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What Will We Do Now?

Friday, February 21, 2020

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Every week, we post 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: The Countdown Begins—Again

by Ilse Strauss

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Israeli ballot box

Wednesday, 19 February 2020 | Some 5,200 Israeli diplomats serving in 96 embassies and consulates around the world will cast their votes today as the first to the polls in the Jewish state’s third national elections in less than a year. The remainder of Israel’s 6.3 million eligible voters will wait until March 2 to cast their votes for the composition of the next Knesset (government)—and ultimately the prime minister to stand at its head.

Next month’s round will be Israel’s third attempt to break the political deadlock that has left the country without a fully functioning government for almost a year after both the April and September 2019 elections yielded no clear winner, no majority government, no Knesset and no prime minister. While Israelis hope the March 2 results will bring an end to the impasse, the past four months have seen no decisive changes or dramatic moves to shift voter decisions for an altered outcome. As a result, the March 2 elections may be a near repeat of the two previous polls with incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party facing off against main rival, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, in a neck-to-neck race—with a very real possibility of nobody emerging from the vote as the winner.

Why a Third Election?

The Israeli parliamentary system has three distinct phases. The first is the general election, where citizens vote for the party of their choice rather than an individual candidate. Parties that receive 3.25% or more of the total vote are given seats within the Knesset, with every 3.25% equating to four seats. The Knesset is comprised of 120 seats, which means the ruling party must hold a majority of 61 seats. Because no single party ever achieves this, a number of parties must join forces to form a coalition of at least 61 seats.

The second phase comes once the national votes have been tallied. It entails the president appointing a candidate for prime minister. This is usually—but not always—the leader of the party that won the most seats. In the third and final phase, the presidential appointee has four weeks (with the possibility of a two-week extension) to make a coalition and form a majority government of at least 61 seats. If the party leader fails, the president appoints a second party leader to form a coalition government. Should the second party leader also fail, another election is called and the process starts all over again.

In the elections held in April this year, Netanyahu’s Likud party achieved a one-seat victory over Gantz’s Blue and White party, at 36–35. Days later, President Reuven Rivlin nominated Netanyahu to form a majority coalition, a task that seemed like a mere formality. Yet in what Israeli media called a “shocking turn of events,” Netanyahu could not secure the support he needed, sending Israel back to the polls for a second round of national elections.

The September elections unfolded in much the same way. This time, Gantz’s Blue and White party won 33 seats, with Netanyahu’s Likud following hot on its heels with 32 seats. While Gantz’s party technically emerged as the winner, Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with what the Israeli media hailed as “mission impossible”: the responsibility of forming Israel’s next government, claiming he had a slightly better chance than Gantz to scrape together the required 61 seats. Yet Netanyahu proved unable to fulfill mission impossible, and Rivlin passed the task to Gantz, who also failed, triggering the third round of national elections for the first time in Israel’s history.

Will We Have a Winner this Time?

As the first Israelis cast their votes, the question on everybody’s lips is: will the third elections break the deadlock and produce a winner able to rally the required 61 seats to form—and lead—Israel’s next Knesset?

The most recent polls are not optimistic, predicting little change and more importantly, no possible combination of alliances between parties to form a 61-seat coalition.

Apart from Likud and Blue and White, Israelis also have nearly 30 more parties and factions to vote for—from right- to left-wing and everything else in between. The main contenders are the Joint List, a union of mostly Arab Israeli parties, ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, former Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman’s secular Yisrael Beytenu, the nationalist alliance Yamina, the center-left Labor-Gesher and the leftist Democratic Camp.

Right-wing and religious parties—Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yamina—have all pledged to throw their support behind Netanyahu’s Likud to form a coalition. However, as in the previous two elections, the total number of seats in such a coalition will fall short of the required 61.

Gantz’s Blue and White party once again has the backing of Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Camp, yielding a coalition with nowhere near the required 61 seats. The Arab Joint List has made it clear that it will sit with neither Netanyahu nor Gantz in a bloc.

Once again, Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu may very well be the kingmaker, holding the seats required to form a majority government. However, Liberman has made it clear during the previous two elections that he will only back a unity government where Likud and Blue and White join forces, something that neither Netanyahu nor Gantz has been able to agree to during the previous two rounds.

