Brazil plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the IDF released disability reports, a third parliamentary election is scheduled for March, Russian fighters may have countered Israel, and a high-speed train connects Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Plus, catch up on the weekly Gaza report as Hamas marks thirty-two years and resumes the border riots.
Brazil to Move Embassy to Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the son of Brazil’s president has assured him that Brazil will move its embassy to Jerusalem next year.
Following the U.S.’ example, Brazil’s move serves as an official recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Reuters reports that previous discussions of Brazil moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have been backtracked in the past out of concern for damaging the South American country’s relations with Arab countries.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Eduardo Bolsonaro, politician and the Brazilian president’s son, said that he hopes his country’s eventual move will set an example for other Latin countries.
“It’s not something extraordinary,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a natural and normal thing. We want to move to Jerusalem not just for Brazil, but to set an example for all of Latin America.”
Bolsonaro also said that Brazil will officially recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, the icing on the cake that received praise from Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We have no better friends than the people and government of Brazil... Israel will always be there for the citizens of Brazil,” Netanyahu said. Last January, Israel sent a rescue team to aid Brazil in the wake of a catastrophic dam collapse that killed at least forty and left hundreds missing.
Besides Brazil and the U.S., Guatemala has its embassy in Jerusalem, and Honduras is expected to move its embassy there in the coming weeks.
Negotiation Failure Spirals Israel into Third Election
Israel’s long-lasting parliamentary stalemate didn’t yield this week as politicians failed to meet a deadline last Wednesday to form a government sending the country into the third election in twelve months.
For nearly a year now, Israel has been without a government. Public government facilities still function, but the political direction of the country has been suspended in a limbo that has undermined the public’s trust in the ability of their leaders to govern. The previously ruling Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who himself is battling corruption charges, has failed to regain its once-powerful hold via center-right and right-wing parties.
The primary challenger to Likud is Blue and White, a new party that rose to unprecedented popularity and secured enough of the vote in the last two elections to force Likud to come to the negotiating table. Despite Blue and White’s rapid success, they have also failed to pull together enough parties to form their own ruling majority.
Likud and Blue and White need each other to form a majority, but neither party has conceded enough ground to reach an agreement that would make a unity government possible. That saga has brought the country to yet another election, one that promises to be mostly a repeat of the last two. The most significant difference this time around is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal legal challenges involving corruption charges have advanced to a new stage. For him, the position of prime minister is invaluable as it offers greater legal protections. That is one major reason his opponents are adamant that he can’t hold the office any longer.
The next election is scheduled for March 2, 2020.
High-Speed Train Connects Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Finally
After a decade of delays, a much-anticipated high-speed train that connects Jerusalem to Tel Aviv is expected to open on December 21.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the train will be able to shorten the commute between the two major cities to approximately thirty minutes compared to the typical commute of one to two hours.
The train is fast, but the journey to opening it has been anything but. Originally scheduled to open in 2008, the project was repeatedly delayed by engineering difficulties, safety concerns, and soaring expenses. Now, the thirty-five-mile railway is completed with a total cost of about $2 billion. That’s more than double its original price tag of the $800-million-dollar estimate when it was approved in 2001 by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Trains will run every thirty minutes, Sunday to Thursday, and stop at Ben-Gurion Airport on the way to their destinations. A single ticket will cost NIS 22—about $6.
IDF Releases Disabled Veterans Report
A new report reveals that there are 57,277 disabled IDF veterans recognized by the Defense Ministry’s rehabilitation department.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the figure released by the Defense Ministry to mark the fifth annual Day of Appreciation for wounded veterans includes soldiers suffering both physically and mentally.
The Day of Appreciation is “our opportunity as a state to stop the daily race [and] to pay tribute to those who paid a heavy price for state security,” said the ministry’s deputy director-general and head of the rehabilitation department.
That mission includes the care of 591 veterans who are highly disabled and 817 veterans that were injured during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014. The ministry also said that every disabled veteran in the department is accompanied by specialists throughout rehabilitation and a social worker, “in order to provide him with a comprehensive medical, social, employment and profit-related response.”
The rehabilitation department said that over the past years, it has assisted 546 disabled veterans with finances for university and college degrees and prevented 92 percent of disabled veterans from being dismissed from their place of work.
“The rehabilitation division cherishes disabled IDF veterans every day and works to provide them with the best medical care, to give them the full rights granted by the law, and to help reintegrate them into society, school, and the workforce,” said the ministry’s deputy director-general. “This is our mission.”
Russian Planes Ward Off Israeli Airstrike
Unconfirmed reports from Iranian and Russian media claim that a scrambled flight of Russian fighter jets warded off a sortie of Israeli warplanes on the way to strike an airbase in Syria.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the media said “Israeli fighters had to flee from the Russian Su-35” and at the same time that “Iran delivered unknown air defense systems to Syria.”
The airbase in question is the Syrian T-4 airbase, which Israel has reportedly struck before, and is a well-known staging area for Iranian proxy forces in Syria. Israel hasn’t held back from striking Iranian military targets in Syria despite Russia’s presence in the region. Syrian and Iranian ally Russia hasn’t directly confronted Israel in the field yet but has accused Israel of four days of attacks in Syria in November. Russia also supplies Syria with air defense systems that have been targeted in Israeli strikes in the past.
Israel has not commented on the alleged incident.
Hamas Marks Thirty-Two Years, Continues Border Violence
As Hamas celebrated its thirty-second anniversary, several thousand Palestinians protested and rioted at the Gaza-Israel border in the ongoing March of Return protests that have cost dozens of lives and left thousands wounded.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said five Palestinians were hurt in this week’s clashes. No IDF soldiers were injured, but The Times of Israel reports that a firebomb struck one IDF vehicle.
For more than a year, the border has seen nearly weekly violence that frequently flares into full-scale clashes. After the last bout between Israel and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, a three-week break in the border protests offered a brief respite to the southern border communities. Still, it does not appear that any permanent resumption of calm is near.