Israel’s New Government: Everything You Need to Know
ISRAEL’S NEW GOVERNMENT: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW: The new Israeli government was expected to be sworn in by the end of Thursday, December 29.
On Wednesday, Prime minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of the Likud party, presented to the Knesset the coalition agreements needed to form a right-wing government composed of 64 seats out of a total of 120 in the Knesset. The new government will be composed of United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Religious Zionism, Noam, Shas, and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish power). Foremost in the coalition agreement was the issue of Israel’s territory. “The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all areas of the Land of Israel,” the government said in its overall policy statement, promising to “promote and develop all parts of the Land of Israel.” The agreement went on to specify that this development policy would include Judea and Samaria. “The nation of Israel has a natural right to the Land of Israel,” section 118 of the coalition agreement stated. “In light of the belief in that aforementioned right, the prime minister will formulate and promote policies within whose framework sovereignty will be applied to Judea and Samaria,” the document stated. It was specified that this included the Galilee, the Negev and the Golan Heights which have all been officially annexed by the Israeli government. The Golan in particular, was described as a “strategic region” with a large potential for development. (I365N / VFI News)
EGYPT’S SISI CONGRATULATES NETANYAHU AS HE PUSHES FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN TALKS: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi pushed for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks when he called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, January 1, to congratulate him on the formation of his government.
Sisi “stressed the importance of achieving just and comprehensive peace” between Israelis and Palestinians, the office of the Egyptian presidency stated. This would “contribute to realizing security and prosperity for all the peoples of the region,” Sisi said. He also emphasized the importance of avoiding “any measures that would lead to tension and complicate the situation in the region.” Netanyahu’s office said that the “two leaders stressed the importance of promoting peace, stability and security for the sake of both peoples and for all peoples in the Middle East,” but it did not mention the Palestinians. They also spoke of ways to improve bilateral relations between the two countries and discussed regional developments. Under the previous government, Israel had approved a plan to increase trade with Egypt to $700 million. This included upgrading the Nitzana Crossing between Israel and Egypt. Sisi is one of a number of regional leaders who have reached out to Netanyahu after an 18-month hiatus from the premiership. (JPost / VFI News)
JORDANIAN KING THREATENS CONFLICT IF ISRAEL CROSSES JERUSALEM ‘RED LINES’: Jordanian King Abdullah II on Wednesday, December 28, said he was ready for a conflict should Israel’s government violate “red lines” by changing the status quo governing relations at Jerusalem’s holy sites.
“If people want to get into a conflict with us, we’re quite prepared,” Abdullah said in an interview with American media. “I always like to believe that let’s look at the glass half full, but we have certain red lines… And if people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that,” he added. Jordan has since 1967 been the custodian of holy sites in the Israeli capital’s Old City, including the Al Aqsa Mosque that sits atop the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most sacred place. While Muslims are allowed to freely visit and worship at the mosque, Jews are severely restricted from accessing the site where two biblical temples stood, and are banned from praying there, although the latter stringency has been relaxed in recent years. Abdullah also warned that the Palestinians could launch another terror war. “We have to be concerned about a next intifada,” he said, adding: “If that happens, that’s a complete breakdown of law and order and one that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will benefit from.” (I365N / VFI News)
ISRAEL TARGETED BY “FLOOD LIBEL”: After heavy rains fell on the region during the last days of December, some Arab media have falsely accused Israel of causing flooding in Gaza.
On Monday, December 26, the official outlet for the Palestinian Authority, published an article titled, “As if the heavy rain was not enough, Israel opens rainwater ducts to flood Gaza towns, destroy lands.” According to the outlet’s report, after two days of rain, the Israeli authorities made the flooding in Gaza worse “by opening the ducts in the dams located on the Israeli side of the border fence. The only dam in Israel is the Degania Dam, located on the Jordan River at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee that regulates water levels in the Sea of Galilee and the flow of water into the Jordan River. The distance between the dam and Gaza is roughly 200 kilometers and since it is over 200 meters lower than Gaza, it would be impossible for any water released from the dam to arrive at Gaza. The article was followed by another article in a pro-Palestinian website that supports Islamist causes. The outlet published a report under the headline, “Israel floods Gaza after opening dam gates.” The article quoted Deputy Minister for Local Governance, Zuhdi al Ghreez, who said, “Large swathes of the city of Deir al Balah, in the middle sector of the Gaza Strip were submerged with water coming from the Israeli dams.” These accusations by the Palestinians arise every winter and have been picked up by foreign media. (I365N / VFI News)
IRGC OFFICIALS HINT AT DIVISION IN IRANIAN LEADERSHIP, AS PROTESTS CONTINUE: Two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials hinted at division among Iran’s leadership as anti-government protests have continued to sweep the country.
