Two Israeli brothers, Yagel Yaniv, 19, and Hallel Yaniv, 21, from Har Bracha were shot dead in a terrorist attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on February 26. The IDF said a Palestinian gunman fired at their car on Route 60, and then fled. After the attack, settlers went on the rampage in Huwara, torching Palestinian homes and cars. A Palestinian aid worker, Sameh Aqtash, 37, was shot dead, and dozens wounded. On February 27, Elan Ganeles, 26, an American-Israeli citizen, was killed in a terrorist shooting near Jericho. Ganeles, who was visiting Israel to attend a friend’s wedding, had served in the IDF as a computer programmer before returning to the United States to earn a university degree. As Ganeles was being buried in Ra’anana, security forces said they killed a Palestinian terrorist and arrested two others for his murder, in a refugee camp near Jericho. Fourteen people were killed in terrorist attacks in Israel in February, the IDF said.
As the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee convened on March 1 to pass the second part of Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s judicial reform package, protesters held a “Day of Disruption” across the country. When demonstrators tried to block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, police used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse them, and 11 protesters were injured in ensuing clashes. Police were also summoned to evacuate the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, who was trapped inside a Tel Aviv hair salon while protesters sought to prevent her from leaving. The incident occurred as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation on television, saying: “A sovereign country cannot tolerate anarchy.... We won’t accept rioters in Huwara, and we won’t accept rioters in Tel Aviv.”
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry announced that Israeli and Palestinian representatives at an Aqaba summit on February 26 agreed to work toward a “just and lasting peace” and affirmed the need to “commit to de-escalation on the ground.” The Jordanian statement also said that the two sides had agreed to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount, and that Israel had agreed to halt new settlement approvals in the West Bank for four to six months. The Palestinian Authority agreed to resume security cooperation with Israel, and both sides supported “confidence-building steps” before their next meeting in Egypt in April. The summit took place – with Egyptian and United States participation – in an attempt to halt escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence ahead of the month of Ramadan that begins on March 22.
Israel’s cabinet approved Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal for the state budget for 2023-2024 on February 24. The state budget for 2023 is almost NIS 484 billion and in 2024 will increase to approximately NIS 514 billion, according to a statement issued by Smotrich. “The two-year budget is focused toward growth and infrastructures, and with God’s aid this will help to maintain the development of the State of Israel and the stability of the Israeli economy,” Smotrich said. Former finance minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) slammed the government. “The budget as it was approved is a classic ‘Israbluff.’ There is no official budget book; and in the whole session, the high cost of living was not mentioned at all.”
Israeli rugby coach Joshua Schewitz submitted a formal notification of offenses to the South African Rugby Union (SARU) following the exclusion of the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team from the Mzanzi Challenge competition in South Africa in March. Schewitz, head coach at the Rishon Lezion Owls Rugby Club who previously played rugby in South Africa, issued the notification with assistance from the South African Zionist Federation and UK Lawyers for Israel. The SARU Executive Council withdrew an invitation to Tel Aviv Heat on February 3, saying the decision was made “to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division, notwithstanding the fact that Israel is a full member of World Rugby.”
Ten environmental groups announced on February 27 that they had joined forces to campaign for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, whose levels have dropped dramatically in recent years. The new coalition, called From the Point of View of the Sea, comprises NGOs involved in water issues, such as Dead Sea Guardians; the Arava Institute; EcoOcean; and Zalul, as well as Life and Environment, the umbrella body of Israel’s green groups; Lobby 99, a legal organization monitoring an impending state franchise to mine minerals from the Dead Sea; and the student-based Green Course. The coalition is co-chaired by Dead Sea Guardians founder Oded Rahav; former Labor MK Mickey Rosenthal; and EcoPeace’s Sharon Banjo. Meanwhile, Israeli artist Sigalit Landau has an exhibition on the Dead Sea titled “The Burning Sea” at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem until June 17, 2023.