Rocket Fired on Ashkelon During Netanyahu Speech

  • Israel had two inconclusive elections in 2019, with a third on the way next year.
  • Netanyahu said, during the rocket attack, “Hamas and Jihad do not want me to win.”
  • His major competitor in Likud is Gideon Saar, a former minister in Likud.

There was rain falling throughout Israel on Wednesday, which is a blessing for the country. Wednesday was the day before primary elections for Likud. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the middle of a speech in Ashkelon, was interrupted by sirens, as rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city from Gaza.

Likud (The Consolidation), officially the Likud-National Liberal Movement, is a centre-right to right-wing political party in Israel. A secular party, it was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon in an alliance with several right-wing parties. Likud’s landslide victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country’s political history, marking the first time the left had lost power.

Israel had two inconclusive elections in 2019, with a third on the way next year. Both of these times, the two blocs— led by Likud on the right and Blue & White on the left— failed to form a new coalition government. The right-wing bloc is also dominated by religious parties, including United Torah Judaism (consisting of Agudat Yisrael, a Hassidic party, and Degel HaTorah, an Ashkenazi Haredi party), Shas (representing Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews), and Yamina, an alliance of right-wing and religious Zionist parties.

Many of these religious Zionists live in the so-called Occupied Territories of Israel, and are devoted to settling the land. They have no problem with serving in the army, and, some would say, even make the best soldiers in Israel. The government supports their educational institutions, which cooperate with the IDF, where people are allowed to space their military service between Torah education. That is, one year of military service, one year of religious education.

The UTJ and Shas parties maintain their religious institutions separate from the IDF.  Students in these schools are given deferments while they are studying in these institutions. The left bloc claims that allowing these students special rights to receive deferments is not democratic, where citizens should have equal rights.

The Haredi Orthodox, in this way, are able most of the time to avoid military service completely, learning in these institutions for many years, and marrying in the interim, making large families. The special rights to the Ultra-Orthodox were given to them by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, when the government was established.  Changing the law to obligate religious students in military service is also changing the status quo.

Gideon Sa’ar is an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Likud between 2003 and 2014, and again in 2019. He previously served as Minister of Education, then Interior, from 2009 to 2014.

Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian immigrant and head of Yisrael Beiteinu, was once joined with Likud, which enabled them to form a coalition of 61 seats in the Knesset. In the last two elections, he refused to join Likud, mostly because of the issue of military service for Yeshiva students. New elections will be held in March.

While campaigning for reelection as leader of Likud on Wednesday night, Netanyahu was in the middle of a speech in Ashkelon, the largest city on the border of Gaza, when sirens were suddenly heard. Netanyahu called it an obvious show of opposition from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. “Those who fired the rockets should pack their bags,” he warned. The Iron Dome intercepted one rocket shot toward Ashkelon.

The Prime Minister was immediately rushed to safety by his security team. A similar event occurred in Ashdod before the last elections in September when Netanyahu was speaking. Netanyahu was allowed back on the stage after taking cover. He said, “Hamas and Jihad do not want me to win.” Opposition to Netanyahu is not only coming from Gaza but he is in the middle of an indictment case which could disqualify him from being Prime Minister. His major competitor in Likud is Gideon Saar, a former minister in Likud.

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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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