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Turkey Attacks Northeast Syria

Military forces around the Middle East were on high alert Thursday morning following a large-scale attack on northeastern Syria by Turkish forces. Iranian troops held unscheduled drills on their side of the Iran-Turkey border in an apparent warning to Ankara while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that current events indicated Israel must be prepared for the possibility of fighting another major war without the assistance of allies. Addressing a ceremony on Mount Herzl Thursday morning to honor the memory of Israeli soldiers who fell in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he said “We do not aspire to be 'a nation that dwells alone,' but that is how we were forced to stand at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War. As in 1973, also we very much appreciate the United States' important support, which has greatly increased over the years, and also the United States' enormous economic pressure it is exerting on Iran.” But, he added, “we always remember and apply the basic principle that guides us: Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

“Time after time Iran tries to attack us,” he said, “and therefore we must stand ready to protect ourselves against this danger.”

Meanwhile, reports indicated that Kurdish fighters had blunted the Turkish advance despite being highly outgunned and outnumbered. However, dozens of border villages are reportedly under heavy Turkish bombardment and many analysts predicted that they would soon be overwhelmed. "They will pay for this,” a Kurdish fighter told Reuters. “Ultimately we may lose (that) area, which seems like it will be the case, but that doesn't mean we will just give up and retreat."
Elsewhere, Turkish Ambassador to the UN Feridun Sinirlioglu wrote a letter to the Security Council in which he declared that “As has been the case in its previous counter-terrorism operations, Turkey’s response will be proportionate, measured and responsible. The operation will only target terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons vehicles and equipment. All precautions are taken to avoid collateral damage to the civilian population."
Here is a podcast which gives some insight into the current situation in Syria and Turkey

In related news, reports surfaced throughout the week that Iran is mobilizing large numbers of paramilitary police to deploy into neighboring Iraq for the purpose of assisting the Baghdad regime to suppress an unprecedented wave of violent street protests. Although protests had largely diminished by Wednesday, the Iranian forces remained mobilized and some units were reportedly moving into position to cross the border should the clerical regime in Teheran order them to do so.

Here is a short podcast giving some more insight into this story

Over 100 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in several Iraqi cities in recent days. The violence was publicly denounced by several world governments while rights groups lamented the fact that although a fragile calm has returned to Iraqi cities internet access has not and so the possibility exists that suppression tactics by Iraqi security forces and/or Iranian proxy militias might be continuing with little hope for holding those responsible accountable.

Israelis Prepare for Yom Kippur

A poll conducted in recent days by the Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank indicated that nearly two thirds of Israeli Jews are preparing to abstain from food (fast) on Yom Kippur, the Biblical festival which begins Tuesday evening at sunset and ends Wednesday evening at sunset. A smaller but still substantial percentage of Israeli Jews plan on attending prayer services in a synagogue on Yom Kippur, while millions of children plan on taking advantage of the traditional lack of cars on the roads during the holiday to ride their bikes and otherwise play in the streets.

Israel Closely Watching Events in Syria
In light of the announcement Monday evening by US President Donald Trump that he is pulling all remaining US military forces out of north-eastern Syria while warning Turkey that he is prepared to act against its economy if a threatened military invasion includes war crimes, Israeli officials hinted that they will seek closer cooperation with Russia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Monday about his recent phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “We have great challenges around us, but we enjoy important cooperation and coordination with Russia, something that is critical for us, and which we will continue to deal with.”

Here are some media which give insights into the current situation in Syria and Turkey

Early Rain Brings Water to Central Israel

Residents of central Israel were astonished and delighted on Saturday afternoon to feel early rain showers, with some Jerusalem suburbs receiving as much as 3 millimeters of precipitation. Despite the rain though, forecasts called for rising temperatures throughout the week.

Iranian Threat Highlighted in Cabinet Meeting
In light of the recent missile and drone attack by Iran on Saudi Arabia’s oil production infrastructure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put forward a proposal at Sunday’s cabinet meeting to build a large, interconnected air defense system to defend the Jewish State from similar attacks. “Today, we are facing a huge security challenge, which has grown with each passing week and has intensified over the last two months,” Netanyahu said. “Anyone with eyes in his head can see that Iran is getting stronger.”

