New coronavirus restrictions in place; Netanyahu on trial: Israel Update

March 13, 2020

The State of Israel is continuing to take firm actions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Prime Minister announced a sweeping plan to combat the virus, which now has infected 143 Israelis, that includes heavy travel restrictions, banning of large gatherings (including Purim festivities), the disinfecting of public spaces, a 10 billion NIS (New Israeli Shekel) economic package, and a plan to work closely with foreign allies to curb the spread of COVID19. Efforts to limit the virus have also impacted Israel beyond its borders. The United Nations Human Rights Council, which was scheduled to convene this week regarding resolutions against Israel—has suspended its 43rd session in Geneva due to concerns over the coronavirus. Since the outbreak, Jewish Cincinnati has canceled the 2020 March of the Living trip, the upcoming March We Need to Talk event, as well as other Israel missions. With regards to the virus locally, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati continues to prioritize the safety, health, and well-being of all community members and like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Click here to for updates and resources needed to make important decisions. 


The public corruption trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will open on Tuesday before a three-judge Jerusalem District Court panel. The indictment of Netanyahu—for bribery, fraud, and breach of public trust in three separate cases—has long hindered him from forming an effective government. In the Bezeq-Walla Affair—the case expected to be the toughest for Netanyahu's team to defend—the prime minister is accused of participating in a quid pro quo media bribery scheme. The suit alleges that Netanyahu's government molded policies to specifically favor Bezeq—the media company owned by Shaul Elovitch—in exchange for positive coverage from Bezeq's popular website, Walla. Netanyahu will face accusations from Shlomo Filber and Nir Hefetz, two close former aides who have agreed to be state witnesses.


Benny Gantz plans to quickly put together a minority government with the backing of the Arab-majority Joint List, in an effort to negotiate a unity deal with the Likud party. The report said Gantz is targeting March 23 as the deadline for presenting the Knesset with a government made up of Blue and White (33 seats), hawkish Yisrael Beytenu (7 seats), dovish Labor-Gesher-Meretz (7 seats), and most of the lawmakers of the Joint List (15 seats). In the March 2 election, neither the Likud nor Blue and White parties were able to net a Knesset majority, and neither seem to have a clear path to creating a majority coalition. The Likud is the largest party in the 120-seat Knesset (with 58 MKs), but if Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and the Joint List were to recommend to President Reuven Rivlin that Gantz should form the new coalition, he would have 62 backers and could conceivably get the nod.


Palestinians continue to refuse involvement in any of the peace negotiations and the government of Israel continues to operate in a state of flux. However, these conditions have not deterred the Trump administration from pushing ahead its peace plan, the "Deal of the Century". In a recent closed-room meeting with US senators, Jared Kushner said the White House is ready to recognize the application of Israeli sovereignty over certain parts of the West Bank. The Trump administration apparently feels confident that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief political rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, will both support annexation. Kushner further added that the overall demarcation process will take months and urged the Palestinians to join in the process, saying that they could only improve their position through negotiations.


Shabbat Shalom,



Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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