Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu kisses Adel Banita’s 2-year old son on the forehead in Hadassah Hospital on Oct. 5, 2015. Netanyahu was visiting Banita, who was stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem’s Old City. Her husband, Aharon, 22, died later of his injuries. (photo from Ashernet)
The Jewish year 5776 could be probably best described as a year of diplomacy and terror. Despite the toll of death and misery being inflicted by radical Islamic terror groups around the world, Israel this past year has been relatively quiet in so much as it has not had an outright war with its neighbors. Terror, however, has been present, with the knife and automobile being the weapons of choice to inflict fear and mayhem on the long-suffering citizens of Israel.
Radicalized, mostly young, Arab terrorists have been responsible for murdering or seriously injuring innocent men, women and children by stabbings or ramming their vehicles into groups of people, usually standing at bus stops or hitchhiking posts. Death and injury have also been caused by throwing large stones at passing cars in the West Bank. In several instances, firearms have been used by terrorists to kill people enjoying an evening out. On Aug. 17, a terrorist from the West Bank shot dead four people and injured a further six individuals at a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Perhaps the most outrageous attack was the murder of 13-year-old Hallel-Yaffe Ariel as she slept in her bed in her home in Kiryat Arba on June 30.
The year has been marked by intensive diplomatic activity, particularly as far as the African continent is concerned. Major countries, such as Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda, played host to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu this past summer. Their leaders have also visited Israel and trade agreements were signed. One African leader said the visit of the Israeli prime minister to Africa was to “reset Africa’s diplomatic relations with Israel.” Many African countries are anxious to use Israeli technology for water management and agricultural development. It is also worth noting that many African nations have also been victims of radical Islamic terrorism.
Israel’s Mediterranean neighbors were not forgotten this past year. Mutual interests of both energy and security have brought Greece, Israel and Cyprus closer. Greece and Israel have conducted military exercises in each other’s country, and the three countries are working together to maximize the natural gas deposits that have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean.
Despite the tensions in the Middle East, beneath the surface, much is happening between Israel and its neighbor Jordan. Perhaps the most significant long-term change is the soon-to-be-completed Jezreel Valley railway project. Apart from the advantage for Israelis living in the north and working in the Haifa area, the new rail link will enable Jordanians to have a Mediterranean trade outlet, via Haifa. The only link to the sea for Jordan at present is at Aqaba on the Red Sea.
Another project between Israel and Jordan concerns the rapid evaporation of the Dead Sea. Already the lowest point on earth, the sea level is getting lower every year. Also, the annual replacement of water from rivers in the north does not reach the Dead Sea. This river water is being used for agriculture and domestic purposes. In principle, the two countries have agreed to build a water feed from the Gulf of Eilat to the Dead Sea. On the way, the flow of water would power generators to produce electricity.
As regards her other neighbors in the region, the terrible humanitarian crises being played out in Syria and Libya have once again demonstrated that Israel will never turn her back on those in need. As thousands of refugees have been pouring onto some Greek islands via Turkey to escape the unrelenting wars in the Middle East and North Africa, Israel’s aid organizations and medical teams have been on hand to offer help and expertise.
Among other happenings during the year, another state-of-the-art submarine was delivered during the summer from a German shipyard to augment Israel’s submarine fleet. And, finally, former prime minister Ehud Olmert was sent to prison after being found guilty of corruption and bribery. The positive side of this? The rule of law is the same in Israel for all of its citizens.