However, in a sign that Iran’s position in the international arena may be weakening, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced over the weekend that the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has backed out of a $5 billion deal to help develop Iran's giant South Pars natural gas field in the Persian Gulf. The move followed similar action by European energy companies and is believed to be a reaction to US pressure, as well as worries over Iran’s increasing internal instability and clashes with its neighbors as well as Western powers and Israel.

Israel Hosts International Tackle Football Game
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat on Sunday evening when Israel’s national tackle football team hosted their counterparts from Belgium in the first ever European League contest on Israeli soil, specifically at Jerusalem’s Kraft Family Sports Campus. The Israeli team came back from an early deficit to finish the first half up 17-14 but the game ended with Belgium on top 32-23. “This was a momentous event,” said American Football in Israel President Steve Leibowitz. “The result is somewhat disappointing because it was a very evenly matched game that could have gone either way. Still, we will take a lot of positives out of our first game on home soil.”

Israel Blesses the World
Dr. Yaron Carmi of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and his team recently published a study in the prestigious medical publication Journal of Clinical Investigation giving details of their research into expanded applications for the Israeli-developed CAR-T cancer treatment, which has already proven effective against leukaemia and which shows promise for treating other cancers. The treatments might soon make chemotherapy, which has many difficult side effects, unnecessary.
Report: PA Textbooks Encouraging Violence Against Israel
Reports have emerged in the Israeli media that the Palestinian Authority has revised the textbooks for schoolchildren by removing references to agreements made over the decades with Israel, other than the 1993 Oslo Accords. The new textbooks also omit documents such as a letter written by Yasser Arafat to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, which spoke about the value of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians while some sections actually encourage violence.

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Scheff said: "Another school year began with 1.3 million Palestinian school students being radicalized daily by the Palestinian Ministry of Education. It is difficult to understand how education for this hatred is funded by foreign donor countries without content oversight…just last month, the United Nations called on the Palestinian Authority to remove antisemitic content from textbooks."

Today's video gives some in-depth analysis of Israel's relationship with the US

Iraq Exploding in Protests Against US-backed Regime

Protests continued to rock Iraqi cities on Monday following a bloody weekend which saw reports of over 100 deaths and many more injuries amidst clashes between protesters and security forces intensified. The Iranian regime is, according to many reports, taking an active role in the violence by dispatching agents to murder protest leaders, sometimes in their own homes, while at the same time using regime-linked media outlets to encourage protesters to violently attack Western troops and interests in Iraq, including the US Embassy in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Iranian interference in Iraq has been one of the main points of outrage expressed by protesters along with deteriorating living conditions and government corruption.

"There is no work, you come to protest, they fire at you. Live gunfire," said one unnamed protester to Reuters."They are all Iranian-speaking in Farsi. You want to speak to them; they answer in Farsi. The Iraqis would not fire at you."

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of the situation

While the protests in Iraq have intensified, the drama next door in Syria has also deepened as Turkey has openly threatened to invade the Kurdish controlled northeast with the apparent blessing of the US.

Here is a video giving some analysis of the US position in Syria

Here is a video giving some more analysis of the situation in the Arab Middle East

Friday Feature - In the footsteps of Messiah – Why we celebrate the Feast

In the late 1970s, a gifted Canadian couple living in Jerusalem, Merv and Merla Watson, received from the Lord a vision to invite Christians from around the world to come join them in celebrating Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles. They were inspired by the promise in Zechariah 14:16 that one day the Gentiles will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot alongside the Jewish people. In 1979, a few hundred Christians responded to the invitation. But the next year, more than 1,000 believers from some 32 nations arrived for this unique Christian gathering in Jerusalem.

It was during that Feast of Tabernacles celebration in 1980 when the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was born. The following year, the Feast moved to the Jerusalem Convention Center and some 3,000 pilgrims showed up from all around the world. Since then, each and every year has witnessed a miracle as thousands of Christians ascend to Jerusalem from across the globe to mark this biblical holiday.

“It was always God who brought them here. It truly was a move of the Holy Spirit,” Merv Watson recalls of those early years.

And the Holy Spirit continues to bring them to this day, as we just saw when thousands of Christians from over 90 nations attended this year’s Feast in September.

