Unable to form a coalition government, the Knesset voted to dissolve and try again this September in a new round of elections. Plus, riots on the Temple Mount after Jews enter during Ramadan, and a stabbing attack leaves wounded.
Failure to Form Government Triggers New Elections
For the first time in history, Israel is holding a second round of Knesset elections after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was reelected only months ago, failed to assemble a coalition government.
Since Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party failed to form a coalition that had enough seats to form a government on time, even after an extension was granted by President Reuven Rivlin, the Knesset dissolved triggering a new election to be held within six months of the last one, a first for Israel. The new election is scheduled for September 17 of this year.
After Netanyahu’s slim victory in April’s early elections, which were triggered by a collapse of the former ruling coalition led by Netanyahu, it seemed likely that Israel’s longest-serving prime minister with a history of deal-making and aggressive negotiations would find a way to form a government with his centrist-right Likud party once again. However, internal divisions and a growing moderate opposition proved to be a strong enough challenge to force Israel to the polls again.
The final blow came when Netanyahu’s political opponent, Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party, didn’t sign onto the Likud coalition keeping them from reaching the mandatory sixty-one-seat majority. The split between these parties is extenuated by some of Israel’s most polarizing political battles, such as the military draft exemption law for ultra-Orthodox Israelis. Once it was clear that there was no way to pull a coalition together by the mandatory deadline, the Knesset, including Netanyahu, voted to dissolve and trigger new elections rather than have the president designate a new politician to attempt to create a coalition.
Looking ahead, Israel can expect another close election, but this time around the failure to form a government presents Netanyahu with a new challenge never seen in Israel.
Israeli Strike Kills Syrians after Rocket Launches at Golan Heights
After two rockets launched from Syria soared toward the Golan Heights, Israel struck back against Syrian regime targets including the previously targeted T4 air base killing five and wounding others, according to Syrian media.
The rockets from Syria flew toward Israel on Saturday, but only one made it onto the Golan Heights where it struck a cable at a ski resort. No injuries were reported, and the damage is being assessed. The impact was captured on video. Israel responded with strikes against Syrian military targets, particularly ones with Iranian connections. The Jerusalem Post reports that the attacks targeted a training facility for Iranian and Hezbollah forces and a weapons depot.
“We struck a number of Syrian Armed Forces military targets,” the IDF said. “We hold the Syrian regime accountable and will firmly operate against any attempt to harm Israeli civilians.”
Previously, some projectiles coming across the border from Syria to Israel may have been misguided accidents from fighting between government factions and rebels, but currently, there are no ongoing clashes near enough to the border to explain the launches.
Israel has a history of carrying out clandestine strikes in Syria that they denied or did not acknowledge, but last year, Israel admitted to over one hundred strikes conducted in Syria and reinforced their commitment to act to keep Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah, which operates with the Syrian army, away from the border region.
The IDF also confirmed strikes on targets including two artillery batteries, observation posts near the border, and an SA-2 air defense battery.
Riot on Temple Mount after Jews Allowed on Holy Site
Palestinians hurled chairs and rocks at police as violent riots erupted on the Temple Mount after Jews were allowed on the holy site during the final days of Ramadan for the first time in three decades.
More than one hundred Jews arrived at the Temple Mount gates on Sunday, and after a security assessment, were allowed onto the grounds. Not long after, tension among the Muslims on the Temple Mount erupted into riots, and more police were sent in to respond to hurled objects with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to Ha’aretz. Protesters were eventually pushed back into Al-Aqsa mosque and barricaded the doors while throwing object out, but police regained control.
The presence of Jews on the site during the final days of Ramadan, a time during which non-Muslims are usually blocked from entering the grounds, coincided with Jerusalem Day, the 52nd anniversary of the unification of the capital in the Six Day War. Later in the day, thousands of Israelis rallied in the streets of Jerusalem waving flags to celebrate the unification.
Ynet News reported that in a statement, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said the presence of Jews on the Temple Mount during the last ten days of Ramadan, which they haven’t been allowed to do for the past three decades, was a provocation and warned of "the dangerous consequences of the provocative Israeli policy, which could lead to a new escalation of violence that would threaten the entire region."
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, however, dismissed the criticism from Jordan, Palestinians, and others, saying his policy was to make the contested compound open to those who want to visit it, according to the Times of Israel.
Protest Outside Messianic Event in Jerusalem
Religious youth and anti-missionary activists protested outside a Messianic worship concert at The Pavilion last Thursday night in Jerusalem. The venue is in the center of the Clal building, an open atrium mall with shops and offices throughout the multi-level complex. Kehila News Israel connected the demonstrators with the extreme right-wing organization Lehava (LiMniat Hitbolelut B'eretz HaKodesh; “Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land”), an activist group with a history of agitating against interfaith marriages, Jewish-Arab integration, gay-pride parades, missionaries, and Messianic Jews. Kehila News says Lehava has previously protested Messianic gatherings at the same location. The Clal building serves as the home to King of Kings, a large evangelical-styled congregation of Jewish believers.
Israel Today spoke to witnesses who reported being hassled by dozens of protestors at the entrance to the event. Haredi protestors tried to physically block the entrance until police arrived. One of the concert-goers posted a Facebook video of the protest. At some point during the altercations, either the police or the protestors employed pepper spray, sending many into fits of choking. As police escorted concert-attendees into the event, protestors remained outside, shouting against missionaries and attempting to disrupt the concert with high-pitched whistles throughout the duration, but they did not obtain access to the hall. Concert attendees also required police escort to safely leave the premises.
Weekly Gaza Report
Thousands of Palestinians protested in the weekly Gaza “March of Return” demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday, and several were wounded by Israel troops, but no deaths were reported.
The IDF reported around 4,000 Gazans turned out to the demonstrations and at several locations turned to rioting, throwing stones, burning tires, and hurling explosives at troops on the other side, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Last weekend didn’t have any fatalities, but according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 250 Palestinians, including fifty-nine children and ten women, have been killed since the beginning of the Great Return marches, many of them Hamas members.
Protests during the last few weeks have been subdued compared to past clashes likely due to an oppressive heat wave, the festival of Ramadan, and an ongoing ceasefire that pressures both sides to avoid a major escalation. Elsewhere, however, multiple Israelis were wounded, and two Palestinians were killed in separate incidents.
The Jerusalem Post reports that on Friday, a nineteen-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank stabbed a forty-seven-year-old man and a sixteen-year-old in the Old City of Jerusalem before being shot dead. On Friday afternoon, a Palestinian teenager was also shot dead by IDF troops while climbing over a security barrier to bypass a checkpoint east of Bethlehem toward Jerusalem.