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Friday, September 20, 2019

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Every week, we post from seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel’s most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

Israeli Elections: Political Deadlock, Simmering Stalemate and No Clear Winner

by Ilse Strauss

Israeli citizens voted in the national elections on Tuesday (illustrative)

Thursday, 19 September 2019 | With some 95% of the votes in the Israeli elections tallied, the political deadlock between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and its main rival, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party continues.

Blue and White does, however, have a slight 2-seat advantage, having edged past Likud into the leading position. As the Central Elections Committee is in the process of counting the last votes, Gantz’s party stands at 33 and Netanyahu’s at 31 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (government).

In third place is the Joint List, a union of mostly Arab–Israeli parties, with 13 seats, followed by ultra-Orthodox party Shas with 9. Former Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman’s secular Yisrael Beytenu party and ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism have both won 8 seats each, while the nationalist alliance Yamina, the center-left Labor-Gesher and the leftist Democratic Camp bring up the rear with 7, 6 and 5 seats respectively.

The final 5% of the ballots—cast by security forces, diplomats, handicapped citizens and prisoners— equate to 5 or 6 seats. Since the vast majority of these votes come from soldiers, who tend to lean towards the right, there is still a chance—albeit a slight one—that the final seat distribution may alter, the Times of Israel reports.

Where’s the Winner?

Perhaps one of the most perplexing parts of the Israeli electoral process at the moment is this: if Gantz’s party is in the lead and may very well walk away with the majority of votes, why is Blue and White not considered the automatic victor? Why are terms like “deadlock” and “stalemate” used to describe the outcome?

The simple answer is that winning the elections is but the first hurdle to clear. Heading up the 120-seat Knesset requires a minimum of 61 seats, which no individual party has ever achieved. The next step is for the president to nominate the person he believes most able (usually the leader of the party that won the elections) to form a coalition with largely like-minded smaller parties to lead the country and serve as prime minister. This is where the current deadlock comes in. Considering Likud and Blue and White’s possible allies and alliance partners, both parties will have considerable difficulty scraping together a decisive 61-seat parliamentary majority.

Possible Coalitions

Gantz brings 33 seats to a center-left bloc coalition, with 6 seats from Labor-Gesher and 5 from the Democratic Camp. Coming in at 44 seats, this leaves him 17 seats short of the 61-seat threshold. Since the right-wing parties have all vowed allegiance to Likud, the only other option available to Gantz is the Arab’s Joint List and Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu. With 13 and 8 seats respectively, this will give Blue and White a strong 65-seat majority.

This alliance does, however, seem highly unlikely. A number of key players in the Arab Joint List are openly anti-Israel. Taking hands with them as fellow lawmakers to run the country will thus place the welfare and security of Israel in the hands of those who wish her harm. Many top officials in Blue and White have already turned down this scenario. Moreover, Liberman made it clear that he will not even consider serving on the same side as anti-Israel lawmakers in a “parallel universe.”

For his part, Netanyahu decided not to wait for coalition talk before rallying his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox allies. Yesterday the prime minister met with the heads of Shas (9), United Torah Judaism (8) and Yamina (7), who agreed to act as a “single right-wing bloc” going forward. With Likud’s 31 seats, the right-wing bloc stands at 55. While it falls 6 seats short of the 61-seat threshold, Netanyahu hinges his hopes on President Reuven Rivlin treating his 55-seat bloc as a single party and therefore choose him over Gantz to seek a coalition, the Times of Israel reports.

Rivlin may not agree with Netanyahu’s line of thinking. In fact, the president may argue that Netanyahu failed to form a coalition following the April elections when he was in a much better position than at present.

Should Rivlin, however, opt to go this route, Netanyahu will indeed be hard-pressed to secure the outstanding 6 seats. The Arab Joint List is not an option and Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Camp already side with Gantz. Who will he turn to?