The Feast of Tabernacles is more than just “another Christian conference”. I will never forget my first visit to Israel in 1991. Our tour guide told us, “You have to visit the Feast!” He took us to the evening celebration and I will always remember what I experienced. Thousands of Christians from around the world were worshipping God together with many Jews in the city of Jerusalem. I felt like we were in heaven. Tears were running down my face as I witnessed something which I knew was enormously important to God.

A prophet ahead of his time

If we go back some 2,500 years in Israel’s history, we find the Jewish people returning from captivity in Babylon to their ancient homeland. During this time of restoration, when Jerusalem and the Temple were being rebuilt, the prophet Zechariah saw the Feast of Tabernacles taking on a whole new dimension.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:16)

The Hebrew prophet foresaw Gentile nations streaming to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish festival, the Feast of Tabernacles.

This is even more remarkable considering that in Zechariah's day, the Feast of Tabernacles was not even being celebrated by the Israelites! It would be only 80 years later, under the leadership of Nehemiah, that Israel itself would once again begin to keep Sukkot. Nehemiah found in book of the law “that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month” (Nehemiah 8:14). The Bible then reveals a startling fact: “Since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so.” (Nehemiah 8:17)

How amazing! All the centuries before Nehemiah, Israel had never fully celebrated Sukkot by dwelling in booths. This makes the vision of Zechariah even more powerful. During a time when Sukkot observance had fallen off, the prophet not only envisioned this Feast of ingathering fully restored to Israel, but he also saw it widely expanded by Gentile participation.  So Zechariah was well ahead of his time.

The wild and noble olive branch

Under Nehemiah and Ezra, Israel again began celebrating Sukkot as commanded. And yet, Nehemiah gives an unusual order: “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths...” (Nehemiah 8:15, ESV)

Originally, the Lord instructed Israel to gather branches from the willow and palm and other leafy trees for use at Sukkot, with no mention of olive trees (Leviticus 23:39-44). Yet in Nehemiah 8, the Hebrew text mentions two kinds of olive trees: etz zeit and etz shemen. The English Standard Version and Revised Standard Version – in agreement with the Jewish Encyclopaedia – both use the phrase “the olive and the wild olive”. And according to the Apostle Paul, the “wild olive” in Romans 11 represents the Gentile part of the Church which has been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel.

So while in Nehemiah’s day, Gentiles were not yet involved in the Feast, they were symbolically represented by the “wild olive branches”, foreshadowing that coming day when both Jews and Gentiles would celebrate this feast together as one new man (Ephesians 2:11ff).

A prophetic sign to Israel

Our Senior Spokesperson David Parsons recently brought to our attention that at the end of Yom Kippur, just a few days before the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jewish people end their solemn synagogue services by reading the Book of Jonah. It is the story of a reluctant Hebrew prophet who had to declare God’s judgment over the main city of the Assyrian empire, which was known as a brutal, oppressive conqueror. Now after Jonah delivered his warning to Nineveh, the Bible records that he went out of the city “...and made a booth for himself there … till he should see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:5). The Hebrew word used for ‘booth’ is sukkah or tabernacle.

So Jonah was sitting in a flimsy tabernacle, like all of Israel now does during Sukkot, and was watching what would happen to these Gentiles who deserved God’s judgment. But instead of God’s wrath, he saw a sinful city repent and find mercy with God.

I had to think about that story at this year’s Jerusalem March, as thousands of Christians were marching through the streets of Jerusalem, an event broadcast live all across Israel. The Israeli people were sitting in booths, and like Jonah they looked out over a parade of sinful Gentiles who have received mercy from the God of Israel. Indeed, it was a demonstration of God’s love for the nations.

Jesus himself said that Jonah’s story would be a sign for Israel (Luke 11:29-32). Of course, he was alluding to his death and resurrection three days later. But he also referred to the people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba, all Gentiles, who would one day testify to Israel.

Every year, as Israelis watch thousands of redeemed Gentiles marching through Jerusalem, it is a testimony that the God of Israel is also God over the nations, and has shown mercy to repentant Gentiles who otherwise deserved His judgment.

The four winds

In Leviticus 23:40, God commands Israel: “And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.”

