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Israel Agriculture and Fishing Overview
Agriculture and fishing
For generations, people, even outside the country, have spoken with admiration of how the Israelis have managed to make the desert flourish. It is a romantic image with a high level of truth - but also with a high price for nature.
Agriculture was initially a cornerstone of the Israeli economy, but its share has declined over the years. Agricultural technology, such as irrigation, also quickly became an export industry. A large number of countries, including China, use methods developed in Israel.
Artificial irrigation is necessary for large-scale cultivation in Israel's dry and hot climate. Water consumption is high, therefore also a matter of dispute. Falling water levels are reported in both Lake Genesaret and the Jordan River. With neighboring Jordan, there is an agreement on a future project, which will, among other things, provide more drinking water through desalination.
Natural underground water reservoirs needed to keep agriculture in place are largely under the West Bank, which Israel occupies. Israelis also consume far more water per person than Palestinians. The difficulty of accessing water, because the state favors the needs of the Israeli population, is one of the misconceptions often cited by Palestinians. Negotiations between the parties have been conducted but have not led to agreements on the distribution.
Israel grows and exports fruit on a large scale, mainly oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits, but also for example kiwi fruit and mango. Europe is the largest market for fresh fruit. In 2017, Russia became the largest export market for vegetables.
Most of the fish consumed is imported. In recent years, Israeli authorities have been trying to find systems to tackle overfishing in the Mediterranean and in the Genesis. In 2010, a two-year fishing ban was introduced in the lake to avoid what was feared to be an ecological disaster. Fish farms are difficult to establish in a climate where the water evaporates easily, but they occur and indoor technology developed in Israel spreads to more countries.
The largest food producer, Tnuva (Tenuvah), was started by the kibbutz and moss sea movements (see Economic overview). Today, the Group has over two-thirds of the domestic market for dairy products and Chinese majority owners. Street protests that took place in 2011 were largely directed at Tnuva's pricing.
The lack of rainfall and small total area makes it difficult to carry on forestry in Israel. However, it provides the opportunity to conduct research on tree species that can withstand drought. Acacia and cypress are examples of trees grown in research studies.
FACTS - AGRICULTURE
Agriculture's share of GDP
1.2 percent (2017)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
24.6 percent (2016)
Opposition to Trump plan
The Palestinians have submitted a counter-proposal to the US plan, which is based on Israel annexing land on the occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said. The proposal presupposes that Palestine becomes an independent and demilitarized state "with minor border adjustments where necessary". The proposal has been submitted to the so-called quartet: UN, EU, USA and Russia. Even in the proposals previously discussed in a long-standing peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, it has been a basic idea that areas on the West Bank where there are large settlements should be transferred to Israel, in exchange for Israeli land that is transferred to the Palestinian state.
Israel's HD stops forced redemption
The Supreme Court in Israel stops a law from 2017 that would have allowed the Israeli state to expropriate hundreds of acres of land on the occupied West Bank. It is about land where settlers have built without a sign from the Israeli state. Both Palestinian and Israeli organizations had requested HD scrutiny of the law. According to international law, which prohibits an occupation force from moving its own population into an occupied area, all Israeli settlements on occupied land are illegal, including those for which Israel has given a clear sign.
Shin Bet tracking of civilians is stopped
The plans to have the Shin Bet security service track down the corona-infected freeze (see March 17, 2020). The bill is withdrawn. The Security Service's chief Nadav Argaman dislikes the idea of having to monitor civilians, a monitoring meant to be done using location data from mobile phones. Argaman recommends that a civilian-developed app for infection tracking be used instead.
Concern about new wave of infection spread
Israel has gradually eased the restrictions that have been in place since the covid 19 pandemic reached the country. But in the face of the risk of continued transmission, almost 10,000 students and teachers are being quarantined after new cases of infection have been found in the school world. The number of newly infected has turned upwards in the past week, many are believed to have been infected in public transport. A study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Tel Aviv University indicates that the number of blacks, the number of actual cases of infection, is almost ten times as large as the confirmed cases, but it still represents only a few percent of the population. The disease has claimed a total of 287 lives in Israel.
