ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit closed an investigation against Labor Party Chairman Issac Herzog over illegal campaign financing in party primaries. Mandelblit’s office cited a lack of evidence.
Herzog was suspected of taking campaign finances from private interests and launching a smear campaign against his opponent for the Labor leadership, Shelly Yachimovich, especially over the issue of nursing reform.
The A-G’s office is currently conducting investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a number of corruption charges, including a deal with media mogul Noni Mozes for favorable coverage and various gifts and contributions from powerful Israeli and foreign businesspeople.
THE KNESSET was set to discuss the controversial settlement-arrangement bill, which aims to retroactively approve West Bank Jewish settlement outposts built illegally on private Palestinian land.
A vote on the bill was delayed last November, losing support from the prime minister. At the time, A-G Mandelblit said the bill was unconstitutional and would not hold up in court.
The Knesset is expected to review the bill and vote to approve it in its second and third readings next Monday.
AT THE SAME TIME, the IDF posted an evacuation notice at the settlement outpost of Amona, giving residents 48 hours to leave.
Residents rejected the evacuation and slammed Israel for failing to provide adequate housing.
Palestinians led by Yesh Din meanwhile petitioned the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, accusing the state of offering more private Palestinian land to Amona residents on which to resettle. The state responded that it offered to build housing for Amona evacuees in exchange for a peaceful evacuation.
Jewish Home Knesset rep. Bezalel Smotrich said he hoped “common sense” would prevail at the High Court and called for Israelis to go to Amona, in the central West Bank north of Ramallah, to support its residents.
Last December, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) — a political leader in the settler community — compromised with the prime minister over the settlement-arrangement bill, allowing for Amona’s dismantlement.
PROFESSOR EHUD KEINAN of the Weizmann Institute warned this week that an attack on ammonia storage facilities at the Haifa port could kill as many as 16,000 Israelis.
An attack on a ship unloading the ammonia would be even deadlier, the organic chemistry professor told Israel’s national public radio.
Most of the ammonia does not stay in Israel. The Environmental Protection Agency said 80 percent of the imported chemical is turned into fertilizer and exported.
Haifa mayor Yona Yahav called for an immediate resolution of the ammonia issue. Haifa has had its fair share of environmental disasters over the years, including forest fires in late 2016 that sent tens of thousands of residents fleeing their homes and in 2010 that resulted in dozens of deaths. Certain neighborhoods are also known for having rampant pollution widely associated with increased cancer rates and birth defects.
Haifa Chemicals, which uses some 70% of the imported ammonia, rejected Keinan’s disaster scenario and insisted its storage sites were “among the safest facilities on the planet,” according to Israel Radio.
The facilities are within range of Lebanese Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal. Hezbollah is said to have stockpiled hundreds of thousands of rockets and missiles for future conflicts with Israel.
The question is how to better secure ammonia shipping and storage, or whether to stop ammonia imports altogether.
THE ISRAEL SPACE AGENCY unveiled plans to develop a radiation-resistant spacesuit to be tested in space this year, as part of a joint Israeli-German simulated expedition to Mars.
StemRad, an Israeli company that builds gamma-radiation protective clothing to be used on Earth, was tapped to develop the spacesuit.
The spacesuit will be evaluated on its return to Earth following a month in space, Israel Radio reported.
(“Israeli Space Week: 2017 > The Farthest We Can Possibly Go” | Image from the Israel Space Agency Facebook page)