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Israel News Blog

03/11/2019 07:40:57 AM


A weekly digest of news from our Israel Political Affairs Committee. Please contact Ann Cohn for questions. These news snippets are informational only and do not reflect the position or opinions of Young Israel of Plainview.

The week in Brief 5/31/19

05/31/2019 10:13:01 AM


BREAKING NEWS: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government by the midnight deadline. The Knesset passed a resolution to dissolve the government, triggering new elections on September 17.This is the first time in Israeli history that the person tasked with forming a government after an election has been unable to do so.

  • On May 14, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post urging the House of Representatives to take a stand against the “toxic” BDS movement. “A particularly troubling aspect of this anti-Semitic trend is that the ugly Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS — a political and economic attack on Israel’s right to exist — continues to gain steam … In the House and Senate here in Washington, we have worked together to champion bipartisan legislation that would prevent the federal government from obstructing those state and local efforts. It is past time for the legislation to become law,” wrote the lawmakers.
  • On May 15, 10,000 people participated in “Nakba Day” riots on the border with Israel. A senior Hamas official delivered a speech saying, "The day of your slaughter, extermination and demise is approaching." The turnout was significantly lower than last year's demonstrations, which coincided with the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and saw more than 40,000 Gazans flood to the border at the direction of Hamas. The riots did lead to damage on Israel's side of the border, where nine fires were lit by arson kites and balloons.
    • At the same time, tensions between Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) continue to rise. It is widely believed by the IDF and others that PIJ – the Iran-backed terror group in Gaza – instigated last week’s rocket fire from Gaza that killed four Israelis. AIPAC sent this memo to congressional offices highlighting Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iran's support for the terrorist group in Gaza.
  • On May 17, Germany’s parliament denounced the global BDS movement, stating that “the pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic [and that] the campaign’s calls to boycott Israeli artists, along with stickers on Israeli goods that are meant to dissuade people from buying them, are also reminiscent of the most terrible phase of German history.”
  • On May 19, the Trump administration announced that it would roll out the economic aspect of its Middle East peace plan at a two-day “Peace to Prosperity” summit to be held in Manama, Bahrain in late June. The international economic workshop will encourage investment in Palestinian territories and across the region through public-private partnerships, and will host Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab states, among other international partners as well as businessmen worldwide. The meeting will not address long-standing political issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, return of Palestinian refugees, or borders of a potential Palestinian state. Diplomats and lawmakers have been told the goal is to raise about $68 billion for the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
  • On May 22, the Palestinian Authority formally rejected its invitation to the conference and has urged Palestinian businessmen to boycott the summit, despite some Arab countries pressuring the PA to attend. During his address to the U.N. Security Council, U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt professed disappointment by the decision, arguing that, “It would be a mistake for the Palestinians not to join us. They have nothing to lose and much to gain.”
  • On May 22, Greenblatt remarked that UNRWA is a “Band-Aid” that “has failed the Palestinian people,” asserting that it is time to dismantle the U.N. agency. He proposed that host countries or other international or local NGOs take over the services UNRWA provides.
    • On May 23, UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl rejectedthe U.S. bid to dismantle UNRWA, stating that the body will work with the U.N. General Assembly for a “safe renewal” of its mandate. The U.S. formerly was UNRWA’s largest donor, until it halted its funding to the agency in 2018 due to its fiscal malpractice and stoking of tensions between the Palestinians and the U.S.
