News Digest — 12/7/22

Likud Signs Coalition Deal With United Torah Judaism

Likud and United Torah Judaism signed a preliminary coalition agreement Tuesday evening (6th), paving the way for Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government as the deadline for him to do so is fast approaching.

As per the agreement, UTJ chief Yitzchak Goldknopf will take over the Housing and Construction Ministry and MK Moshe Gafni will chair the Knesset Finance Committee.  The faction will also get control over the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry as well as deputy minister positions and several other Knesset committees.

Netanyahu has until December 11 to form a government and is yet to reach coalition deals with all the parties in the right-religious bloc.  Besides UTJ, Likud has so far signed preliminary agreements with the Religious Zionist Party led by Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit headed by Itamar Ben Gviv, and most recently the UTJ.

The prime minister-elect is expected to ask President Isaac Herzog for a 14-day extension as talks with bloc leaders continue.  Netanyahu will reportedly use this period to work out the final details of the coalition deals with the future ministers as well as give the Knesset more time to approve a law that would allow leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party Aryeh Deri to take a ministerial position.  Deri is set to become Israel’s next Interior MInister.



Terrorist Freed In Schalit Deal To Serve Rest Of Life In Prison

A terrorist who was released as part of the deal to free Gilad Schalit will be returning to Israeli prison.

Nael Barghouti was convicted in 1978 of being part of a squad of Fatah terrorists who murdered Israeli bus driver Dan Yekuel Mordechai.  Barghouti was sentenced to life imprisonment and an additional 18 years behind bars.  He was freed in 2011 as part of the Schalit deal with Hamas.

In 2014, Barghouti was one of a number of terrorists who had been freed in the Schalit deal to be rearrested for violating the terms of his release – returning to terrorist activity.  In 2017, a military court ordered that he serve out the remainder of his original life sentence..

Barghouti filed an appeal against his sentence, and in May 2022 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the case relitigated.  The military court recently upheld its earlier ruling that Barghouti would serve out his life sentence.

The military court found that there was enough evidence to determine that Barghouti had committed a crime by being in possession of a large amount of money which he knew came from a terrorist organization, and therefore violated the conditions of his release.

Barghouti is reportedly  the longest-serving Palestinian Arab prisoner in Israel, having served more than 41 years in prison since his first arrest.



Report: Saudis Say Normalization With Israel Is A ‘Matter Of Time’

Saudi Arabia is looking to normalize relations with Israel, and such a move is a matter of time, i24NEWS reported Tuesday (6th), citing senior officials.

“The direction of Saudi-Israeli relations is normalization, but it will take more time and we must not put the cart before the horse,” said Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Abdel Al-Jubeir in a meeting held in recent weeks with members of the American Jewish Community (AJC), according to an official document obtained by i24NEWS.

In a separate meeting last month with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudis presented a list of demands in exchange for progress, all directed at Washington.  The Palestinian issue was not mentioned in the conversation.

i24NEWS also learned that Abdel Al-Jubeir met in recent weeks with American Jewish Community officials in Washington where he delivered messages regarding future relations with Israel.  According to the document obtained by i24NEWS, Al-Jubeir told the audience that progress on Israeli-Saudi normalization is ongoing, but that more time is required for it to bear fruit.

“Israel and other Gulf states have been gradually normalizing for years.  The progress must be allowed to mature,” Al-Jubeir noted.

An AJC official told an Israeli diplomat following the meeting that Saudi normalization with Israel will happen, adding “it is only a question of timing.”  The document also revealed that in a separate meeting, Al-Jubeir told Jewish American officials who recently visited Saudi Arabia that the future success of normalization also depends on the success of moderate elements in the Gulf Kingdom.  According to Al-Jubeir, there is still significant opposition to normalization with Israel within Saudi Arabia, which will take time to surmount.

In addition, the Saudis expect the US and the West to support the monarchy, which promotes internal moderate reforms in Saudi society.  According to the participants in the conversation, the purpose of the visit was to “feel the ground” and convey messages among non-government organizations in Washington with the aim of stabilizing US-Saudi relations.

The messages conveyed in the conversation were aimed at the current American administration and included allegations of “unfair treatment” from washington regarding OPEC oil cuts as well as institutionalized discrimination by the Americans.  Al-Jubeir said the US is overlooking far-reaching social reforms led by the crown prince.

i24NEWS also revealed that in a recent conversation with an American delegation to Riyadh, organized by the Washington Institute, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was asked what would bring Saudi Arabia to join the Abraham Accords and normalize relations with Israel.