As Sukkot approaches, every observant Jew purchases these "four species" at local markets. In every synagogue during this holiday, they are waved in all four directions. The four species represent, according to Jewish tradition, all the different types of people on the earth - the good, the bad and everyone in between. The four directions encompass the whole earth - north, south, east and west.

The prophet Ezekiel gives a most powerful prophecy of Israel's restoration in chapter 37. After first seeing her physical restoration to the land, he is instructed to carry out a very unusual prophetic act, which leads to Israel's spiritual restoration. God asks him in to, "Prophesy unto the wind... Thus says the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." (Ezekiel 37:9 KJV)

This is a rather unusual prophecy, as it makes the Spirit of God seem divided in the four corners of the world. Yet as I thought about this, I felt God speaking to me: “Jürgen, you have seen the Spirit of God in the four corners of the world.”

And yes, I indeed have seen the Spirit of God moving powerfully in the West, at great revival meetings on the Amazon River and in mega-church meetings in Texas. I have experienced the Spirit of God in the South, as thousands of believers gathered in Port Harcourt on the Niger River Delta to worship God. I have seen Him moving in the North, in the lively churches of Finland as far north as Lapland. And I have witnessed it in the east, in the underground churches of China.

So I understood that, indeed, the Spirit of God is drawing thousands and thousands of people up to Jerusalem every single year. God is drawing them to come to fill this city with the presence of His Spirit. In a way, all these pilgrims from around the world are heaven's response to the Jews in their booths waving the four species in all four directions at Sukkot. Today, the Gentiles are coming and I believe it is just the beginning of a far greater number in the years ahead. God’s Spirit is drawing Gentiles to Jerusalem for Sukkot to fill this city with His presence.


The presence of believers from around the world in Jerusalem at Sukkot is a great prophetic sign of the times in which we live. It is a powerful foreshadowing of even more glorious days ahead.

When Merv and Merla Watson were planning that first Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem in 1979, they felt uncertain about exactly how Gentiles should celebrate this biblical feast. So they asked the advice of a senior rabbi in Israel. After receiving his well-meaning guidance, they were about to leave when the rabbi called them back.

“Mr and Mrs Watson", he said. "That you, as Gentiles, came here to ask me how to celebrate Sukkot is quite unusual. Our prophets declare that in the Messianic times, all Gentiles will come to Jerusalem to celebrate this feast with us. When you asked me today how to celebrate Sukkot, I am hearing the footsteps of Messiah, that he is coming.”

And this is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about. The ICEJ has been privileged to organise this incredibly unique event for 40 years now. And it is indeed not just another Christian conference, but a prophetic declaration to Israel and the Church that Messiah is coming soon. In the end, it is all about Jesus. It is not about us, nor even about Israel, but about the returning King.

If you are still able, please join us for this year's Feast here in Jerusalem. Or also consider coming next year, from October 2-7, when we will be celebrating 40 years of the work and ministry of the ICEJ. If you are a pastor or ministry leader, consider bringing a group from your church. Contact our Feast Registration office at:  

Republished and updated from the ICEJ’s Word From Jerusalem magazine (November 2013)

You can subscribe to WFJ HERE

Netanyahu Undergoes Pre-Indictment Hearings

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netyanyahu underwent his first pre-indictment hearings on Wednesday and Thursday, with his lawyers confidently telling journalists covering the proceedings that they were “surprising” Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and the prosecutors and that there was a good chance in the charges being dismissed. Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with Yisrael Beytanu leader Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday morning and emerged from the meeting to announce that he’d invited his long-time political frenemy to join his governing coalition in the 22nd Knesset.
Lieberman’s own statement following the meeting indicated that he was seriously considering the offer and had urged Netanyahu to forge agreements with him and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz about serious policy issues before moving on to the minutia of power sharing agreements and portfolio assignments in the new government. However, another variable was added to the ongoing drama surrounding the formation of a new government when long-time Likud stalwart Gidon Sa’ar announced over Twitter on Thursday that he is “ready” to challenge Netanyahu for leadership of the party.

Anglican Church of Southern Africa Joins BDS Movement
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel celebrated a rare success this week as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa Synod, representing approximately 4 million Anglicans in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola, voted to approve a resolution supporting BDS. “The current political nation-state of Israel and Israel in the Bible should not be confused with each other,” the resolution stated, adding that “many Christian pilgrimages to the current State of Israel often ignore the Christians living in Palestine.” The resolution also declared that “there are possible similarities between apartheid in South Africa and what is happening in Israel and Palestine, and that in some respects, the situation there can be described as worse than apartheid.”

