Israel News

News Digest — 3/16/23

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Netanyahu’s Germany Trip Cut Short Over Judicial Reform, Hezbollah

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Germany was cut short due to negotiations over a possible compromise on the government’s judicial overhaul plan and a likely Hezbollah infiltration into northern Israel.

Netanyahu had initially been scheduled to leave Wednesday morning (15th) for a two-day visit to Berlin, a timetable which was pushed off to the late afternoon and then into the night as the prime minister held talks in the Knesset.

At the last minute, Netanyahu also cut short the trip on the return end, so that he will be in Germany for less than 24 hours.  He is scheduled to depart Berlin for Israel on Thursday night (16th) rather than on Friday (17th), due to the deteriorating situation along Israel’s northern border.

The IDF is exploring the possibility that the Lebanese terrorist who infiltrated into Israel, placing the bomb at the Megiddo Junction that exploded earlier this week, is tied to Hezbollah.

While in Berlin on Thursday (16th), Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.  He will also visit the Platform 17 Memorial at Grunewald Station, from which German Jews were deported to their deaths during the Holocaust.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that the meetings with Schultz and Steinmeier will be the first meetings in their current positions and expresses both the special relations between Israel and Germany and their cooperation on a range of issues.

The leaders are expected to discuss various diplomatic and security issues especially Iran and developments in the region. 

“Prime Minister Netanyahu will emphasize the need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the PMO said.

Netanyahu and Schultz will probably discuss judicial reform.

Opponents of the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul plan disrupted traffic around Ben-Gurion Airport during the day to make it difficult for Netanyahu to depart, unaware that he was nowhere near the flight terminals.  German protesters who oppose the judicial plan are expected to rally against him in Berlin on Thursday (16th).

Schultz and Steinmeier are likely to express their concern about the plan which European countries fear will weaken Israel’s democracy.

The German leaders are also likely to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the mounting concern of a violent outbreak in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan, which begins March 22nd.

The trip also has a heavy security component.  Russia’s war against Ukraine, now in its second year, will also be on the agenda as Germany, like many European countries, is worried that Moscow will set its sights on them next.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of occupying Germany, saying it never really became a sovereign state after World War II.  Like most European countries, Germany is strengthening its military and has looked to Israel to help boost its air-defense as it seeks to purchase the Arrow 3 missile-defense system from them.



Israeli Troops Kill Terrorist Arriving From Lebanon, Who Planted Roadside Bomb

Israeli security forces killed a terrorist who planted an explosive device on a highway on Monday (13th), severely wounding one man.  The man, 21, was hospitalized with shrapnel throughout his whole body and head.

“During searches and roadblocks in the area of Moshav Ya’ara (route 899), ISA and ‘Yamam’ police forces stopped a vehicle, in which an armed terrorist posed a threat to the forces, who neutralized and killed him,” the military said in a statement.  “The terrorist was found in possession of weapons, including an explosive belt ready to be activated and additional means,” the IDF said, adding that he was near the Lebanese border.

The military said that their inquiry suggests that the man was presumed to have crossed from Lebanon into Israel territory earlier this week.

They identified the explosive device as a type used by the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group and were previously used in an attempt to target IDF soldiers along the border with Syria, in 2020.

The investigation and its aftermath were kept under a gag order from Monday (13th), despite the advice of the military that it should be made known.

There was no further information on who dispatched the man into Israeli territory to carry out the attack.  Hezbollah was not yet named as responsible, in the military’s statements.  Additionally, no information was released as to how the border was breached.

Still, security officials urged the prime minister to launch a military response against Hezbollah after the terrorist was able to travel from the border for miles and plant his explosive device.



Hungary Was Crossing Fingers For Netanyahu’s Return

Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Szijjarto said Tuesday (14th) that his country was “crossing fingers” for the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to the prime minister’s chair in Israel.

Appearing on “Mallard at Large,” the minister said that the return of the Likud Party leader to Israel’s top office has allowed the bilateral relationship between the two nations to flourish.

“If we raise the question to ourselves under whose leadership were the relations between Israel and Hungary flourishing and improving, then it’s obvious that under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu we had the best possible relationship with Israel.”

