Rocket Fired Into Israel Amidst Temple Mount Clashes

Residents of communities along the Israeli border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip were alerted to incoming rocket and mortar fire Wednesday night. The projectiles landed in a vacant areas, while security services reported that several IED’s were also launched into Israel from the Strip. A Palestinian youth was also shot dead by IDF troops as he participated in riots along the border Wednesday evening. IDF aircraft struck Hamas targets in the Strip in response. Also this week, clashes have erupted in and around Jerusalem’s Old City over disputes between Israel and the Moslem Wafq authorities regarding the Temple Mount. Several people have been arrested in connection with the disturbances which have been tempered by cold, rainy weather and a heavy police presence.

Here is a video giving some analysis of the situation in Jerusalem

EU Keeps Sanctions on Iranian Human Rights Abusers
European Union ambassadors meeting in Brussels this week voted to renew sanctions on 82 Iranian officials accused of human rights abuses for another year. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans, were first imposed in 2011 and apply to a variety of officials in the Islamic Republic from senior judges and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps officers to prison wardens and police officials.

Gantz Sues Newspaper Over Reports of Sexual Harassment
Israel’s raucous election season took another turn this week with Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz reacting to a story in Israel Hayom about Facebook posts by a private citizen accusing him of sexual harassment by suing the newspaper for NIS 1 million. The lawsuit alleges that Israel Hayom acted with "blatant journalistic negligence, without conducting minimal mandatory examinations and a lack of good faith." It also accuses the paper of attempting to smear Gantz in order to boost the election chances of incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz has also filed a NIS 500,000 lawsuit against the woman who accused him of sexually harassing her decades ago when they were both students at Hakfar Hayarok boarding school in central Israel.
In the lawsuit, Gantz argued that this claim was “a false report from start to finish – a real blood libel. The plaintiff does not remember any acquaintance with the defendant, and in any case the fantastic story she invented from her feverish mind never happened.”

Gantz has said he will donate any money he wins in these lawsuits to organizations dedicated to assisting victims of sexual violence.

OurCrowd Draws 18,000 for Global Investor Summit
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat on Thursday as OurCrowd, an Israeli capital venture platform headquartered in Jerusalem, welcomed over 18,000 investors, innovators and company executives to the Jerusalem's International Convention Center for their annual Global Investor Summit. "The purpose of the platform is to democratize and globalize access for investors and entrepreneurs," said OurCrowd founder Jon Medved. A team from the ICEJ was also on hand for the Summit to explain to visitors the importance of Christian support for Israel.

"There is a growing demand from the younger generation to say, 'I want to do well financially and at the same time I want to do good. I want to align my investment strategy with my values,'" Social Finance Israel CEO Yaron Neudorfer told The Jerusalem Post. "It's not just a declaration of doing good, but actually measuring the impact of the companies. OurCrowd is actually taking a risk. They will lower their return if their portfolio companies don’t meet their impact key performance indicators."

Today’s video shows yet another way Israel is blessing the world

Netanyahu and Friedman Inspect THAAD Battery

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman inspected a visiting delegation of US troops and their Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system shortly after they arrived in Israel on Tuesday. "This is testimony to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States. The coalition for joint defense, which is expressed not only in words but also on the field, is exceptional," Netanyahu said. He added that "We are very pleased with the cooperation and the US commitment to Israel's security, which President Trump often expresses."

"I cannot think of a better example for the close cooperation between Israel and the United States," Friedman said. "This is an excellent example of how the US armed forces are committed to Israel's security. They do it in other ways, but I can not think of a better example than what we are seeing now."

Here is a video of the inspection posted by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office

In related news, two Israeli naval cadets graduated from the US Naval Academy’s Naval Officers Course on Wednesday. The two cadets are the first of what is hoped will be many to participate in the exchange program which also allows US naval cadets to attend courses at the Naval Officers Course at Haifa University in Israel.

