Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was tasked by President Reuvin Rivlin to form a new government on Tuesday, giving the prime minister 28 days to try to assemble a coalition that could command a parliamentary majority. Although Rivlin expressed pessimism that a viable coalition could be formed, he said Israeli law compelled him to nominate one of the candidates. If Nethanyahu is to succeed, he will likely require the backing of Raam, an Arab Islamist party. Raam’s leader, Mansour Abbas, is considering cooperating with Netanyahu if aid to Israel’s Arab sector can be secured. However, another one of Netanyahu’s allies—the Religious Zionist party— refuses to serve in a government with Arab partners. In addition, Netanyahu may need the support of Yamina, a religious nationalist party that has voiced similar concerns about aligning with Arab parties. If Netanyahu fails to obtain the required majority, Rivlin can give another candidate the opportunity, or he can force Israel into yet another round of elections.
US President Joe Biden's administration told Congress on Wednesday that it plans to renew aid to the Palestinians, including $150 million through the UN relief agency, UNWRA; $75 million for economic support; and $10 million for development assistance. President Biden's aides have made it clear they want to reestablish the goal of a negotiated two-state solution as a priority in US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gilad Erdan, Israel's Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, voiced his objection to the decision over funding renewal. Israel and its allies have long contended that UNWRA schools teach hatred and incite violence against Israel. The same day that the UNWRA funding was announced, a coalition of organizations, led by Hadassah, sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General, in which they urged the UN to ensure that UNRWA “expeditiously make public all information regarding its review and teaching procedures.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will arrive in Israel on Sunday to participate in critical meetings with Israel's leadership. One topic of discussion will be the potential revival of the Iran nuclear deal, and a review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meetings that started this week in Vienna. The Biden administration—along with the Iran deal’s original signatories—are trying to reach an agreement with the Iranians over their nuclear program. Secretary Austin will also participate in talks about the escalating maritime shadow war between Israel and Iran. Earlier this week, tensions rose again when the Iranian cargo ship Saviz was attacked and damaged in actions believed to have been carried out by the Israeli Navy. This maritime warfare—in conjunction with Israel’s ongoing actions in Syria—represent a dual front in the IDF’s “War Between the Wars” campaign, in which Israel seeks to avoid war through precise acts of strategic aggression. Israeli officials have been clear in their opposition to US efforts to rejoin the JCPOA. In a speech at Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke out against the Iranian threat, and was defiant toward the US and its willingness to renegotiate a deal.
Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared in a Jerusalem court on Monday for the evidentiary phase of his corruption trial. In opening remarks, the prosecution claimed that Netanyahu abused his executive power by distributing benefits through a wide-ranging, media bribery scheme. Netanyahu and his defense team have denied all of the allegations, and seek to portray the trial as a politically-motivated “witch hunt.” The trial started with the prosecution outlining the three public corruption affairs. Case 1000 charges Netanyahu of fraud and breach of trust over allegations that he and his wife received gifts worth almost 700,000 shekels (~$210,000) from Arnon Milchan and James Packer. In Case 2000, the prosecution has alleged that Netanyahu negotiated a quid pro quo deal with Arnon Mozes— owner of the Israeli media group, Yedioth Ahronoth. Case 4000 charges Netanyahu of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust for allegedly granting regulatory favors worth roughly 1.8 billion shekels (~$500 million) to Bezeq Telecom Israel in return for positive news coverage of himself and his wife.
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Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC
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