A year of headlines Israel


V The past year in Israel will always be remembered as the year of political deadlock, two inconclusive elections, two elected parliaments which legislated only for their own dissolution and a prime minister who hung on in office despite a string of criminal charges. But while the unending Netanyahu saga overshadowed everything else, there were other things that happening as well in 2019.

Regional conflicts were not suspended by political deadlock. The shadow war between Israel and Iran in Syria and Lebanon intensified, with new attempts by Iran’s revolutionary guards and Hezbollah to launch attacks on Israel using missiles and drones. Israeli intelligence detected these and the IDF responded with air-strikes, not only in Syria and Lebanon but as far afield as Iraq. As the year drew to a close, Iran was still entrenched in Syria and concern was growing in Israel of more ambitious attacks being planned.

Gaza remained volatile too, though one significant change to previous years was that most of the projectiles — both in the sporadic fire and in the short, sharp escalations that occured every few months — were launched by Islamic Jihad.

Hamas increasingly assumed the role of a responsible grown-up, negotiating a long-term truce with Israel through the Egyptians. But that truce remains elusive at the year’s end, with both sides incapable of overcoming domestic political obstacles.

Within Israel there was turmoil when an off-duty police officer shot and killed a teenager from the Ethiopian-Israeli community and violent protest against racism and “over-policing” broke out across the country.

It was a reminder to Israelis that the emigration of the Beita Yisrael, once a source of so much pride for Israelis and for Jews around the world, had resulted in numerous long-term social problems which will continue simmering for decades.

Another long-term source of contention was the role of religion in the state arose, and not just in the political sphere where it was particularly prevalent. One development in this regard was the inauguration of public bus routes on Shabbat in Tel Aviv and its suburbs — for the first time since Israel’s establishment.

The local authorities operating and subsidising the buses probably would not have been able to do so if a regular government with full powers and objecting Strictly Orthodox ministers had been in place. So the political paralysis has its uses as well.

Another key development in public transport was the electrification of the high-speed railway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a 20-year project finally completed in December. It finally allowed travel in half an hour between Israel’s two main cities for the first time.

And if that was not enough to give Israelis a brief illusion of normality, there was the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv this year. Normal, that is, if you call it normal when Icelandic rockers prance onstage in sadomasochistic get-ups and then wave Palestinian flags as the points are awarded.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive