PACKERS CORNER: Trouble Brewing on the Israeli-Syrian border

We join the entire (normal) world in praying for the rescue of the boys in Thailand. And like good Jews, we humbly point out that it was donated Israeli technology that allowed them to be found in the first place.
Things are still quite hot along the Syrian border with Israel. Russian continues to destroy the rebel resistance to Bashar Assad’s rule in Syria. To be clear, Assad’s army had ZERO chance of ever being able to retake all these areas by themselves. This is totally Russia, and specifically their air force. Tens of thousands of Sunni Syrians have evacuated their villages. Both Israel and Jordan have said that they won’t allow them to enter their countries. Although, Israel has continued to help Syrians in need of medical attention.
Trouble is brewing in the Israeli coalition government. However, it is difficult to know how serious it is and how much is just political posturing. Since the previous law was deemed illegal by the supreme court, the Government must now pass a new law dealing with ultra-orthodox yeshiva student enlistment in the army. Its a bit of a complicated issue, but in short, nothing will change, regardless of any of this. Actually, more ultra-orthodox would go to the army if the issue was just ignored, but that’s the last thing the “proponents” of the draft actually want. Its a great political/vote-getting issue for them, but in reality, hundreds or thousands of ultra-orthodox with machine guns would probably scare the hell out of them.
This could cause national elections to be moved up from the currently scheduled end of 2019. This could potentially have an effect on the Jerusalem mayoral race as the current mayor would probably need to resign to run for the Knesset, as he has said he wants. This would make one of the deputy mayors the mayor and it would be quite weird for the then current mayor not to run for “re-election”. This is exactly how the last ultra-orthodox mayor was elected.
As was mentioned the past few weeks here, the Israeli government has been enforcing demolition rulings from the supreme court for Jews, but not for arabs. Now it finally looks like an illegally built arab/bedouin encampment, located right next to a major highway, will be demolished in the near future. The hundred or so residents have already been allocated separate;plots to build houses in a legal arab village, closer to Jerusalem. Should take all of 15 minutes to knock the place down completely. We will wait and see. Another illegal arab encampment next to Susiya has also been ruled to be demolished. Maybe we’ll make it a double-header.

PACKERS CORNER: Gaza Situation is Intolerable

With all the fake news in America right now about the family separating thing, its a good time to take a break and read about current events in Israel!
Two nights ago, 45 projectiles were shot from Hamas-controlled Gaza at Israel. The Iron Dome rocked the house and no one was injured. However, clearly an intolerable situation. Alot of warnings coming from Israeli leaders about the threat of escalation and possible Israeli attempt to end the Hamas rule in Gaza once and for all. Keep in mind, the burning kites keep coming as well and setting fires causing widespread damage. Situation not at all sustainable. All logic/good judgement would lead Hamas to quickly deescalate the situation – probably won’t happen. On the Israeli side of things, every time the Government considers/threatens to disrupt the Yeshiva students and their studies with threats of drafting them to the army, there is a war. So let’s hope they back off…and soon.
This week also saw the demolition of Jewish houses and property in Kfar Tapuach Maarav (West Tapuach). Situation contains many “legal” similarities to the recent very unfortunate destruction in Netiv Ha-Avot in the Gush Etzion region, south of Jerusalem – Supreme Court ruling, no actual arab owners of the land, houses destroyed and the (VERY IMPORTANTLY!!) area now being developed LEGALLY into a large and thriving Jewish community and a serious strengthening of the Jewish Presence in the area. Surveys conducted as a result of the lawsuit from left-wing agitators have determined enough state land for the potential construction of thousands of residential units.
Unlike Netiv Ha-Avot, West Tapuach is fantastically strategic for both the State of Israel and particularly for the “settlement enterprise”. It physically connects the city of Ariel (with its University) to the community of Kfar Tapuach and the crucial Tapuach traffic junction. Without control of the junction, the fledgling Jewish communities to the north (Itamar, Elon Moreh, Har Bracha) and east (Migdalim) would be cut off from the rest of the country and most likely be unsustainable.
In short, as in Netiv Ha-Avot, despite very sad and unnecessary scenes, the future in West Tapuach is quite bright.
Finally, some decisions were handed down by an Israeli court this week about the use of torture to extract confessions. The case involved the firebombing killing of an arab family in the village of Duma almost 3 years ago. Two Jewish suspects are accused of participating – one adult actively and a minor supposedly involved in the planning. They have been held in jail for years and repeatedly tortured. Both have subsequently confessed to involvement. In Israel, the rule is that confessions obtained through torture are not admissible in court. However, when religious Jews are accused and arabs are the victims, that rule doesn’t apply, apparently. So the court ruled that the minor’s confessions will be tossed, but the adults will be used against him. There can’t be a soul in the world who thinks this is actually a form of justice, but everyone has their own political agenda, so no real surprises here. The trial is upcoming. As of now, there doesn’t appear to be any other evidence linking the suspects to the crime. Bizarre? If you think so, you are clearly not paying attention. There’s much more reason to doubt the case against the defendants, but suffice it to say – its quite weak.
Before the houses in Netiv Ha-Avot were destroyed and the same for Amona and now West Tapuach, the “right-wing” government claimed that they were obligated to adhere to the rulings of the Supreme Court and there was no way around it. This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu indefinitely pushed off the the destruction of 2 illegal arab encampments that HAVE BEEN ORDERED BY THE SUPREME COURT!!! So…..yeah.
The reason given for the delay is the scheduled arrival of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt later this week to push their peace plan. This is most likely why no building in Jerusalem has been announced either. Let’s wait and see what happens after they leave.

PACKER’S CORNER: More Housing Approvals in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria

As promised in last week’s update (you can check), this week was much more exciting!!!
For starters, over 100 missiles/mortars were shot from Gaza at Israel. That might seem crazy, but for years, it used to be normal. Before that, Jews lived in Gaza and rockets were NEVER shot into Israel. Just sayin’.
Of course Israel retaliated for these attacks and claims to have destroyed all kinds of terror infrastructure in Gaza. Oddly, there don’t seem to be very many terrorist casualties from these strikes. Makes you wonder. Thankfully, the missiles from Gaza only caused slight damage, a few injuries and no deaths!!! The Iron Dome system worked very well and a few open miracles as well!
For now, things seem to have calmed down, with both sides publicly expressing their lack of desire for escalation. The short story is: the arabs/hamas don’t really have a solution for the Iron Dome and Israel doesn’t really have a solution for what to do if they reconquer Gaza. So nothing has really changed.
Very unfortunately, prior to the Gaza drama, an Israeli soldier from the elite Duvdevan unit was killed in a village outside of Ramallah during an arrest mission. The arab terrorist threw a marble slab down from a building and hit the soldier in the helmet. The original terrorists sought during the raid have all been captured and now the search is on for the murderer.
So let’s hear some good news, shall we?!! Yes, we shall!
Today, the Israeli government approved construction for roughly 700 new houses in Judea and Samaria. Additionally, about 1200 houses received preliminary approval. Plus another 1000 or so houses will be marketed to builders in the near future, so they will be built soon as well.
The numbers are not so striking – they could be so much higher! Nonetheless, let’s examine the impact of the decisions made today:
-Kfar Eldad (eastern Gush Etzion) – 84 new houses (60% increase in the overall size of the community)
-Ateret (central Binyamin, right next to Rawabi)  -70 new houses (50% increase in the size of the community
-In the Har Hevron Area (southern Judea) – where my fingers are on the attached map
Negohot – 102 new houses (50% increase)
Tene Omarim – 136 new houses (100% increase)
Clearly, “isolated” Jewish communities are being significantly strengthened. More construction in the Hevron area, in places like Kiryat Arba and Pnei Hever, is also coming. Why that area? Let’s hear from the head of the local government:
“The South Hebron Hills regional council chairman Yochai Damari thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in a Wednesday statement. “In recent years, we have been working with the help of government ministers to build and develop the communities of the South Hebron Hills into a strong and well-established settlement bloc that maintains thousands of acres of state land and constitutes a security buffer protecting southern Israel,” Damari said.
“Settlment Bloc” – that’s the name of the game. Once an area is a “settlement bloc” it means the Jewish population is high enough that it can never be evacuated/ethnically cleansed of Jews.  Examples of such places are Maale Adumim, Gush Etzion, Modiin Illit, Ariel and a few others. The magic number generally needed to attain this status is 20,000 residents. Although Ariel had slightly less when they were designated a bloc. Now they have much more, and so will everyone else if they can hit their numbers’ population targets.
Expect much more to come! Probably something in Jerusalem next!!!