There is, of course, Liberman and Yisrael Beytenu’s coveted 8 seats. While they have the power to tip the scales in Netanyahu’s favor, the prime minister is not banking on his former minister of defense’s backing. In fact, when Liberman withheld his promised support in the April elections it resulted in Netanyahu’s inability to form a coalition—and sent Israel to the polls for a second round of national elections.

On their own, Liberman’s 8 seats are also of little help to Gantz. Over and above Yisrael Beytenu’s portion, Blue and White needs an additional 9 seats to reach 61.

United?

Perhaps one of the deciding factors in the Israeli election is that Liberman does not want to form a coalition, be it left, right, center or anything else in between. What the Yisrael Beytenu head wants is unity. In fact, Liberman advised Netanyahu and Gantz to stop wasting time, join forces and form a unity government comprising Blue and White, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu.

Netanyahu seems to be on board and earlier today called on Gantz to join hands with his right-wing block to form a unity government.

“I suggest we meet as soon as possible, without preconditions, to work together to establish a broad unity government representing all who believe in a Jewish, democratic Israel,” the prime minister said.

Blue and White was quick to dismiss the idea as “spin,” with Gantz vowing to serve as Israel’s next prime minister.

Not so United

While a unity government does seem like one of the most viable options at the moment, there are a number of troubling issues. Liberman has publicly vowed not to sit with Netanyahu in government. There is, of course, an easy solution to this issue: Blue and White and Likud are well able to form a unity government without Yisrael Beytenu. More complex perhaps is that Gantz has vowed not to sit with Netanyahu in government while the latter is under investigation for corruption. This has many wondering whether the Likud Central Committee will ask its chairperson—Netanyahu—to step down and make way for someone else.

Yet perhaps the most troubling issue of all is the fact that a unity government between the two leading parties automatically makes the Arab Joint List the opposition party in government. In and of itself, this is not a concern. Israel is, after all, a vibrant democracy. However, as the opposition party, the Arab Joint List will be privy to all relevant information regarding the State of Israel. On surface level, this is again not a particular cause of concern—especially in a democracy. Yet Israel has unique security challenges that no other democracy has. And putting sensitive security information in the hands of lawmakers who are candidly anti-Israel and stand against the existence of a Jewish state—especially during times of war or threats of war—may very well be a cause of grave concern.

What Now?

The Central Election Committee is currently finishing off the last few ballots. Come tomorrow morning, we will know which party won the most votes in Israel’s election. Then the next battle begins. The burning question at the moment is: who will Rivlin choose? All we can do is wait and pray.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 19, 2019)

Photo Credit: Hedva Sanderovitz/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord for the government He has chosen to lead His people at this time, one with leaders who will look to Him alone for wisdom and guidance.

Scripture

The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”


- 2 Samuel 23:3

Netanyahu, Trump Plan to Discuss US–Israel “Mutual Defense Treaty”

by Joshua Spurlock

US President Trump with PM Netanyahu

Monday, 16 September 2019 | The United States and Israel could move towards arranging a mutual defense treaty linking the two countries, according to US President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and comments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Saturday, Trump tweeted in a pair of tweets, “I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance…. between our two countries. I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations [UN] later this month!”

Netanyahu thanked Trump on Twitter and then spoke further about the proposal on Sunday in comments released by his office. “We agreed to advance a historic defensive alliance between the US and Israel at our upcoming meeting at the UN General Assembly,” he declared.

“This is historic because it adds a powerful component of deterrence against our enemies, alongside maintaining the ability to act, and freedom of action, of our forces. On this we will always insist and it will always be in this defensive agreement just as it has entered into the other defensive agreements. This is a main component for coming generations to ensure our future.”

The Washington Post, in its reporting on the proposal, explained that a mutual defense treaty could officially require the US to intervene if Israel were attacked, serving as a permanent source of security against enemies such as Iran. Netanyahu’s insistence on Israel retaining its ability to defend itself when it chooses was in response to claims reported in the Post article from a political rival that a treaty with the US could limit Israel’s military independence.

On Sunday, Netanyahu called the potential treaty “important in ensuring the future of Israel,” following up on his effusive thanks to Trump on Twitter on Saturday.

Tweeted Netanyahu at the time, “Thank you my dear friend President @realDonaldTrump. The Jewish state has never had a greater friend in the White House. I look forward to our meeting at the UN to advance a historic Defense Treaty between the United States and Israel.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on September 15, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Intercede for the decision makers both in Israel and the US as they move towards hammering out the details of the mutual defense treaty. Pray that God will give them wisdom and insight to draw up an agreement that will strengthen the security of both countries.

Scripture

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.


- Ecclesiastes 4:9–10a

Netanyahu, Putin Meet to Discuss Iran, Bilateral Relations

by Ilse Strauss

PM Netanyahu (left) with President Putin at their meeting in Sochi

Friday, 13 September 2019 | Five days before Israel heads to the polls for the second national elections this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down yesterday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, to discuss the topic foremost on the Israeli premier’s mind: Iranian ambitions to entrench itself on Israel’s doorstep in Syria—and Jerusalem’s dedication to thwart those ambitions.

Netanyahu highlighted the dramatic uptick in Iranian attacks against Israel from Syria in recent weeks, condemning the aggression as an “intolerable threat” that Jerusalem will act against. The increased hostility, he added, makes military cooperation between Jerusalem and Moscow increasingly important.

Netanyahu lauded the close ties between him and Putin as instrumental in facilitating the necessary coordination between Israeli and Russian militaries operating beyond the Jewish state’s northern border to “prevent unnecessary and dangerous friction.” Russia has been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the Syrian Civil War and maintains a comprehensive military presence in the war-torn country.

“I say openly that this is a basic element in regional security,” Netanyahu said. “The military cooperation between us is always important, but it is especially important at this time, since in the last month there has been a very grave increase in the number of Iranian attempts to attack Israel from Syria, and also to place precision missiles there against us.”

“This is an intolerable threat, from our perspective, and we are acting [against it], and therefore we are also obligated to ensure that our coordination prevents friction,” Netanyahu said. “We’re indeed doing this, and will continue doing it, I am sure also in our conversation now.”

For his part, Putin also hailed “a new quality” of security cooperation between Israel and Russia, saying that the closer ties was “largely thanks” to Netanyahu, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Putin acknowledged the upcoming Israeli elections. In what the Times of Israel termed “a hint” toward who he prefers as Israel’s next prime minister and the Jerusalem Post hailed as “pre-election support from Putin,” the Russian leader said, “Russia cares a lot about who will be elected to the Knesset (parliament), and I hope that whoever enters the Knesset will continue bilateral ties between the countries and will push out relationship forward.”

“We know that a million and a half Soviet Union repatriates are currently residing in Israel,” Putin explained his country’s vested interest. “We always treated them as our people, our compatriots.”

Netanyahu also acknowledged the large number of his countrymen and women who emigrated from former Soviet Union countries to the Jewish state, saying that they bond the two nations together as a “human bridge.”

Yesterday’s meeting took place Black Sea resort town of Sochi. It was the 13th time in four years that the two world leaders sat down for a face-to-face discussion.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 13, 2019)

Photo Credit: Ruptly/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to endow Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders who may meet with Russian representatives with a clear understanding of the position Israel should take in this sensitive area. Pray that they will negotiate from a position of strength and trust in the God of Israel who protects His people.

Scripture

…the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…


- 1 Chronicles 12:32

Israeli Scientist Makes Memory Breakthrough that Could Help Dementia Patients

by Ilana Curiel

Dr. Shira Knafo

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 | Israeli and Spanish researchers have discovered that single-cell organisms are capable of developing memory capabilities, a breakthrough that could help treat patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The discovery was made by Dr. Shira Knafo from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and her Spanish colleagues, Dr. Ildefonso Martínez De La Fuente, Dr. José I. López, and Dr. María Dolores Boyano of University of the Basque Country.

The fact that single-cell organisms like amoebas are capable of memory is not newsworthy in scientific circles, but the fact that single-cell organisms can develop memories and learn using classical conditioning methods, just like the Ivan Pavlov’s famous dogs, is an exciting first-time discovery that has the world’s research community thrilled.

