JERUSALEM — This week, we are keeping a close eye on:
• Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel and the region • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s next legal moves in his trial on alleged corruption charges • Israel’s COVID cabinet as it decides what to open and when
1. Pompeo coming to Israel and key Arab states this weekU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a seven-country trip to Europe and the Middle East, including stops in Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Pompeo arrives in Jerusalem today. He will meet with Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani who is making his first visit to Israel. The two will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi for a trilateral summit. Here is my report for ALL ARAB NEWS.
Pompeo will also visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. The Palestinians — who have cut off ties with America — are infuriated.
2. Bibi’s legal woesNetanyahu’s lawyers are trying to put the brakes on a trial set to go ahead against the prime minister on corruption charges on Dec. 6.
Netanyahu is accused of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. The trial was initially launched in May, but has been delayed due to COVID closures.
The legal proceedings are happening to the backdrop of political rumblings in the coalition and weekly protests against the prime minister who demonstrators say in unfit to lead. For five months now, thousands of demonstrators have amassed at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem to protest Netanyahu’s leadership and the government's handling of the pandemic.
Opposition is just as tense within the government. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, awaiting his turn as prime minister under a rotation deal he made with Netanyahu, criticized the current premier for obstructing decisions and cutting off debates in Cabinet meetings.
3. Israel’s COVID woesThe most pressing item for Israelis right now is which sectors the coronavirus cabinet will allow to reopen and when.
With businesses, gyms, restaurants, malls and grades 5 and up shuttered since Sept. 18, many are anxious to get back to work and school.
So far this week, the Cabinet approved grades 5 to 6 and 11 to 12 to return to school on Nov. 24. They also voted to reopen outdoor malls.
But this leaves grades 7 through 10 still learning from home and there will no further easing of restrictions will be considered until the number of coronavirus cases go down.
Meanwhile Israel is creating “COVID-free zones” within its own borders. The country just opened two “green zones” or tourist islands in Eilat and the Dead Sea resort area. Israelis must bring proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours in order to enter those areas.
“It will finally be possible to go on vacation in Israel,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said opening the entrance to Eilat on Tuesday.
Israel’s COVID infection rate has held steady at around 2 percent for the past few weeks. But it seems the only cure to corona blues will be 4 million vaccines arriving in Israel in January, if all goes according to plan.