News Digest — 12/9/19

Poll: Results Of Third Knesset Elections Will Be Identical

If Israelis are forced to go to a third Knesset election within a year, the parliamentary divide between right and left would remain nearly identical but the two largest factions would get stronger, according to a public opinion poll on Israeli public broadcaster Kan.

If arrangements for forming a new government are not in place by Wednesday night (11th), another parliamentary election would be held in the coming months, probably on March 2, as efforts to form a government after elections in April and September failed.

On the one hand, the polls show that the country remains divided.  The survey, carried out by the Kantar polling agency, shows that the left-wing bloc of parties edges out the right, 57-56, in the 120-member parliament.  Yisrael Beytenu, with 7 seats, remains the wild card, as it’s not clear which side the party would support.

On the other hand, the two largest factions would strengthen.  Blue and White, led by MK Benny Gantz would win 35 seats, edging out the Likud, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which would earn 34 seats, says the poll conducted for the public broadcaster.

In the September 17 election, Blue and White defeated the Likud 33-32.

The increased strength of the largest factions might indicate a desire of some of the voters to stabilize the political situation in the country by decreasing the influence of smaller parties.

Even so, the results of the opinion poll are not viewed as exchanging the landscape significantly enough to justify another election.  Many MKs have spoken out against the prospect of spending more finances and resources for another ballot as various government services remain paralyzed due to a lack of decision-making during the prolonged period of an interim cabinet.

Efforts toward establishing a governing coalition have centered around forming a national unity government – Likud and Blue and White – joining forces.

The smaller parties in a March election would include Joint List with 13 seats, United Torah Judaism and Shas each with 8 members of parliament, Yisrael Beytenu, 7, New Right, 6, Labor-Gesher, 5, and Democratic Union, 4.



Guatemalan President To Israeli President: ‘Your Enemies Are My Enemies’

It is extremely rare in any bilateral relationship to experience two presidential visits from the same country in less than two years.  But Guatemala has a very special relationship with Israel, which goes back to before the establishment of the state.

Outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales came to Israel in May 2018 for the opening of the Guatemalan Embassy, which had moved to Jerusalem.  Now, new president-elect Alejandro Giammattei, who is due to take office on January 14, is in Israel to attend the world conference of parliamentarians taking place in Jerusalem.

Giammattei met on Sunday (8th) with President Reuven Rivlin and told him that Israel is not just a friend, but an ally.  “Israel has proven that it is on our side in times of need,” he said. “And that’s why Israel is our last stop on our tour of friendly allied nations.”

The president-elect, who is known to be pro-Israel, underscored the importance of the Jewish state’s security to Guatemala and pledged that under his tenure, Guatemala will continue to vote with Israel in international forums.

“Israel’s friends are our friends,” he declared.  “And Israel’s enemies are our enemies.”

Giammattei said that it would be a great honor for him if Rivlin would come to his inauguration, especially as no senior Israeli official has visited his country in more than 40 years.  Rivlin in turn invited Giammattei to return to Jerusalem on January 22 for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Rivlin voiced appreciation for Guatemala’s role in facilitating the establishment of the State of Israel, and also to Morales for moving the embassy.

He also noted that there is a Guatemala Street in the capital’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood.

Rivlin asked Giammattei whether he would be meeting with the Palestinian leadership during his visit, and the reply was a definite “no.”

The two men also discussed cooperation on security, economics, health, agriculture and water issues. 



IDF Attacks Hamas Targets In Gaza, Defense Minister Visits Sderot

IDF fighter jets and attack helicopters on Saturday night (7th) struck a number of Hamas terror targets, among them a Hamas military camp and its components which included warehouses, offices and sentry positions.

In addition, a military post belonging to the Hamas naval force in the northern Gaza Strip was also destroyed. 

The attacks came in retaliation for the rocket attacks toward Israeli territory earlier in the evening.

The IDF holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it.  Hamas will bear the consequences for actions against Israeli civilians, said the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit in a statement.

In the Saturday evening (7th) attack on southern Israel, three rockets were fired from Gaza and intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

A 40-year-old woman, a 10-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man, all residents of Sderot, suffered injuries while making their way to protected spaces, and were treated by Magen David Adom teams.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett visited Sderot on Sunday (8th ) and met with leaders from towns across the Gaza border area as well as residents of Sderot.

Bennett praised the resilience of residents living near the border in the face of periodic rocket attacks from the Strip, adding that Israel must regain its deterrence against such attacks.

“Our enemies have gotten used to being able to fire at Israel,” said Bennett.

“We have to change that.  All of our enemies – from Iran through to Hezbollah and all the way to ISIS forces in the Sinai – want to break us.  But they shouldn’t let themselves be fooled, because we will prevail. The people of Israel will win. At the end of the day, our ability to make bold decisions comes from a deep sense of security which comes from you, the people.”

The Defense Minister added that under his leadership, the Israeli military would switch from a defensive position to an offensive one. 



Israel’s President Thanks Lebanese-Born Swiss Businessman Who Bought Hitler Artifacts

 Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted, on Sunday (8th), Lebanese-born Swiss businessman Abdallah Chatila who purchased Hitler’s artifacts which will be held by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum.

Chatila bought the artifacts associated with Adolf Hitler at an auction two weeks ago.

The president thanked Chatila for his gesture and for the significant thought that stood behind it.

“Your donation is of great importance at this time, when people are trying to deny historical truth.  These artifacts, which you are so generously making available to Yad Vashem will help convey the legacy of the Holocaust to the next generation who will not meet survivors,” the president said. 

He added, “What you did was seemingly so simple, but this act of grace shows the whole world how to fight the glorification of hatred and incitement against other people.  It was a truly human act. I know you have been thanked many times, but it was important for me to say it loud and clear here at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. We appreciate it and thank you for it very much.”

“Mr. President, it is a great honor to be here,” Chatila told the Israeli head of state.  “When I read about the artifacts being on sale, I immediately thought I have to buy them and destroy them.  Then I thought I have no right to decide what to do with the items, and am so glad they are now in Yad Vashem.”

“I feel a shiver when I understand how important this is to the Jewish people, but I think there is a wider message for the whole world, that ‘never again’ is not a meaningless slogan.  Through acts such as this, we can ensure that these things never happen again,” he said.

Chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev thanked the president for the meeting and Chatila for his act, saying, “What you did as a spontaneous act ensures that these artifacts do not end up in the wrong hands.  You stopped that, and brought them to the place where history is told and where the next generation is educated. Thank you very much.”



Rabbi Dragged Out Of His Car, Beaten By Arabs In Central Israel

The rabbi of a neighborhood in the central Israeli city of Lod was beaten by Arab assailants Sunday afternoon (8th), after being dragged out of his car.

Rabbi Itamar Ben-Yaakov, the rabbi of the Eshkol neighborhood in Lod, had driven to a daycare center to pick up his kids, when an Arab woman stepped out into the street, blocking his car, a resident of the Eshkol neighborhood said.

Despite requests by the rabbi that the woman move so that he could continue to drive, the woman refused to budge.  The rabbi warned the woman that he would call the police if she continued to block him.

After the woman ignored his warning. Rabbi Ben-Yaakov called the police, and photographed the woman as she blocked his car.

“Moments after he photographed her, however, she called her friends, and immediately, two Arab men came,” according to a resident who witnessed the event.

“They forced the rabbi onto the ground and beat him in front of his children.” 

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood for nine years, and in all that time there has never been this kind of violence,” the resident said, adding that locals are planning a demonstration to protest the attack.