ICC wants Palestinian message
A further consequence has arisen from the Israeli government's plans for annexing land on the West Bank, and the reaction of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (see May 19). The International Criminal Court (ICC) requests that Palestinians clarify whether or not the agreements concluded in the Oslo process in the 1990s will apply, Israeli media reports. It is the agreements with Israel that lay the foundation for a Palestinian state formation, and if the agreements are terminated, the Palestinians cannot act as a state in the court either. By June 10, Ramallah's response should be provided. The Palestinians have previously asked the ICC to investigate whether Israelis have committed war crimes in the occupied territories.
Desalination a topic for big politics
The mission to operate Israel's largest desalination plant goes to a local company. Tenders from a Hong Kong-based company are rejected, according to Israeli news media following pressures from the US. The plant in Palmachim on the Mediterranean, south of Tel Aviv, will, when fully operational, become the world's largest of its kind and expand Israel's capacity for desalination by a third.
Netanyahu is on trial
24th of May
The trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins. He is prosecuted in three criminal investigations that are brought in the same trial. The charges, which Netanyahu denies, apply to bribery and fraud. The essence of the suspicions is that he should have received physical gifts (luxury goods) and favorable media coverage in exchange for giving donors political services. The trial is expected to take a long time and will not be decided until a higher court. The next day of hearing in the district court in Jerusalem (equivalent to a Swedish district court) is set for July 19.
Palestinians terminate agreement
The recently announced Israeli government's intention to annex occupied Palestinian land on the West Bank leads to a sharp reaction from the Palestinian side: The Palestinian Authority no longer sees itself as bound by agreements concluded with Israel and with the United States, President Mahmud Abbas announces. He emphasizes that this also applies to cooperation in the field of security, which Palestinian self-government, based in Ramallah, has maintained with Israel since the peace process in the 1990s. "As of today, the Israeli Occupation Force must shoulder all responsibility and all obligations to the international community as the occupying power over the occupied state of Palestine," Abbas declares, referring to international law and the laws of war (Fourth Geneva Convention on Protection, which deals with protection civilian).
Fell for fire attack against family
There will be a conviction for murder and attempted murder of a Jewish settler who in 2015 participated in a murder case against a Palestinian family on the West Bank when a toddler and the child's parents died. The settler, who intends to appeal to the Supreme Court, claims that he has been pressed for the consent of the prosecutors. A younger accomplice is convicted earlier (see October 24, 2019). The attack led to a strong reaction and wave of violence from the Palestinian side, while at the same time condemning the act internationally.
Netanyahu's "corona government" takes office
Benjamin Netanyahu's new government takes office, after some dissatisfaction in his party Likud with the positions that have been folded for party mates. According to the agreement between Likud and Blue and White, Benny Gantz will start as defense minister and take over as prime minister after 18 months. Some key items have gone to Gantz's party mates: Gabi Ashkenazi becomes Foreign Minister and Avi Nissenkorn Minister of Justice. Likud's Israel Katz becomes Finance Minister. Former President Yuli Edelstein replaces Yaakov Litzman (see March 29 and April 1)) as Minister of Health. Israel has taken stringent measures against the spread of infection and the number of cases of covid-19 has been kept low, but two major issues still await the government: One is the economic consequences of the corona crisis; In Israel, unemployment has risen from 3.4 to 27 percent. The second is the plans for annexation of Palestinian land on which Netanyahu has gone for election, with US support.
Cannabis exports are allowed
Economy Minister Eli Cohen gives the go-ahead for export of cannabis for medical use. The decision comes into force a month later and anyone who wants to export must apply for a special permit. In Israel, according to Ynet's news editor, there are about ten farms and a handful of laboratories that produce cannabis and already have agreements with waiting buyers in Europe and Canada. In a government report in the autumn of 2019, the cannabis market was identified as a growth market that can generate good income. In Sweden, the Swedish Medicines Agency can grant a medical license for cannabis, which is drug classified.
The Knesset paves the way for a new government
President Rivlin assigns Benjamin Netanyahu to form government after stating that it has the backing of 72 of Parliament's 120 members. Knesset has previously adopted legislative changes that are part of the arrangement to allow Benny Gantz to succeed Netanyahu as prime minister. Behind Netanyahu stand conservative Likud, Gantz Blue and White, the Labor Party, the religious parties Shas and the United Torah Party. In addition, the settlement is supported by Derech Eretz, a newly formed Knesset faction whose members belonged to Telem, which was part of the tripartite alliance behind Gantz when the last election was held.
