News Digest — 6/14/21

Naftali Bennett Sworn In As Israel’s PM By Vote Of 60-59 With One Abstention

Naftali Bennett was sworn in as prime minister of the State of Israel on Sunday evening (13th).

Change bloc MKs erupted in applause while Likud loyalists sat quietly as the Knesset results were officially announced.

The new government was approved by a vote of 60 MKs in favor, 59 opposed, with one abstention.

The vote followed four hours of speeches by party leaders and the election of Yesh Atid MK Micky Levy as Speaker of the Knesset.  After receiving the gavel, Levy presided over the long-awaited confidence vote.

Israel will now be governed by an eight-party coalition, the largest in Israeli history, with Yamina leader Naftali Bennett serving as prime minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid as foreign minister.  In two years, assuming the government lasts, Bennett and Lapid will switch posts.

Members of the new cabinet took their turns taking an oath of office.  Key cabinet posts include Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White), Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope), Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yemina), Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor), Public Security Minister Omer Barlev (Labor), Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahane (Yemina) and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai (Labor)

Bennett’s first Knesset speech as prime minister was drowned out by heckling from his opponents in the Shas, Religious Zionism, United Torah Judaism and Likud parties.

Despite a fiery speech, vowing to topple the government, outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was seen congratulating Bennett as the new prime minister.



Mansour Abbas Says He Will Work To ‘Reclaim Our People’s Expropriated Lands’

Islamist Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas came under criticism for Arabic language remarks he made ahead of a vote on a new coalition Sunday (13th).

Speaking outside the Knesset, Abbas said he would work “to reclaim the lands that were expropriated from our people.  This is a national cause of the first degree.”

However, the Islamist Ra’am party leader rejected criticism of the new government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister-designate and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid from right-wing and Ultra Orthodox parties, as well as the Joint Arab List.

Speaking briefly in Hebrew, Abbas said it was time for the new Israeli government and the opposition to advance “dialogue between Jews and Arabs so that we understand each other and do not see each other as enemies.”     

“We belong to different religions and communities, but there is something that connects all Israelis, it is our citizenship,” he said, calling to strengthen dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

Abbas, who made history as the leader of the first Arab party to serve in a coalition government, expressed hope that “ties between the Jewish and Arab communities” would strengthen.



Palestinians Call For ‘Day Of Rage’ To Combat Rescheduled Jerusalem Flag March

Palestinians have called for a ‘day of rage’ in the West Bank, Gaza and in Jerusalem among Israeli Arabs, in protest of and during the rescheduled Jerusalem Day Flag March on Tuesday (15th), Ynet reported.

As part of the protests, Hamas demanded that its supporters arrive at the Temple Mount and the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, with its organizers asking that resistance parties in Lebanon and Gaza “announce their intentions” to protect the Temple Mount.

The decision to reinstate the march on a different date was made last week at a security cabinet meeting.  This controversial decision was reached after Hamas warned against possible violence that it could incite, as it did previously when it was one of the catalysts leading to the 11-day IDF operation in Gaza. 

However, some Israeli politicians, and primarily far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir had protested the decision to cancel or limit the march.

The organizers of the Jerusalem Flag March finally reached an agreement to reinstate it and solidified the parade’s route with Israeli police on Friday (11th).  According to the agreement the march will take place this Tuesday (15th) and will end at the Damascus Gate, where the traditional dancing with Israeli flags will take place.

The controversy and delay in approval laid in the debate over whether the route should pass through the Damascus Gate, which is what initially led to its cancellation.  Defense Minister Benny Gantz had previously advised that the march not take place after it was originally postponed due to security concerns.

The traditional Jerusalem Day March was cancelled on May 11 amid rising tension on the Temple Mount, as well as the outbreak of war with Hamas and the onset of Operation Guardian of the Walls after Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem that day.



Palestinian Reconciliation Talks In Egypt Break Down

Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo between Hamas and Fatah are stuck at an impasse after four days, and the gaps are reportedly too wide to foresee any change on the horizon.

Hamas is making demands that, according to Israel Hayom, pose an existential threat to the Palestinian Authority and would lead to international isolation.

Specifically, Hamas wants to replace the PA with a “supreme governing council” including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and various terror groups currently under the Palestine Liberation Organization umbrella.  This governing council would supersede the PA after a two-year transition.

This council would exercise authority over Gaza and Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria.  Egyptian mediators reportedly understand this council as preferring “the principle of armed resistance,” a euphemism for terrorism, as a permanent option against Israel.

A power-sharing agreement that includes Hamas and other terror groups would violate the Oslo Accords, the very basis for the PA’s existence.

By postponing Palestinian elections, then allowing Hamas to seize the initiative by firing rockets at Israel, Fatah lost a great deal of standing among Palestinians.  The Fatah-dominated PA was further sidelined by the Gaza fighting and international efforts to end it.

For its part, Fatah went into the Cairo talks primarily seeking control over funding mechanisms for Gaza reconstruction.

Fatah’s immediate goals are to secure the re-opening of the US Consulate in the eastern portion of Jerusalem and the resumption of American financial aid to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides funds exclusively to Palestinians.  Fatah hopes those tangible gestures from President Joe Biden will boost its popularity among the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have been under divided leadership since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007.



The Arab World Is Telling The US: “Don’t Embolden Iran” – Khaled Abu Toameh

Every day in dozens of articles and op-ed pieces in newspapers, websites, radio, and television broadcasts in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf countries, people are extremely worried about the possibility that the US might return to the nuclear deal with Iran.  The Arabs don’t trust Iran.  They say Iran is trying to export the Islamic Revolution to the Arab world and destabilize the Arab countries.

They are less worried about the nuclear bomb than about what Iran is already doing and by what they perceive as a policy of appeasement towards Iran.  They are saying “Iran is already in Yemen through the Houthi militia; in Lebanon through Hezbollah; in Gaza through Hamas, in Syria through Hezbollah, and inside the Assad regime.  Iran is also meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq, and Iran is sponsoring the wave of terrorism in Gaza.”

The message coming out of the Arab world to the US right now is, “If you embolden Iran, you are facilitating Iran’s mission to undermine security and stability in the Middle East.  You are helping Iran threaten our regimes, our governments and our economies.  You are helping Iran through its proxies in the Middle East – Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis- spread terrorism in the Arab world.”



Poland Investigates Mass Burial Site Near Auschwitz

Polish prosecutors are investigating an apparent mass burial site revealed this month near the area of the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz.

A local resident spotted some 12 human skulls and many bones in the bank of the Sola River, running through the Polish southern town of Oswiecim, when the water level was very low. The Onet portal said Friday (11th).

Police and prosecutors are investigating whether the remains have a link to the death camp.  The State National Remembrance Institute, which investigates World War II and Communist-era crimes, has also been notified.

The press office of the Auschwitz Museum said Friday (11th) it was aware of the find, and of others before it, but that the area is outside the museum’s perimeter and administrative authority.

During World War II, from 1940-45, over 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz.

The vast majority of victims were Europe’s Jews.  However Poles, Gypsies, Russian soldiers and German political prisoners were also killed at the camp.  Most of the bodies were incinerated in the camp’s crematoria.