14 Days: Budget approval

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Budget approval in the Knesset. (photo credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE)
Budget approval in the Knesset.

BUDGET APPROVAL Members of the governing coalition celebrated in the Knesset after the state budget of 609 billion shekels ($194 billion) was passed in a 61-59 vote early on November 4, giving Israel a parliamentary approved budget for the first time in more than three years. On the night of November 6, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman held a joint news conference in Jerusalem to present the budget to the public. Bennett pledged to honor his rotation agreement with Lapid (who is slated to take over the premiership in September 2023), calling him “a partner and friend” and praised Liberman for having done “excellent work,” adding that the passage of the budget “guarantees economic and political stability.” Lapid retorted: “I’m convinced!” 

SYRIA STRIKE Israel allegedly carried out a rare daytime airstrike against Hezbollah weapon caches in Damascus on October 30, Syrian media reported. The airstrike, which caused explosions around the capital, killed at least one Syrian Armed Forces soldier and wounded three others, Syrian state-run SANA news agency stated. The sites contained several ammunition depots belonging to Hezbollah and other Iran-affiliated militias, reports stated. Meanwhile on Saturday, an IAF F-15 fighter jet escorted an American B-1 heavy bomber that crossed over Israeli airspace on its way to the Persian Gulf. The flight of the bomber, commonly called the “bone,” was part of the joint strategic cooperation with United States forces in the Middle East.

MILITARY DRILLS As tensions continue to rise with Iran, the Israeli military kicked off a month-long series of exercises simulating war on its northern border with Lebanon to improve the preparedness of forces against Hezbollah. Known as “Even Gazit” (“Hewn Stone”) the exercises involve all levels of the Northern Command participating in the drills whose goal is to “improve the defensive and offensive capabilities of the IDF against a variety of scenarios,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement. Drills and divisional exercises will simulate “multi-front, intensive and drawn-out combat, with conscripted and reservist troops taking part, from all headquarters of the Northern Command, in collaboration with the General Staff directorates, the Ground Forces, Air Force, and Navy,” the statement added. 

CYBER WARNING State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman on November 2 said recent cyberattacks serve as proof that despite years of warnings and a spike in successful mega hacks of Israeli institutions since December 2020, Israel is not prepared. He said that the combination of the LGBTQ Atraf dating site attack in recent days, and the hack against Hillel Yaffe Medical Center [in October] prove that “Israel is not prepared for cyberattacks.” Englman said that the problem is worse than people realize because the majority of those hacked never complain to the police or the Israel National Cyber Directorate, and he urged individuals and companies to lodge complaints.

TRUMP’S LAMENT Former US President Donald Trump told conservative Jewish talk show host Ari Hoffman on October 29 that whereas “Israel literally owned Congress... today it’s almost the opposite.” He blamed a group of progressive Democratic representatives in the House, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. 

 Veteran Report writer and founding editor of The Jerusalem Post Stuart Schoffman. (credit: Courtesy) Veteran Report writer and founding editor of The Jerusalem Post Stuart Schoffman. (credit: Courtesy)

REPORT veteran Stuart Schoffman, a founding editor of The Jerusalem Report, died in Jerusalem on November 7 at the age of 73. A native of New York and graduate of Harvard and Yale, Schoffman made aliyah in 1988. He penned a column for The Report for 17 years as well as writing for Jewish newspapers in North America. Schoffman translated books from Hebrew by top Israeli authors A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman and Meir Shalev. He was most recently a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and editor of Havruta: A Journal of Jewish Conversation. Before coming to Israel, he worked for Fortune and Time magazines in New York and as a Hollywood screenwriter. He is survived by his wife, Roberta Fahn Schoffman, and two children.