working to convince many of the gunmen to surrender and join the PA security forces.

According to the official, nearly all of the Fatah-affiliated members of the Nablus-based Lions’ Den armed group have turned themselves in to the Palestinian security forces.

Most of the current members of the group, who are affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are refusing to follow suit, the official said.

In an attempt to please the donors and other international parties, the PA has been dispatching senior security officers to the Jenin and Nablus areas to meet with members of the armed groups operating there.  

The officers, who belong to the Preventive Security Service and the General Intelligence Service, held a series of meetings with gunmen from various groups, including al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Fatah faction.

The officers reportedly told the gunmen that the Palestinian leadership considers their presence on the streets as “problematic” and “harmful” to the interests of the Palestinian people, according to the sources.  The officers warned that the Palestinian security forces would not tolerate any scenes of “chaos and lawlessness.”

But the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to rein in the armed groups – the first such efforts since the beginning of the year – have thus far been unsuccessful.

A senior intelligence officer who was sent to Balata near Nablus last week, failed to persuade the leaders of the gunmen to halt their public activities.

The officer, according to town residents, offered some of the gunmen jobs and salaries in the PA security forces in return for laying down their weapons and dismantling the local militias, including the Balata Battalion, most of whose members are affiliated with Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Less than 48 hours after the meeting, dozens of gunmen held a rally in Balata to honor Mahdi Mohammed Hashash, a 15-year-old Palestinian killed during armed clashes with Israeli security forces last month.

Attended by hundreds of Palestinians, the rally was seen by the PA security establishment as yet another challenge to the Palestinian leadership.

After the rally, the PA’s Nablus Governorate issued an unprecedented warning to the gunmen.  “The security establishment will intervene and prevent any gathering of armed men,” the Governorate said in a message directed at the armed groups in Nablus and Balata.

Palestinians told The Jerusalem Post that the PA security forces were behind the warning.

Also in an unprecedented move, the Governorate appealed to the families of Palestinian militants killed during clashes with the IDF not to participate in any event or celebration in which gunmen are present “so that they do not suffer harm, and in order to preserve civil peace and protect lives and property.”



Jordan Warns Israel Against Crossing Jerusalem ‘Red Lines’

Jordanian King Abdullah II on Wednesday (28th) said he was ready for a conflict should Israel’s incoming government violate “red lines” by changing the status quo governing relations at Jerusalem’s holy sites.

“If people want to get into a conflict with us, we’re quite prepared,” Abdullah said in an interview with CNN.  “I always like to believe in looking at the glass half full, but we have certain red lines… And if people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that,” he added

Jordan has since 1967 been the custodian of holy sites in the Israeli capital’s Old City, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque that sits atop the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most sacred site.

While Muslims are allowed to freely visit and worship at the Mosque, Jews are severely restricted from accessing the site where two of their Biblical Temples stood and are banned from praying there, although the stringency has been relaxed in recent years.

Abdullah also warned that the Palestinians could launch another terror war. 

“We have to be concerned about the next intifada,” he said adding: “If that happens, that’s a complete breakdown of law and order, and one that neither Israelis nor the Palestinians will benefit from.  I think there is a lot of concern from all of us in the region, including those in Israel that are on our side on this issue, to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

A spokesman for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday (28th) said the incoming Israeli government’s policy agenda constituted a “dangerous escalation.”  Nabil Abu Rudeineh issued a veiled warning that there would be ongoing violence unless a Palestinian state was created, according to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency.



Processed AND Healthy: Israeli Students Take Home The Gold At International Food Competition

Israeli students took first and second place at an international event highlighting food innovation.

The event, held in Brussels and funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, brought together competing teams from Israel, Italy, Finland, and Spain, with the goal of creating new, healthier processed foods which offer a long shelf life and ease of preparation without the harmful effects typical of highly processed food.

Two separate teams from Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa competed in the event, taking home the gold and silver medals respectively.

The winning recipe, created by the “omelet tofu” team, used freeze-dried tofu to create a dehydrated vegan omelet, which can be prepared by just adding water, with no heating needed.

The ‘omelet tofu’ dish was offered in two flavors: mushroom, and shakshuka, a North African egg dish with tomato sauce popular in Israel.

A second Technion team took home the silver with their “Proteinchick,” a protein-rich snack made out of cashews, chickpeas and lentils.

The vegan, gluten-free snack uses the water the chickpeas are cooked in to bring the other ingredients together via co-extrusion, resulting in a fluffy, yet crunchy texture.

“This competition offers students a unique learning experience,” said Uri Lesmes, a member of the Technion’s Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering.

“They get a taste of the challenges the food sector faces today.  They develop a product, lay down a business plan, scheme its manufacturing and present their company to a team of experienced judges.  So the whole process is very similar to founding a real startup.”

The Technion has won multiple medals in Food Solution competitions over the past five years, including with recipes for soy yogurt, reduced-sugar chocolate, spirulina falafel, and oat-based-labneh.