THE WEEK AHEAD: Yair Lapid’s first week as prime minister, Israel gears up for elections and White House team prepares Biden’s trip to the region
Here are the stories we are watching...
Lapid’s first week in office
Election mode activated in Israel
Preparing for Biden’s visit
Iran nuclear talks to resume?
Ladino language festival
LAPID’S FIRST WEEK IN OFFICE
This week will be Yair Lapid’s first one in office as Israel’s new prime minister, leading the country in a transitional government. Lapid officially entered the role on Thursday, replacing outgoing premier Naftali Bennett who announced that he will not run in the upcoming elections.
Hours after the Knesset voted to dissolve, Lapid went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, where he vowed to “always preserve a strong Israel, able to defend itself and to defend its children.” Lapid’s father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, was a Holocaust survivor who was born to a Jewish-Hungarian family in Serbia and became a prominent lawmaker in Israel.
ELECTION MODE ACTIVATED
Nov. 1 has been set as the date for the next election, but speculation surrounding how competing parties will shape up has already begun. With Bennett sitting out this round, his No. 2 – Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked – is poised to lead Yamina, which is polling at only five seats. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud is leading with 34 seats and Lapid's Yesh Atid is second with 20. This may not mean much, however. In the shifting dynamics of Israel’s complicated electoral system, some parties may join forces and run together while new ones may yet emerge.
For example, former members of Bennett's party may find their way to the ranks of Likud after defecting from Yamina and leading to the collapse of the coalition. Netanyahu might also get a powerful endorsement from overseas. Former U.S. President Donald Trump told Newsmax he was considering endorsing the former prime minister.
PREPARING FOR BIDEN’S VISIT
Preparations ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East are underway, with a team from the White House set to arrive in Israel on Monday to finalize the trip. The prep team will tour each of the places the president is expected to visit between July 13-14 before he heads to Saudi Arabia.
At a press conference last week, Biden said that he is "going to Israel to meet with Israeli leaders to affirm the unbreakable bond Israel and the United States have.” He is expected to meet with both Lapid and Netanyahu.
Another purpose of the trip, according to Biden, “is to deepen Israel’s integration in the region, which I think we’re going to be able to do and which is good – good for peace and good for Israeli security.” That goal of integration is “why Israeli leaders have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi Arabia,” Biden stated.
IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS TO RESUME?
New efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are still underway, after long months of stalemate leading many to believe that a new agreement was off the table. On Thursday, Iran signaled that it is ready for a new round of indirect talks with the United States to overcome the final hurdles.
The Islamic Republic’s United Nations ambassador said that the Iranian negotiating team is “ready to engage constructively again to conclude and reach an agreement.” He added that the ball is in U.S. government's court.
Bloomberg reported that negotiations are likely to resume after Biden returns from his Middle East trip.
LADINO LANGUAGE FESTIVAL
The city of Safed in northern Israel will host an international Ladino festival this week. The Ladino language, also called Judeo-Spanish, is a romance language spoken by Sephardic Jews living mostly in Israel, the Balkans, North Africa, Greece and Turkey. While the language is nearly extinct in many of these areas, music and cultural celebrations are helping to keep it alive. Safed is known for its connection to Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah.
This week we are also keeping an eye on these developing stories:
... Who is Yair Lapid, Israel’s new prime minister?
... New poll: What Americans think of the mainstream media coverage of Israel
... What Evangelical Christians need to know about abortion in Israel
... What will a U.S. investigation find regarding the bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during fighting between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians in Jenin?
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.