14 Days: Gallant’s gamble

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


A day after announcing he was dismissing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for breaking ranks on the government’s judicial overhaul plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed coalition leaders on March 27 that he is suspending legislation in the Knesset to allow for a dialogue with the opposition on working out a compromise. Netanyahu’s decision came after mounting public protests and a general strike threat by the Histadrut labor federation. “The growing rift in our society is penetrating the IDF and security agencies,” Gallant said at his news conference two days earlier. “I won’t lend my hand to this.” 


Or Eshkar, 33, who worked as a wedding DJ, succumbed to his wounds at Sourasky Medical Center on March 20, 11 days after he and two friends on their way to a wedding were shot by a Palestinian terrorist outside a Dizengoff cafe in Tel Aviv. Hospital director Prof. Ronni Gamzu said he fought for his life like an “Iron Man,” referring to the contest he participated in last October, and thanked the family for donating Or’s organs. Eshkar’s friend Rotem Mansano, 34, was listed in serious condition, while Michael Osdon, 36, was released from the hospital. The 23-year-old Hamas gunman was killed in a shoot-out with police. On March 19, David Stern, an American Israeli combat trainer, managed to fire back at a gunman on Route 60 through Huwara despite being shot in the head, wounding the 28-year-old terrorist and enabling his capture. On March 25, two IDF soldiers were wounded, one seriously, when a gunman fired on them in a drive-by shooting on the same road. 


The Palestinian terrorist behind the shooting attack in Huwara on February 26, in which two Israeli brothers were shot dead, was one of six Palestinian gunmen killed when IDF troops raided Jenin on March 7. Palestinian officials confirmed that Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousha, 49, was killed in the operation, while the Shin Bet said Kharousha, a Hamas member from the Askar refugee camp, was the terrorist who opened fire on an Israeli car driving through Huwara, killing brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv. A week after the attack, the corneas of the Yaniv brothers were transplanted to four patients at Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson, giving them the gift of sight.


The US summoned Israel’s Ambassador Mike Herzog to the State Department on March 21 over the Knesset’s repeal of the Disengagement Law as it applies to northern Samaria. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Herzog and conveyed Washington’s “concern” over the legislation, which passed in a vote of 31-18. The State Department said they also discussed “the importance of all parties refraining from actions or rhetoric that could further inflame tensions leading into the Ramadan, Passover, and Easter holidays.” Following the State Department meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the US that Israel would not rebuild the four settlements that were evacuated during the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. After a regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on March 19, Egypt announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had “reaffirmed their joint readiness and commitment to immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of three to six months.”


The UK-born wife of late South African chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, Ann Harris, died on March 10 at the age of 85. She served as president of the African Jewish Congress, chair of the Wits Campus Law Clinic and co-founder of Afrika Tikkun, before making aliyah and moving into Beth Protea  in Herzliya 10 months ago. “Ann Harris’s passing is a great loss for South Africa Jewry, Am Yisrael and, most of all, her children [Rabbi Michael Harris and Jonathan Harris] and grandchildren,” said Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein.

 Chaim Topol (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM) Chaim Topol (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


Chaim Topol, the prolific Israeli actor who attained global fame for his role on stage and screen as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, died on March 9 aged 87 in Tel Aviv, surrounded by his family after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Besides acting and singing, Topol was also a writer, artist and philanthropist, devoting himself to Variety Israel, which he co-founded in 1967, for children with special needs; and the Jordan River Village, which he co-founded in 2012 as a year-round camp for children with chronic illnesses. Topol won the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2015. He was married to Galia Finkelstein, with whom he had three children.