The bottom line? With less than two weeks to go until Israel heads to the polls, not much seems to have changed. And if the political stalemate remains, a fourth election might be looming.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 19, 2020)

Photo Credit: יעקב/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord would move on the hearts of Israelis to go to the polls and vote for the leader He has chosen. Pray for Israel’s political system and for the leaders of all the political parties. Pray that a concern for the wellbeing and future of the nation will become their priority.


The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

- Proverbs 21:1

US and Israel Form Team to Apply Sovereignty to Judean and Samarian Communities

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US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman

Tuesday, 18 February 2020 | What happened: A US–Israeli committee has been established to start work on the process of applying Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].

  • The US team will be led by US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, Arieh Lightstone, and Scott Leith—who is responsible for Israeli–Palestinian affairs in the US National Security Council. The Israeli team includes Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, Yariv Levin and Israeli prime minister’s office Director-General Ronen Peretz.
  • The committee plans to convert the conceptual map in the Trump plan into what Friedman described as “a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.” Ambassador Friedman said he hoped the committee would begin work immediately.
  • At the Munich Security Conference, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, dismissed the Trump plan as “no more than a memo of understanding between Netanyahu and Trump,” adding it would be “buried very soon.” He urged other countries to reject the plan but said Palestinians “are open to serious negotiations.” Shtayyeh said the difference in the March 2 election between Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Netanyahu is “not more than the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola.”
  • The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Egypt and Jordan met on the side-lines of the Munich conference. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told Maariv newspaper: “We’ll see how things progress, there are all sorts of proposals.” Safadi called on the international community to seize the reins and discuss a solution that meets the terms of international legitimacy. He stressed that this is a critical moment and everyone should be involved.

Context: The US has said it does not expect any announcements about applying Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements until after the March 2 election. The Trump plan proposes that Israeli sovereignty would be applied to 30% of the West Bank, including all of the Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley.

  • The Israeli media reported that no representatives from the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] will participate in the US–Israel committee’s work, despite the fact that they are legally responsible for administering the West Bank and have always sent their mapping experts to previous talks and negotiations.
  • Speaking at the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting yesterday Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are in the midst of a normalization process with a large number of Arab and Islamic countries. You only see part of this; it is the tip of the iceberg above the surface of the water. Beneath the surface of the water, there are yet many processes that are changing the face of the Middle East and are also placing Israel as a regional and global power.”
  • Israeli diplomatic reporters were invited to Ramallah yesterday for briefings with senior PA officials. Mahmoud al-Habash, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser on religious affairs and the PA’s supreme Sharia [Islamic law] judge said Israeli–Palestinian security coordination was ongoing, but warned: “The moment we decide security cooperation doesn’t serve Palestinian interests, we will change the coordination.” Another senior PA official, Elias Zananiri addressed concerns of an increase in Palestinian violence against Israelis and said “we are doing the maximum to prevent it. But will that maximum continue forever? I doubt it.”

Looking ahead: EU [European Union] foreign ministers are meeting today and Israeli media have speculated that they will announce some kind of detailed response to the Trump plan and the meetings in Munich were intended as consultations ahead of that announcement.

  • According to Haaretz, a group of EU member countries led by Luxembourg will propose EU recognition of a Palestinian state. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has reportedly already discussed the initiative with the foreign ministers of Ireland, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Malta and Slovenia who expressed their support.

On February 6 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu by phone and expressed the UK’s “longstanding view on the importance of a two state solution, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both sides, and our opposition to the unilateral annexation of territory.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in BICOM on February 17, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
The Lord is the one who sees the bigger picture. Pray that the US and Israel will move forward with care and wisdom in fulfillment of His will and in His timing.


For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright.

- Proverbs 2:6–7a

Israel’s Efforts to Prepare for Iranian Aggression

by Kate Norman

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The IDF is developing a branch to deal specifically with Iran (illustrative)

Wednesday, 19 February 2020 | In response to the ever-shifting dynamics of the Middle East—especially Iran’s relentless efforts to spread itself further across the region—the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is reshuffling and establishing a separate department dedicated entirely to the Islamic regime.