Bin Salman listed three main demands, all referring to Washington: an affirmation of the US-Saudi alliance, a commitment to follow through on weapon supplies as though Saudi Arabia were a NATO-like country, and an agreement that will allow the Saudis to exploit their extensive uranium reserves for a restricted civil nuclear program.

Earlier in January, Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud announced that the kingdom plans to use its uranium resources, which reportedly amount to around 1.4% of current global reserves, to develop a nuclear power program.

According to the source, who was present at the meeting, the Palestinian issue was not mentioned in the conversation.



Study: Israel Is 5th Safest Country In The World  For Tourists – Herb Keinon

Violence and the prospect of an untimely death, it seems, are all around us.

Turn on the television news and you will hear about an attempted car ramming or a stabbing attack.  Tune in to the radio and you will hear about a man clobbered with a motorcycle helmet in a road rage incident.  Open up the newspaper and you’ll read about extortion and “protection” rings operating in the South.  Not to mention horrific reports of car accidents, polio outbreaks, and salmonella in Sabra hummus.  It’s enough to make you shout out the title of the 1961 musical: “Stop the world — I want to get off.”

Surrounded by a drumbeat of negative news in Israel, a recent study on the least and most safe travel destinations around the world, by a US insurance-comparison website called the “Swiftest,” may come as a jaw-dropping surprise.

According to this study, Israel is the fifth safest among the 50 countries in the world most widely visited by tourists.  No, you didn’t read that wrong — it is the fifth safest, not the fifth most unsafe country to visit.  And here you thought that all those studies and surveys that consistently place Israel among the top 10 happiest countries in the world were counterintuitive?  If we complain so much, one might ask, how can we be happy?  Yet study after study, year after year, in terms of happiness, Israel shows that it is right up there with New Zealand and a number of Northern European countries that are the happiest in the world.  Who would have thought?

And now this – Israel is the fifth safest travel destination for tourists.

Turns out that the question that many first-time visitors to Israel are asked by friends and relatives when they reveal their plans to visit  – “Are you sure it’s safe?” – is misplaced.  Not only is it safe, but it is very safe; safer, in fact, than visiting the US (ranked 30), Canada (21), Australia (19), France (15), and the United Kingdom (10).  

So, according to the “Swiftest” study, Israel – at least in comparison with other countries – is safer than most.

Singapore, the study says, “is the least deadly country for tourists. Crime does not pay in Singapore.  The consequences for committing crimes in Singapore are incredibly high, even for smaller crimes.  This combined with high surveillance and police presence, makes Singapore the world’s safest country for travel.”

The least safe countries to visit? South Africa – by a wide margin, mainly because of its homicide rate of 36.4 murders for every 100,000 people.  About 68 people are murdered everyday in this country of 60 million, according to the report.  

India follows South Africa as the second deadliest destination for tourists – not because of homicide but because of deaths caused by poor hygiene conditions, years lost to communicable diseases, and the risk of natural disasters.

If things are so good in Israel, why does it seem so bad?

In the case of overall safety, the reason is, that Israelis are not comparing their situation with that in most countries.  When they do, Israel’s situation doesn’t look as bad as it so often feels.



2nd Shooting In Two Days In New York, Man Hit In The Neck

A young Jewish man was hit in the neck by a BB gun on Monday night (5th) in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Yeshiva World News reported.

It was the second such attack within two days on visibly Orthodox Jews in Jewish neighborhoods in the city of New York.

On Sunday afternoon (4th), a Jewish man and his seven-year-old son both wearing skullcaps, were hit by a BB gun in a drive-by shooting outside a kosher grocery store in Staten Island.  The father was hit in the chest, while the bullet scraped the boy’s ear.  Neither was seriously injured, although the child was reportedly traumatized.

Police are investigating both incidents as hate crimes.

Meanwhile, YWN reported, the New York Police Department and volunteer Jewish civilian patrols, known as Shomrim (Hebrew for ‘protectors’) are increasing vigilance in Jewish neighborhoods.

Anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City during the month of November increased by 125% when compared to last year, the New York Police Department reported on Monday (5th).

The NYPD recorded 45 anti-Semitic hate crimes in November 2022.  In November 2021, it recorded 20.

According to the data, Jewish New Yorkers were the most targeted group, accounting for 60% of all hate crimes that occurred, The Algemeiner noted.