Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Peace continues to run wild in the Middle East, but so does the coronavirus. At the rate that Israel is giving out vaccines for Covid-19, we should try to design one to prevent too much political drama as well!



Iran continues to be… just a jerk of a country, really. It started this week by announcing its intention to enrich uranium to the point of producing nuclear weapons. But that wasn’t enough for one week, so it then proceeded to hijack a South Korean oil tanker.

Are you telling me they don’t use Samsung phones in Iran? Where’s the gratitude? As always, Iran continued its constant barrage of smack-talking to pretty much everyone else in the region. Just a peach of a country.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar

While Iran plans to go nuclear, two Sunni Arab neighbors that have been at odds with each other for a bit – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – have made up. Top officials from Qatar have already traveled to Saudi Arabia to attend a regional conference.

The Trump Administration once again played a large role in facilitating the reconciliation. This would have been considered impressive in the past, but for Trump officials, it’s just another week, another peace deal in the Middle East.

What does this mean for Israel? It just happened, but Qatar also likes to talk a lot of smack. With better relations between it and Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries friendly with Israel, another possible barrier to official normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia (and possibly additional Arab countries) has been removed.

Peace is in everyone’s interest, except for Iran and the “Palestinians” – and that’s the Middle East in a nutshell. And yet, which two entities is a potential Biden administration looking to cozy up to? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Coronavirus Lockdown Update

Israel is experiencing two dramatic trends – lots of vaccinations administered and lots of new cases of Covid-19. At this point, it would seem that Israel will likely reach something close to two million people vaccinated (with both shots) by the end of January, including a very large percentage of those most at risk of experiencing serious complications from the virus.

At the same time, new infections are up to something like 8,000 a day. The number of serious and critical cases, and unfortunately deaths, has also increased dramatically.

This has happened despite a lockdown being in place for the last week and a half. Therefore, Israel will be tightening the lockdown starting this Friday for two weeks. During that time, schools will be closed.

Up till now, schools have been opened and have been blamed for the bulk of the increases in morbidity. Never used that word before in my life. Exciting. Would be more exciting to get out of this whole pandemic thing. G-d willing, soon!

Israeli Political Drama

* For now, the New Hope party of Gidon Saar and the Yamina party of Naftali Bennett continue to do well in the polls. Both have seemingly taken seats (in the polls!) from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party.

* Things have gotten even worse for Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. More members have defected to other parties or just quit over the past week, and the party is now projected to possibly not win any seats at all in the upcoming election!

There were rumors that Gantz was considering leaving politics, and I think most folks in this situation would do just that. So far, he’s still in the game. The current rumors have him thinking of joining Naftali Bennett’s party. I have no idea why that would be a good idea for Bennett, but Bennett says he’s going to be prime minister soon, so who knows what universe this man lives in.

By next week’s report, I plan to be six feet tall. How? With Benny Gantz’s help. Makes no sense at all.

* Here’s the thing: Saar has said that his party (New Hope) won’t sit in a government with Netanyahu as prime minister. That messes up all the realistic coalition possibilities. In my humble opinion, this announcement could push voters back to Likud/Netanyahu who is currently polling just short of enough seats to form a coalition government with his traditional allies.

* A bunch of new parties on the center left/left are launching. If they don’t combine, it’s hard to see all or maybe any of them getting enough votes to actually make it into the Knesset.

* Rafi Peretz, the current head of the Bayit Yehudi party, announced that he’s leaving politics. It was like me playing center on the basketball team. For some reason, just never worked out well. Nice guy. He’ll be happier and better doing something – anything – else.

* Someone should really hire that famous Israeli search and rescue dog unit to find Yair Lapid. Has anyone seen that guy?

* Avigdor Lieberman released a statement this week. It was in Hebrew, so none of his voters understood it, and it was from Avigdor Lieberman, so no Israelis cared.

Chanukah and Modern Greece

Just a few weeks after Chanukah ended, the Israeli Defense Ministry signed a defense deal with its counterpart in Greece worth $1.68 billion. Part of the deal includes Greece purchasing fighter jets from Israel and an Israeli company (Elbit) establishing a flight school to train Greek pilots. Things have changed pretty dramatically since that first Chanukah.

Turkey is ecstatic about all this. Not exactly. But it kind of brought this on itself. Should have been a little friendlier.

So far, Israel hasn’t provided Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas with a Covid vaccination. I’m okay with that. You know, maybe you shouldn’t have done that whole Munich Olympics terrorist thing. Just sayin’.

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Rabbi Ben Packer is the director of the Jerusalem Heritage House.