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Israeli Election Season Swings Into High Gear

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2 Jan 2019
Israeli Election Season Swings Into High Gear
With the date of 9 April set for national elections in Israel, maneuvering and campaigning by the various parties and candidates has already reached a high level of intensity. On Tuesday, Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay held a shocking press event, broadcast on live television, where he publicly dissolved the partnership with Hatnua and its leader Tzipi Livni, who was standing right next to him. The move was followed by scathing back and forth press statements by the two politicians and their supporters, highlighting what some analysts have warned could be the most negative election season in Israeli history.

Gabbay appointed MK Shelly Yacimovich as opposition leader in the Knesset minutes after dismissing Livni from the post, although even Yacimovich herself appeared to acknowledge that it was largely a symbolic move as the Knesset is not currently in session pending the elections.

On Monday, Kulanu MK Yoav Gallant was fired by Kulanu party chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon from his position as Housing and Construction Minister, after which he announced that he was resigning from the Knesset and furthermore was defecting to Likud. Minutes later, he was appointed aliyah and integration minister, allowing him to remain as part of the security cabinet.

Kulanu suffered other setbacks this week, as four out of the 10 MKs from that party who were seated in the outgoing Knesset announced that they will not be running with the party in the upcoming polls, including Gallant but also including Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, who hasn’t confirmed whether he will run with a different party or quit politics. MK Rachel Azaria and MK Eli Alalouf also both issued statements that they will not seek re-election.

Finally, on Wednesday, veteran Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick announced that she will run on the list of Hayamin Hehadash (the New Right) which was formed earlier this week by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who walked away from Bayit Yehudi, the party they’d jointly led for the last several years. The National Union, which has been a political ally of Bayit Yehudi, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the move as divisive and taken "for petty politics and personal promotion."

US to Slowly Withdraw from Syria
Reports emerged this week that US President Donald Trump has given the US military four months to withdraw from Syria, instead of the 30 day time limit he was originally insisting on. The withdrawal has been widely criticized across the US political spectrum, but Israeli officials have been cautious to avoid direct criticism, instead issuing statements that Israel will continue its own efforts to counter Iranian influence in Syria regardless of what Washington does.

Here is a video giving some analysis of the situation in Syria

US and Israel Leave UNESCO
Following the withdrawal of the US and Israel from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over what both countries said was its institutional anti-Israel bias, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that both countries should also withdraw from the planet Earth. "UNESCO is among the most corrupt and politically biased UN agencies. Today the US withdrawal from this cesspool became official. #USStrong,” tweeted outgoing US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Israel Receives Heavy Rain and Snow in December
Israel had its wettest December in decades as the year 2018 came to a close, bringing flooding to some areas, raising the level of the Sea of Galilee and blanketing Mount Hermon with a heavy covering of snow.

Today's video shows Israel's incoming tourism numbers for 2018


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