14 Days: National Unity

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 FROM LEFT: Gadi Eisenkot, Benny Gantz, Gideon Sa'ar. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
FROM LEFT: Gadi Eisenkot, Benny Gantz, Gideon Sa'ar.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

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

NATIONAL UNITY 

Former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot announced on August 15 that he was joining The National Unity Party, a new alliance between Benny Gantz’s Blue and White and Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope parties. At a news conference with Gantz and Sa’ar in Kfar Maccabiah, Eisenkot voiced support for a broad national unity government, but ruled out sitting in a coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that a public figure should not stand for office when under criminal indictment. Also joining the new party is Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, who represented Yamina in the outgoing coalition. Meanwhile, Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir announced that his party would run independently in the November 1 elections, rather than forming an alliance with Religious Zionism led by Bezalel Smotrich.

JERUSALEM SHOOTING 

Eight people – including five Americans – were wounded, two seriously, in a shooting attack on a bus near King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem on the night of August 13. A 26-year-old Palestinian suspected of carrying out the attack turned himself in to security forces the next morning. One of the wounded – a woman in her 26th week of pregnancy who was shot in the stomach – underwent surgery at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, during which her baby was delivered in an emergency C-section. The hospital listed both mother and baby in serious but stable condition. Meanwhile, St.-Sgt. Natan Fitoussi, 20, who made aliyah with his family from France in 2014, was killed by “friendly fire” near Tulkarm on the night of August 15, the IDF said. Military sources said another soldier did not recognize him when he returned from prayers to his guard post, and opened fire. 

 Zvika Pick (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) Zvika Pick (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
TURKISH TIES 

Israel and Turkey will return to full normalization of relations, including reinstating ambassadors and consuls-general, Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on August 17. Lapid said that “renewing relations with Turkey is an important asset for regional stability and important economic news for the citizens of Israel.” Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal finalized the agreement to return to full diplomatic relations the day before.

ABBAS LIBEL 

PA President Mahmoud Abbas drew a chorus of condemnation from Israel and the international community after telling a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on August 16 that Israel had committed “50 holocausts” against the Palestinians. Although Scholtz did not initially respond, he later said that the use of the term “Holocaust” in such a context was “unbearable.” Abbas later retracted the remark, calling the Holocaust “the most heinous crime in modern human history.”

GOLD MEDALS 

Ukrainian-born Israeli Artem Dolgopyat, 25, won a gold medal in the floor exercise at the European Athletics Championships in Munich on August 21. The Israeli men’s team earlier won a gold medal in the team marathon, weeks before the 50th anniversary of the September 5 Munich massacre in which 11 members of the Israeli delegation were murdered. In Rome, Israeli swimmer Anastasia Gorbenko, 19, won the 200-meter individual medley at the European Aquatics Championships, repeating her victory in Hungary last year. 

LGBT PIONEER 

South African-born Jonathan Danilowitz, an El Al in-flight manager who won a landmark legal battle against the national airline to recognize his same-sex partner as his common-law spouse, died in his home at the Protea Hills retirement community near Jerusalem at age 77 on August 11, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As recounted in a recent article by Steve Adler in The Jerusalem Report, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Danilowitz in 1995, obliging El Al to grant equal benefits to LGBT partners.

THE MAESTRO 

Iconic singer and musician Zvika Pick, known as “the Maestro” and the king of Israeli pop, died in Ramat Hasharon on August 14 at 72. Born in Poland, Pick’s family made aliyah in 1957. He studied at the Ramat Gan Conservatory and began performing in local rock bands at age 15. He married songwriter Mirit Shem-Or, who wrote the lyrics for many of his hits, including “Mary Lou,” and they had a son and two daughters (one of whom, Daniella, married Quentin Tarantino), divorcing in 1995. Pick later had two sons with fashion designer Shira Manor.