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Israel Weekly News Roundup May 26 2023
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Coalition Passes 2023 – 2024 State Budget, Thousands Protest Outside the Knesset: the coalition passed the state budget after resolving internal feuds, as member parties of the coalition raised the stakes and demanded additional allocations. The state budget includes more than 12 billion shekels in “coalition funds” primarily allocated towards Haredi (ultra orthodox) and National Religious causes and institutions.
Thousands marched in Jerusalem and demonstrated outside the Knesset while the budget was discussed and later passed in the plenum, protesting “the looting of public funds”. Members of the opposition also harshly criticized the budget for failing to address burning issues such as the rising cost of living and racing inflation for the benefit of sectarian causes.
The passing of the budget is the government’s ultimate test. Having succeeded in passing it and hence securing the coalition’s stability, PM Netanyahu said in a statement that “the (judicial) reform is certainly back. In fact, we are in the middle of it. We hope to reach agreements, but if we don’t, we will go ahead with it”. PM Netanyahu referred to the negotiations between coalition and opposition under the auspices of President Herzog. The negotiations were suspended earlier this week, following leaks to the media that the parties reached a compromise on the issues of the judges’ appointment committee and the legal advisors’ law.
In response to PM Netanyahu’s victorious bravado, MK Benny Gantz, Chair of the “National Unity” party said in response: “should the judicial coup d'état comes back to the table - we will shake the country and block it”.
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Beitar Jerusalem Soccer Club Wins Premier League Soccer Cup After fourteen Years: the team won the state cup match against Maccabi Netanya after fourteen years during which it has known ups and downs. Following the win, hundreds of fans stormed and field, and President Herzog, who was about to announce the championship and bestow the cup to the team’s captain, was ushered from the field by his security detail.
Beitar Jerusalem, established in 1936 by activists in the right-wing revisionist movement, is one of the oldest and most popular soccer clubs in Israel, known for its large cohort of avid fans. The team is the only one in Israel who has never signed an Arab player, and its fans are notoriously known for their racist chants against Arabs and Muslims.
Since the Israeli soccer union rules stipulate that inappropriate behavior by team players or fans may strip the team of the championship, the traditional cup awarding ceremony took place only the following day, at President Herzog’s official residence. In the belated ceremony, Herzog spoke of the need to eliminate violence from the soccer fields. PM Netanyahu congratulated the team for winning the state cup and said: “You did a great job and came back full circle. You took back the cup after fourteen years and made us all happy”.
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Israeli Army Chief of Staff Warns of Nuclear Iran: In a speech at a public conference, lieutenant general Halevi indicated that nuclear Iran will force Israel to face difficult and important decisions, and may force Israel to take action. This announcement caused a drop in the Israeli Shekel against the US dollar. “Iran has made more progress in uranium enrichment than ever before. We are also closely examining other aspects of the [Iranians’] path to nuclear capability. Without going into details, there are possible negative developments on the horizon that could prompt action,” said Halevy.
Analysts indicated that the current Israeli leadership has weak ties to the US administration and it would be challenging for Israel to coordinate any tactical military plans with the US.
The Coordinating Organization of the Israeli Arab Municipalities and Leaders Protest Against Organized Crime: Leaders of the Israeli Arab community organized a convoy of cars that drove from northern Israel to Jerusalem. The convoy was meant to protest against the inability of the Israeli police and other state law enforcement agencies to deal with organized crime in their communities. Organized crime became a discernible reality among Arab towns in the last few years, with a growing number of casualties from the violence. Unfortunately the police are incapable of dealing with the phenomenon or taking effective action against senior criminals. The number of casualties is on the rise. Extreme right-wing leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, now minister of national security was elected under the premise he would fight organized crime in Arab towns and regain governance. But since the new coalition took office the situation has only deteriorated.
Israeli Chair of Bank of Israel Raised the Interest Rate for the Tenth Time: A wave of price rises, especially food products, and an ongoing rise in inflation, caused another hike in the interest rate, which reached 4.75%. This has caused a knock on chain of effects, especially on mortgages for young couples who can hardly manage to deal with the dramatic rise in housing prices and in their monthly payments. The Israeli public is blaming the government that it has not met its’ own policies and election campaign promises to lower prices and deal with the growing rise in interest rates.