HD accepts co-government agreements
A unanimous panel of judges in the Supreme Court concludes that Israeli law allows Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a criminal suspect and prosecuted, to form a new government. Netanyahu's and Benny Gantz's government cooperation agreement is also compatible with the country's laws, finds HD; the parties Likud and Blue and white have modified the agreement on several points following objections. The agreement says, among other things, that Gantz will replace Netanyahu as prime minister after a year and a half (see April 20).
Israel: Iran target for attack in Syria
Both Iraqis and Iranians are, according to SOHR, among the 14 killed when a location in the desert outside the Syrian city of Mayadin is attacked. Shortly before, Syrian air defense managed to stop attacks from Israel in northern Syria. During the Syrian civil war, which has been raging since 2011, Israel has carried out numerous attacks against targets in Syria, often targeting the Assad regime's allies from other countries, such as Lebanese Hezbollah. Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says (without confirming the individual incident) that the attacks will continue until Iran leaves Syria.
Opening in corona closed border
Nearly one million students are allowed to start school again when Israel eases the coronary restrictions in schools. At the same time, following an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian workers from the West Bank may return to jobs in construction, agriculture and industry in Israel. When the parties decided to close the border as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, workers were forced to choose whether to stop at the workplace or return home. Prior to the pandemic, about 120,000 Palestinians had work either in Israel or in settlements on land occupied by Israel. Now about 40,000 have the right to cross over, provided they stay for a month and do not move back and forth across the border.
Israel leaves border border
Israeli farmers leave the Ghumar enclave in Jordan (Tsofar in Hebrew) after a land lease agreement from the 1990s expired. In connection with the peace between the two countries in 1994, Israel was allowed to lease two previously occupied Jordanian border areas. The King of Jordan announced in 2018 that the rent would not be extended. The second Baqura enclave was evacuated by Israel in the fall of 2019 (see October 21, 2018 and November 10, 2019).
The Labor Party into the government
26th of April
The Labor Party holds a party conference (at a distance because of the Corona crisis) and votes to join the new government to be led by Benjamin Netanyahu, but also includes ministers from Benny Gantz's Blue and White party. The Labor Party leader Amir Peretz has, like Gantz, previously pledged not to sit in a government whose boss is suspected of crime. The party now gets two departments to be responsible for.
Crisis government with Netanyahu in the lead
Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz settle on forming a crisis government. Netanyahu continues, despite being charged, as prime minister but is to be replaced by Gantz, who initially enters as defense minister. The agreement between them says, according to Israeli media, that the West Bank should be placed under Israeli sovereignty starting July 1. This is also a feature of the Trump administration's US peace plan and was met by massive criticism when the Trump Plan was presented (see January 28 and February 3, 2020). The trial against Netanyahu has already been postponed and will start on May 24 (see November 21, 2019).
Small relief in corona rules
The government is starting to ease the movement restrictions imposed on the Cornas Center: some stores may open as well as schools for children with special needs. Prayer meetings with up to 19 participants may be held, provided that they take place outdoors, that the participants stay away and that they wear face masks, which are mandatory since April 12. Ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which is about to begin, Muslims in Israel are invited to hold family gatherings.
New election threat after unsuccessful negotiations
President Rivlin makes use of the rule which states that any member of the Knesset, who can show the support of a majority (61 members), can now form a government. Equality leader Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Gantz have failed to agree to form a unity government (see March 26). If neither they nor any other member can get together a government dossier within three weeks threatens new elections, in which case the fourth new elections in Israel since April 2019.
Ultra-Orthodox defy infection control rules
Ultra Orthodox Jews (haredim) are overrepresented among the Israelis who injected covid-19. Both prayer and religious studies are traditionally group activities and police have been deployed to monitor that the ultra-Orthodox are not gathering too many at a time. A few days earlier, the police have tried unsuccessfully to disperse a crowd at the funeral of Rabbi Tzi Shenkar, who attracted far more than the 20 funeral guests allowed under the authorities' infection control directive. On April 2, it emerges that Israel's Minister of Health, Yaakov Litzman, who is ultra-Orthodox, is wearing the corona center. As a result, Prime Minister Netanyahu is allowed to quarantine for the second time.
Requirements for the Minister of Health with competence
Israeli doctors and hospital managers demand in an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his future coalition partner Gantz that Health Minister Yaakov Litzman be replaced by an expert. The authors point out that they do not mind the ultra-orthodox Litzman personally, but that the responsibility for health care in connection with the corona pandemic must be placed in the hands of a person who is expert and experienced.
