News Digest — 7/11/23

Knesset Passed First Vote Of Bill To Restrict Supreme Court Powers

The Knesset overnight passed along partisan lines a bill to restrict the use of the “reasonableness” standard by the Supreme Court.

The bill was advanced by a vote of 64-56.

MK Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee said Monday (10th) that he would immediately prepare the bill for the two additional plenum votes necessary for it to become law.

The goal of the coalition is to pass the bill before the end of the summer session on July 29.

The legislation would bar “reasonableness” as a legal justification for judges to reverse decisions made by the “cabinet, ministers and other elected officials as set by law.”

Critics say the standard is legally vague and has been used by the court to encroach upon the government’s authority.  Opponents say the bill will erode Israel’s system of checks and balances and lead to an abuse of power.

The initiative “isn’t the end of democracy, but rather will strengthen democracy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday (10th) in defense of the legislation.

“The rights of the courts and Israeli citizens will not be harmed in any way.  The court will continue to monitor the legality of government decisions and appointments.  [We} will be required to act in good faith and with proportionality, fairness and equality,” he added.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that the move would “enable an elected government to implement its policy according to the law.  Unlike the opposition, which behaves irresponsibly and spreads incitement – we in the coalition act responsibly,” he said.

“We will continue to advance, with determination, necessary changes to the judicial system, as we promised the public before last November’s election and in accordance with the mandate we received from the people,” Smotrich continued.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid accused the government of “losing all restraint.”

“Canceling the judicial test of reasonableness [according to the bill] they have submitted to the Knesset confirms one thing.  The law does not apply to them,” said Lapid.

“They can fire all the gatekeepers, from the attorney general on down, and switch them out for those who will not interfere when they corrupt the country,” he added.

Organizers of protests against the reforms planned a “day of disruption” on Tuesday (11th) including “demonstrations, marches and convoys.”

Activists will be demonstrating at the Ben Gurion Airport.  Police will be trying to prevent a repeat of the protest on July 3, when thousands of demonstrators tried to block traffic to the airport and succeeded in snarling movement, including at the arrival halls.

Cabinet ministers on Sunday (9th) assailed Attorney General Dali Baharav-Miara for allowing, in their view, protesters to run rampant in a bid to paralyze the country.

The coalition’s decision to push ahead with judicial reform legislation came after compromise talks hosted by President Isaac Herzog stalled last month.   (Legislation had been frozen since March to give the talks a chance to succeed).

On Sunday (9th) Herzog continued to insist an agreement was “attainable.”  He said the decision of the sides to reject talks was a “blunder of historic proportions.”

Speaking during a state memorial for Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, Herzog noted that Jews around the world are now observing a three-week period of mourning leading up to the anniversary of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E.  These days “demand us to behave with dignity and responsibility, in issues that directly impact the unity of Israel, and the cohesion of Israeli society,” he said.    



‘Day Of Disruption:’ Police Evacuate ‘Tent City’

Demonstrators against legal reforms kicked off the “Day of Disruption” events this morning, Tuesday (11th), following a cancellation of the reasonableness clause in its first reading in the Knesset Monday night (10th).

About 30 protesters set up a tent city at the HaSira intersection in Herzliya, burned tires, lit flares, and blocked vehicles before police arrived at the scene.  Later, the interchange reopened to traffic.

In another event, dozens of protesters hung a huge banner near the Karkur intersection that read: “No entry to dictatorship.” This caused a major traffic jam in the area.

As part of the protests, demonstrations will be held today in hundreds of locations nationwide and many traffic disruptions are expected.

The main protests are scheduled for 4 pm at Ben Gurion Airport.

At 6:30 pm there will be demonstrations in front of the President’s Residence as well as the United States Embassy.

Starting at 8 pm, demonstrators are expected in numerous locations, including a march along Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.



Non-Stop Terror:  Palestinian With Gun, Bomb Killed By IDF– Attack Thwarted

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a terrorist armed with an assault rifle and an explosive device on Monday (10th).  He was planning to attack the Jewish community of NeveTzuf (Halamish) in Samaria.

According to Hebrew-language media, the terrorist opened fire with a Carlo machine gun commonly manufactured in Palestinian Authority-controlled enclaves, towards troops standing at a checkpoint outside of the town.

The soldiers returned fire, striking the terrorist and killing him.  There were no Israeli soldiers or civilians injured in the incident.

“A few minutes ago, IDF soldiers eliminated an armed terrorist who arrived at the Neve Tzuf checkpoint from Nachliel.  The terrorist was armed with an explosive device and a rifle, and was going to harm soldiers and civilians,” said Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Gantz in a media statement.

“Our soldiers shot and killed him, and with that, they prevented a terror attack, thank God.  Thank you to the IDF commanders and soldiers for the great response.”

