14 Days: New government

Israeli news highlights from the past two weeks.

 Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen next to Israeli President Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen next to Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

NEW GOVERNMENT 

Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu told President Isaac Herzog just before the midnight deadline on December 21 that he had succeeded in forming a new coalition. In a video of the conversation, Netanyahu is seen saying to Herzog in Hebrew,  “I wanted to inform you that, thanks to the immense public support we won in the elections, I have managed to set up a government which will take care of all the citizens of Israel.”  After officially informing Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin that he had mustered a 64-member majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Netanyahu was given until January 2 to conclude coalition deals and swear in Israel’s 37th government, the most right-wing in the country’s history. 

“I wanted to inform you that, thanks to the immense public support we won in the elections, I have managed to set up a government which will take care of all the citizens of Israel.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

ANTISEMITISM GROUP 

Amid a recent spike in antisemitism in the United States, President Joe Biden unveiled a new Inter-Agency Group to Counter Antisemitism on December 12. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the new group, led by Domestic Policy Council staff and National Security Council staff, would work “to increase and better coordinate US government efforts to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination within the United States.” At the White House Hanukkah party, Biden urged political and community leaders to speak out forcefully against antisemitism. “Silence is complicity,” Biden said. “We must not remain silent.”

 Rabbi Haim Drukman (credit: ARIK SULTAN) Rabbi Haim Drukman (credit: ARIK SULTAN)

BIDEN’S MESSAGE 

US President Biden concluded his joint press conference with Ukraine’s Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky on December 21 by making a reference to Hanukkah, saying that “Light will always prevail over darkness.” He called Hanukkah “a story of survival and resilience that reminds us that on the coldest days of the year, that light will always prevail over darkness.” In an address to the US Congress, Zelensky noted that Russia had found an ally in Iran. “Iran’s deadly drones sent to Russia in hundreds became a threat to our critical infrastructure. That is how one terrorist has found the other,” he said. “It is just a matter of time when they will strike against your other allies if we do not stop them now.”

LAST NAZI? 

In what may be the last Nazi trial, a German court on December 20 convicted Irmgard Furchner, 97, of complicity in the murder of 10,500 people in the Stutthof concentration camp, where she worked as a secretary to the SS commander. The Itzehoe state court in northern Germany gave her a two-year suspended sentence, the German news agency dpa reported, saying she had “aided and abetted those in charge of the camp in the systematic killing of those imprisoned there between June 1943 and April 1945 in her function as a stenographer and typist in the camp commandant’s office.”

HANUKKAH GELT 

The Israel Antiquities Authority published news during the recent holiday period of a dramatic find: a wooden box containing 15 silver coins that, according to the IAA, serve as proof of the Hanukkah story of the Maccabees’ revolt against the Greek Seleucid Kingdom. The box, hidden in a cave in the Nachal Darga Nature Reserve about 2,200 years ago, was uncovered in excavations carried out there last May. Meanwhile, a rare half-shekel coin from the Great Revolt dated to 69-70 CE during the Second Temple period was discovered in Jerusalem’s Ophel excavations south of the Temple Mount. 

ISRAELI CHRISTIANS 

Israel’s Christian population increased by 2% in 2022 to 182,000, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) announced on Christmas eve. According to the CBS, Israel’s more than a dozen Christian denominations comprise 1.9% of the total population of over 9 million, and 75.8% are Arabs.  Most Arab Christians live in northern Israel (more than 70%), while the cities with the most Christian residents are Nazareth (21,100), Haifa (16,700) and Jerusalem (12,900).

SPIRITUAL LEADER 

Rabbi Haim Drukman, the spiritual leader of the Religious Zionist movement, died at the age of 90 on December 25 after contracting the coronavirus. A winner of the Israel Prize in 2012, Druckman headed the Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and the Center for Bnei Akiva Yeshivot. Born in Kuty (then Poland, now Ukraine), he made aliyah after being saved in the Holocaust and became a student of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook. He founded Ohr Etzion in 1964, played a key role in the establishment of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, served as a member of Knesset and deputy minister of Religious Affairs, and headed the State Conversion Authority. He lived in Merkaz Shapira, a religious village, and is survived by his physician wife, Sarah, nine children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.