News from March 16 to March 22

Israeli election update, Coronavirus in Israel, positive Coronarivus news!

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Israeli election update:

Does Israel have a government? Nope.

What’s new? As you may recall, Israel is still politically deadlocked because neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White leader Benny Gantz can form a government. Though Netanyahu won the most seats in the Knesset, a majority of MKs are against him. The problem is that they aren’t necessarily supporting Gantz either. So, right now, the anti-Netanyahu bloc is attempting to pass legislation that would complicate or prevent Netanyahu’s formation of a government. 

The first step to passing such legislation is to establish Knesset committees to handle the lawmaking process. To form the committees, the Knesset has to vote, but the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein of Likud, stopped Knesset deliberations during negotiations on Wednesday. Accordingly, Blue and White is seeking his ouster to ensure that the legislative agenda of the anti-Netanyahu bloc can pass unobstructed. To that end, they are seeking a vote to replace Edelstein. However, Edelstein has thus far refused to convene the Knesset to hold the vote that would lead to his ouster. 

Can Edelstein legally prevent the Knesset from replacing him? After Edelstein blocked the vote, Blue and White petitioned the High Court to answer that exact question. The court heard the case yesterday, but as of Sunday night, they had not announced their decision. After the Knesset legal advisor and Attorney General announced that they believed the speaker could not close the Knesset, Edelstein said that the Knesset would meet on Monday.

Will the anti-Netanyahu bloc vote to replace Edelstein? It’s not clear right now. Complicating matters, Netanyahu announced that if Blue and White moves to replace Edelstein, Likud would drop talks for a unity government. A few days ago, Netanyahu said that he had reached a deal with Gantz and released the details (Gantz denied that an agreement had been reached). According to the Jerusalem Post:

“Likud would start out with the posts of prime minister, finance minister and Knesset speaker, and Blue and White would start with a deputy prime minister, defense minister and foreign minister and then switch after a year and a half. The Justice portfolio would be filled in an agreement by either an outsider or a minister and a deputy from each party.”

Yuli Edelstein. Haaretz via Ohad Zwigenberg

Would Gantz accept that deal? He might not have a choice. Gantz is in an unenviable position. He campaigned on a platform of not forming a coalition with Netanyahu or the Arab parties. Now, to form a government, he will need to work with one of them. Alternatively, he can work with neither and risk going to a fourth election. If that happens, Netanyahu could attack Gantz for preventing Israel from having an effective Coronavirus response. Thus, it’s a real possibility that Gantz will end up joining Netanyahu.

Further reading: (TOI)

Israeli Coronavirus Response:

What’s happening? As of Sunday night, the number of Coronavirus cases in Israel was 1071. Sadly, Israel reported its first death yesterday. Aryeh Even, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, passed away Friday in Jerusalem. You can read more about him here.

In other news, Israel’s national airline, El Al, has been sending planes around the world to retrieve Israelis who cannot get home due to travel restrictions. El Al already sent planes to Peru, but they are now planning to send planes to Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Italy. 

What about Gaza and the West Bank? Even though Israel has had many cases, Gaza has yet to be hit badly by Coronavirus. Israel and Egypt’s closed Gazan borders have likely contributed to keeping Coronavirus out. That said, Gaza reported its first cases of Coronavirus in two men who just returned from Pakistan. An outbreak in Gaza could be catastrophic because the Gaza Strip is densely populated and has an overtaxed health system. Gaza reportedly only has 15 available ventilators for the entire territory.

Meanwhile, West Bank medical authorities are dealing with 57 cases as of Sunday. Yesterday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced a two-week West Bank lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, which was found to be spreading rapidly in Bethlehem. Israel is working closely with the Palestinian Authority to ensure the Coronavirus situation does not get out of hand, including setting up a joint operations center to fight Coronavirus.

Further reading: (WaPo)

Positive Coronarivus news:

Birthright Excel and MIT launched a hackathon to come up with innovative ideas to combat Coronavirus-related issues. Participants came up with ideas ranging from apps that connect vulnerable populations with people who could run errands for them and software that would allow children to learn in “fun” environments.

Young Jews in Los Angeles have teamed up to deliver groceries to Holocaust survivors and at-risk adults.

College students created “Zoom University Hillel” to meet other Jewish students while quarantining due to Coronavirus. Some students have even used the new group for matchmaking and dating!

Thousands of Israelis stood on their balconies and applauded the efforts of healthcare professionals working around the clock to take care of Coronavirus victims.

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