  • On Iran:
    • According to three U.S. officials, the United States bolstered its warnings about the Iranian threat following new images of missileson small boats that were implemented by Iranian paramilitary forces. This new intelligence stoked fears that the IRGC would fire fully assembled missiles at U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf.
    • On May 12, two Saudi oil tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates near the Strait of Hormuz. An initial U.S. assessment indicated that the Iranians were behind the attack.
    • On May 14, Iran's supreme leader said that it would not be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels.
    • Also on May 14, the State Department released a video showing a new Iranian military base in Lebanon.
    • On May 15, Iran officially stoppedsome commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers following an order from its national security council, an informed official in the country’s atomic energy body told the ISNA news agency.
    • That same day, the State Department ordered a partial evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in response to what the Administration said was a threat linked to Iran.
      • On May 19, Iranian proxies in Iraq launched a missile near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
    • On May 16, top leaders in Congress attended a classified briefing at the White House detailing evidence of the Iranian action. Several lawmakers have released statements expressing their concerns about the potential of a military escalation with Iran. According to press reports, President Trump has sought to dampen speculation that the U.S. is preparing for a military attack.
      • On May 21, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford and acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan held a series of briefings on the Hill. Shanahan toldmembers of Congress that the threat posed by Iran has receded.
    • On May 17, A deputy head of the IRGC said that short-range Iranian missiles could reach U.S. warships in the Gulf.
    • Iranian-backed fighters are helping the Assad regime take over Idlib, the last major city in Syria held by rebel forces. Helicopters are indiscriminately dropping barrel bombs over the city, and 200,000 citizens have already fled the fighting.
    • On May 24, various news outlets reported that the Trump administration was preparing to sell certain arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE through an emergency procedure that bypasses Congress. Typically, arms sales require a congressional notification and a 30 day waiting period wherein Congress can object to the sale. Given the heightened tensions with Iran, the administration is waiving this notification requirement. By law, prior to proceeding with any major arms sale to the region, the administration must certify that the sale will not “adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge.
  • ​On Federal funding:
    • On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2020 State and Foreign Operations spending bill. The legislation encompasses several vital pro-Israel provisions, including $3.3 billion in U.S. security assistance to Israel. This measure fulfills the second-year commitment in the 10-year U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding.
    • The House Appropriations Committee continued to advance annual spending bills including key pro-Israel provision. The Defense Appropriations bill included $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation in accordance with the U.S.-Israel MOU and the president’s budget request. The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill included $2 million allocated for Binational Industrial Research and Development Energy (BIRD Energy) and $4 million allocated for the U.S. – Israel Center of Excellence in Energy and Water. Lastly, the Commerce, Justice, and Science funding bill included language that supports joint projects between NASA and the Israel Space Agency, and directs a report from NASA detailing current and planned projects between the two agencies. The three bills will now move to the House floor for consideration.
    • The Senate Armed Services Committee passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation authorizes defense programs for the upcoming fiscal year, including $500 million for missile defense cooperation with Israel. The NDAA now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.

