Annexation plans ramp up; coronavirus trends up: Israel Update

June 5, 2020

Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged the military to hasten plans for annexing parts of the West Bank on Monday, anticipating what could be fierce Palestinian protests against the move. Gantz's statement came as Israeli media reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the annexation during a call with Jared Kushner, President Trump's senior adviser who is an architect of the Middle East plan. The United Arab Emirates called on Israel to halt its plan for annexing parts of the West Bank—joining a long list of Arab nations condemning the anticipated move. 


Prominent Israeli settlers in the West Bank are pushing back against the US Middle East plan. Jordan Valley Regional Council Head David Elhyani has been leading settler opposition to the current plan, saying that he has no choice but to warn Israel about what he sees as a dangerous proposal. Elhyani says he is concerned, not just for the safety of Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley or other areas of the West Bank, but for the safety of all Israeli citizens. Elhyani’s vocal opposition to the annexation has drawn harsh rebukes from Prime Minister Netanyahu and other right-wing leaders. 


After easing coronavirus-related restrictions in late May, Israel has been forced to implement new measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Israel's parliament told employees to remain home, and lawmakers' meetings were canceled after a member of the Arab-led Joint List tested positive for coronavirus. MP Sami Abu Shahadeh, a resident of Jaffa, told public radio that over the past 10 days he had met "thousands" of people—at numerous demonstrations, as well as in every part of the Knesset. Abu Shahadeh had also visited the mourning tent for Iyad Hallak, a 32-year-old Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli police on Saturday. In addition to closing down the Knesset, Israel shut down a number of schools when it saw large increases in positive tests from students and staff, including 130 or more positive cases at a single school. By government order, more than 6,800 students and teachers are now in home quarantine. It's an abrupt reversal of the post-pandemic spirit in Israel, as the Knesset works through an emergency virus bill in the next few days. 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court for the beginning of his corruption trial early last week, and thus became the country’s first sitting prime minister to go on trial. Netanyahu offered up a lengthy tirade against the nation's justice system—accusing police, prosecutors, judges, and the media of a deep state-type conspiracy to oust him, against the will of the people. Netanyahu faces allegations that he accepted lavish gifts and bribes from media figures in exchange for positive coverage of his administration. He was formally indicted in January, becoming the only prime minister in Israel's history to be indicted while in office. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of supporters rallied in his defense, waving Israeli flags and banners and denouncing what they called a corrupt prosecution. Anti-Netanyahu protesters gathered at his official residence to demonstrate against what they called a “crime minister” and carried posters calling for his resignation. Netanyahu will not be required to attend future hearings during the case, which legal analysts expect to stretch over several years. The next hearing is scheduled for July 19.


The safety, health, and well-being of all community members is a priority for the Jewish Federation. Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This page has been developed to help our community stay informed and provide the resources needed to maintain a sense of connection. As more resources are curated, this page will be continually updated. 



Shabbat Shalom,


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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