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Israel and Palestinian Territories in January 2023

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Israel and Palestinian Territories in January 2023

16 January , 2023

Protests Against Netanyahu Government in Tel Aviv

On January 14, tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv to protest the new Netanyahu government’s proposed changes to Israel’s judicial system. On the following day, opposition political leaders announced their plans for strikes and continued demonstrations in a bid to paralyze the new government until it drops the judicial initiative. Despite the large-scale demonstration turnout, Haaretz reported that Israel’s Arab citizens are not joining in the protests, and the Jerusalem Post highlighted an opinion poll that found 49% of Israelis are optimistic about the country’s future.

Netanyahu Makes Key Security Appointments

On the same weekend of the protests, Prime Minister Netanyahu made two important national security appointments. Netanyahu appointed General Herzi Halevi to replace General Aviv Kohavi as chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Israel’s top military post.  Halevi most recently headed Israeli military intelligence and then commanded Israel’s operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Halevi was reportedly not Netanyahu’s first choice, but Netanyahu did not reverse former Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s selection of Halevi for the job. Separately, Netanyahu selected his former deputy national security advisor Ronen Levy to become Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the country’s top professional diplomatic posting. Levy is a career intelligence official who speaks fluent Arabic and previously served as Netanyahu’s backchannel envoy to regional Arab governments.

20 January 2023

  1. CENTCOM Commander Travels To Israel To Meet New IDF Chief (Iran International). General Michael Erik Kurilla, head US Central Command (CENTCOM), spoke with the new IDF commander about regional threats, opportunities to strengthen the bilateral military relationship, and upcoming training exercises between CENTCOM forces and the IDF.
  2. Israel, US Discuss Regional Impact of Russia’s Military Alliance with Iran (The Jerusalem Post). The regional impact of Russia’s growing military alliance with Iran was on the agenda when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Thursday in Jerusalem with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The two men also discussed a joint Israeli-American strategy against Iran and a possible normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state.

23 January 2023

Following a Supreme Court ruling that deemed Aryeh Deri’s appointment as health and interior minister “extremely unreasonable” because of a prior tax offense conviction, the Likud party announced its plans to change the judicial system giving left-wing judges less power.

In response, more than 100,000 Israeli citizens protested against the plan on Saturday, marking one of the largest protests in Israeli history. Opponents say any judicial changes may help Mr. Netanyahu evade conviction in his pending corruption trial, or make the court case disappear altogether.

During the Cabinet session on Saturday, Mr. Netanyahu officially dismissed Deri after making it clear that the two cabinet positions would remain with Deri’s hardline Shas party.

24 January 2023

  1. Herzog to Launch A New Initiative to Heal Rifts in the Nation (Jerusalem Post). Israel President Herzog intends to establish an education center at the President’s Residence that will foster a sense of belonging among the various communities of Israel…In his address to a broad-based education conference in Tel Aviv that will also be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, other ministers, members of Knesset, mayors and teachers, Herzog will outline a five-year plan that should bear fruit by the time that Israel celebrates its 80th anniversary, the year in which Herzog will conclude his seven-year term of office. If the initiative proves to be successful, it will be historically recorded as Herzog’s legacy to the state.
  2. Coalition Heads Join Shas Party Meeting in Support of Deri; PM Vows to ‘Fix’ Deri’s Dismissal (The Times of Israel). In a rare move, members of all the coalition parties joined Shas’s weekly Knesset faction meeting on Monday to express support for Shas party leader Aryeh Deri, who was fired as a cabinet minister on Sunday in line with a High Court of Justice ruling that his appointment was inappropriate in light of his past financial crimes…Speaking at the meeting, Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to return Deri to the government, just a day after he was forced to fire him from his roles as interior and health minister.

25 January 2023

  1. Netanyahu Visits King Abdullah of Jordan to Discuss Dispute over Al Aqsa (Al Nahar). Jordan’s King Abdullah II held a rare meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday in Amman, the first since the latter’s recent return to power, and they discussed the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque…King Abdullah stressed “the need to respect the historical and legal status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque and not to prejudice it.”

26 January 2023

  1. TV Report Claims Joint US-Israel Air Drill will Bomb Mock ‘Iranian Nuke Sites’ in Negev (Times Of Israel). As part of the ongoing “Juniper Oak” drill between the Israeli Air Force and United States Central Command, American B-52 strategic bombers will drop live ammunition on targets in southern Israel on Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, Channel 12 news, without citing a source, said the targets in the Negev Desert would simulate Iranian nuclear sites. The network said the bombers would drop 100 tons of bunker-busting explosives, also without citing any source.
  2. Ben Gvir Defies Netanyahu’s Pledges about the Temple Mount (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Despite promises made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman that there would be no change in the status quo of the Temple Mount, the Minister of National Security in Netanyahu’s own government, Itamar Ben Gvir, announced that Netanyahu’s commitment to Jordan’s King Abdullah would not prevent him from visiting the Temple Mount.
  3. UNRWA Employees Go on Strike to Demand Salary Increase (Al Nahar). Schools, clinics, and some municipal services were closed in refugee camps in the West Bank on Wednesday, as employees went on strike for a third day amid mounting funding cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which pays their salaries. About 3,700 employees in the West Bank participated in the strike, demanding an increase in the salaries of all workers by 200 Jordanian dinars ($281.81) per month from UNRWA.

31 January, 2023

  1. Most Violent Week in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Since 2021 Gaza War
    In an early test of the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reignited last week with clashes in the West Bank and the largest military confrontation between Israeli forces and Palestinian militias since the 2021 Gaza war.
    Political tensions between the Israeli government and the Palestinians had already mounted in early January when Netanyahu’s own national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, defied Netanyahu and conducted a visit to the Temple Mount that upset the status quo arrangement with Jordan concerning the Al Aqsa Mosque.
    Against this political backdrop, news emerged on January 18 that Hamas sought to create a new threat to Israel using militant networks in the West Bank, an area that Israeli officials had considered calm enough that the IDF might actually reduce its presence there.
    The following day, January 19, the IDF killed two Islamic Jihad militants in Jenin, and on January 25 Israeli settlers killed a Hamas member who the IDF said had attempted a knife attack near Nablus.
    On January 26, IDF troops returned to Jenin seeking three Islamic Jihad militants and entered a large gun battle with Palestinian fighters in the Jenin refugee camp. Ten Palestinians were killed in the fighting, including the three Islamic Jihad fighters and several other militants, but also one civilian bystander.
    In response to the raid, Hamas forces in Gaza launched a rocket attack toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The turbulent day ended with the IDF responding with an airstrike against a Hamas training camp in Gaza.
    On January 27, the following day, a 21-year-old Palestinian gunman killed seven Jewish worshippers–including one who was a Ukrainian citizen–as they left a synagogue near Jerusalem, in the worst such attack in years.
    Finally, on January 28, two Palestinians carried out gun attacks in the Jerusalem area, one of which involved a thirteen-year-old Palestinian boy who shot two Israelis before being shot and disarmed.

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