Israel has maintained that Iran has a vision to establish an uninterrupted land bridge of power and influence from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea—running right through the Jewish state. As such, the Jewish state has accused Iran of attempting over the years to entrench itself into nations across the region, establishing a launching pad for attacks against Israel.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Lt.–Gen. Aviv Kohavi presented a five-year Momentum Plan for the military to Israel’s top brass last week, garnering approval from Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. Kohavi’s vision entails reshuffling the separate departments of the military to create better integration and cooperation between the forces and to capitalize on the IDF’s advantages over its enemies: namely in air power, intelligence and technology.

“I can announce that we are identifying initial signs of loosening and recalculation by Iran regarding its plans in Syria.” Bennett said at a conference. “We just started and we will increase. We will go from a defensive concept to an offensive concept—weakening, tiring and erasing the octopus’s head by weakening its tentacles.”

On the Iranian front, the plan envisions furthering Israel’s “war-between-wars” policy of striking weapons stashes and military targets that Israel’s enemies are trying to amass surrounding the Jewish state. Kohavi’s vision calls to beef up the military’s weapons and technology stash, which will require a significant budget increase—though the current standstill without a fully functioning government could put a wrench in that for the time being.

Nonetheless, the new directorate is slated to be up and running by this summer, focusing only on Iran itself and not on its proxies in other nations as the IDF already has directorates focusing on those. The new Strategy and Iran Directorate does not have an official chief yet, but it will focus on military strategies to counter Iranian aggression and international relations.

To that effect, the IDF’s Liaison Unit, which coordinates with foreign militaries, and the Planning Division will be moving into the new Iran-centered directorate.

“We are constantly working to raising the stakes for Iran until we reach our ultimate goal: removing them from Syria,” Defense Minister Bennett said yesterday. “We will continue to prevent an Iranian presence on our northern border.”

“For generations, we have been constantly fighting the arms of the Iranian octopus in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and we have not focused on the weakening of Iran itself,” Bennett added—until now with the increased focus on preventing Tehran from arming Israel’s enemies on multiple fronts.

The Israeli military’s introduction of the medium-range Arrow missile defense system forced Iran to shift from its potential strategy of merely firing missiles at the Jewish state from within Iranian territory to entrenching in nations neighboring Israel, where it can fire warheads at a much closer range, a military history expert told the Jerusalem Post.

The Islamic regime has backed completely out of its requirements under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal over the past few months and ramped up production of enriched uranium—a move experts have warned will significantly lower the countdown to Tehran’s possession of a nuclear weapon.

In that event, “only the Arrow missile defense system guarantees Israeli survival,” the former head of the Arrow project declared this week.

Even though the best offense is defense, the only arena in which Israel can operate independent and unrestricted, according to a former IDF missile defense commander, is defense. While the Jewish state often restrains strikes on Iranian targets in Syria and Lebanon depending on the US and Russia, Brig.–Gen. Eitan Yariv noted at a military history conference this week, “Our defense is totally dependent on us…we can defend ourselves by ourselves.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 19, 2020)

Photo Credit: IDF/idf.il

Prayer Focus
Pray for Lt. Gen. Kohavi as he strategizes for the safety of the nation and the effectiveness of its military. Pray that Israel will continue to keep ahead of Iran, frustrating their attempts to establish a sound presence on Israel’s borders. Beseech the Lord for a once and for all end to the Iranian threat.


Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked.

- Psalm 71:3–4a

Israelis Flock to Western Wall to Pray for an End to Coronavirus

by Kate Norman

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Dozens gathered at the Western Wall yesterday to pray for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak (illustrative)

Monday, 17 February 2020 | Dozens of Jewish worshipers gathered at Jerusalem’s Western Wall under a blanket of heavy rain yesterday afternoon to pray for the people affected by the coronavirus epidemic and for a cure. As the virus continues to spread, more than 68,000 people have reportedly been affected, and the official death toll in China is now over 1,600.

“Millions and millions of people are going through tremendous suffering in China and outside China,” a rabbi who helped organize the event told the Jerusalem Post. “As Jews, we believe that God has the power to send healing. We are not doctors, but we can pray.”

Jewish tradition emphasizes an idea called tikkun olam (repairing the world), which Jewish people believe calls them to shine light in the world and make it a better place. As God told Abraham in Genesis 12, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (v.3).

“As the sons of the patriarch Abraham, we have an obligation to everyone created in the image of God,” said Schmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat, in a statement before the event encouraging people to come pray. “The job of Jewish people is to pray for the good of the entire world.”

