Israeli parties gird for election; Soleimani effect in Gaza: Israel Update

January 17, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed in a televised speech that Iran is enriching more uranium than before the nuclear deal. Iran previously announced it would no longer respect limits on how many centrifuges it could use to enrich uranium after Major General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone attack earlier this month. In response, Britain, France, and Germany—the three European Union signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal—triggered the accord’s dispute mechanism to keep Iran from violating the pact. The step indicates a last-ditch effort by the European states to resolve their differences with Tehran through talks, but could also revive punishing United Nations sanctions on Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and called on Western countries to impose “snapback sanctions” on Tehran.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among the topics discussed was the status of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, who was arrested in Russia for alleged possession of cannabis, and sentenced to a seven year prison term. Netanyahu expressed optimism that Issachar could be pardoned prior to next week's Fifth World Holocaust Forum, which Putin will be attending. While the 26-year-old Issachar has been held in Russia for the past nine months, the “Free Naama” campaign has spread throughout Israel and has put pressure on Netanyahu to secure her freedom.


Four rockets and an incendiary balloon were launched at Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip, earlier this week. The attacks were attributed to an independent faction of the Islamic Jihad, though Israeli security officials are expressing concerns that Hamas permitted the aggression as a way to push Israel and Egypt back into negotiations with them. In response to the rocket and balloon attacks, the IDF carried out multiple strikes against Hamas targets in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.


Jewish Home Chairman Rafi Peretz agreed to merge his religious party with Naftali Bennett’s New Right, breaking his agreement with the far-right Otzma Yehudit just prior to the party filing deadline for the upcoming March election. Otzma Yehudit, a party of self-described disciples of the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, subsequently submitted its slate on its own. Meanwhile, Israel's two historic left-wing parties, Labor-Gesher and Meretz, announced a historic merger. The announcement of the merger was criticised by some over leaving out former Labor lawmaker Stav Shaffir and Meretz member Issawi Frej -- the latter perceived as a representative figure of the Israeli-Arab community.


The Israeli Foreign Ministry engaged in a rare rebuke of a foreign country for Holocaust revisionism on Monday, issuing a statement condemning Ukraine for its “public glorification” of Holocaust collaborators and “antisemitic ideologists.” The statement came in response to a Ukrainian diplomat’s demand that Jerusalem stay out of “internal issues of Ukrainian politics” following the publication of a joint letter by the Israeli and Polish ambassadors to Kyiv decrying the “glorification of those who promoted actively the ethnic cleansing” of Poles and Jews. That letter came a day after Ukrainians marked the 111th birthday of Stepan Bandera, the wartime leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a violently anti-Semitic organization that collaborated with the Nazis.



Shabbat Shalom,


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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The 2020 Jewish and Israeli Film Festival will kick off Thursday, January 23 with a showing of The Unorthodox, a powerful display of how activism can yield social change. Opening night is sponsored by the JCRC and Israel Center of the Jewish Federation, who will host a pre-screening “Israeli election experience” and a post screening facilitated discussion. To learn more and purchase tickets, click here.
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