Russian physiologist and Nobel Prize laureate Pavlov proved dogs can associate certain signals like the sound of a bell with a reward of food. Knafo and her colleagues were able prove that single cellular life forms (amoebas in this case) also have the ability for associative learning.

Twenty years ago, it was discovered that when amoebas are placed in an electric field with a negative charge on one side and a positive charge on the other, they will would always move towards the negative charge.

As part of the experiment, the researchers placed amoebas in an electrical field with food on the positive side, and observed that the amoebas ignored their instincts and moved towards the food.

While this alone was not a surprise, the researchers were surprised by the fact that when they removed the food from the electric field, some amoebas moved to the right side of the field in search of food. This was the first time single-celled organisms showed the ability to learn and remember.

Dr. Knafo explains: “When we removed the food from the electric field, the majority of the amoebas went back to the negative side, while a small number went to the positive side in search of food. This shows that some show the ability to learn and some don’t. We’re still trying to figure out what makes some ‘smarter’ than others.”

She added: “We know that certain protein changes in the brains of both animals and humans play a part in the process of creating and remembering information. Our hypothesis is that similar changes occur in amoebas.

“If we understand how memory works in amoebas, we can better understand learning and memory processes in other life forms in the future, we might even find a solution for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” she said.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Ynetnews on September 17, 2019. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: SENC/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Tell the Lord how grateful you are that He intimately knows each person who has ever lived or will live. Thank Him for these researchers and their gifts of creativity that have resulted in this research. Pray that it will provide a breakthrough for those who suffer from dementia.

Scripture

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.


- Psalm 139:16

Palestinian Minister of Culture Denies Jewish History in Israel

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

Palestinian Authority Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif

Wednesday, 18 September 2019 | One of the central elements of the Palestinian narrative is the negation of the entire Jewish history in the Land of Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular. Despite numerous sources and archaeological finds proving the opposite, the Palestinian Authority (PA) regularly repeats this claim because it is the basis for the PA’s denial of Israel’s right to exist. Recently, the PA Minister of Culture emphasized this Palestinian lie, claiming Israel has “no connection” to Jerusalem, history, geography or even to the future. He then asserted the second fundamental Palestinian historical revision intended to create a Palestinian right to exist. He claimed that Palestinians were Canaanites with a 6,000-year history in the land:

PA Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif: “Our struggle is with this State [of Israel] that came out of nowhere, without a history and without geography, stole our land, and wants to put an end to our existence… If Israel celebrated the lie of ‘3,000 years [of Jewish history] in Jerusalem,’ we have 7,000 years in Jerusalem—so what? We Canaanites are the first ones who built Jebus more than 6,000 years ago. And perhaps we need no celebrations because it is natural that we are here. Those who celebrate are foreigners.”

[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Aug. 26, 2019]

Palestinian Media Watch documented that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas himself recently voiced the PA claim that today’s Palestinians are descendants of the biblical Canaanites in order to establish an ancient historical connection of “5,000 years” to the land:

Abbas: “[Israelis] will remember that this land belongs to its people; this land belongs to its inhabitants; this land belongs to the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago—and we are the Canaanites!”

[Facebook page of the PA Presidential Office, Aug. 10, 2019]

Minister Abu Saif repeated this earlier this month when he denied all proofs of Jewish history in the area, saying the Israeli/Jewish narrative is “false”:

“[PA] Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif said: ‘Our struggle with the occupying entity is a struggle over the narrative. We are the legal inheritors of all that is on the land, since [the time of] our Canaanite ancestors.’ He emphasized that ‘The occupier’s narrative is false, and all of its attempts to find justification for its presence here have failed.'”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 5, 2019

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Palestinian Media Watch on September 15, 2019. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Dooz Nablus/YouTube/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Proclaim the Word of the Lord with regard to the status of Jerusalem and its place in the history of His people. Pray that any who will listen will have hearts opened to fear the Lord and to refrain from rebelling against His plan and purpose for His city.