The week in Brief - 5/22/19

05/22/2019 10:40:32 AM


Ann Cohn

Earlier this month, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched 700 rockets at Israeli cities. Many of those rockets were paid for and supplied by Iran.

This Monday, a majority of the House and Senate took action to highlight Iran's aggression and support Israel's right to self-defense.

In a bipartisan letter to the president, 303 House members and 79 senatorsoutlined Iran's support for terrorism throughout the Middle East and highlighted the dangers on Israel's northern border. The letter calls for increased pressure on Iran and Russia for their activities in Syria, and on Hezbollah for its hostilities in Lebanon.

Week in brief

03/11/2019 07:39:39 AM


The week in brief:

  • On February 21, Israel launched an unmanned spacecraft to the moon from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The U.S. congratulated Israel on a successful launch and called for more bilateral cooperation in space. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman praised the launch, stating, “SpaceIL’s unmanned capsule has just departed Cape Canaveral en route to the moon. If successful, Israel will become just the 4th nation to achieve a lunar landing.”
  • The week of February 26, Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt traveled to the Middle East to build momentum for the planned April launch of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook joined the Trump envoys for part of the tour. The advisers traveled to the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to raise pledges for investment in Palestinian territories, widely viewed to be a key component of the U.S.’s anticipated Mideast plan. Reports suggest that once fundraised, the U.S. plans to invest $25 billion of the funds in the West Bank and Gaza over 10 years and another $40 billion in Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon.
  • The morning of March 4, in the West Bank, two Israelis were injured in a vehicular terrorist attack. That evening, terrorists in Gaza sentinto Israel two sets of balloons carrying explosives, which exploded near Israeli homes. This is only the latest use of explosive balloons from Gaza in recent days.
  • Also on March 4, in a joint drill, the United States is deploying its THAAD missile defense system in Israel. This is just the latest example of U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation reaching new heights, as it comes on the heels of the U.S. Army’s decision to acquire Israel’s Iron Dome.
  • That same day, the U.S. closed the consulate in Jerusalem that served as the de facto embassy to Palestinians. It was subsumed into the operations of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
  • On March 7, the House of Representatives passed a resolution (407-23) condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in the wake of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments questioning the loyalty of pro-Israel Americans. Two of the House’s most senior Democrats, Rep. Eliot Engel and Rep. Nita Lowey, publicly called out Rep. Omar and demanded she apologize.
    • On February 22, at its annual meeting in Paris, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) declined to reimpose countermeasures against Iran’s financial sector. Instead, FATF gaveIran until June to address deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and counter terror financing laws. If the deficiencies are not corrected by June, the currently suspended countermeasures will automatically be reinstated, Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. assistant Treasury Secretary for terrorist financing said after chairing the FATF meeting.
    • On February 25, Britain said it will ban the political wing of the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, finally criminalizing membership and support of the group. The move has long been sought by the U.S. since the European Union decided in 2012 when designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization to distinguish between the group’s military and political wings, and only ban the former. The action is believed to be a product of the Warsaw Summit two weeks ago. Pompeo commended the U.K.’s decision, saying that “it showed that international unity to confront Iran’s regime continues to grow.”
    • Also on February 25, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, the architect of the Nuclear Deal, announced his resignation. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejectedthis resignation.
    • On February 27, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that pushing Iran out of Syria is one of Moscow’s stated goals.
      • On March 3, he said that Russia and Israel will establish a joint team to work towards this pullout.
    • On March 5, The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, an Iranian backed, radical Muslim militia group.
  • On the United Nations:
    • On February 20, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sent a letter to members of the United Nations Security Council urging them to push back on Iran. In his letter, Ambassador Danon emphasized that Iran recently attempted to launch a satellite into space and was carried by a rocket that could transport a nuclear head.
    • On February 25, the U.N. Human Rights Council began its annual meeting, which will last until March 22. It is expected that the council, which has a long history of anti-Israel activity, will take further actions intended to alienate the Jewish state, including the possible release of the blacklist and a biased report on the situation in Gaza.
    • On February 28, A commission of inquiry set up by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) claimed that during demonstrations in Gaza last year Israeli soldiers “killed and maimed demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others.” The report argues Israel committed crimes against humanity and recommends action by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.
  • On Israeli Elections:
    • On February 21, two leaders of the two top-polling centrist parties, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, announced that they will merge their party lists to change Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud in the upcoming elections. Should they win and form a government, Gantz would be in the position for two and a half years and then Lapid would take over.
    • On February 24, when asked about the growing controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s decision to let Otzma Yehudit—a racist party affiliated with domestic terrorists—enter Labor’s list for primary seats in the elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo elected not to comment, stating, “We’re not about to get involved in an election, to interfere in an election of a democracy…We’ll allow the Israeli people to sort this out.”
      • On February 22, AIPAC tweeted, “We agree with AJC. AIPAC has a longstanding policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party.”
    • On Feb. 28, Israeli Attorney General (AG) Avichai Mandelblit announced that he intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for three separate cases involving bribery and breach of trust. This step is not a formal indictment. Now that the AG’s recommendation has been made, Prime Minister Netanyahu will have an opportunity to respond to the charges at a pre-trial hearing, which will likely not take place until later this year or early next year. Only then will the AG make a final decision on the indictments.
Sun, September 15 2019 15 Elul 5779