happening in israel
September 23, 2019

During a meeting on Monday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin convinced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his leading opponent, Benny Gantz, to try to form a unity government.

Their negotiating teams will start talking on Tuesday. During last week's election, Netanyahu's conservative Likud party won 31 seats in Parliament, while Gantz's centrist Blue and White party won 33, leaving both without enough support to form a majority coalition. Rivlin said in a statement that "people expect" Netanyahu and Gantz to "find a solution and to prevent further elections, even if it comes at a personal and even ideological cost. A shared and equal government is possible. It can and it must express the different voices in society."

The final election results will be sent to Rivlin on Wednesday, and he will have seven days to pick a candidate to try to form a government and become prime minister. One possible solution would be for Netanyahu and Gantz to rotate who serves as prime minister, but Avigdor Liberman, leader of the secular nationalist Yisrael Beytenu party, said on Monday the "entire conflict at the moment revolves around who will serve first as prime minister and who will serve second."

That's not the only challenge facing Netanyahu and Gantz. Netanyahu could soon be indicted on corruption charges related to three separate cases, and Gantz has said he won't join a coalition with Netanyahu as long as he's still embroiled in those scandals, The New York Times reports. Gantz also wants a secular coalition, and does not want to work with the ultra-Orthodox parties. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has told his ultra-Orthodox and right-wing coalition partners he won't drop their alliance. Catherine Garcia

September 17, 2019

The results of Israel's Tuesday election are starting to trickle in, and the race is too close to call.

With 26 percent of votes counted early Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party has 28.42 percent of the vote, followed by the centrist Blue and White Party with 25.4 percent. Exit polls showed that Netanyahu did not appear to have enough votes for a parliamentary majority, and the Central Elections Commission told the Times of Israel the final tally might not be known until Wednesday afternoon.

The commission also said 69.4 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, with higher turnout among Arab voters; this was likely due to Netanyahu's actions before the election, when he questioned their loyalty and vowed to annex settlements in the West Bank.

Speaking to supporters late Tuesday, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party said that "starting tonight, we will work to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people." At his rally, Netanyahu said the country "needs a strong and stable and Zionist government." He touted his relationship with his "close friend President Trump," and declared there can't be a government "that is being supported by anti-Zionist, Arabic parties that don't believe in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

Netanyahu is expected to be indicted soon on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges related to three separate scandals. He wanted to secure a majority so he could work with his allies to pass legislation giving him immunity, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

April 10, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have won re-election, after early exit polls had the race too close to call.

Israel's three main television networks on Wednesday called the election for Netanyahu; if victorious, this will be his fifth term in office, a record for an Israeli leader.

The right-wing Netanyahu and his centrist challenger, Benny Gantz, both declared victory on Tuesday, when the race was neck and neck. Netanyahu's Likud Party and Gantz's Blue and White alliance are projected to each win 35 seats, and if he is declared the winner, Netanyahu will likely form a coalition government with other right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. The final results are expected by Friday.

Netanyahu has been the subject of several corruption investigations, and was indicted earlier this year; the details could not be released ahead of Tuesday's election, The Jerusalem Post reports, and it's likely someone will leak them on Wednesday. Over the weekend, Netanyahu vowed that if he won re-election, he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Catherine Garcia

October 9, 2018

An American graduate student has spent the last week in detention at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, after the government accused her of backing a Palestinian-led boycott of Israeli products.

In 2017, Israel enacted a law that prohibits any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel" from entering the country. Last Tuesday, 22-year-old Lara Alqasem of Southwest Ranches, Florida, landed at the airport with a valid student visa to study human rights at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Airport staff believed she was a supporter of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel as a way to protest its policy toward Palestinians, The Associated Press reports. She was ordered deported and is appealing, but an Israeli court has ordered she remain in custody during the process.

Alqasem's grandparents are Palestinian, and she once served as president of the University of Florida's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Her mother, Karen Alqasem, told AP her daughter "may have been critical of Israel's policies in the past but she respects Israeli society and culture. To her, this isn't a contradiction."

Gilad Erdan, Israel's strategic affairs minister, said Alqasem "served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S. Israel will not allow entry to those who work to harm the country, whatever their excuse." Erdan said if she apologizes and renounces the BDS movement, he would reconsider deporting her. So far, this is the longest anyone has been in held in a case related to the boycott, and it's unclear when a court will make its final decision. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2017

A bill that Israel's Parliament is about to consider would leave the country with just one national language, Hebrew, downgrading Arabic to having a "special status in the state."

The bill is sponsored by a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, Avi Dichter, and has been deliberated in committee for four years. Lawmakers have approved the law's wording, which states that the right to self-determination in Israel "is unique to the Jewish people," The Guardian reports. If the bill becomes law and Arabic has special status in Israel, Arabic speakers will "have the right to language-accessible state services."

Opposition politicians and academics say the bill, which has to pass several stages in parliament and could be challenged in court, is discriminatory. Ayman Odeh of the Joint List, which represents Arab-Israeli parties, told The Guardian the bill is a "declaration of war" on Israel's Arab citizens, adding: "Discrimination has received a legal stamp. The danger in this law is that it establishes two classes of citizen — Jewish and Arab." Catherine Garcia

January 24, 2017

Seemingly emboldened by the new occupant in the White House, Israel approved on Tuesday the construction of about 2,500 new housing units in West Bank settlements.

With President Trump in office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressured by members of his right-wing government to step up construction, CNN reports, and on Twitter, he announced that his country is "building — and we will continue to build." About 100 housing units will go up in Beit El, a settlement outside of Ramallah, which in 2003 received a $10,000 donation from the Trump Foundation, CNN reports. Trump gave the money in honor of David Friedman, his bankruptcy attorney and choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel.

A spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he "condemned and rejected" the decision, adding that it "will disable any attempt to restore security and stability and will promote extremism and terrorism, and will put obstacles in front of any effort by any party to create a peaceful march to security and peace." In late December, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a "flagrant violation under international law." Catherine Garcia

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