The event was organized by Rabbi Eliyahu in coordination with the Orthodox Union, an American Orthodox network. The rabbi highlighted the great suffering from the virus while appealing to Jewish people, whose prayers have a “tremendous impact.”

The executive director of Israel’s Orthodox Union branch noted that his phone buzzed all weekend with support from Jewish schools, communities and organizations. The rabbi, Avi Berman, said the virus is not only affecting the thousands who have been infected, but the whole nation of China as the government has been forced to shut down businesses and quarantine people to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We look at our forefathers and see how, when they saw trouble in the world, they prayed to God to take care of it, they prayed for the sick to recover and for the poor to find sustenance,” Berman told the Jerusalem Post. “The Chinese people represent one sixth of the world and many are affected also in the United States, in Europe, in Asia. We should all worry about what is happening and come together to do something about it.”

Prayers were conducted in Hebrew and Chinese, and the men’s side of the Kotel (Western Wall) was adorned with a temporary banner that read “The people of Israel pray for the sake of China” in Hebrew and Chinese.

Though the coronavirus hasn’t spread to the Jewish state, two Israelis on board a cruise ship currently off the coast of Japan tested positive for the virus. Israeli officials said the couple were taken off the ship, and Israel’s health minister said the Jewish state is sending a doctor to help treat the couple, who reportedly have mild symptoms of the virus.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 17, 2020)

Photo Credit: CSprinkle/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Praise God for the burden He has placed on the hearts of these rabbis and so many Israelis to pray for the people of China and others worldwide who are suffering from the coronavirus. Thank God for their commitment to tikun olam and their trust in Him as Healer. Beseech Him to hear and answer their prayers, and to continue pouring out His blessing on Israel as Israel blesses the world.


I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.

- Genesis 12:2

Israel Will “Give Hamas a Chance” to Honor Ceasefire

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Defense Minister Naftali Bennett

Thursday, 20 February 2020 | Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday he is prepared to “give Hamas a chance” to fully implement ceasefire understandings. He added that Israel is nonetheless preparing for a military campaign that would lead to “a fundamental change” in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in an interview with Ynet, just hours after the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] announced further easing of restrictions on the Hamas-controlled enclave, Bennett claimed that if the terror group continues its violent attacks against Israel, they are in for “a very painful spring.”

“If they renew the [explosive] balloon and rocket attacks, we’ll close the border again,” Bennett said, referring to the additional entry permits Israel granted the merchants in Gaza.

“We are preparing for a situation where the quiet will not be preserved… If the quiet is maintained, as has been the case in recent days, it will be good for them. Their actions will determine.”

The New Right leader [Bennett], who used to be one of the main proponents of toppling Gaza’s rulers, sounded more muted in his threats, saying Hamas-led violence along the border has decreased.

“They completely stopped the rioting along the fence, the raids of the night units and smoke grenades. It has been a few days since they stopped the balloon attacks,” he said.

“I remain skeptical, but if the use of military force can be avoided, I prefer it.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Ynetnews on February 19, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: World Trade Organization/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord for continued quiet on the Gaza border. Pray that the Hamas leadership will come to their senses and seek a resolution that does not involve terrorism and violence, which gives Israel no option but the use of military force.


For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies and have put to shame those who hated us. In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

- Psalm 44:6–8

Blacklist: UN Publishes Database of Companies Working in Judea and Samaria

by Kate Norman

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The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland

Friday, 14 February 2020 | The United Nations published a list on Wednesday of over 100 companies operating in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, creating a lightning rod for strong reactions on both sides of the Israel–Palestinian conflict and prompting the Jewish state to cut ties with the UN official behind the move.

Reviled as an anti-Israel “blacklist” to be used as a weapon for the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, the list was published unexpectedly this week by the UN Human Rights council after years in the making and years of opposition from Israel and other nations.

The list called out 112 companies—94 operating in Judea and Samaria and 18 internationally. Most of the companies are Israeli, such as public transportation company Egged, telecommunications giant Cellcom, restaurant chain Café Café and most of Israel’s national banks, but many international giants like Motorola, Expedia, Airbnb and General Mills were implicated as well.

Hours after the release of the blacklist, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced it would suspend ties with the high commissioner in charge of the Human Rights council, Michelle Bachelet.