In a wide-ranging interview which included Hungary’s relationship with the Jewish state to the war in Ukraine, Szijjarto said the eastern European nation is ready to deepen its connection with Jerusalem in all sectors, adding: “We built partnerships and bilateral cooperation in the field of economics, trade, culture, and science, all in a very beneficial manner for both sides.”

“We hope to further deepen the cooperation,” Szijjarto said.

The foreign affairs minister was asked about Israel’s domestic issues, including the nationwide civil unrest over the proposed judicial reforms being brought to the Knesset by the Netanyahu-led governing coalition and the growing violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Szijjarto says he believes the pressure Israel receives from nations across the globe is unfair.

“We don’t like that very unfair approach which is being reflected in international organizations against Israel, we never vote in favor of those biased resolutions which are very much anti-Israel in international organizations.”

“While the current domestic situation could mean Netanyahu will have to continue waiting for his much coveted White House invitation, the prime minister won’t have to wait long to be invited to Budapest,” Szijjarto stated.

“We are excited about the new term of Prime Minister Netanyahu, we are excited he can pay another visit to Hungary,” Szijjarto said.



Bereaved Mother Of Ramot Victims Gives Birth To Son

One month after her sons were killed in a Palestinian terror attack, Jerusalem mother Devorah Paley gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday morning (15th).

On February 10, Hossein Karake, a 31-year-old terrorist and resident of east Jerusalem, rammed his car into a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop in northern Jerusalem killing Yaakov Yisrael Paley, 6, and his 8-year-old brother Asher.

A third brother, 10-year-old Moshe, was slightly injured in the attack. 

The father, Rabbi Avraham Paley, also injured severely in the attack and in a coma for two weeks, regained consciousness three weeks after the attack.  He left the hospital for the first time on Monday (13th) and went straight to pray at the grave of his sons.  The 42-year-old Paley faces a lengthy period of rehabilitation and was taken to the cemetery in a wheelchair.

Rabbi Paley was at his wife’s side during the delivery at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital-Mount Scopus.

Also murdered in the car-ramming attack was 20-year-old Shlomo Lederman, who was married two months earlier.



Biological Defibrillator To Treat Irregular Heartbeat Developed By Rambam, Technion

Researchers at the Rambam Healthcare Campus and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have succeeded in using genetic engineering to treat heart rhythm disorders in their labs.  The researchers were able to produce a receptor causing a biological process that regulates the electrical activity in the heart.

Patients will be able to activate the receptor themselves through a tiny dose of medicine that will act only on a specific area of the heart and only in real time of a heart rhythm disturbance.  This, they say, is a groundbreaking development: a kind of biological defibrillator.

Cardiac Arrhythmias are characterized by a feeling of beats that are out-of-rhythm, missed, too fast or too slow that exceed the norm – which is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis suffer from heart rhythm disorders, most of them as a result of a disruption in electrical activity.  This causes chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness and weakness to the point of fainting; they can even be life-threatening.

Researchers all over the world have been trying to find solutions to regulate the disorders, until now without success – even though there are various drugs that change the electrical activity of the heart and are used to treat arrhythmias.  But these drugs affect all parts of the heart and other organs, working on both healthy and diseased cells, so their effectiveness is very limited.  They also have side effects, some of which are severe and may worsen the patient’s condition and even cause death.

The research has been published in the journal Circulation Research under the title “Chemogenetics for Gene-Therapy-based Targeted Cardiac Electrophysiological Modulation.”

“Our solution is to genetically engineer a receptor and insert it into a certain point in the heart where it will connect to specific cells responsible for the electrical activity of the heart but will be in a dormant state,” according to Yehuda Wexler, a doctoral student in Lior Gepstein’s lab (Gepstein is director of cardiology and research departments at Rambam, who led the research). 

“The goal is for patients to take the drug themselves, when the arrhythmia is taking place,” said Wexler.  “The drug will connect to the receptor, which will wake them up and activate the cells that regulate the electrical activity only in the place where the arrhythmia occurs and not in the entire heart.”

THE FINDINGS were presented for the first time at the recent annual research day conducted by Rambam’s research department where 120 studies in various stages of research were submitted.

All of them were launched after the doctors recognized a real need that emerged from the field.