14 | 12 | 2019

Israelis will return to the ballot box for the third consecutive national election in 11 months on March 2 after its top politicians failed yet again to build a governing coalition, in the latest twist in a sprawling and unprecedented crisis that has left the country in political limbo for a year. According the law, the Knesset was automatically dispersed at midnight on Wednesday, December 11, but lawmakers continued debating until early Thursday on the date of the vote.

Last month, far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption cases, which could damage his bid to stay in office after the next elections. In a video posted online only hours before the 22nd Knesset was dispersed, an unabashed Netanyahu continued with his demagogic incitement against Israel’s Arab population, saying that the main opposition party, Blue & White, “tried to do everything to establish a minority government with the supporters of terror [Joint List MKs] Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, and they failed at that.”

Yet another hate-crime “Price Tag” attack took place in East Jerusalem’s Palestinian Shu’afat neighborhood early Monday morning, December 9. At the scene, Arab residents found more than 160 damaged vehicles, including racist graffiti spray-painted by far-right assailants on cars as well as on homes in the area. Hate-inspired slogans included: “Arabs=enemies,” “No place for enemies in our land.” and “When Jews get stabbed do not remain silent.”

A new poll shows far-right that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals gaining ground on him as he faces corruption charges and the prospect of leading the country to a third election in less than a year, having failed twice to secure a ruling coalition.

The poll published on Friday night, December 6, by Channel 12 News finds that 52% of the public said they believed Netanyahu should not continue to serve as prime minister while facing indictment charges. Among right-wing voters, only 34% believe Netanyahu should step down, while 57% say that, for them, the charges are not an issue.

The Knesset approved on Wednesday, December 4, the first reading of a proposal to stop the arrest and deportation of Israel-born children of migrant workers. The proposal, which was submitted by MKs Ofer Cassif (Hadash – Joint List), Miki Haimovich (Blue & White), and Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), passed its first reading almost unanimously with 14 votes for, and one against.

Israel’s newly installed far-right defense minister, MK Naftali Bennett, announced on Sunday, December 1, his approval for the planning of a new settlement in the flashpoint Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron. The decision was quickly praised by the right and condemned by Hadash, Israeli peace movements and Palestinians.

The settlement in Hebron is now made up of several enclaves located deep in the heart of the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank. The roughly 800 Jewish settlers there live under heavy military guard amid some 215,000 Palestinians. It has been the scene of numerous stabbings and other violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years.

Thirteen Israeli notables published an open letter on Friday, November 15, saying they welcomed the European Court of Justice’s ruling earlier this same week that settlement products need to be labeled as such, but said the move is insufficient and the European Union must ban the import of settlement goods altogether.

“Israeli settlements are the leading cause of human rights violations against Palestinians, and settlement expansion is destroying the possibility of a two-state solution. By banning goods that originate in Israeli settlements, Europe would help support the differentiation between Israel per se and settlements in the occupied territories,” reads the letter that was published in the British newspaper The Guardian.

The Israeli Communist Party and the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) condemn US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement on Monday, November 18, that Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 do not contravene international law.

This statement plainly reaffirms the US administration’s unequivocal support for the policy of the Netanyahu government and the right-wing settlement project to the detriment of the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, for the recognition of a “united Jerusalem,” for the elimination of the refugee issue, and for the erasure of the Green Line, all within the framework of the “Deal of the Century” and with the complicity of the Arab regimes.

Omar Haitham al-Badawi, 22, was shot and mortally wounded by Israeli security forces as he approached a fire with a towel, intending to extinguish it last Monday, November 11, in the Al-‘Arrub refugee camp, 15 km south of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.

Peace and Communist activists and two Knesset members from the Joint List participated in a protest demonstration organized by Hadash in Central Tel Aviv Tuesday evening, November 12, near the headquarters of the Likud in the heart of the city.

The protest was called after Israel conducted a targeted assassination of a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza early Tuesday morning, an attack that predictably ignited escalated military violence.

The demonstrators called for a halt to the violence on both sides, but emphasized Israel’s role in the bloodshed as a result of its 52-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territories and its 12-year-long blockade of Gaza.

Hadash Lawmakers accused far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of authorizing the assassination of an Islamic Jihad leader, Baha Abu al-Ata, in Gaza on Tuesday, November 12, for political advantage but, in most cases, were met by sharp criticism for their remarks from other opposition MKs.

One exception, however, was Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev who accused Netanyahu of deciding to kill the Islamic Jihad leader this week in order to make it impossible for Benny Gantz to include the Joint List in his coalition negotiations. “This action could have been taken last week or last month,” Bar-Lev told Reshet Bet radio. “The only reason Netanyahu waited until now was to make it harder for Gantz to form a government.”

The leading far-right Likud party of PM Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed a racist bill which would prevent Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) from becoming the head of the opposition if and when a unity government is eventually formed between the Likud and other rightwing parties and the Zionist center-left.

Currently, the opposition leader receives regular diplomatic and security updates from the prime minister, as well as other privileges. Likud MK Shlomo Karhi, who spearheaded the racist bill, explained: “Despite the chance that a minority government will be formed [by Blue & White leader MK Benny Gantz] and the possibility that Ayman Odeh will be in the coalition [or support it from outside], we in the Likud are aiming to form a national unity government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and we are making preparations towards that end.”

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