There doesn’t seem to be any actual legal ramifications, however, to companies included in the blacklist. In fact, as several Israeli officials pointed out, the BDS movement in general often hurts the very people it claims to want to help: the Palestinians.

“The only achievement of the publication of the blacklist is that it will hurt the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians who coexist and cooperate with Israelis on a daily basis in Judea and Samaria,” argued an infuriated Israel Katz, the Jewish state’s minister of Foreign Affairs.

Katz called the document a “stain on the office of the UN Commissioner and on human rights itself” in a statement.

“The State of Israel will not tolerate this discriminatory anti-Israel policy, and will take action to prevent the implementation of these kinds of decisions,” the foreign minister warned.

High Commissioner Bachelet, no doubt anticipating such an inflammatory response, in a statement accompanying the release of the list, essentially said “Too bad.”

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” the high commissioner for the UN Human Rights council said in a statement released by her office. “However, after an extensive and meticulous review process, we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate, and that it responds appropriately to the Human Rights Council’s request contained in resolution 31/36.”

Resolution 31/36 references a resolution passed by the council in 2016 requesting an investigation into the effect of the Israeli communities in the biblical heartland on the Palestinian people.

Last year the US abruptly left the Human Rights council under the leadership of then-US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who called it a “cesspool of political bias” with a “chronic bias against Israel.”

That decision by the US, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, makes the international council “unimportant.”

“Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” the prime minister said in a statement released by his office.

“Instead of the organization dealing with human rights, it only tries to disparage Israel,” he added. “We strongly reject this contemptible effort.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin listed several of the businesses included on his Twitter page, using the blacklist almost as a badge of honor.

“I am proud to give these businesses a platform,” he wrote. “Proud to be an Israeli. I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to economy and to peace.”

His purpose was not to promote the private businesses, the president noted, but to stand with them in solidary against boycotting.

“Boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides,” Rivlin added.

The publication was denounced as “outrageous” and proof of the “unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the UN” by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.

“The U.S. has not and will never provide any information to support the compilation of these lists,” he added. “We call on UN member states to join us in rejecting this effort. Attempts to isolate Israel damage momentum toward Israeli–Palestinian negotiations.”

Nonetheless, the blacklist was eagerly welcomed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister, who called it a “victory for international law” and urged UN member states to weaponize the blacklist to shoo the companies listed out of the territory.

That will very likely hurt the thousands of Palestinians who work for Israeli companies, however, as watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) pointed out. Palestinians who work for Israeli companies receive higher salaries and better benefits than they would working for Palestinian employers, PMW argued in a report.

Palestinians who work in Israel and Israeli-controlled areas receive daily wages of US $68.10 as opposed to $28.87 in Palestinian-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria and $16.44 in the Gaza Strip, PMW reported, citing the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

“The United Nations move is far from encouraging coexistence between the parties and will only make the Palestinian population worse off,” Israel’s economy minister said, as quoted by Israel National News. “It is a disgraceful step of modern anti-Semitism that once again proves that the UN Commission on Human Rights is a political organization and not a human rights organization.”

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 14, 2020)

Photo Credit: Maina Kiai/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that somehow this vile action on the part of the UN will backfire on them and the BDS movement overall. Ask the Lord to protect those companies that are blessing Israel through their activities in the Land and ask Him to have mercy on those Palestinian families who will be deprived of life’s necessities if these companies are forced to cease operation.


The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He also will hear their cry and save them. The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.

- Psalm 145:18, 19b–20

More Hospitals and Cheaper Houses: Netanyahu Unveils New Financial Plan

by Roi Rubinstein

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PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Tuesday, 18 February 2020 | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his candidate for finance minister, Likud MK [Member of Knesset/Parliament] Nir Barkat, on Sunday presented a financial [plan] that contains several wide-ranging and ambitious reforms. The plan is set to be implemented by Netanyahu’s next government if his Likud party emerges victorious at next month’s elections.

Netanyahu said if he is to be re-elected after the March 2 vote, he would lead six major financial reforms, including: lowering house and food prices; massive investments in health care; investment in Israel’s socio-geographic periphery in the Negev, Galilee and the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], and investment in small businesses, start-ups and technology.

“The first thing is to drastically reduce food prices in the country,” Netanyahu said at a special press conference at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. “Currently, food prices [in Israel] are 30% higher than in the rest of the world. We will tear down monopolies and decentralize the [food] market,” he added.