Gantz becomes President, opens for unity government
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is elected President of Parliament. He is also, in the light of the corona pandemic, ready to join a unifying government. The message opens an opportunity for Benjamin Netanyahu to remain in the Prime Minister's post, even if no settlement on the matter is made public. During the week, the camp behind Gantz forced a Likud politician, Yuli Edelstein, out of the presidential post, but now Gantz's coup is breaking his own alliance. Both Yesh Atid and Telem leave Blue and White. Since the last new election, March 2, Netanyahu is reported to have offered Gantz different variants on how the two could turn around the post of head of government.
Closed grave church and more stringent infection protection
The tomb church in Jerusalem's old city center is shut down by Israel, which is introducing stricter rules to counter the corona pandemic. It happens on the same day as the first death victim in the Palestinian territories is confirmed. In Israel, there are a few thousand disease cases and five deaths are known. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has also restricted mobility in the occupied territories that have Palestinian autonomy; 60 cases have been confirmed. The tomb church has a central role in the Easter celebration, which this year is expected to be dimmed as a result of the pandemic. The Muslim shrine al-Aqsa has also been shut down by the foundation that manages it.
Israel is closing its borders
Israel is closing its borders to anyone who is not an Israeli citizen or has a residence permit in the country. When the decision is announced, Israel has 433 confirmed cases of coronary disease. There are 44 confirmed cases on the West Bank occupied by Israel. The borders are also closed to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Coordination has taken place with the Palestinian Authority and goods must be passed through. Palestinians working in Israel have three days to decide whether to stay in Israel or return to the West Bank.
Security service should track infected
The security service Shin Bet has been commissioned to track people who may be infected and who defy instructions to the public to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The decision to allow Shin Bet, which normally fights against terrorism, to monitor citizens with advanced technologies has been made by Benjamin Netanyahu's Ministry of Expedition. With the decision, without the approval of the court, the security service can, among other things, turn to telecommunications companies to find out where people are. But on March 19, the Supreme Court set limits: a committee in Parliament should have oversight over the investigation that is taking place. Collected data must be stored by the Ministry of Health, not by the security service. The new scheme is approved in the kness, but HD continues to emphasize that a change of law is required for the tracking to be allowed.
Gantz gets commissioned to form government
Benny Gantz, leader of the center-party alliance Blue and White, gets the president's mission to try to form a government based on the results of the March 2 election. Likewise, Benjamin Netanyahu's right became the biggest party in the election and Netanyahu has proposed himself at the head of a ministry tasked with leading Israel through the crisis surrounding the corona virus. But President Rivlin has consulted the parties in the Kness and found that a small majority supports Gantz. Gantz has 28 days, with the possibility of two weeks extension. The trial of the mutiny-suspected Netanyahu, which should have begun on March 17, has been postponed until May 24 as a result of the pandemic.
Power take on the spread of coronavirus
Bethlehem is being quarantined after cases of covid-19 viral disease have been discovered in hotels in the Palestinian city, which live off tourist and pilgrimage traffic. Decisions are said to have been taken in consultation between Palestinian and Israeli authorities. On the West Bank, where Bethlehem is located, the Palestinian Authority (which has local autonomy under Israeli sovereignty) has introduced emergency permits with travel restrictions and large gatherings. In Israel, where cases of illness have also been found, air travel from a number of countries has been restricted and some arriving travelers have been ordered to home quarantine.
Benefit Likud after the third new election
Israel holds its third new election to Parliament in a year, as no one has succeeded in forming government after the last two elections. When almost all the votes are counted, Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative Likud is the largest party (larger than the middle block Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz). Netanyahu, soon to be charged with corruption, sees the election result as a personal victory, but it is unclear if voter support is sufficient to form government with nationalist and religious parties.
Promises for settlers hail before the election
Four days before the new election on March 2, a planning authority in Israel gives the sign of an additional 1,800 homes for Israelis on occupied land. "We are not waiting, we are shopping," Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said. Just two days earlier, Prime Minister Netanyahu has announced 3,500 new homes in a sensitive area, along the road east from Jerusalem to Jericho, where increased construction is helping to split the Palestinian West Bank. Both messages should be seen as election promises to 600,000 settlers from Netanyahu's Likud and Bennett's alliance Yamina.
