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Israel has Togo, Baby You Can’t Drive My Car, Picking Up the Pieces


Landmark Israel-Africa Summit Canceled Following Boycott Threats

Raoul Wootliff, Times of Israel, September 11th 2017

Recap:

The landmark summit, which was intended to bring 54 African countries and Israel together in the Togolese capital of Lome, has been postponed indefinitely. No reason was given for the cancellation.

The Context:

  • During his tenure as Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu visited countries that have rarely, or never, been visited by Israeli leaders such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Australia and Singapore. This week, Netanyahu visited Argentina and Colombia - the first Israeli leader to do so.

  • Netanyahu’s efforts to improve Israel’s ties with Africa include visits to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia as well as an appearance at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in Liberia, where Netanyahu offered Israeli expertise in water and agriculture technology [1]. Israel is now seeking observer status in the African Union [2].

  • The Togo cancellation is speculatively attributed to either pressure mounted by the Palestinian Authority (PA), Morocco and South Africa to derail the summit or possibly, the political unrest currently plaguing Togo. This month, thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand presidential term limits amid anger over the 50-year rule of the Gnassingbe family [3]. The Togo government recently cut all Internet access to thwart the opposition’s ability to garner local and international support [4].

  • Netanyahu’s seeks to offer African states development aid, economic cooperation and anti-terrorism tools to gain goodwill and break the traditional anti-Israel majority in international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) [5].

Conversation Points:

  • Why are nations that have been historically hostile to Israel starting to warm up?

  • Would Netanyahu’s tenure as Prime Minister be considered a success if he manages to turnaround the UN’s automatic anti-Israel vote?

  • Netanyahu believes that Israel’s foreign relations exist independent from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Does the Togo summit cancellation tell a different story?

Petition to Allow Public Transportation on Saturday Retracted

Udi Shaham, Jerusalem Post, September 12th, 2017

Recap:

The petition, submitted by NGO’s Reform Center for Religion and State, Israel Hofsheet & Hiddush, was intended to obligate the Transportation Ministry to run public transportation on Saturdays.

The Context:

  • Israel’s prohibition of public transportation on Shabbat began in 1947. While certain inter-city bus lines are permitted, primarily to help soldiers reach their base [6], most public transportation is forbidden in Israel on Shabbat. The law does allow licenses for Shabbat transportation serving hospitals, remote areas, towns and villages whose residents are not Jewish and anything considered essential to public safety. The state has increased Shabbat permits from 164 in 2012 to 383 in 2017 [7].

  • The court agreed that the NGO’s presented a case that posed legitimate rights issue however, the justices rejected the petition since no public transportation operator or bus line joined in on the petition. Orly Erez-Lahovski, an attorney representing the NGO’s, urged the Transportation Ministry to “ensure the freedom of movement right, equality and dignity of all the residents in Israel.”

  • Orthodox politicians praised the decision as “a fitting ruling for a democratic state with a Jewish character,” adding that “drivers who do intensive work deserve to get Shabbat as their day off as do all other people.”

  • State mandated Shabbat observance has become a tense issue in Israel with MK’s seeking to change the status quo by pushing for Saturday soccer games and weekend train repair [8]. Ultra Orthodox Jews represent 10% of the Israeli population and 73% of Israeli Jews support some form of public transportation on Saturday [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Is the dearth of public transportation on Shabbat a form of religious coercion?

  • Should Israeli MK’s be the ones to determine who does and doesn’t need rest?

  • What is the appropriate separation between shul and state?

Israel Rushes Significant Aid Overseas in Week of World Disasters

Nicky Blackburn, Israel21C, September 10th 2017

Recap:

Israel sends aid to Florida, Texas & Mexico to help recovery efforts after a string of natural disasters.

The Context:

  • Following Hurricane Irma, Israeli organizations made their way to Florida to help rebuild after the storm. IsraAID is involved primarily in debris removal while ZAKA has established two command centers in Miami, equipped with generators, sleeping bags and search, rescue and recovery equipment.

  • iAID arrived in Mexico following the 8.1 magnitude earthquake to assess the region’s long term needs and the Israeli Foreign Ministry will send aid to Mexico as well.

  • IsraAID, the IRC and ZAKA sent first-aid responders to Houston following Hurricane Harvey to help clear debris and administer first aid. The Israeli Foreign Ministry sent several tons of supplies and earmarked $1 million in humanitarian aid for the victims. Two Israeli medical clowns will provide laughter therapy to the victims of Hurricane Harvey for a week.

Conversation Points:

  • What explains Israel’s interest in worldwide tikkun olam?

Notes:

  1. SA to boycott upcoming African-Israeli summit in Togo, African News Agency, August 15th 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. Israel-Africa summit canceled amid Togo unrest, Washington Post, September 11th 2017

  4. Africa-Israel Summit, Billed as Culmination of Warming Ties With Continent, Is Canceled, Barak Ravid, Haaretz, September 11th 2017

  5. Ibid.

  6. Reform petition to allow Shabbat public transit rejected, Tzvi Lev, Israel National News, September 11th 2017

  7. Public Transportation on Sabbath Not an Essential Need, Israel Tells High Court, Aaron Rabinowitz, Haaretz, September 5th 2017

  8. Reform petition to allow Shabbat public transit rejected, Tzvi Lev, Israel National News, September 11th 2017

  9. High Court dismisses petition seeking public buses on Shabbat, Times of Israel, September 11th 2017


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