It's been a very busy week here in Israel, with news about the settlements in Judea and Samaria, the vaccine rollout, and a potential reopening of the economy and tourism being some of the highlights.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he is seriously considering putting forward a request to the Israeli government, in the next few days, for a declaration of intent in order to authorize 46 settlement outposts—some of which have been around for more than 20 years—in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Residents of these communities are currently without standard water and electricity because the government does not yet recognize their legal status.
It would be a major move by Israel to support expanding settlement activity in Judea and Samaria, and in some cases would likely allow for the growth of established settlements beyond the 30% allocated in President Trump's peace plan, according to the Jpost. The move would be another crucial step towards Israel exercising sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and would doubtless be bitterly opposed by the incoming Biden administration. We hope and pray that Israel moves ahead with this important step to recognizing the legitimacy of all Jewish building in the heartland of Israel.
Last week the US Defense Department also announced that Israel would be included in the United States Central Command, a result of the peace deals between Israel and other Arab countries, which have brought peace and stability to the Middle East. The move continues to strengthen the relationship and enhance security cooperation between the United States and Israel.
Doing our part to ensure the US remains a strong friend of Israel
With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing around the world, and in the midst of another lockdown, Israel has distributed the vaccine to a larger percentage of its population than any other country. The hope is that the rapid roll-out of vaccinations will allow Israel to quickly reopen their economy and end the national lockdowns for good.
The good news is that Israel's Finance Minister Israel Katz said on Sunday that Israel will gradually reopen its economy in February with hopes it will be fully open by March. Israel's ministry of tourism also announced plans to reopen the country for tourism again by this summer, bringing back one of Israel's major sources of revenue.
This is welcome news as Israel's economy has been ravaged by the lockdowns as well the lack of tourism, causing many businesses to shut down and putting many people out of work. The small businesses of Judea and Samaria have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and we’re grateful that you have stepped up to make sure the restoration of Israel’s heartland continues!