Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

March 29, 2009--Last Minute Negotiations Over Shalit

There are repeated reports of renewed negotiations with Hamas over Gilad Shalit. It would seem there have been negotiations between the Egyptians and Hamas. The Egyptians have been pressuring Hamas to come up with a new list of prisoners, one that will be accepted by Israel. The key for Hamas is to come up with a list and not seem like it is giving-in to Israel. According to initial reports, Hamas has conceded that they will not demand the return of the 10 prisoners whom Israel refuses to release, and that a larger number than they would like will be forced into exile. It is unclear whether an agreement can be signed in the one day left to the Olmert government, or that such an agreement would stand up to a challenge in the Supreme Court.

There are additional reports that Israel did not attack one convoy in Sudan, but actually hit three convoys. One of the interesting facts is that none of the Arab states have said a word about the attack. In fact, it would seem that some wondered what took Israel so long to attack. This may be tied to the fact that Iran has reportedly built a base in Eritrea. This base brings Iranian missile closer to Israel. It also brings them from a different direction, complicating Israel's missile defensive needs. On the the other hand, a base in Eritrea would be infinitely easier to attack. More importantly, an Iranian base in Eritrea threatens many Arab Sunni states. Eritrea is close to Riyadah, and just opposite Yemen, where Teheran has been supporting a Shite insurgency.

Yahadut Hatorah thought it was a shoe-in to be in the government, that was until it tried to get an approval from Rabbi Eliav, the chief Ashkenazi Haredi Rav. Rabbi Eliav was unwilling to go along with the agreement Shas agreed to, regarding any change in the conversion process. Rabbi Eliav does not respect any decisions made by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and believes that Shas does not understand the fight against the Haskala (enlightment). None of the other Rabbis, other than Rav Ovadia, are willing to take stands that contradict the views of the any of the most strict Ashkenazi Haredi Rabbanim. All of the others are afraid their children will not be accepted into their desired Yeshivot or other institutions. Some observers believe Rav Ovadia is the last significant Sepahardic Posek (Rabbi who makes law decisions) who remains.

Gas has been discovered off the coast of Hadera. The total economic value of the discovery is unknown, but coming after the large commercial discovery off Haifa, it's beginning to look like there are gas fields along the whole coast (40 miles offshore) of Israel.