Israel Roundup: Immunity for Netanyahu, a Pardon for Yissachar

  • Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein said he will allow a vote on forming a panel examining Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appeal for parliamentary immunity.
  • International Holocaust Remembrance will take place Wednesday and Thursday.
  • There seems to be no change of sentiments between the religious and secular from the last elections.

Discussions will begin next week in the Knesset on whether to grant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu has been indicted for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, which he feels are not severe to interfere with his ability to be Prime Minister. Blue and White, his opponents in the next elections, have pushed for hearings on immunity to be held before the elections in March.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (left) meets his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein said he will allow a vote on forming a panel examining Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appeal for parliamentary immunity. Edelstein is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and has tried to delay the proceedings under political pressure.

This week the International Holocaust Remembrance Convention will take place in Yad Vashem, the world holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem. This is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. There will be 48 representatives of nations— four kings, 26 presidents, and four prime ministers— attending. They will arrive in 32 private airplanes. Two thousand hotel rooms in Jerusalem have been reserved for them.

Israel is providing them 40 special guarded vehicles to bring them in from the airport and to take them to the ceremony on Wednesday and Thursday. Another 300 cars will join their caravan on the way, as they enter Jerusalem to attend the function. Pope Francis sent a message concerning the anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz.  He said Auschwitz should serve as a reminder for detrimental consequences of selfishness and indifference as a new wave of anti-Jewish sentiment sweeps through Europe and U.S.

Special attention is being given in the news media in Israel regarding Naama Yissachar, the young woman sentenced to 7.5 years imprisonment in Russia for drug smuggling. This is considered to be a serious offense, despite Yissachar being found in the possession of only 9 grams of hashish. The hope is that Russian President Vladimir Putin will give her a special pardon at the request of Netanyahu.

There was, at the time of her imprisonment in April, a controversy over a Russian citizen who was imprisoned in Israel for cybercrime. Israel extradited the Russian to America, rejecting a request from Moscow to send him home. It complicated the court case of Yissachar, and many people claim that the Russian courts had taken revenge against Israel.

A book written by a doctor and Holocaust survivor, Eddy de Wind, will be released and published in English and a dozen other languages. “Last Stop Auschwitz: My Story of Survival from Within the Camp,” was written immediately after the camp’s liberation by the Soviet Red Army.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (left) meeting Pope Francis.

All parties on both sides of the Knesset, who will hopefully succeed in forming a governing coalition, have organized their party ballots in preparation for election. There is still plenty of friction on all sides. Otzma Yehudit, the extreme-right religious party, that came close to winning a seat in the last election, will have to run alone in the next elections.

The right-wing Zionist alliance, Yamina, which received seven seats in the last elections, wanted to save the lost votes of Otzma Yehudit and include them in their alliance. However, they were rejected by Jewish Home, one of the constituent parties in Yamina and a religious Zionist party. Last week supporters of Otzma Yehudit, living in an illegal settlement in the West Bank, had their homes dismantled by the police after receiving a court order.

The Israeli police arrested several Ultra-Orthodox Jews that had ostensibly organized a rabbi’s seminary, but in reality has been accused of being a cult designed to groom girls. On Monday, the police raided a Jerusalem residential complex where, they allege, dozens of women and children were held in slave-like conditions, some for up to ten years. The police allege a number of crimes were committed in Rabbi Aharon Ramati’s facility, including defrauding government ministries.

The Gaza border has been quiet for the last month, with only one attack, when four missiles were shot at southern Israel shortly after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani.  This attack was attributed to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and not to Hamas, who are still negotiating a long term peace with Israel in Egypt. Syrian news last week claimed that Israel had again attacked from the air a warehouse belonging to Iran near the airport. Israel retaliated for the attack of the four missiles. Iran continues to threaten Israel with retaliation, but so far they have not made an attempt.

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David Wexelman

Author of 5 books on the internet on topics of Jewish mysticism, managing two websites.

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