Netanyahu attended the graduation ceremony for Naval cadets in Haifa on Wednesday, telling them among other things that “Iran is trying to bypass the sanctions on it through the covert smuggling of petroleum via the sea. As these attempts expand, the navy will have a more important role in efforts to block these Iranian actions. I call on the international community to halt, by any means, Iran’s attempts to bypass the sanctions via the sea.”

Hamas Downplays Likelihood of War with Israel

Tensions have soared in recent days between Israel and the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, but a senior official in the Strip told Maariv on Tuesday that "The Egyptian delegation is doing everything it can to lower tension and prevent war in the Gaza Strip. I think the Israeli side is also not interested in war on the eve of elections." Egyptian-mediated negotiations are ongoing between Israel and Hamas, however, rioting by Palestinian residents of the Strip at several points along the border fence have increased in recent days.

On Tuesday, a number of explosive and incendiary devices were sent over the border into Israel attached to kites and balloons, setting fires and causing economic damage. The Israeli Air Force has struck several Hamas sites in the Strip in response. In related news, aarly Wednesday afternoon, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it was designating Hamas’ official Al-Aqsa TV station as a terrorist organization unto itself.

Israel Gets Strong Signals of Support from US
There were some dramatic signals of support for Israel from the US military in recent days, including the deployment to Israel on Monday of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery for training and testing. The move was hailed by Prime Minister Netanyahu in a video posted to social media as a sign that Israel is “even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East.” The deployment of the battery is scheduled to last one week. Meanwhile, a team of IDF air transport personnel returned to Israel on Tuesday after two weeks of training with counterpart USAF units.

The team from the 103rd Elephants Squadron, equipped with their Samson Hercules C-130J transport aircraft and related equipment, trained with crews from several US Air Force units at the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center (AATTC) in the US State of Missouri for a week before moving on to Libby Army Airfield in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona for another series of maneuvers.

Metzger Released Early from Prison
Former Chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger was paroled from prison on Wednesday after serving 22 months of a three and a half years sentence he received after pleading guilty to several charges of bribery and fraud related to his position as chief rabbi, which he held from 2003 to 2013. In addition to jail time, Metzger was also given fines and penalties by the court amounting to NIS 5 million.

Western Wall Set to Be Renewed Flashpoint
The Women of the Wall organization, which demands that the State make provision for female Jews to pray at the Western Wall in ceremonial clothing and religious instruments such as Torah Scrolls traditionally used only by males, is set to hold its 30th anniversary service in the Old City this coming Friday, coinciding this year with International Women’s Day. Police are warning of the likelihood that the service could spark counter-demonstrations at the site, urging all sides to refrain from violence.

Tourism Industry Enjoys Another Milestone
Israel’s booming tourism industry took another large step forward on Monday when the first international flights landed at the recently opened Ramon Airport just north of the Red Sea resort city of Eilat. The flights, operated by Irish budget-airline RyanAir arrived with full loads of visitors from European countries.

Today's video shows an expert panel discussion on recent developments in the Middle East

Fallout Continues from Netanyahu Indictment

State Attorney Shai Nitzan issued a statement Sunday evening strongly pushing back against accusations that last weeks decision by the Attorney General to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption in three separate cases ahead of upcoming elections was politically motivated. “There is no basis for these claims,” Nitzan said. “The public’s right to know and other legal principles require [that we] act in such a way.” Meanwhile, the "Blue and White" party led by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz issued a statement Tuesday following a rally Netanyahu held for Likud activits Monday evening in which he said that the only way to ensure a Right-wing government was to vote for Likud, since Gantz would be forced to form a coalition with Arab parties in order to have a majority.

“Netanyahu continues inciting and lying,” Blue and White said. “He is willing to say anything to distract from his investigations and indictments. He knows that in a year, he will be going to trial; he knows his time is up.”

Palestinian Authority Outraged at US Diplomatic Moves
The US State Department announced on Sunday that Monday morning would see the US Embassy in Jerusalem assuming the functions previously carried out by the US Consulate, which has primarily serviced Palestinians. “There will be complete continuity of US diplomatic activity and consular services during and after the merger,” according to the State Department. The statement added however that the change “does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip."