Hamid Abazari, an IRGC official who formerly served as deputy commander of the Imam Hossein Training and Officer College, reportedly stated that senior commanders and officials had “failed and stood against values, [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] and the regime,” during the ongoing wave of protests. Abazari also expressed condemnation of officials who had not condemned the protests and added that “first-rate officials of the regime” were among those who had stood against Khamenei. The IRGC’s public relations department rejected Abazari’s statements on Saturday, December 31, stressing that this was Abazari’s personal opinion and “does not correspond to the existing facts.” Additionally, Gholamhossein Gheybparvar, an IRGC commander in charge of a unit tasked with confronting protests and riots, criticized “some elites” for staying silent about the protests. “Some elites were afraid of being harmed and damaged in their world and kept silent and were rejected, and you should know that religiosity does not come and go slowly, but religiosity has a cost,” said Gheybparvar on Saturday, according to Iranian media. “In these two or three months, many were rejected; We do not deny the economic problems, high prices, unemployment, etc., but was it the right of the regime that anyone who comes can insert a knife into the body of the regime?” (JPost / VFI News)
HEZBOLLAH’S NASRALLAH SUFFERS SECOND STROKE, HOSPITALIZED IN BEIRUT: Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was rushed to intensive care after suffering a stroke, according to reports from Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
The reports came after Nasrallah canceled a planned speech on Friday, December 30, with the Lebanese terrorist organization announcing through its affiliated media he had fallen ill with influenza and was unable to speak well. Saudi journalist Hussein al-Gawi contradicted Hezbollah’s statement, claiming that Nasrallah indeed suffered a second stroke instead of falling ill as was reported. The Hezbollah leader was reportedly hospitalized at the Great Prophet Hospital in Beirut. Nasrallah is also set to speak on Tuesday, January 3, to mark the anniversary of the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. (JPost / VFI News)
SHAS SECURES BILLIONS FOR WELFARE, HEALTHCARE, RELIGIOUS BENEFITS IN COALITION DEAL: In its coalition agreement with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party secured billions of shekels in promises to advance its core agendas, including supporting disadvantaged Israelis, benefits to the religious community and its institutions, and improving healthcare services, especially in the so-called periphery.
Laser-focus on its socioeconomic and religious priorities has been a longtime winning strategy for Shas. The party did not make any independent security or foreign policy demands, and largely acceded to Likud requests beyond its core interests. In addition to the policy points, Shas secured six ministerial portfolios to be handed out to five of its 12 lawmakers. Party leader Aryeh Deri will take two of the portfolios, returning to lead the Interior Ministry once again, and the Health Ministry. He will also be a deputy prime minister for the entirety of the government’s term. The religious services and welfare portfolios will also go to Shas, as well as two additional ministers within — but not leading — the welfare and education ministries. Deri also cleared NIS 5.85 billion ($1.65 billion) for improvements to the healthcare system, with a special focus on improving services in disadvantaged and far-flung communities outside central Israel. (TOI / VFI News)
ISRAEL BEGINS PUMPING DESALINATED WATER FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN TO THE KINNERET: Mekorot Israel National Water Co. and the Israel Water Authority have launched the billion shekel “Reverse Water Carrier” project in the north, to bring desalinated water from the Mediterranean to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
The project is meant to ‘top off’ the inland sea, maintaining its level during years of below-average rainfall. This is the first project of its kind in the world. Israel Water Authority director Yehezkel Lifshitz told media, “The project we have launched today proves that Israel is leading in innovative thinking and a creative planning approach to dealing with the effects of climate change, while ensuring a sustainable water supply, safeguarding Israel’s natural resources and maintaining the Kinneret as a strategic buffer for the State of Israel.” The project, launched on Tuesday, December 27, was conceived in 2009 following a series of drought years (2013-2018) and work began four years ago. The new pipelines connect five desalination plants along the coast with the Kinneret via 100-kilometer water channels, advanced quality control and command systems, and water reservoirs. The project will allow the maximum streaming of 120 million cubic meters of water back into the Kinneret. The Kinneret is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and prominently featured in the New Testament. The Kinneret first appears in the Bible in the Book of Numbers. (I365N / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff