14 Days: Premier handover

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

Bennett, Lapid and their families participated in a small ceremony for Lapid's transition to prime minister. (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Bennett, Lapid and their families participated in a small ceremony for Lapid's transition to prime minister.
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

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


After the Knesset voted to disperse itself and hold a new election on November 1, Naftali Bennett handed over the reins to Yair Lapid in a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 30 attended by their wives, Gilat and Lihi. Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit in mid-July, Lapid flew to Paris for talks with President Emanuel Macron that focused on Iran. He also called Arab leaders to offer his best wishes for Eid al-Adha, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in what was said to be the first conversation between an Israeli premier and Palestinian leader in five years.


Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope announced a merger at a press conference on July 10.  “Today we are laying the foundation stone of the next government,” said Gantz, while Sa’ar alluded to his party’s name: “Today Israel needs new hope, and a move that will pull it from crisis to progress.” A poll by Panel Politics published on July 8 gave the right-wing bloc led by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu 61 seats, 36 of them to Likud and 10 to Religious Zionism, with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid as the second biggest party, with 23, seats followed by Blue and White with 9.


The IDF shot down three Hezbollah drones several kilometers away from the Karish gas rig on July 2, the army said. According to the army, one was downed by an F-16 and two others by the Barak 8 missile system on the INS Eilat – the first time it was used against aerial threats. “Hezbollah is continuing its acts of terror and damaging Lebanon’s ability to reach a maritime border agreement,” Prime Minister Lapid said as he convened his first cabinet meeting a day later. 

 Lily Safra (credit: ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS) Lily Safra (credit: ERIC GAILLARD/REUTERS)

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Sunday struck down Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s decision to restrict the number of Ukrainian refugees entering Israel. In March, Shaked said Israel would allow some 20,000 Ukrainians on tourist visas or in the country illegally before the Russian invasion to remain, while granting visas to a further 5,000 refugees who do not automatically qualify for aliyah under the Law of Return. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky commended the ruling in a tweet, .


The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) approved Doron Almog as its new leader on July 10, while Mark Wilf took over from Michael Siegal as chairman of its Board of Governors. In his inaugural speech, Almog pledged to build stronger connections with the Diaspora, saying he aimed to “reach the heart of every Jew in the world.” Siegal said the Jewish Agency, which was in huge debt when he took over five years ago, is now an organization that is sustainable, relevant, collaborative and cooperative. “Let’s just be better to each other, let’s be nicer to each other,” he said. “The Temple falls when Jews fight Jews.” 


Israel’s under-19 soccer team lost 3-1 in extra time to England in the final of the European Championships on July 1 in Trnava, Slovakia – the best performance by an Israeli team since the country joined UEFA in 1992.  “Israeli soccer has a rosy future,” said Israeli coach Ofir Haim. As a result of its success, the Israeli team qualified for the under-20 World Cup that will be played next year in Indonesia.


James Caan, the Bronx-born Jewish film star who often played tough guys such as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” during a film and television career that spanned seven decades, died in Los Angeles on July 6 at 82. Caan, who visited Israel in 2016, considered himself a strong Zionist. “I feel this strong connection with Israel. I always have,” he said. “If Israel is at war, I feel like I’m at war. I’m extremely pro-Israel and I don’t like anybody who isn’t.”


Brazilian-born philanthropist Lily Safra, the widow of billionaire banker Edmond J. Safra who chaired the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and invested generously in research into brain diseases after his death in 1999, died in Geneva on July 9 at 87. In 2013, Lily Safra inaugurated the Hebrew University’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science and donated $16 million for the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital in Tel Hashomer. A recipient of honorary doctorates from several universities in Israel and abroad, she received the honor most recently from the Technion in 2019 “in acknowledgment of her charitable donations for highly important causes and to many institutions in Israel and around the world.”