14 Days: Free trade

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Signing a UAE-Israel free trade agreement (photo credit: ANUJ TAYLOR/STRAP STUDIOS)
Signing a UAE-Israel free trade agreement

Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)


Israel and the UAE signed a free trade agreement on May 31, the first such deal between the Jewish state and an Arab country. It was inked in Dubai by Emirati Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri and Israel’s Economy Minister Orna Barbivai as bilateral trade generated an estimated $2.5 billion in the less than two years since the US-brokered Abraham Accords. Barbivai hailed the historic importance of the FTA, voicing hope that it will serve as “an inspiration for the region.” Marri said the deal “will create a new paradigm in the region... accelerate economic growth and strengthen the common belief that the only way to build sustainable economies in a complex world is together.”


A week after his governing coalition failed to pass a vote in the Knesset on key legislation renewing the application of Israeli law to citizens living in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed on its first anniversary to do all he can to maintain it. “It seems to me that whoever is honest with himself will admit that this is the best government the country has had, which rests on one of the most difficult coalitions that the Knesset has known,” Bennett told the weekly cabinet meeting on June 12.  Nir Orbach (Yamina) was the latest member of Knesset to threaten to quit the 60-MK coalition unless he sees that it has a viable future.

 Uri Zohar (credit: Moshe Milner/GPO) Uri Zohar (credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)

Prime Minister Bennett met in Jerusalem on June 3 with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi, warning that Tehran is pushing ahead with its nuclear program while misleading the world with “false information and lies.” .“Bennett made it clear that while Israel prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, it reserves the right to self-defense and to take action against Iran in order to block its nuclear program should the international community not succeed in the relevant time-frame,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.


Israeli occupation and discrimination are the key causes of the recurrent tensions, instability, and drawn out nature of the conflict in the region, the United Nations charged in the initial report of its “Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel.”  In the words of Navanethem Pillay, the commission’s chair, “The findings and recommendations relevant to the underlying root causes were overwhelmingly directed towards Israel, which we have taken as an indicator of the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the reality of one state occupying the other.” Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the report “a witch-hunt,” saying it was “tainted with hatred for the State of Israel.”


The Press Council of South Africa (PCSA) expelled the South African Jewish Report after it refused to apologize or retract an image it published that labeled the SA Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Coalition as antisemitic. The SAJR had quoted two antisemitism experts slamming a BDS cartoon that contained an offensive caricature of a Jewish man stuffing money into his mouth. PCSA Chair Judge Phillip Levinsohn said Appeals Chair Judge Bernard Ngoepe had rejected the appeal by the weekly newspaper that serves the South African Jewish community. In response, its editor Peta Krost, wrote, “Though it may be difficult for those outside the community to understand, there’s no way we can in good faith apologize to this organization, known throughout the Jewish world for being antisemitic.”


Police said more than 7,000 people marched peacefully in the 20th Jerusalem Pride Parade on June 2 after threats of violence were made against organizers and lawmakers. Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, a former Jerusalem police chief, addressed the crowd at the conclusion of the parade at Independence Park, saying he had been shocked by the threats and came to stand against “this evil specter.” Levy told the marchers: “You are entitled to love who you want; you are entitled to marry who you love; you are entitled to raise a family like anyone else. These are not privileges; these are basic rights for every citizen in the country,.”


Uri Zohar, an accomplished film director, actor and comedian who left the entertainment world to become an Orthodox rabbi, died on June 2 at 86 and was buried in Jerusalem later that day. Born in Tel Aviv, Zohar did his military service in the IDF entertainment troupe, studied philosophy at the Hebrew University, and in the 1960s, directed and starred in a series of classic Israeli films, including  Metzitzim. Zohar turned to religion in the late 1970s, shocking Israeli society, and became a haredi rabbi. He used his talents to attract secular Jews to religious Orthodoxy, as spelled out in his 1994 autobiography, My Friends, We Were Robbed!