Netanyahu makes promises to settlers
Two weeks before the Israeli parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu makes promises of new housing for Israelis on occupied land in East Jerusalem. The settlement of Hom Homa, which was highly accountable when it was first cleared in the 1990s, is to be expanded so that the population can grow from 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. And near Palestinian Beit Safafa, a brand new settlement, Givat Hamatos, will be built. "A basic shot at the two-state solution," says Israeli Peace Now, who is questioning an expedition minister like Netanyahus has the right to make such decisions.
Trial against Netanyahu in March
The trial of corruption-accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will begin on March 17, authorities say (see January 27, 2017 and November 21, 2019). It is two weeks after the next new election. The process, including appeals, can take a long time. In the event of a March 2 election victory, Netanyahu could probably continue as head of government in the meantime, as Israeli law says that a prime minister must not resign unless there is a final convict.
Tunnels under Old Jerusalem
The Israeli Ministry of Transport announces that a new railway line has been approved for the high-speed train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The site is located in the central city, which Israel entered into war in 1967. Next to it are also Muslim and Christian shrines. Jordan, whose king has a role as the supreme protector of the holy places, condemns the plans.
The defense is demanding major investment
The Armed Forces presents a five-year plan that aims to strengthen all of Israel's operational capabilities: at sea, on land, in the air and in cyberspace. The arsenal of drones will be greatly expanded, among other things. The plan, called "Momentum", has been approved by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. The Armed Forces believe that the threats to Israel are so great, not least from Iran, that they do not want to wait the election on March 2, but there are no budget decisions on the plan yet.
112 companies on delayed UN list
A report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights lists 112 companies, most of them Israeli, that operate in settlements on occupied land, which is considered a violation of international law. The list has been compiled as a supplement to a resolution 2016 of the UN Human Rights Council. Initially, over 300 companies were called. Israel, which believes that the Council repeatedly acts unilaterally anti-Israeli, reacts with anger. The list, on the other hand, is supported by Human Rights Watch and by the more contentious organization BDS, which wants Israel to boycott on the basis of how Palestinians are treated.
The border trade in foodstuffs is stopped
Israel bans Palestinian food exports via the border with Jordan and the only transition to the outside world that is usually allowed for Palestinian goods. The Cogat authority (a unit within the Israeli Ministry of Defense that oversees civilian Palestinian activities) states that it is in response to the Palestinians ceasing to import calves from Israel in October. Israel has also recently stopped all imports of Palestinian food from the West Bank, which could affect two-thirds of Palestinian agricultural exports. (Dates, onions and potatoes belong to what is produced during the winter.) The Palestinian Authority responded by banning the import of Israeli food, including bottled beverages. On February 19, both parties lift their ban on international mediation.
Protests with death victims on the West Bank
A 17-year-old Palestinian is shot dead by Israeli soldiers during a protest in Hebron against Donald Trump's peace plan; The death victim is the first since the Trump Plan was presented. The next day, a 19-year-old gets killed in Jenin when Palestinians try to prevent Israeli authorities from demolishing a house where a man suspected of cooperating with a Hamascell is resident. In Jerusalem, 14 Israelis are injured in what is believed to be a deliberate collision with soldiers. From the Gaza Strip, projectiles and balloons with explosives are sent to Israel, which respond with air strikes to Hamas. Israel also reduces the fishing zone allowed for Gaza fishermen from 15 to 10 nautical miles. The decision is withdrawn on February 18, but it is a measure that Israel is taking regularly. Human rights organizations see it as collective punishment.
Many no to Trump's peace plan
The Islamic Conference, which is rejecting Donald Trump's peace plan, urges its 57 member countries not to contribute to its realization. Two days earlier, the foreign ministers in the Arab League have criticized the plan, pointing out that it does not meet minimum requirements for the Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has threatened to end all cooperation with both Israel and the United States if the plan is implemented. From the Israeli settler movement, the reactions are also sharp: settler leaders say they do not, under any circumstances, accept a Palestinian state.
Trump presents a peace plan
US President Donald Trump, accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, presents his announced Middle East peace plan. The main features of the plan are that all of Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty and that all the approximately 600,000 Israeli settlers living on occupied land can remain where they are. Despite many restrictions on the exercise of Palestinian power, Trump calls the plan a two-state solution. He also states that Israel's opposition leader Benny Gantz supports the plan. From the Palestinian side, it is dismissed as an attempt by Trump to achieve two purposes: He wants to escape the court process against him that is ongoing in the United States and his ally Netanyahu, who is prosecuted in Israel for bribery, among other things, should escape prison.