“Second thing is to drastically reduce housing prices. We will cut bureaucracy significantly. Sixty percent of the price of an apartment in Israel today is the price of land and taxes,” he said.

“The third reform is a sizeable investment in healthcare. We will complete the construction of two hospitals in Be’er Sheva and Kiryat Ata, and in the near future, we will approve [the construction of] two more hospitals.

Netanyahu also said he intends to increase the average number of hospital beds by at least another 700. “We have to cut waiting lines. In a few years, we will no longer see patients lying in hospital corridors—this is unacceptable.”

Barkat, who served as the mayor of Jerusalem from 2008 to 2018, took to the stage to introduce a new reform meant to boost Israel’s struggling periphery, which includes large investments in the Galilee region in the north, the Negev in the south and the West Bank.

“We will give our periphery over 400,000 new jobs in the coming decade. The idea is to provide a child from the periphery the same level of education a child living in the center of the country receives,” he said.

Barkat also spoke about reforms meant to promote small businesses.

“We need to help them; we need to tear down barriers and give them certainty. It will require us to do three things: freeze property taxes for 5 years, reform business licensing and equaling the social conditions of freelance workers in Israel [to employees working on a salary].”

The last reform introduced by Barkat promotes further investment in Israel’s hi-tech market.

“Israel must be a leading player in future technologies. We, in Israel, have huge potential when it comes to biotechnology and medicine. The same goes for robotics and public transport. Intel has made Israel their international autonomous vehicle hub. We have more ventures and startups that can definitely change the world.”

Netanyahu last week asked Barkat to become the next finance minister in his government should he form a coalition after the March 2 elections.

Current finance minister Moshe Kahlon has announced his retirement from politics after the upcoming vote, which will be Israel’s third national ballot in less than 12 months.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on February 16, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Chatham House/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for these domestic reforms that will strengthen the nation and bring badly needed relief to those who struggle to make a living. Pray that PM Netanyahu and Minister Barkat will be successful in implementing them.


Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

- Deuteronomy 28:3–6

Israel Moves ahead with Old City Train Station Named after President Trump

by Ilse Strauss

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Passengers boarding the high speed train in Jerusalem bound for Tel Aviv

Thursday, 20 February 2020 | Israel is all aboard for a new train station in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Transportation Ministry announced on Monday that plans for an extension to the current railway line that will carry passengers directly from Ben Gurion Airport to the Western Wall are going full steam ahead.

The station adjacent to the holiest site in Judaism and the spot where two biblical Temples once stood will be named for the first world leader who stepped up to acknowledge Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people—and ratified that recognition with an embassy move: US President Donald Trump.

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the plan, which was initiated by his predecessor, received the necessary nod of approval from the National Planning and Building Council after being held up for more than a year.

The plan entails an addition to the existing Tel Aviv–Jerusalem high-speed line that whisks passengers from one city to the other in just over half an hour, extending the route to the Old City via a 2-mile (3-km) tunnel and two underground stations. Although the exact details of the route have not been announced, the train will make its final stop at the Western Wall.

Smotrich lauded the plan as a “historic” development, “very good news for Israeli residents and the millions of tourists” who will now have the option of an uninterrupted trip from touching down in the Jewish state to marveling at the Western Wall.

Not everybody is equally excited about the prospect of the new development. Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Daifallah al-Fayez on Tuesday slammed the plan as a “flagrant violation of international law,” and called on the international community to take a stand against the “illegitimate and illegal Israeli steps,” the BBC reported.

Jordan stringently opposes any Israeli developments in the Old City. Following Israel’s rebirth in 1948, the Hashemite Kingdom attacked the Jewish state and managed to annex Judea and Samaria as well as portions of Jerusalem, particularly the Old City. Israel liberated the Old City and its holy sites—including the spot where the First and Second Temples one stood—during the Six Day War in 1976. The Jewish state did, however, hand administration various holy sites, including the Temple Mount, over to a Waqf (Muslim religious trust) under Jordanian custodianship.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 20, 2020)

Photo Credit: Davcza/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for the implementation of this plan that will benefit those who reside in Israel and tourists alike. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for protection and courage for its residents as He continues to fulfill His many promises to the city He calls His dwelling place forever.


In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

- Zephaniah 3:16–17