Israeli politicians are turning their eyes to the next election as the deadline for forming a new government seems likely to pass with no progress.
Norway cuts funding to Palestinian Authority’s education program over violence in the textbooks. Egypt is negotiation a five-year deal with Hamas and Israel. Plus, Israeli Border Police thwarted two stabbings at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Wednesday Deadline Turns Debate to Election Date
If no Knesset government is formed by midnight on Wednesday, a third election will automatically be triggered for Israel.
The deadline has been moved back several times already, but this week is the last chance for leaders of the largest parties, Likud and Blue and White, to reach an agreement and form a unity government. Both have failed to establish a large enough majority to seize power, and despite prolonged negotiations between the two parties’ leadership, no apparent progress has been made to prevent a third election.
With the deadline so close, both sides have shifted their attention from preventing a new election to a new point of contention—when should it be held? The automatic date would be March 10, but party incentives to find a more advantageous date and the fact that Purim falls on the same day has played into the negotiations. The Jerusalem Post reports that Likud wants the election as late as possible, and Blue and White wants the voters to head to the polls as soon as possible. After bouncing between several dates, the two options presented by Likud and Blue and White are March 16 and March 2, respectively.
Despite the near-certainty of a new election, some hope of a unity government still remains after Benny Gantz of Blue and White was reported to have told his confidants “I will have to make tough decisions over the next few days to avoid elections.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud, released a statement saying he had made a serious effort to bring about a unity government and that “It is still not too late.”
Norway Withholds Funding to PA
The Norwegian government voted to withhold aid money from the Palestinian Authority’s education system due to materials inciting violence, terrorism, and martyrdom in school curriculae.
The decision was made after a report by the Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, a group that highlights radicalization in the Palestinian education system, revealed explicitly violent and inciteful material in children’s school books, according to Ynet news.
“We can no longer sit still and watch Norwegian money contribute to a teaching system that encourages children to violence and promotes racism and anti-Semitism,” said Hans Andreas Limi, parliamentary leader of the libertarian Progress Party in Norway.
A statement from the government coalition cited examples of content including violence, martyrdom, and terror and said it was “devastating to the peace process and the development of democracy in the region.” Included in those examples are Physics being taught with calculations for a rock being flung toward the head of an IDF soldier, and more simple mathematics taught by counting martyrs.
Norway has historically supported Palestinian education programs, and the impact of their decision to withhold funding will be significant. It is expected to affect the 220 million Norwegian Krone, around $24 million USD, that Norway had promised to transfer to the Palestinian Education Ministry by 2022. That could be reconsidered if the Palestinian Authority can provide satisfactory improvements to the curriculum.
Palestinian Deputy Minister of Education Basri Saleh denied the allegations and said that the curriculum has since been changed. Norway isn’t the only country to criticize the PA’s education system. Last August, a United Nations report published a report with similar criticisms and demanded those textbooks be immediately removed.
Egypt Pushing for Five-Year Hamas-Israel Deal
Egypt is reportedly working on negotiating a five-year ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas to achieve a sustained period of calm for the region.
The last year has been anything but calm, but when violence has flared between Israel and Hamas, Egypt has repeatedly played a key role in acting as a mediator capable of bringing both sides to the table and negotiating them out of a full-scale war. Usually these have resulted in brief, fragile ceasefires that just bide the time until the next major escalation. But now, a Palestinian newspaper and Israeli TV reports that there has been significant progress in negotiating a long-term period of calm.
Key issues in the debate include the continued Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over in 2007, and the return of the bodies of IDF soldiers being held in Gaza. Israel also prioritizes a return to calm at the border where every week for more than a year thousands of Palestinians have protested and rioted leaving hundreds dead and wounded.
For the last three weeks, it’s been unusually calm on the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas canceled the protests several times, possibly to avoid getting tangled with Israel’s latest bout with Islamic Jihad, another terror group in the strip. The recent calm, however, didn’t last. Last Tuesday, Hamas leaders called on Gaza residents to return to the border for a massive demonstration against Israel on Friday and renew the weekly activity.
Approximately 4,000 Palestinians rallied along the border and were met with tear gas and other riot dispersal methods by the IDF like so many times before.
Two Stabbings Prevented at Patriarch’s Cave
Israeli Border Police thwarted two attempted stabbing attacks at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Sunday.
The first attack came on Sunday morning when a seventeen-year-old pulled a knife out of her backpack and unsuccessfully swung it at police for several minutes while they aimed their guns at her and demanded she drop the knife. She dropped the knife, but when police approached her, she took out a screwdriver and again attempted to stab them before finally being apprehended and arrested.
The second attack came later the same day when officers at a security checkpoint noticed someone acting suspiciously. The attacker drew a knife, but officers immediately trained their weapons on the suspect, and he dropped the knife and was arrested.
The accounts reported by the Jerusalem Post come as tensions in Hebron have risen dramatically after the announcement of a new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, already a hotbed of terrorist attacks and tension.