Scripture

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped—but with evil intent.” Therefore thus says the LORD: “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,” says the LORD of hosts.


- Zechariah 1:14–16a

UAE to Fight Anti-Semitism alongside European Rabbis

by Itamar Eichner

Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis

Friday, 13 September 2019 | The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is developing a plan to combat hate crimes and anti-Semitism around Europe and the world in collaboration with the Conference of European Rabbis.

The baseline of the talks took place during a conference in Moscow last week, which gathered religious figures from all around the world.

Among the participants at the event were also Russian Jewish Congress Executive Director Anna Bokshitskaya and advisor to the Chief Mufti of Russia Farid Asadullin.

They learned together how to act in light of the surge in hate crimes and how they could prevent and deal with this phenomenon within their communities.

An additional event is planned to take place in November, where all the religious leaders will sign on a treaty that will require them to work to eradicate violence and anti-Semitism in their communities.

President of the Conference of European Rabbis Pinchas Goldschmidt, who was also present at the event, expressed satisfaction with the plan, calling it a milestone in the battle against anti-Semitism.

“As president of the Conference of European Rabbis I deal extensively with European Jewry, anti-Semitism and xenophobia [fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange], which is a very big problem affecting minorities in Europe,” said Goldschmidt.

“We held the first conference in Russia because it is a place that has a mutual understanding between Muslims, Christians, Jews and other faiths.”

“I am glad that representatives of different organizations and communities got to discuss these issues, which can help us fight xenophobia. This is a turning point in the war against anti-Semitism,” he said.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on September 11, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: European Parliament Article 17 TFEU/flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Give thanks for the diverse group which met to address the problem of hate crimes against Jewish people in Europe and around the world. Pray that those who perpetrate anti-Semitism would come to understand they are actually acting against the Lord God.

Scripture

For thus says the LORD of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”


- Zechariah 2:8

September Showers

by Janet Aslin

Rain fell in Karmi’el during the Monday morning commute to work.

There are basically two seasons in Israel: summer and winter, dry and wet. During the summer season, the weather forecasters don’t really have a very challenging job. Sun, sun and more sun. The only variation is the degree of heat. The dry season typically lasts from April to October.

The first rain of the year is exciting—after all, it has been months since people have felt the gentle moisture of rain drops on their faces. This last week we were surprised by an earlier-than-usual rain that fell mainly in the north and in some of the central areas. While most of the rainfall was slight, meteorologist Tzahi Wachsman predicted that “downpours may very well occur here and there…with water accumulating on the ground” (Ynetnews).

Bridges for Peace CEO, Rebecca Brimmer, was in Karmi’el during just such a downpour on Monday morning. She reports it was a “gentle, soaking rain that knocked the dirt off the cars.” Although it did not last past the early morning, the rainfall did accumulate on the ground and was gladly welcomed as a blessing from the Lord and an encouraging beginning to Israel’s 2019–2020 winter season.

While summers are predictable in their weather patterns, winters are a bit more challenging. Israel, along with many other areas, has suffered extended drought in previous years. However, there was a good amount of rain during winter of 2018–2019. It caused the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the main barometer of Israel’s water health, to rise significantly from a point that was perilously near the Black Line (historic low). Even now, after months of evaporation, the water level is still 4.4 ft (1.35 m) above the Lower Red Line! Of course there remains a lot of room in the Kinneret as the current level is still 9.4 ft (2.85 m) below the Upper Red Line which is the point at which the dam is opened and water allowed to flow out.

Along with the people of Israel, Bridges for Peace hopes that this early rain is an indication of abundant rain to come and fill the underground aquifers and the Kinneret!

Source: (Bridges for Peace, September 18, 2019)

Photo Credit: Rebecca Brimmer/Bridges for Peace

Prayer Focus
Offer thanks to the Lord who sends His rain upon the earth. Pray for fruitful and abundant rain in Israel this winter.

Scripture

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praises on the harp to our God, who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains.


- Psalm 147:7–8

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