Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presents the nuclear secrets of Iran at a special press briefing in Jerusalem on April 30, 2018. (photo from IGPO courtesy Ashernet)
It has been a year of diplomatic success for Israel, as more countries upgraded their relations with the Jewish state. This took, in general, two forms: heads of government making an official visit to Israel or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visiting other countries; and the establishment of the embassies of the United States, Guatemala and Panama in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
In April, at a special press conference hosted by Netanyahu, the world learned of the secret storage facilities in Iran that housed Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It is not known exactly how Israel managed to find out the location of the files, or how they were copied and brought back to Israel, but the revelations served Israel well, and the files were instrumental in making the United States renege on the nuclear agreement that President Barack Obama had made with the Iranian regime.
It was a long, hot summer in more ways than one. The latest form of terrorist aggravation was for Gazans to assemble in the thousands along the Gaza-Israel border and launch kites and balloons to which were attached flaming torches that set fire to forests and agricultural fields in Israel, causing uncountable damage and destruction. A variation of this procedure was for terrorists to attach flaming torches to lines attached to the legs of kestrels who managed to survive long enough to set trees alight in Israeli forests near the border.
In better news, this year Israel became the focus of the world’s cycling fraternity. Due to the generosity of Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams, one of the three most important annual cycling races in the world, the Giro d’Italia, started in Jerusalem with a time trial and then took the cyclists from Haifa to Tel Aviv, with a third stage from Be’er Sheva to Eilat. All this was made possible by an $80 million donation to the federation organizing the event. It was one of the biggest sporting events ever staged in Israel and was seen by tens of thousands on television around the world.
The Jewish year opened with the announcement that one of the most outstanding mosaics ever found in Israel, from the Roman era, was going to be incorporated in a new museum in the city of Lod, where it had been found during preparations for building works. This beautiful mosaic was one of many important archeological finds in Israel in the past 12 months.
Also at the start of the Jewish year, tourism in Israel hit a new high, with the three millionth tourist of 2017 arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport in November. And, this summer, Prince William made an official visit to Israel, where he was received by President Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu. Members of the British Royal family have been to Israel before, but never on an official visit.
As always, Israeli technology, universities and medical prowess was remarkable over the year. And, when natural disasters occurred around the world, such as earthquakes and floods, Israel was among the first to send aid.
Not all the news was good for Netanyahu, who, for a major part of the year, was being investigated and questioned by Israel Police for allegedly obtaining inappropriate large-scale benefits from businessmen – charges Netanyahu strenuously denied. Ari Harrow, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, signed a deal to become a state witness to testify against the prime minister.
The Jewish year also saw Netanyahu’s wife Sara receiving a lot of negative press. In the previous year, the Jerusalem Labour Court awarded an employee of Sara Netanyahu’s the sum of $46,000 as he claimed that she had been abusive towards him and withheld wages at times. While she appealed the ruling, it was turned down. She is now being investigated for allegedly ordering expensive meals at the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence at government expense, despite the fact that the prime minister’s official residence employed a cook. She refutes the accusations.
Despite these problems, Binyamin Netanyahu maintains a high international profile – he has the ear of presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, for example.
As 5778 closes, Israel has the pleasurable problem of deciding how best to market the huge natural gas finds that are presently churning about below the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, well within Israel’s exclusive continental shelf.