Israel has scheduled its third election in less than a year, for March 2, 2020, after the Knesset passed its deadline to nominate a candidate for Prime Minister. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz attributed Israel’s electoral turmoil to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unwillingness to surrender his right to request immunity from corruption charges—a connection which Netanyahu has denied. Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman said he would back a deal in which Netanyahu is allowed to avoid jail time in exchange for an agreement to retire from politics.
In response to a Supreme Court petition, Netanyahu has agreed to surrender his four ministerial posts by January 1, while maintaining his position as Prime Minister. Additionally, Netanyahu is set to face his first serious primary challenge for Likud leadership in 14 years, from Gideon Sa’ar. Netanyahu’s primary challenge is seen by many as a sign of growing frustration with the Prime Minister within his own party.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new executive order that will condition federal funding to public colleges and universities on sufficiently combating discrimination against Jews. The order will broaden the federal government’s definition of antisemitism, and instruct that it be used in enforcing laws against discrimination on college campuses. The announcement spurred confusion and some controversy. The Jewish Federations of North America joined the ADL, AJC, and many other Jewish groups in supporting the executive order. Our Cincinnati JCRC echoed JFNA’s statement and has compiled additional resources and background context that clarifies some of the confusion.
Palestinian Authority President Abbas announced that general elections will take place sometime in the next few months, although a specific date was not given. According to Abbas, elections will first be held for the Palestinian Legislative Council, followed by general elections for the presidency. The PA requested that Israel allow east Jerusalem residents to vote in Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections. The last Palestinian elections, held in 2006, resulted in a victory for the Islamist Hamas group, which gained a majority in the parliament as a result.
Jerusalem's Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar visited Bahrain on Monday, making him the first rabbi of his stature to visit the predominately Muslim country. Rabbis such as Amar are seen as representatives of the State of Israel. The chief rabbi was in the region to take part in a religious conference featuring religious leaders from all over the Middle East. Preceding the visit from the chief rabbi, the Bahraini and Israeli governments had, in recent months, been working towards normalizing relations with each other.
Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC
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