Sunday’s announcement was met by a statement by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian factions that the US has abdicated its role in mediating the decades-old conflict with Israel. Officials from the PA have refused to meet with US officials ever since the December 2017 announcement by the Trump Administration that the US Embassy would be moving to Jerusalem. Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO Executive Committee, condemned the merger of the US Consulate in Jerusalem and said it shows that Trump’s administration “is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law.”

Northern Border Remains Tense
Reports emerged in Syrian media Sunday evening that the IDF had fired on the Druze town of Hader in the Syrian province of Quneitra, close to the border with the Golan Heights. Israeli officials had no comment in response to the reports, but in the past Israel has fired on positions in that area occupied by Iranian-backed terrorists groups.

Israel blesses the world
Nucleix, a medical technology company based in Rehovot, Israel, recently received approval by the European CE for Bladder EpiCheck, a process that drastically reduces the pain and expense for patients monitoring the aftereffects of bladder cancer. “Nucleix looks for fragments of DNA that are shed from tumors, and uses them to identify where they are coming from, and whether they are cancerous or not,” Nucleix CEO Dr. Opher Shapira told The Jerusalem Post, adding that the process is being adapted to screen for lung cancer as well. Elsewhere, researchers at Tel Aviv University recently announced a new blood test to detect genetic disorders in fetuses as early as 11 weeks into pregnancy.

Israel Responds to Terrorism in Jerusalem
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at the start of a meeting with visiting Prime Minister of Samoa Malielegaoi that "This morning the IDF soldiers acted swiftly and killed the terrorists who threatened to run them over. We send wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded officer and will do everything to speed up the demolition of these murderers' homes, as we will do for the murderer of Ori Ansbacher.”

Jerusalem Lions Win Third Straight IFL Championship
The Jerusalem Lions (Gridiron) football team wrapped up their undefeated season on Friday by defeating the Petah Tikvah Troopers 29-26 to claim their third straight Israel Football League championship title. The game was enjoyed by approximately 500 fans who showed up to watch the contest despite cool weather and the threat of rain.

Today’s videos show some recent exciting events in Israel

Tzipi Livni Retires from Israeli Politics

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who has been a fixture of Israel’s Knesset for twenty years, held a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday evening to announce she is retiring from politics and that her Hatnua party would not be running in upcoming national elections. The announcement came weeks after Livni was humiliated by Labor leader Avi Gabbay who announced in a live TV broadcast, with her at his side, that he was dissolving the partnership between Labor and Hatnua, which subsequently sank to electoral insignificance in most polls.

Livni explained during her press conference that she had tried to form a Center-Left bloc to run in the upcoming elections, scheduled for 9 April, but that she had not been successful. In addition, her own Hatnua party had lost so much support among potential voters that its only likely contribution to the upcoming election would be to siphon off votes from other Center-Left parties, without itself earning enough votes to be seated in the next Knesset.

In related news, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor announced on Tuesday morning that he will not be a candidate for any party in the upcoming election, adding that he hoped he could find some other way to continue serving his country. He is currently working as chairman of the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, one of Israel’s most respected institutions of higher education.

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of Israel's upcoming elections

Report: Israel Experiencing a Baby Boom 
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, an independently funded think tank in Jerusalem, released a report on Monday showing that Israel’s birthrate is at historically high levels, with the average Israeli woman having 3.1 children. This makes Israel’s fertility rate the highest by far in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with second-place Mexico having a fertility rate of 2.15 children per woman.

Israel Blesses the World
BGN Technologies, a tech transfer company associated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheeba, announced this week that it has developed an artificial intelligence-based platform to monitor and predict the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Prof. Boaz Lerner of the university’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, explained to the Jerusalem Post that the new platform will allow for better management of such diseases, even if there is not yet a cure or effective treatments for them.

