Hours before Israel's new unity government was set to be sworn in on Thursday, Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz accepted a request by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push off the event to Sunday, as the Likud leader struggled to distribute the remaining ministerial posts to lawmakers from his right-wing bloc. On Wednesday, Netanyahu had informed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and outgoing Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz that he had already managed to form a government within the two weeks allocated to him. Following a joint statement from Blue and White and Likud parties, Gantz told the Knesset that he was withdrawing his resignation as speaker of parliament, a move that prevented Likud’s Yariv Levin from stepping into that role. Retaining the speakership ostensibly gives Gantz leverage to prevent Netanyahu from canceling the swearing-in altogether and force a fourth round of elections. The two sides have until midnight this coming Wednesday to swear in the new government, or elections will be automatically triggered.
The number of new coronavirus infections has slowed dramatically in recent weeks and Israel has now gone 14 straight days with fewer than 100 new cases appearing daily. The total number of COVID-19 cases is 16,589. There are 3,736 active cases, and and 12,587 people have recovered from the disease. Of the active cases, 60 are in serious condition, 50 are on ventilators, and 41 are in moderate condition. Amid the sustained drop in infections, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions originally meant to curb the outbreak. Many schools and businesses have been allowed to reopen, and the government has reportedly planned more of these measures. However, after thousands of Haredi men recently gathered in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, and Mount Meron for Lag B’Omer celebrations, authorities were bracing for a possible 'second wave.' Hundreds of people also gathered at a funeral for an IDF soldier killed during a West Bank raid on Monday. Violations of the health guidelines have been reported across the country—from overly crowded domestic flights to beach-goers ignoring beach closures amid sweltering weather.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel on Wednesday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz. Pompeo used his visit to praise Israel’s handling of the coronavirus and to urge the Israeli leaders to consider “all the factors” involved in the proposed annexation of the occupied West Bank. For the Palestinians and much of the international community, the proposed annexation would sink any hope of a two-state solution to the conflict. This issue has also stoked tensions with Jordan, which shares a strategic border with Israel and is one of only two Arab states to have a peace deal with the country. Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that "any Israeli decision to annex the settlements, the Jordan Valley, and the [area] north of the Dead Sea in occupied Palestine, will be a disastrous step”.
The Wadi Ara interchange was blocked Thursday evening after clashes erupted between locals and law enforcement, during the lead up to a funeral for Mustafa Younis, a 26-year-old Wadi Ara resident, who was shot and killed on Wednesday, at Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv. Younis stabbed a security guard during an altercation about him not wearing a protective face mask. Hundreds of protesters gathered on Highway 65 to protest. Among the participants were Joint List MKs and local municipal leaders. Police forces fired stun grenades toward the protesters and ten locals were arrested for throwing stones at law enforcement, according to the Police Spokesperson's Unit.
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.
Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC
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