The incident came in an uptick in terrorist attacks throughout Israel.

Later on Sunday evening (9th), the remains of a rocket were discovered in Ram-On, a northern Israel town near the terror hotbed of Jenin.  It appears that the projectile had been launched from Jenin towards the civilian community, though it is unclear when it was fired.



Palestinians Reject Israel’s Demands To Save PA

The Palestinian Authority on Monday (10th) rejected Israel’s demands for helping prevent the collapse of the PA.

PA Prime MInister Mohammad Shtayyeh vowed to continue the legal-diplomatic effort against Israel in the international arena and rejected the demand to stop payments made by the PA to the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned while carrying out attacks against Israelis.

The security cabinet on Sunday (9th) decided that Israel would take steps to prevent the collapse of the PA, while advancing the demand that the Palestinians cease their activities against Israel in the international  legal-diplomatic arena, end incitement, and stop payments to families of terrorists and illegal construction in Area C.

Shtayyeh, who was speaking during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet in Ramallah, said: “Yesterday, the Israeli government came out with decisions concerning the Palestinian Authority on the pretext that they want to offer gestures to the Palestinians.  On behalf of the Palestinian government, we say that what is required of Israel is to halt its aggression on our people, killings, settlements, and the piracy of our money.”

“The talk about conditioning the return of our money on halting our measures in international forums won’t happen,” Shtayyeh said, adding that the Palestinians would pursue their activities against Israel in the international arena.

Payments to the families of the “martyrs” and the security prisoners will continue, he said.  “Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has expressed this position on more than one occasion,” Shtayyeh said.  He was referring to earlier statements by Abbas, who said, “Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the Israeli demands and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu and his coalition of lying and spreading disinformation regarding its intention and desire to prevent the collapse of the PA. 



How The Israeli Air Force Is Preparing For Multi-Arena War – Yaakov Lappin

In mid-June, the Israel Defense Forces completed a major two-week war exercise, dubbed “Firm Hand,” which simulated a multi-arena war starting with Hezbollah and Lebanon and spreading to other locations, including Iran.

In May, the Israel Air Force sent, for the first time, F-16 fighter aircraft to Cyprus as part of the “Blue Sun” exercise, which simulated war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.  The drill also saw Israeli intelligence-gathering jets, C-130 transport helicopters, Apache gunships, and special forces on the ground.

The IAF, which is due to have two full squadrons of F-35 fifth-generation jets by 2024, and is due to receive a third squadron in the coming years, is preparing itself for the plentiful security challenges of the 21st century.

“Iran is the one pushing with full force for a multi-arena conflict,” said Jacob Nagel, a former national security advisor.  “The Iranians have to understand that they won’t stay outside of this.  That will create additional and important roles for the IAF, in the depth of enemy territory and in nearer arenas, but others will also be involved – intelligence, cyber, precise missiles, special forces and more.”

Nagel said that it is vital to build multi-domain ground forces made up of a combination of forces, which are versatile enough to operate in multiple arenas and are well defended against developing threats.

“There will be much significance to secrecy and the ability to reach targets at any range without being discovered,” he said.  “The future mix should be made up of two-thirds unmanned and  a third manned,” he added.

With time, even more of the air force could become unmanned, according to Nagel.  However, “there will still remain manned aircraft in the coming generation,” he added.

“The navy, for its part, will also have an important role,” said Nagel, “particularly special naval forces.”   



 Iran’s President Setting Out On Rare Africa Tour In Bid To Reduce “Tehran’s Isolation”

TEHRAN – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has embarked Tuesday (11th) on a rare African tour in his latest diplomatic efforts to reduce the Islamic Republic’s isolation by forging new alliances.

The three-day trip — which includes Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe – will be the first by an Iranian president to Africa in 11 years.

Raisi will head a delegation that includes Iran’s foreign minister as well as senior businesspeople.  He is scheduled to meet with presidents from the three countries, according to the official IRNA news agency.

On Monday (10th), Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani described the trip as “a new turning point” which could bolster economic and trade ties with African nations.

He also said the rapprochement is based “on common political views” between Tehran and the three African countries.

Iran has stepped up its diplomacy in recent months to reduce its isolation and offset the impact of crippling sanctions reimposed since the 2018 withdrawal of the United States from a painstakingly negotiated nuclear deal.

On Saturday (8th), Raisi welcomed Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf in a bid to boost relations with Algiers.

Last week, the Islamic Republic became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which includes Russia, China and India.

In March, Iran agreed to restore ties with its regional rival Saudi Arabia under a China-mediated deal.  It has since been looking to reestablish ties with other countries in the region including Egypt and Morocco.

In June, Raisi set out on a Latin American tour that included Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba before a trip to Indonesia.