Israel Weekly News Roundup, Jan 14, 2022
5 things you need to know
Omicron in Israel: 10% of Knesset Members Test Positive for Covid-19, as the Infection Rate Continues to Spike: Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) was quarantined after he tested positive for COVID-19. Lapid tweeted that he was feeling well and called on Israelis to get vaccinated and wear masks. Currently, 10% of members of Knesset, from both the coalition and opposition parties, are in quarantine. Data collected by the Ministry of Health shows continued rapid spread of the virus, with a slight increase in the number of the seriously ill, and those on ventilators, yet numbers of both remain dramatically lower, compared with previous COVID-19 waves. The government is determined to avoid a lockdown, despite the daily spike in new cases, and has come under public criticism for failing to compensate businesses and employees negatively affected by the current Omicron wave. Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said that the government will consider financial support to businesses negatively affected. Earlier this week, Minister of Finance Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beitenu) announced an improved compensation plan for salaried employees and a new compensation plan for independent contractors. The government announced earlier this week that salaried employees will be better compensated for quarantine days, and independent workers will be compensated retroactively for quarantine days.
A Series of Clashes Broke Out Between Police Forces and Beduin Residents Around Organized Tree Planting by the State: The Jewish National Fund (JNF), Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, was tasked with planting trees in southern Israel ( the Negev) in order to demonstrate State ownership of the lands. The mission was met with strident pushback and demonstrations by the Beduin who claim historical ownership of the lands.
The dispute over the ownership of the land in the Negev goes back to the establishment of the State and has not been solved as yet. The Beduin claim ownership for generations and they argue that these lands are the historical pastures for their herds going back many generations. Many of the Beduin live in unrecognized villages that are not connected to the electricity grid and lack running water. They don’t enjoy any services from the state and don’t enjoy basic infrastructure. The state is eager to move them to existing recognized towns and the on-going dispute is still unresolved.
Meanwhile, the state is trying to establish facts on the ground by planting trees to prevent the Beduins from permanently settling in those areas.
These events quickly caused a political crisis, since the Beduins are base constituents of the United Arab List, which is part of the coalition. Members of the party joined the demonstrations, and missed participating in legislative sessions in the Knesset thereby causing the coalition to lose votes against the opposition.
Likud members, the main opposition party, hurried to the site in order to oppose the Beduin in person.
Participation of politicians from both sides of the aisle inflamed the already heated reality on the ground. Meanwhile the tree planting was halted and there are negotiations on how to solve the political crisis without conceding to violence.
While the planting was stopped, the demonstration continued. Three people were injured and more than ten were arrested by the police.
Breaking News Revealed a Network of five Israeli Women Who are Accused of Espionage for Iran: five Jewish-Israeli women, some of them grandmothers, all of them of Iranian descent were, according to the indictment that was submitted against them, recruited by an Iranian man who sent them on spying missions in Israel. As stated in the indictment, they are accused of sending details and photos of places to meet with his requests. According to the indictment the women received small amounts of money ($3,000 in one case and $5,000 in another). The espionage arrangement with the women continued for around four years.
PM Bennett and other intelligent officials announced, and not for the first time, that Iran is making multiple efforts to cause political polarization in Israel via fake social media accounts, that Iran is also making efforts to recruit people in Israel that are willing to spy for them. Often the people who are recruited are not fully aware that they are helping Iran.
Two Former Prime Ministers - Netanyahu and Olmert, Are Rivals in a Law Suit: Netanyahu, his wife Sara and his son Yair are suing Olmert for defamation. Olmert said in an interview that the Netanyahu’s are mentally ill, and they are claiming defamation. The first session of the trial was this week. Olmert insists on proving that he spoke the truth and wants to have the family members checked by a psychiatrist who can present a professional expert opinion. Prior to the first hearing, Netanyahu asked to delay the court time, but the judge ruled that they have to be on time, even if this is not convenient, and that they should leave home early.
Follow up: Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art Shuts Down After Removal of Group Exhibition: Mediation efforts between Ramat Gan municipality and the artists whose works were exhibited failed, the works of art remain removed, and the museum will close its doors until further notice. In a press release, the museum expressed its “sadness and disappointment over the results of the mediation process between the artists and representatives of the Ramat Gan municipality. The artists told the media that the municipality rejected the solution they presented, designed to allow the work of David Reeb, “Jerusalem” to be exhibited. On Friday morning the curator of the Museum decided to resign. She sent a letter to all the artists, in which she apologized to them, adding that there is no State power, or institution that has the power to silence art or artists.
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