In other BDS-related news, it emerged on Wednesday that Samer Arbid, a Palestinian man who was recently arrested on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist attack earlier this year which killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb and seriously wounding her brother and father, previously worked for a European-funded NGO linked to the BDS movement.

Iranian General Threatens to Annihilate Israel
General Hossien Salami, chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) told a meeting of his senior commanders this week that he possesses "the capability to annihilate" Israel which he declared needed to be "wiped off the world" before concluding that this could and would soon happen. He added that Iran’s “Islamic revolution” would soon become a global phenomenon. At a separate meeting of IRGC officers this week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Teheran was moving forward with plans to further violate the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal in an effort to force the US to lift economic sanctions.
Here is a video giving some more analysis of the current situation regarding Iran

Arab-Israeli Sector Protests Spike in Crime
Leaders of Israel’s Arab communities issued a call on Thursday for a general strike to protest what they describe as neglect by the police and their own Knesset representatives of the recent surge in violent crime in Arab villages which has included 71 murders so far this year. “The situation in the Arab sector has become intolerable,” protest leader Majd al-Krum Mayor Salim Slaibi said this week. “We want the leaders of our community to take serious measures to stop the bloodshed. We can’t continue to live in fear.”

Israeli Sports Fans Have More to Cheer About
The Israel Cycling Academy team announced this week that it has signed an agreement with Katusha Management which will allow it to join the World Tour of professional cycling in 2020. The Israeli team will thus be participating in some of the most prestigious cycling races in the world, including the Tour de France. "I have stated for some time that ICA would be in the World Tour, sooner or later. I am excited that it is happening right away for next year's season," said Israeli Canadian philanthropist and ICA co-owner Sylvan Adams. 

Here is a video wishing you Shana Tova from Israel

Violent Protests Threaten Iraqi Regime

Israeli and Western leaders were looking with alarm on Thursday at the growing tumult within Iraq, including protests in Baghdad and several other cities which have turned violent, prompting police to use live ammunition on protesters as well as driving into crowds with heavy vehicles in an effort to disperse them. Internet access and other forms of communication have been shut down by the government so accurate reports of the ongoing situation has become difficult to obtain, but at least three people have died and hundreds of others have been wounded in the clashes amidst fears of a growing revolt against the Western-backed regime in Baghdad led by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

Protesters told some journalists that they were fed up with the high levels of government corruption, unemployment, low level of government services available to the public and related issues. Meanwhile, analysts warned that both Iran and the resurgent Islamic State terror militia were poised to take advantage of the chaos while others spoke of yet another wave of refugees pouring out of the Middle East into Europe.

Here is a podcast giving some further analysis of the situation in Iraq

Iranian Leaders Lash Out in Harsh Speeches

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union in Armenia on Tuesday in which he said, among other things, that “the international community must confront America’s hostile and unilateralist approach by taking a definitive decision and effective actions.” The speech came even as Trump Administration officials have expressed an interest in entering into talks with Iran in order to defuse tensions, while refusing to back down on demands that Iran moderate its aggressive behavior.

Meanwhile, Iran’s neighbors are increasingly speaking out on the need to confront the clerical regime which rules in Teheran.

“If the world does not take strong and firm action to deter Iran, we will see further escalations that will threaten world interests, oil supplies will be disrupted and oil prices will jump to unimaginably high numbers that we have not seen in our lifetime,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the US news program 60 Minutes on Sunday. He added that he preferred a “political and peaceful solution” to the current crisis instead of a military one.

In related news, exiled opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) presented a report at a conference in Washington DC this week giving details of what it claimed was evidence that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei personally ordered the 14 September attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil production facilities. “The regime is counting on inaction of the international community in its aggression,” the report says, according to Fox News. “As long as this regime exists, it will not cease its aggression.”