PACKER’S CORNER: President Trump Does It Again

He has done it again! Just yesterday, President Trump officially announced that he is withdrawing from the agreement reached between the obama administration, Europe and Iran concerning their nuclear weapons program. The idea of the agreement, more or less, was to pay Iran tons of money so that they wouldn’t try to make a nuclear bomb. All the while they can continue with terrorism and all that stuff, just no nuclear weapon. Also, this is being done on the honor system. Iran’s 2nd favorite system! (Honor killing system is a consistent #1)

Reactions have been swift and predictable:

For withdrawing: America, Israel, Saudi Arabia
Against withdrawing: Iran, Europe
(its kind of like World War 2 all over again)

This all comes at a time when Iran is threatening to retaliate against a bunch of very successful recent Israeli attacks (including last night) against Iranian targets in Syria. Israel has made preparations for the possibility of an Iranian/Hezbollah attack, but mostly life goes on pretty routine. Most folks focused on next week.

What’s next week?

  • Jerusalem Day (51st anniversary of Jewish victory in the Six Day War and return of Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem and other historical/biblical cities, like Hevron, Shiloh, Shechem, Jericho, etc.)
  • Moving of American Embassy to Jerusalem
  • Ramadan (muslim month of fasting and violence)
  • Shavuos (anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai)

That’s alot going on, even for here.

And finally, yesterday the soldier, Elor Azarya, was released from jail. This is wonderful news and way, way overdue. His brother is getting married tonight and for sure Elor will be celebrated there as a hero. This will likely continue for the rest of his life. He can thank the thoughtless, immoral Israeli left for his lifetime hero status. He’s a cool guy, but they are the ones who made him a hero.

After next week, expect some excitement in the Knesset, strategic building in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem and more clarity as to who is running in the Jerusalem mayor elections.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the show!

PACKER’S CORNER: There are Fires Burning All Around Us

Last night we celebrated Lag B’Omer all over Israel by lighting bonfires (background: They are oodles of fun, and only slightly dangerous. However there are other fires burning in the region, so let’s talk about those.
Over the past week or so, Israel has seriously bombed Iranian targets in Syria. How many? Not clear. All the info comes from Syria, so that’s worth about as much as their currency and integrity combined. Nonetheless, its safe to say that Israel is putting the hurt on them pretty good. So far, Iran hasn’t been able to muster much of a response other than a solid mix of redundant threats and pre-school style whining.
In addition to these attacks, probably the biggest news of the week: The Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Agency, known for daring overseas missions, has captured and brought to Israel something like 110,000 documents about Iran’s “secret” nuclear program. This week, the Prime Minister did a live presentation on Israeli TV about some of that information. Some critics are claiming that there is nothing new in the info. That is pure idiocy. How about that there is literally a half-ton of documents on all kinds of things. This is without speaking about how incredible it is that they found and got these documents to Israel in the first place. In short, major coup for the Mossad, Israel and Netanyahu.
And how about the timing?!!! Just 2 weeks before President Trump has to decide if the US will stay in Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran or pull out. Shocker alert: this info ain’t great for the deal. Can’t ever predict what Trump will do, but not even Obama would waste his time praying to allah on this one.
This one is far from over, but its not like it just started either. In the meantime, Iran is shooting ballistic missiles from Yemen on Saudi Arabia. So they got alot going on.
The Arab attacks on the border between Israel and Gaza continue. Mostly on Fridays, but on other days as well. On the whole, these violent pep rallies have been abysmal failures. The only “bright” spots for the terrorists are their “success” in flying burning kites – some with swastikas on them for effect, and honesty – into Israel and setting fields on fire. The biggest such fire was today and burned an otherwise pretty field. Let’s hope and pray this continues to be their greatest “success”.
In President Trump news:
-Good chance he’ll free Jonathan Pollard in the near future
-Good chance he might come for the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem or soon thereafter
It is becoming harder and harder for loyal Jews to complain about him. When they do, they appear more and more like that skank comedienne “lady” from the fake news prom this past Sat. night = SAD.
But we aren’t supposed be sad today – Happy Lag B’Omer!