New Museum to Open in Ayalon Valley
The Prime Minister’s Office announced this week that a new museum will be built at Latrun, in the Ayalon Valley between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, to honor Jews who fought in the allied armies and in resistance groups during WWII. The new museum, which will add to the areas attractions for tourists which already include the IDF Armored Museum, mini-Israel and the famous Trappist Monastery, will be named for Chaim Herzog, himself a veteran of the British Army in World War II who later served as the 6th President of Israel.

Today’s video gives honor to some of the most important soldiers defending Israel

Good News and Bad News in Israel Relationship with Europe

Economy Minister Eli Cohen and British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox signed a trade agreement in Tel Aviv on Monday to continue normal relations following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Also on Monday, a summit of the Visegrad-4 (V-4) group planned to be held in Jerusalem in the near future was cancelled following a diplomatic row between Israel and Poland, the V-4 groups largest member. 

“More important even than the agreement itself is what it says about our future relationship,” said Fox at the ceremony where the agreement was signed. “And about the way in which we will be able to cooperate in the future, not just on trade, which has improved enormously in recent years, but also on investments in both directions…We had more venture capital and tech come to London in the past year than the whole of France, Germany and Sweden put together. So clearly, with the sort of innovation that comes out of Israel, there’s enormous potential for us to work together for our mutual benefit.”

Meanwhile, the row between Israel and Poland, which was triggered on Thursday by comments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to the effect that some Polish people cooperated with the Nazi’s to carry out the Holocaust during WWII while visiting a Holocaust memorial in Warsaw, was quickly devolving into a full-blown crisis on Tuesday. Diplomats and officials in both countries were quick to back their leaders positions, while also openly searching for a way out of the crisis.

However, although the crisis has already resulted in the V-4 meeting being cancelled and Polish officials announcing they will not be visiting Israel in the near future as planned, the prime ministers of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all arrived in Israel Monday evening and held meetings with senior Israeli officials throughout the day Tuesday.

Sea of Galilee Rises As Rainy Weather Continues

The skies above Jerusalem remained overcast on Monday morning following a weekend which saw rain falling in many parts of the country. The level of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) was reported on Monday to have risen four feet since the beginning of the rainy winter season in October, although the Water Authority cautioned that it is still as much as 16 feet below historic levels of what would be considered “full” and faith leaders throughout the Holy Land urged their followers to continue praying for more rain before the onset of summer.

Israel Katz Appointed Temporary Foreign Minister
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz as acting foreign minister for the duration of the current government on Sunday. The appointment is highly significant as Katz is highly popular within the faction and has strongly signaled his desire to lead the party when Netanyahu eventually departs the scene. 

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of Israel's upcoming elections

Nasrallah Issues Fiery Threats to Attack Israel
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, took part in “Martyrs Remembrance Day" events Saturday by giving a speech in which he said, among other things, that his troops are prepared to do battle with Israel. He also made reference to a recent report by IDF Ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick which cast serious doubts on the readiness of the IDF ground forces, saying that Israeli leaders "do not trust their army but we trust ours."

Jerusalem’s Old City Getting NIS 200 Million Facelift
Reports emerged over the weekend that the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City is about to get a massive NIS 200 million facelift, with repairs and improvements being made to a variety of sites in the neighborhood popular with locals and tourists alike. The project is being launched jointly by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and the office of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. Funding is being provided by the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Jerusalem Ministry of Heritage.

Today's video gives some anlayis of US involvement in Syria

Iranian Officials Denounce Pushback Against Them

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif gave a fiery speech at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, demanding that European countries reject an appeal by US Vice President Mike Pence the day earlier at the same conference to follow Washington’s lead in walking away from the JCPOA nuclear agreement and rejoining the campaign to confront the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program. Also on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rohani gave a televised address in which he demanded that his country’s neighbors ignore its malign activities and believe him when he says that the clerical regime in Teheran “is ready to work with regional states to preserve security in the Middle East."

He went on the describe the massive number of reports that his government is supporting terrorist groups and otherwise fomenting domestic unrest in nearly every other country in the Middle East as a conspiracy by the US and Israel to damage Iran’s reputation. 