Here is a video giving further context to this issue

Israel Enters Jewish High Holidays

Sunday evening was the start of Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Jewish High Holidays, followed by Yom Kippur and Succot (Feast of Tabernacles) later in the month. A very large percentage of Israeli Jews, including many who self-identify as “secular” and/or “traditional” celebrate these holidays with various levels of observance as they are legal work holidays. In Jerusalem and other large cities, neighborhood synagogues and community centers organize various activities that people from all walks of life and levels of observance can participate in comfortably and the country also sees a large influx of Jewish people from around the world who come to spend the High Holiday’s in Israel.

Here is the IDF's Rosh Hashannah video for this year

Knesset Prepares to Swear in Elected MKs
Amidst deep pessimism that the current efforts to form a national unity government will be successful, the Knesset prepared for ceremonies Thursday to swear in the 120 elected members of the 22nd Knesset. President Rivlin is scheduled to arrive at 3 PM to preside over the proceedings, which will include a formal swearing-in ceremony and reception.

Israeli Windsurfer Wins Silver at World Championships
Israel’s delegation to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan got a little bigger last Saturday when Katy Spychakov took the silver medal at the Windsurfing world championships in Lake Garda, Italy. Her name will be added to what is shaping up to be Israel’s largest-ever Olympic delegation. In related news, International World Games Association CEO Joachim Gossow was in Israel over the weekend as part of a tour to promote the 2021 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama as well as to help raise the profile of local sporting leagues in Israel.

Here is a video about Israel's growing Olympic athletic programs

Turkey Poised to Invade Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a televised speech Tuesday in which he broadly hinted that he is prepared to launch a military incursion into northern Syria if his proposal to create a “safe zone” in the Kurdish-dominated region is not accepted. "At the current stage, we have no other choice other than to proceed on our own path," he said. “We cannot afford to lose a single day.”

Israel Blesses the World
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot recently published an article in the scientific journal Cell Reports giving details of a program they’ve developed to treat certain types of bone cancer. “Our findings provide the basis for a personalized approach to the treatment of Ewing sarcoma,” Dr. Swati Srivastava, who led the research team, said in the article. The treatments have potential applications to treat many other forms of cancer.

Friday Feature - A Tempest In a Typhoon

Israel’s recent parliamentary elections ended with a virtual tie between the two leading contenders, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White leader Benny Gantz, although neither emerged with a clear path to the premiership. By week’s end, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had surprisingly handed Netanyahu an initial mandate to try to form a ruling coalition, urging him to pursue a national unity government above all. All the main players are saying good things about the unity idea, but it may just be posturing in order to paint everyone else as uncompromising and angling for a dreaded third election. But it may also be a realization that there are greater concerns for the nation looming on the near horizon and they need to somehow close ranks and prepare for some expected regional turbulence ahead.

After all the ballots were counted and recommendations made for prime minister by the various party heads, Netanyahu wound up with a bloc of 55 MKs supporting him while Gantz had 54. Netanyahu quickly organized his Likud faction (with 32 mandates) to lead a united Right bloc along with Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina, all of whom pledged to “stick together” amidst whatever came next.

Then, Netanyahu made a surprise move by publicly challenging Gantz to cooperate with him on forming a “national unity” government, admitting to his supporters that his campaign promise to form a solely Right-wing governing coalition was no longer feasible in light of the election results. Gantz replied to this challenge by saying that he was open to the idea but since his faction had received one more mandate than Likud, he would be dictating the terms of any agreement and was not ready to begin discussions unless that point was quite clearly understood.

However, President Rivlin issued several statements which made it clear that he believed the people of Israel wanted a unity government and that was also what he personally wanted. He also invited both leaders to the President’s residence in Jerusalem to hold an initial round of talks on Monday aimed at achieving that objective. Despite the initial reluctance of Gantz, pressure from many different quarters convinced him to acquiesce. The initial meeting took place on Monday, followed by more meetings between senior aides to both leaders on Tuesday and then another meeting of the leaders on Wednesday. Those talks reportedly ended inconclusively, but the mere fact that they occurred was taken as a sign by many observers that the process of forming a unity government, something that had not seemed possible before the election, was indeed moving forward.

