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Israel News Blog

03/11/2019 07:40:57 AM

Mar11

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.

Week in brief

03/11/2019 07:39:39 AM

Mar11

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.
Thu, April 25 2019 20 Nisan 5779