14-Day news roundup: Who won?

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporters after the 2021 elections (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporters after the 2021 elections
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party celebrated after winning 30 seats in the March 23 election, but his right-wing bloc appeared to be short of a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. So did the so-called “change camp” headed by Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party which came in second place with 17 seats, but both blocs could potentially garner a majority with the support of Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am party, which won four seats. President Reuven Rivlin was due to announce on April 7 who would be given the mandate to form a coalition, and the candidate has until May 5 to present a government. “I hope our elected officials will be wise enough to listen to the people of Israel and hear their demand for unconventional alliances,” Rivlin advised.  


Marwan Barghouti, the former Fatah leader serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for terrorism, and Nasser al-Qudwa, a former Palestinian Authority foreign minister and the nephew of late PLO chief Yasser Arafat, announced they would run in the Palestinian elections on a separate list called Al-Huriyya (Freedom), posting a major challenge to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. The move could cause Abbas to postpone the parliamentary and presidential elections he decreed for May 22 and July 31, Palestinian sources said.


The Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt opened on March 30 for the first time in a year to Israelis seeking to visit the Sinai Peninsula. Up to 300 people are being allowed to cross daily on weekdays, provided that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 and received approval for the trip in advance. People traveling to the Sinai also have to take a coronavirus test in advance before entering the Egyptian territory, and another test before they reenter Israel. Foreign diplomats and humanitarian missions are also eligible for approval to cross over the border.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust began in earnest at the Jerusalem District Court on April 5. In her opening remarks, lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said Netanyahu ”abused his power to give illegal benefits in coordination with central media outlets to further his personal interests.” Netanyahu was present for the opening of the trial, but was permitted by the court to leave before the first of some 300 witnesses, former Walla CEO Ilan Yeshua, was called to the stand.


Bahrain announced the appointment of Khalil Al Jalahma as its first-ever ambassador to Israel at the end of March following the establishment of formal relations in September 2020. Al Jalahma serves as director of operations at Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry and was previously deputy chief of mission at Bahrain’s embassy to the US. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said the appointment was approved after a call between Bahraini Foreign Minister Abd al-Latif al-Ziani and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, and “in the coming weeks, a team from Bahrain will arrive in Israel to make the necessary arrangements.”


Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram won two gold medals and a bronze in the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Sofia, Bulgaria in the last weekend of March. One of Israel’s top hopes for the 2021 Olympics, Ashram won the multi-sport race category with an impressive 98.45 score, another gold medal in the ball event with a 26.5 score, and a bronze medal in the hoop event with a score of 26.1. Israel’s Gymnastics Federation congratulated her in a statement, saying “Linoy presented new exercises with high levels of difficulty, and we are proud of her for achieving such an excellent score.”    
RAV RONEN (Courtesy)RAV RONEN (Courtesy)



Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, the US-born former rabbi who founded the liberal rabbinical organization, Beit Hillel (Tolerant Spiritual Leadership), in 2012, died on March 26 of esophageal cancer at the age of 50. A regular contributor to The Jerusalem Report, he published his second book, The Narrow Halakhic Bridge: A Vision of Jewish Law in the Post-Modern Age, in 2020. Neuwirth was a community rabbi for more than 15 years, most recently in Ra’anana and Caesaria, as well as serving as overseas department director of the Tzohar rabbinical organization and as a Bnei Akiva emissary in the US and Canada. 


Bahrain announced the  appointment  of  Khalil  Al  Jalahma  as  its  first-ever  ambassador  to  Israel  at  the  end of March following the establishment of  formal  relations  in  September  2020.  Al  Jalahma serves as director of operations at Bahrain’s  Foreign  Ministry  and  was  previously  deputy  chief  of  mission  at  Bahrain’s  embassy to the US. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem  said  the  appointment  was  approved  after  a  call  between  Bahraini  Foreign  Minister  Abd  al-Latif  al-Ziani  and  his  Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, and “in the  coming  weeks,  a  team  from  Bahrain  will  arrive  in  Israel  to  make  the  necessary  arrangements.”