News Digest — 4/16/19

Netanyahu Wins Majority Backing In 21st Knesset

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received the backing of an absolute majority of the incoming Knesset Tuesday (16th), effectively ensuring he is tasked with the formation of the 35th Israeli government.

Netanyahu, who received the backing of his own Likud party, the haredi Shas, and United Torah Judaism factions on Monday (15th), earlier on Tuesday got the support of Yisrael Beytenu’s five MK-Knesset delegation.

As of Tuesday (16th), the latest update of the vote count shows the Likud receiving 35 seats, up five from 2015.  When all Netanyahu’s endorsements were counted, the total number of MKs backing him was 65.

Netanyahu’s closest competitor, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz is expected to receive 45 MK endorsements.

With a majority of MKs behind him, Netanyahu is expected to be tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming the 35th government of Israel.

The Prime Minister will have 28 days to sign coalition agreements with enough parties to reach 61 seats, though President Rivlin may grant an extension of 14 days if necessary.



Foreign Ministry Warns Sinai Vacationers

The Israeli Foreign Ministry is increasingly concerned over the safety of Israelis who are planning a vacation in the Sinai during the Passover holiday despite the travel warning issued by the Counter-Terrorism Bureau.

The Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned that the serious threat of terror attacks against tourists in the Sinai, including Israelis, continues in the immediate term.

The bureau also called on all Israelis who are currently in the area to leave immediately and return to Israel.

The Director of the Department for Israelis Abroad at the Foreign Ministry toured the Egyptian border crossing on Sunday (14th) and met with the local crossing manager.

At the initiative of the Ministry, Hebrew and Arabic signs have been posted at the crossing, warning Israeli citizens intent on visiting there,  not to carry objects that might get them into trouble with Egyptian law enforcement authorities, such as bullets, car cameras, drones, drugs, etc.

Israeli citizens are urged to obey the instructions of the local authorities and to exercise extreme caution in order to avoid unnecessary complications in a foreign country.



Ocasio-Cortez: I’m Prepared To Cut US Aid To Israel

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said that cutting U.S. aid to Israel should be considered as a means to signal American disapproval of Israeli policies.  She made her remarks on a Yahoo News podcast Sunday (14th).

“I think it is certainly on the table.  I think it is something that can be discussed,” the freshman Democratic congresswoman said in response to interviewer Daniel Klaidman, who asked “Would you be in favor of reducing US military or economic aid to Israel?”  The interview aired on Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast co-hosted by Mr. Klaidman and Michael Isikoff.

Mr. Klaidman’s question wasn’t entirely factually correct as all economic aid to Israel ended in 2007.  Israel does, however, receive substantial military assistance from the US, having signed a 10-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2016.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortes also suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was an undemocratic leader.  “I think what we’re really seeing is the ascent of authoritarianism across the world. I think that Netanyahu is a Trump-like figure,” she said.



Netanyahu:  ICC Decision Not To Probe US Troops Bodes Well For Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday (14th) that the International Criminal Court’s rejection over the weekend of a request to investigate the actions of American soldiers in Afghanistan was good news for Israel, and thanked US President Donald Trump for vowing to defend Israelis investigated by the court.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Sunday (14th), Netanyahu said the original purpose of the Hague-based court was to try genocides and ethnic violence in states without proper legal systems, unlike democracies such as the US and Israel.

ICC prosecutors have been investigating Israel over its settlement policy in the West Bank as well as the conduct of its forces during the 2014 war against Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

“They are picking on the US and Israel, democracies – which by the way aren’t members of the ICC – but we definitely have the best justice systems in the world.  They are exceptional, because there are very few like them,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.

“To put on trial US or Israeli troops, or the State of Israel or the United States, is absurd.  This is the opposite of the original purpose of the International Criminal Court,” he added.

Netanyahu called the ICC decision to not investigate the US a “correction of injustice” and said it would affect how Israel is treated internationally.



Benjamin, Ido Netanyahu Receive Brother Yoni’s Army Items After 40 Years

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and brother Ido Netanyahu on Monday (15th) received personal items belonging to their late brother Yoni, who was killed in the hostage rescue operation in Entebbe in 1976, which he heroically commanded.

Yosef Shemesh served with the late Yoni Netanyahu in the 71st Battalion of the Armored Corps in the Golan Heights, and kept the items in his possession since he was commanded by him.

The prime minister and his brother met with Yosef Shemesh in the Prime Minister’s Residence and received Yoni’s possessions, which included Yoni’s commando knife, and his Passover Haggadah.  Other items included books Yoni gave to Yosef, the unit’s shirt, a sleeping bag, gloves and a compass.

The prime minister said that “My brother Ido and I are very impressed.  We know some of these things. This commando knife was in his unit.”

“We know Yoni’s books, and his Passover Haggadah was the one he used in the Seder he gave his soldiers.  This is a very moving reminder from the past. I am very grateful to you, thank you,” Netanyahu told Shemesh.

The younger Ido said that “It’s exciting after so many years to see these things, especially to see the Haggadah Yoni wrote about in his very moving letters, the one he used for special Seders with his men.



Israeli Scientists Successfully Print Human Heart

Scientists at Israel’s Tel Aviv University unveiled a 3D print of a heart with human tissue and vessels on Monday (15th), calling it a first and a “major medical breakthrough” that advances possibilities for transplants.

The heart, about the size of a rabbit’s, marked “the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers,” said Tel Aviv University’s Tal Dvir, who led the project.

“People have managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but not with cells or with blood vessels,” he said.

But scientists said many challenges remain before fully working 3D printed hearts will be available for transplant into patients.

Journalists were shown a 3D print of a heart about the size of a cherry at Tel Aviv University on Monday (15th) as the researchers announced their findings, published in the journal Advanced Science.

Researchers must now teach the printed hearts “to behave” like real ones.  Then they plan to transplant them into animal models, said Dvir.

“Maybe in 10 years, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely,” he said.

But he said, hospitals would likely start with simpler organs than hearts.