Netanyahu is demanding freedom of charge
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdraws his request for judicial immunity. A debate about his request should actually start in the kness on the same day, but Netanyahu claims he would not get a fair assessment of all the members. Following the announcement, State Prosecutor Avichai Mandelblit files the complete charge against Netanyahu to a Jerusalem court. It will therefore be the case of the court to announce when a trial is to be held against the prime minister who is suspected of bribery, fraud and infidelity in the form of having abused his position as elected representative (see November 21, 2019).
Green light for trips to Saudi Arabia
The Israeli government is providing a clear sign for citizens who want to make business trips or pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that the countries do not have diplomatic relations. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan replies via CNN that Israelis are currently not welcome. But Israel's changed attitude is equally a sign that contacts with Saudi Arabia have become warmer, even though the issue of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories has not been resolved. In connection with the decision, Prime Minister Netanyahu praises the chairman of the Mecca-based Muslim World Federation for visiting Auschwitz in Poland in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Nazi Holocaust camp.
Controversy around Holocaust memory
Before the 75th anniversary of how the prisoners were liberated from the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland in 1945, controversy with today's Polish government has come to light. Israel pays tribute to the Holocaust victims beginning January 23 at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which is both a museum and a place to continue collecting data on the millions of people who were murdered. In Poland, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of its anniversary on January 27, a campaign by the Russian side is highlighted that highlights Polish anti-Semitism and involvement in the Holocaust and fades the Soviet Union's secret pact with Nazi Germany, which was concluded shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It was the Soviet Red Army that, at the end of the war, reached Auschwitz-Birkenau and opened the camp, but since Polish President Andrzej Duda is not allowed to speak to Yad Vashem and to respond to Russian history writing, he has refused to attend the meeting. The President of Lithuania also refrains from participating.
Netanyahu releases ministerial portfolios
Prime Minister Netanyahu hands over three ministerial portfolios that he himself has held to party mates in conservative Likud. He thus meets the requirements of Israeli law, which says that the person charged is not allowed to be a minister; for the Prime Minister post, the law does not impose the same requirements (see November 21 and December 2, 2019).
Small parties in alliances for the next new election
The left parties Meretz and the Labor Party-Gesher announce that they will cooperate ahead of the new election on March 2. When the two largest blocs, Conservative Likud and the middle party Blue and White, are equal in size, the chances of small parties increase to become "kingmakers" if they merge. In the last election, in September 2019, Meretz and the Labor Party-Gesher received a total of eleven of the 120 seats in the Knesset. The left-hand list is called Emet, "the truth" in Hebrew. On the right, negotiations are under way into the last of the multi-party alliance Yamina, which reached seven seats in the September elections: The leaders of the New Right, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, form an alliance with Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich's National Union. Just before the time runs out to register election alliances on January 15, they also get with the settler party Jewish home, facilitated by Education Minister Rafi Peretz, on the train. Outside stands the right-wing Jewish power, Otzma Yehudit (seen by many as purely racist). This is despite the fact that Likud leader Netanyahu, who may need support from the largest possible alliance on the right, has tried to persuade the other parties to cooperate with Otzma Yehudit as well. Like the September elections, four Arab small parties are also forming an alliance.
Golan prisoners are released, to Syria
Israel releases two security prisoners originating at the Golan Heights. One of the men is convicted of spying on Syria. The two who are released prematurely and handed over to Syria (and may not return to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights until at the earliest five years) are linked to negotiations with Russia. In the spring of 2019, Israel received through Russia the remains of a soldier missing in Lebanon (see April 3, 2019). After Netanyahu and Putin exchanged visits with each other, on January 30, comes the message that Putin has pardoned an Israeli tourist who has been imprisoned in Russia for drug possession.
Netanyahu is demanding freedom of prosecution
Benjamin Netanyahu, who awaits an expedition minister, awaits the re-election, asks Parliament to grant him immunity from prosecution. In three legal cases, the Prime Minister is charged with bribery and fraud (see November 21, 2019 and December 2, 2019). No vote on Netanyahu's request is expected to take place before the new election on March 2, thereby also delaying a trial on the future. An already sitting prime minister in Israel cannot be forced to resign until there is a convict and all possibilities of appealing the verdict have been exhausted. Legal experts ask the Supreme Court to clarify whether the President of Israel can ask a person under prosecution to form a new government. Three HD judges open an investigation, but will soon announce that the issue has been raised too soon.