Although Rivlin was legally able to delay his decision on whom to give the first chance at forming a governing coalition for several more days, he decided on Wednesday evening, in a move that surprised many, to immediately give Netanyahu the first opportunity. This was, to quote Winston Churchill, merely the “end of the beginning”, as it kicked off a process of negotiations and horse-trading between Netanyahu’s Likud-led bloc and the many other parties which managed to cross the 3.25% electoral threshold and enter the 22nd Knesset. Rivlin also suggested they consider a government of equal partnership between Likud and Blue & White, as well as passage of a ‘rotation’ style bill which effectively would allow Netanyahu to temporarily suspend himself as prime minister if he is indicted, rather than outright resign, with Gantz taking over the premiership in the interim.

During his brief remarks to the press upon receiving Rivlin’s go-ahead to begin the negotiations, Netanyahu mentioned several times both the possibility and the need for the process to move quickly. On Thursday evening, reports emerged that Likud and Blue & White had indeed made a tentative agreement to begin working towards a unity government based on the framework recommended by Rivlin.

On Friday morning, the initial meetings took place at Jerusalem’s Orient Hotel in the German Colony neighbourhood, with Likud chief negotiator Tourism Minister Yariv Levin saying beforehand, "We want a broad unity government immediately.”

Addressing one of the larger elephants in the room, veteran Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin responded to an offer made by Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman on Thursday morning to begin talks with Likud “without pre-conditions”, while also apparently ruling out negotiations with its partners in Shas, UTJ and Yamina. That, Elkin said, was exactly the kind of “pre-condition” Lieberman was claiming he did not have, adding that there are no plans to begin such “side show” talks at the moment. Elkin assessed, however, that the objective of forming a unity government can “be done quickly with goodwill. Every party who wants Jewish democratic state invited. Whoever says no brings third elections."

This morning’s exchanges came following a speech Netanyahu gave last night in a Rosh Hashanah toast to 2,000 Likud supporters at Expo Tel Aviv. “There are those who imagine or have delusions,” Netanyahu said. “First, they thought they could break up our partnership in the nationalist camp, but that is stronger than ever. So now they think they can break up Likud.” He then proceeded to rhetorically ask them: “Can they break up Likud? Will you let them topple the head of Likud?”

The crowd answered with a resounding “no” and began chanting “Bibi, King of Israel” to which Netanyahu advised Gantz to listen to the crowd and draw the proper conclusions.

“You need to understand something about these people who are here: We go together in fire and water,” Netanyahu insisted.

The rally and Netanyahu’s message was partially in response to statements by Gantz, Lieberman and others in the Center-Left suggesting that a government could be formed with just Likud and the Center-Left parties, leaving out the religious Right parties (as several polls published in recent days indicate the voting public wants), but Likud’s determination to stand by its traditional allies appeared to be holding in the initial round of talks on Friday.

The attempt by Gantz to hold his own line and refuse to entertain the idea of sitting in a governing coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties appeared to be a concession to his deputy, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, whose stance has hardened in recent days and reportedly set the tone within Blue & White. This has led to push back by national religious MK Naftali Bennet of Yamina, who tweeted this week his opinion that “Yair Lapid is forcing Benny Gantz to jump off a cliff to a new nadir of a third election in a year. President Rivlin’s unity compromise was surprisingly creative. Good sense has come back. Netanyahu agreed to it. Gantz wants it. The public prays for it. Lapid screamed no. Gantz, take charge.”

Despite the posturing and rhetoric, there is a sense of urgency in many of the public statements by all those at the center of this search for a way out of Israel’s current political deadlock. The sentiment most consistently expressed is that there is no time for the usual shenanigans which accompany negotiations to form a governing coalition. This could be a result of several factors which are making Israeli leaders feel like time is not on their side, including intensifying regional tensions between Iran and the US; political developments in the US, Russia and the EU; the prospect of US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” being unveiled in the near future; a rising tide of protest against the regime of Egyptian President al-Sisi; and the ever-lingering issue of Netanyahu’s legal troubles – which hang over everything.

These ongoing regional and global developments have the potential to make Israel’s post-election political chaos look like a tempest inside a typhoon, something Netanyahu and the trio of ex-IDF chiefs-of-staff at the helm of Blue & White are surely aware of. This raises a strong possibility they will indeed make concessions to enable the formation of a national unity government which would allow Israel to get set to meet these oncoming challenges sooner rather than later.

That is something President Rivlin and a very large percentage of the Israeli public appear to want very badly.


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