PACKER’S CORNER: Full Blown Chaos

Full-blown chaos!!! Last week we called it drama, but this is a whole different level!
Let’s do this chronologically, as things are happening quite rapidly.
Last Friday on the Gaza Border:
Last Friday, with the strong encouragement of Hamas, arabs rioted near the border between Israel and Gaza. As part of the riot, the arabs lit thousands of tires on fire creating a huge amount of black smoke. Btw, this ain’t great for the environment. Still waiting for the protests on that one. The point was to block the view of the Israeli soldiers so that terrorists could infiltrate Israeli territory and wreak murderous havoc. In short, didn’t work. However, as was discovered today when it harmlessly exploded, terrorists did succeed in planting an explosive on the fence without being detected. There is nothing remotely not violent about these protests and nobody is stupid enough to think that. If they suggest there is any level of non-violence, its just a pathetic attempt to weaken Israel/the Jewish People. These protests are supposed to continue for another month. Will likely result in about a hundred dead arabs, international criticism of Israel and that’s it – basically sums up the entire Israel/Arab conflict.
Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack:
On Sunday it was reported that there had a been a chemical weapons attack in Syria, killing upwards of 150 civilians. President Assad’s forces were blamed for the attack that targeted a rebel area outside of Damascus. Since then, President Trump has been going ballistic. More on that soon.
Israel Attacks Iran in Syria:
Subsequently, Israel (reportedly) attacked an Iranian air force base in Syria and killed a good number of Iranians, including a colonel. Iran is furious and promises to retaliate against Israel.
Trump will attack Syria because of chemical weapons usage: 
But Trump just keeps revving up the trash talking. Now he is promising to bomb the hell out of Syria and basically forcing other countries to join in as well. Russia is returning some rhetoric online, but in reality, they have evacuated their naval forces and other forces are all laying low. Syria has evacuated many military facilities as well. Its basically a run for the hills moment in Syria. This might be the least surprise attack ever! I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump got pics of him firing some missiles himself!
To sum all of this up: Trump (and likely others)  will attack Syria. Iran will attack Israel. Israel will wreck them and their evil friends.
Meanwhile, despite all this, in Israel:
-Tourism is booming!
-Relations with arab countries (like saudi arabia and egypt) have never been better
-Government coalition is stable
-Very little terror activity
Israelis are commemorating Yom HaShoah tonight, Yom HaZikaron/Ha’atzmaut next week, and then Yom Yerushalayim a few weeks later. Then the US, and Guatemala, will be moving their embassies to Jerusalem. After that, depending on or maybe not  on what happens in Syria, expect some bold moves by the Israeli Government in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

PACKER’S CORNER: Gaza is Deteriorating

Despite the Passover holiday being in full effect, there has been tons of drama this week in Israel!

Let’s start at the border with Gaza (not that I recommend camping there at the moment, I don’t). For a few days before last Friday, Hamas instructed arabs in Gaza to build tents near the border with Israel in preparation for a large protest/incursion planned for that Friday – Passover Eve. When Friday came, attempts were made by some arabs to damage/cross the fence into Israel. No one was successful and 18 arabs died from IDF gunfire. Many others were injured. That’s what happened. That’s it. There are those trying to make this out like this was a first amendment type protest thing. Those people are anti-semites, no one is that stupid.

The situation is ongoing and with Friday coming up, my money is on more attempted incursions and more dead arabs You can place individual bets on my facebook wall. Btw, B’Tzelem has called on soldiers to disobey orders and not shoot the terrorists. I’ll be shocked if a single soldier does what these morons say. The epitome of irrelevant.

The Infiltrators. So Israel, like America, has been trying to figure out a way to get rid of tens of thousands of illegal infiltrators, but instead of Mexico, ours are from Africa. Secret agreements have been made in the past with certain African countries for them to receive the deported folk. However, now a deal was made with the United Nations to send half the infiltrators to Western countries and for Israel to keep the other half. This deal lasted for about 4 hours and then Prime Minister Netanyahu, after severe pressure from others in his Government, cancelled the deal. Politics aside, that’s amazing. Announce a major deal with the world and cancelling it a few hours later. Bravo Bibi Bravo. This one ain’t close to over.

Another element to this fight is the role that the “new israel fund (nif)” has played in it. Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly blamed them for sabotaging the supposed-to-be-secret deals with the African nations that had agreed to accept the infiltrators. Now its time for Bibi’s revenge. This “new israel fund” is a very active, incredibly subversive actor in Israel and has no shortage of patriotic enemies. Seems like now is the time to strike. Nif will need all the help they can get from their self-hating jewish friends in the Israeli legal community and their anti-semitic international friends. Might not be enough this time. The Israeli “Deplorables” might deliver a hefty smack down.

