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Israel Weekly News Roundup May 12 2023
5 Things you need to know
Another Violent Round of Fighting Between Israel and Gaza: Drastic security escalation between Israel and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Early Wednesday morning Israel used targeted killing to eliminate three Islamic Jihad operators in Gaza. During the military operation, three children and two women were killed. Later a few more non involved civilians were killed in what the IDF defines as “collateral damage”. Islamic Jihad retaliated with more than 500 rockets fired towards Israel, as far as the greater Tel Aviv area. Fortunately in Israel there was no human cost, and only small damage to property. Islamic Jihad, is defined by Israel and the international community as a terrorist organization and it is a small militant organization based in Gaza. Gaza is controlled by another organization, Hamas, also defined as a terrorist organization, which thus far has not been involved in the current escalation.
Egypt, which usually takes the role of the mediator, pushed the sides to a cease-fire. This operation was orchestrated by PM Netanyahu and defense minister Gallant. The decision to go to a military campaign was the trigger for national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, to stop his boycott of government meetings. Ben Gvir and his party, Otsma Yehudit (Jewish Power) decided to boycott government meetings and not participate in Knesset committees as an expression of demand for a stronger approach towards the Palestinians.
As of Thursday evening Israel time, according to the IDF, 620 rockets have been fired from Gaza, aimed at Israel. 179 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. A rocket barrage aimed at Rehovot in central Israel killed one man and wounded five. Twenty-eight Gazans have been killed in the violence, fourteen of them Islamic Jihad militants including senior commanders, the balance non-combatants, women and children.
As of late Friday afternoon, the rocket barrages continue with over 800 rockets fired to date. One Israeli has been killed and seven injured. More than forty Israelis have been treated, either for injuries incurred as they ran for shelter or for anxiety related to the barrages. In Gaza at least thirty have been killed and at least ninety three have been injured according to the Hamas run Gazan health ministry. The figures include both terrorists and civilians. According to Israel, some of the Gazan civilian deaths and injuries are as a result of missile misfires.
The European Union Delegation Decided to Cancel this Years May Ninth Event in Israel: May Ninth marks the victory day in Europe (VE Day) at the end of WW2 signaling the defeat of the Nazis. Usually the EU delegation has a festive event, to celebrate the victory, with the participation of high ranking officials of people in office. The Israeli government decided that national security minister and head of Otsma Yehudit (Jewish Power) will represent the government. The European delegation opposed the participation of Ben Gvir due to his racist ideology, claiming that he contradicts European values. Ben Gvir insisted on attending, speaking and criticizing the EU approach towards Israel. Eventually the delegation decided to cancel the event altogether in order to avoid an embarrassing incident. This was a marked diplomatic embarrassment for Israel with the EU.
Israeli Government Voted to Promote Kosher Electricity: The government approved a decision to finance a special mechanism that will store electricity and provide it to Ultra-Orthodox towns and neighborhoods during Shabbat, so they will not have to violate a religious law that bans working during Shabbat (Saturday). The ultra orthodox refrain from using electricity during the sabbath as it requires other Jews to work in the generating facilities. The proposed battery/storage facilities will be automated thus meeting the ultra orthodox requirements for kosher electricity during Shabbat.
This is another reflection of the extreme right and religious coalition, that prioritizes laws that address the needs of the Ultra Orthodox community.
There are two Haredi parties in the coalition, an Ashkenazi party and a Sephardi party. In the current composition of the coalition, they have a majority for religion oriented services and decisions.
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IMF Publishes Annual Report for Israeli Economy, Labels Uncertainty Over Judicial Overhaul As “Notable Risk: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) growth forecast for Israel in 2023 is 2.5%, like that of the Bank of Israel. The report names the prolonged public controversy and uncertainty as a cause for economic slowdown and concern among both Israeli citizens and foreign investors. It emphasizes the need for broad agreements concerning judicial reforms and of upholding the law, as critical for economic stability and growth.
Other comments and recommendations in the IMF report included a closer monitoring of the state budget, increased taxes, investment in public services and infrastructure. The report also named low employment rates among Haredi men and in the Arab community as factors hampering economic growth.
Minister of finance Smotrich said that the IMF report reflects the strength and stability of Israel’s economy. However, some economic commentators claimed that the IMF report should serve as a warning to government, as international concerns over the judicial overhaul and budget spending increase.
Draft of State Budget Shows Allocation of Billions to Meet Haredi and Religious Zionist Parties Demands: the draft shows that a considerable portion of the overall coalition funds, amounting to 12.5 billion shekels, are allocated towards Haredi educational frameworks and efforts to enhance Jewish identity.
A draft document shows that Haredi yeshivas (institutions of Haredi higher learning) will receive an increase in allocations in 2023-2024 amounting to 3.7 billion shekels. Additional 1.18 billion shekels are allocated for teachers in ultra-Orthodox schools funded by the Education Ministry, although they are exempt for teaching the state’s core curriculum.
Additional coalition funds are allocated in the draft budget for “family purity” counseling services and programs designed to enhance Orthodox Jewish identity.
News of the intended allocations caused a public uproar; first, because of the sectarian nature of the allocations, designed to benefit only the Haredi community. Second, the news of the increased allocations coincides with the rise in milk and dairy products prices as well as projected price spikes of other goods and services.