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Israel Weekly News Roundup June 9, 2023
5 Things you need to know
Three Israeli Soldiers Were Shot Dead by an Egyptian Policeman at the Border: In an unprecedented event, an Egyptian policeman who was on patrol at the border with Israel, disconnected the electronic detection mechanisms on the fence, entered Israeli territory and fired towards Israeli soldiers killing two of them, a man and a woman. Later he managed to shoot another soldier in an exchange of fire and was killed.
The border between Egypt and Israel is considered peaceful due to the stable and strong relations between the two countries. Egypt sent an official delegate to apologize to Israel and clarify that this incident has nothing to do with the official Egyptian stand and position.
Meanwhile in Israel, the army is investigating the event and the neglect on the Israeli side. The main challenge on the border with Egypt is dealing with smugglers of drugs and ammunition.
And in addition to that, the death of the woman soldier, initiated a debate within Israel on the shared service of men and women. Many, especially from the religious communities, oppose shared coed service and used this sad incident to open the question of coed service in combat units again. This debate is part of the religious process within Israeli society in general and the decision makers in particular.
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VP Kamala Harris at Israel 75th Independence Event in DC; Israel Must Maintain an Independent Judiciary: VP Harris spoke at the annual Israel Independence celebration, hosted by the Israeli embassy in Washington DC. In her remarks, VP Harris emphasized the importance of the US-Israel relationships and strategic alliance, yet also referred to the judicial overhaul and its implications: “Under President Joe Biden and our administration, America will continue to stand for the values that have been the bedrock of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which includes continuing to strengthen our democracies, which are both built on strong institutions, checks and balances – and I’ll add an independent judiciary.”
While VP Harris’ remarks were well received by the audience, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (Likud) said in response that he doubts that Harris has read the judicial reform proposal and that she can indicate which clauses are objectionable.
MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) arrived at the event, although he was not on the guest list. The Israeli media reported that he was not following VP Harris’ speech, which included open criticism of the judicial overhaul. MK Rothman had an unpleasant altercation with a woman attending the event, who asked him why he came, as he knew he was not welcome. MK Rothman responded with harsh language. This was his second incident with local anti-overhaul protestors, after he was caught on camera snatching a megaphone from a female demonstrator in New York a few days beforehand.
Tens of Thousands at the Tel Aviv Pride Parade: people from across the country, as well as 10,000 tourists participated in the 25th Tel Aviv pride parade and marched on the beach promenade. Anti overhaul movements joined the parade under the slogan “there’s no democracy without pride”. Prior to the parade, LGBTQI activists painted parts of Kaplan St, where weekly protests take place, in the colors of the pride flag.
Considerable police forces were mobilized to secure the parade, and except for two incidents, it went smoothly. The central police chief said to the media that the police goal is that each participant will return home happy and safe. Prior to the parade, the police detained a suspect carrying a knife and pepper spray. A hate slogan was sprayed on the walls of the pride center in Tel Aviv.
Leaders of the LGBTQI groups emphasized the importance of the pride parade at a time when LGBTQI rights are under threat by the judicial overhaul and by an ultra-conservative far right government. The chair of the LGBTQI association told the media that “this pride parade is the most protest-oriented in years. There’s no democracy without pride”.
US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, joined the US embassy-sponsored float, which is the largest in Israel and in Asia. It is known for its festive and carnivalesque atmosphere. The pride celebration will continue the following day with an open air party.
Six People Dead and Two Severely Wounded in Arab Communities in One Day: five people of one family were shot dead at their car wash business near Nazareth. According to the police, the mass shooting is yet another incident in an on-going feud between two crime families. Another man was shot dead in his car at a junction in central Israel. A man and a 3-year-old girl were severely wounded in a shooting at a store. These cases of firearm violence in Arab communities bring the death toll since the beginning of the year to 98, three times as much as the same period last year. This, only two weeks after heads of Arab local councils held a protest sit-in near the government offices in Jerusalem.
Following the events. PM Netanyahu said that he is determined to bring in the Central Security Service to address firearm violence in Arab communities. Minister of National Security Ben Gvir and the Police Chief are also in favor of this approach, and Ben Gvir continues also to insist on the establishment of a national guard. Yet the senior leadership of the Central Security has expressed its reservations, claiming that it may expose clandestine investigation methods and cause harm to uninvolved civilians.
Earlier this week PM Netanyahu met with Arab Knesset members to discuss the escalation of organized crime in the Arab communities and towns, and especially the growing number of murders. The minister for national security promised to put that at the top of his agenda, but has done nothing. The previous government appointed a special deputy minister who took responsibility to lead the fight over organized crime. During his term there was a change in the trend and the number of casualties went down.
A Few Events in the Political Arena:
The judicial overhaul: Israelis continue to demonstrate. Meanwhile leaks from the President’s house have reported that there are preliminary agreements between the representatives of the coalition and the opposition on one of the sections of the judicial overhaul.
No official representative of the French government was willing to meet the Israeli Minister of finance, Smotrich. Smotrich came to Paris to participate in a meeting of OECD members (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), and an international forum of developed countries. Even key players at the Jewish communities in France avoided meeting with Smotrich, and so did the chief Rabbi of France. No-one is willing to be affiliated with a homophobe, who called for burning a Palestinian village just a few weeks ago.
Other ministers and Knesset members from the coalition who were in the US faced demonstrations wherever they went, and were barely able to follow their own schedules and meetings.