Alot of people are probably being killed throughout the Middle East – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, but no one cares. No Jews involved – no interest for the anti-semites. Sorry folks. President Trump is hinting that he will pull out American forces soon. This has got tons of nervous folks peeing their pants – just like Trump likes it.

Government Minister Miri Regev announced today that Israel would authorize 500 more houses in the Samarian Jewish Community of Har Bracha sometime after Pesach. This would more than double the size of the very strategic community. Quite frankly, if this happens, then anything is possible (in terms of “settlement construction”).

While I’m in the mood to make predictions, my bet is that a major announcement is coming on building in Jerusalem in the near future – after the US Embassy is moved to Jerusalem. No evidence, just a feeling. Might be all the matzah.

PACKER’S CORNER: The Festival of Redemption is Upon Us

The Festival of Redemption is nearly upon us, but this week redemption came early this year in Hevron! In the past few days, Jewish buyers were finally able to enter two properties that they purchased years earlier from an arab. An attempt was made to settle the properties almost 2 years ago, however, the Israeli Government at the time (specifically Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon) had the Jews evicted until more investigation could be done to verify the purchase. That finished this week with the Jews taking possession of the legally purchased properties, called “Beit Rachel” and “Beit Leah”.

THIS IS A HUGE DEAL!!! As someone who is personally and professionally very involved in trying to strengthen the Jewish Presence in Hevron, I would like to discuss this a bit more.

A few more points about this very significant development:

-These are the 3rd and 4th houses purchased by Jews in Hevron over the past few years in a “new” tactic (dating back to Abraham) of increasing the Jewish population in Hevron by buying new properties, this as opposed to trying to settle already-owned Jewish properties or gaining legal approval for additional construction of Jewish residences. Both those latter ideas, while seemingly easier, have been successfully stymied by the leftist Israeli legal community. This most recent success is a massive boost to the idea of purchasing property.

-The Jews previously purchased and inhabited “Beit HaShalom”, after a long legal battle. “Beit HaShalom” sits at the entrance to Hevron, near neighboring Kiryat Arba. Plans are for renovations in the near future and the construction of 17 apartments. “Beit Leah” and “Beit Rachel” should be able to house about 12 families total. THIS WOULD BE A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE TO THE JEWISH POPULATION!!

-The remaining house purchased by Jews, but not yet legally inhabited, is “Beit Machpela”. Jews had been inside this property for the past 6 months, but recently evacuated until more legal proceedings are conducted to finalize the purchase. At least another 8 Jewish families will eventually live there – directly across from the Tomb of the Patriarchs.


All told, the current purchases and development will result in at least a 50% increase in the Jewish population in Hevron. More importantly, instead of living in “enclaves” as the international community often refers to the Jewish neighborhoods in Hevron, now Jewish families will live throughout the area under Israeli control. Its reasonable to assume (but still pray for) that all of this success will lead to both more purchases from arabs by Jews and a weakening of the current legal impediments to the growth of the Jewish Community in Hevron. Hevron is being made great again!

In other news connected to Judea and Samaria, the new community of Amichai has been officially established and some families that were evicted from Amona have moved in. Just today, tenders were issued for the construction of hundreds of houses in Beit El. Both the Amichai/Amona and Beit El situations were the result of leftist Supreme Court decisions that have now been completely reversed by the current right-wing Israeli Government. In place of 70 residences destroyed, 500-600 will be built. Plus another 300 in Netiv Ha’avot (in place of 15 residences being destroyed by Supreme Court order). This week Defense Minister Lieberman laid the cornerstone for the houses in Netiv Ha’avot.













Prime Minister Netanyahu went to the hospital last night with a high fever. He will recover and be fine. If Abu Mazen, president of the palestinian authority, got a high fever, he would probably die. In the meantime, he just celebrated his 83rd b-day. Seems like President Trump is waiting this one out and banking he doesn’t celebrate too many more.

In honor of Passover and a strong tradition of hatred of Jews, arabs from Gaza are planning some kind of protest for this Friday when they may or may not attempt to cross the fence, en masse, into Israel. The head of the Israeli army promises that it won’t happen and claims to have placed at least 100 snipers along the fence. While we sit down for Seder this Friday night, the soldiers will most likely be working hard. G-d should grant them much success.

Next year, with an even stronger Jewish Presence, in Jerusalem!

PACKER’S CORNER: Trump Will Negate Obama’s Iran Deal

The President of the “Palestinian Authority” Abu Mazen called the American Ambassador to Israel a “son of a bitch”. That doesn’t happen everyday. But in fairness to Abu Mazen, America has never had such a proud Jew as an ambassador before. The last few have been quite the sellouts. Abu Mazen probably loved them! David Friedman, not so much.

However, this just wasn’t enough excitement, so… Israel officially revealed that they bombed a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007. Now that is exciting! Most folks were already pretty aware of this, but now we had details. This, predictably, started a whole war of words (luckily not a real war with Syria) between different Israeli political and security figures. They argued like bickering children over who should get the credit, how the strike happened, how war was avoided and whether or not this information should have been released now. Somehow Netanyahu will get the credit (despite not being in power at the time), he’s just that good at this.

Many think this is a message to Iran not to mess. With the new and improved Trump Administration potentially poised to negate Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran in the next few months, Iran needs to know its place. Showcasing Israel’s ability to blow up nuclear facilities would be a nice warning. Additionally, as the Syrian government creeps closer to winning the civil war in their country, they also need to know that messing with Israel is never a good idea. I like to think of the whole thing as an early Happy Ramadan message to the entire muslim world, and don’t mess.

Very unfortunately, there have been victims of terror attacks in the past week in Israel. Two soldiers were killed (and two injured) in the northern Shomron and an Israeli civilian was killed in the Old City of Jerusalem. These attacks appear to have been carried out by individuals and not so premeditated. One attacker was captured and one killed. The terrorist who killed Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal was also captured this week in Shechem. They never get away. They know this, but they do it anyway. Something to ponder.

Remains to be seen how/if Israel will respond to these attacks. Will keep everyone posted.

In some good news, it looks like former residents of the destroyed community of Amona will move into houses this week, before Passover, in the new community of Amichai – near Shiloh. Rarely does Israel meet deadlines, but Passover is Passover. Hopefully the large families will experience a sense of “freedom” from the small dormitory rooms they’ve been confined to for the past year. Looking forward to those pictures.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to be questioned about something next week. At this point, even the left seems bored with this. Makes more sense for them to go through the Haggadah to be ready for the Seder(s)!

PACKER’S CORNER: Coalition Woes, Syrian War, and Near Assasination of PA Prime Minister

Fireworks in the Israeli coalition government this week! For the first time since anyone can remember, there was a real crisis within the government coalition this past week. The reason: the potential draft of yeshiva students and/or the Prime Minister’s alleged desire for elections based on Likud’s strong showing in recent election polls.

Without going into tremendous detail, basically, the Supreme Court recently invalidated the current system of exempting yeshiva students from the army. Therefore, a new law has to be passed to replace the old one. The Haredi/ultra-orthodox parties wanted this done before they would vote for the budget. There was a set deadline to vote for the budget, so time was running out. Majorly complicating things was Avigdor Lieberman’s party’s virulent and vocal opposition to the law being proposed without coordination with the defense ministry. They promised to vote no, Netanyahu would then fire those that voted “no” and disband the government for elections in June.

The conclusion: the conscription law was read in the Knesset and passed a first vote. This was done with the approval of the Rabbinical council that directly the ultra-orthodox parties as to how to vote. It must pass others to become law and that won’t happen until the next session of the Knesset – after Pesach. The budget was passed and the coalition is fully intact. Remains to be seen what will happen next session – probably won’t be smooth sailing like it had been up until this most recent crisis. There still another year and half until scheduled national elections – looking doubtful right now if this government will make it to then.

President Trump fired his Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson – and replaced him with the former head of the CIA – Mike Pompeo. Unclear how this will effect US policy in the Middle East, but Pompeo is said to very much oppose the Iran nuclear deal. Will be interesting to see how aggressive he is about that opposition, which he shares with President Trump. (Trump also appointed the first woman to lead the CIA, but no one on the right is surprised and no one on the left seems to care. go figure)

War rages on numerous fronts in Syria. Death toll for civilians way over 1000 in Eastern Ghouta, just outside of Damascus. Turkey continues to gain ground in the northwest of Syria against the Kurds. Not clear what will happen if Afrin does fall to Turkey – both to the civilians and the fighters. Could be the same fate…

Oh, and the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority was almost assassinated in Gaza this week. Seems the attackers blew up the wrong car as the convoy made its way into Gaza. There were injuries, but only to security. Of course, this does not bode well for PA-Hamas reconciliation.