Here is a video giving some analysis of Iran’s recent activities in Syria

Later, at a ceremony in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, Rohani gave another address in which he announced, without citing any empirical evidence, that Iran has deployed a submarine capable of launching cruise missiles.

"Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is fully self-reliant on land, air, and sea," he said. "Our defensive power is meant to defend our interests and we have never sought to attack any country…our enemy's pressure and sanctions imposed on Iran have instigated our progress.”

Here is a video giving some further analysis of current events regarding Iran

Netanyahu Returning from Successful Warsaw Summit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was delayed in returning to Israel from Warsaw, Poland on Friday morning due to technical problems with his aircraft. Despite this, the event was deemed a diplomatic victory for the Jewish State due to the optics of him and other Israeli officials meeting with Arab leaders as well as statements favourable to Israel made by officials from several countries represented at the conference.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Netanyahu said it could be possible to have normal diplomatic and trade relations with some Arab countries even without a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. However, he was quick to add, full peace and normalized relations would be more difficult to attain. He added that several foreign ministers from Arab countries spoke in the closed-door sessions about Iran and “said exactly what I have said.”
On the sidelines of the Conference he also met with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Brazil, Oman and Poland. Meanwhile, a diplomatic row with host Poland over Netanyahu’s comments to the press upon leaving the Museum of the History of Polish Jews "Poles cooperated with the Germans" during the Holocaust was averted Friday morning when the Prime Minister’s Office sent a clarification to Poland’s foreign ministry blaming the media for misrepresenting the remarks.

Also at the Conference was US special envoy Jared Kushner, who unveiled parts of the so-called “deal of the century” in some of the closed-door sessions. Little was revealed to the press about the plan except that it does not conform to the parameters of the 2002 Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative.

“I think it was a great initiative, in 2002 when it was done, but it hasn’t produced peace, so if that was the framework under which something would be accomplished then I think that would have been accomplished a long time ago, and then I wouldn’t be doing the duty I’m doing right now to try to bring the people together,” Kushner reportedly said. He also said in the meetings that the full plan won’t be released until after the upcoming Israeli elections on 9 April.

“I will look at it once it is presented. I have to say that I know the Trump administration seeks to insure the security of Israel for generations,” Netanyahu said in response to reporters questions about what Kushner had presented.

Finally, one Arab Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, was quite vocal in placing the blame for the continued lack of resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict squarely at the feet of Iran, saying’s the Islamic Republic’s “toxic” support for terrorist groups, including in the West Bank and Gaza, were the primary reason peace has not yet been achieved. Additionally, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said during a panel discussion that Israel had every right to defend itself against Iranian aggression in Syria.

Here is a vidoe of Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the summit

US and Israel Wrap Up Juniper Falcon War Games

US and Israeli troops wrapped up the Juniper Falcon 2019 joint air defence exercises on Thursday. The drills included testing a wide array of equipment and training against scenarios ranging from ballistic missile strikes on the Jewish State to mass casualty events. Logistical, naval, medical and other units participated in the drills which incorporated hundreds of soldiers from US European Command and the IDF. Drills like Juniper Falcon “provide the glue” that strengthens “the bond between the United States and Israel,” said Lt.-Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, deputy commander, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa. He continued by saying that it such exercises also build confidence which has “facilitated the ability for American troops to easily come here during times of emergency.”

Here is a video about the Juniper Falcon 2019 Exrecise posted by the IDF

In related news, a fresh cadre of officers headed for the IDF’s recently formed Border Defence Force graduated from their four month course on Thursday and will soon be assigned to their new units. “Israel understood it had to invest more on defending its borders, and while it might only be two years old the course is built on past history,” Lt.-Col. Ayalon Peretz, one of the commanders at the Border Defense School, told The Jerusalem Post, adding that with “every course we are getting better and better.”

Islamic Scholar in Gaza Instructs Followers to Attack Israelis
Dr. Muhammad Suleiman Al-Farra, a lecturer at the Shari'a and Law College of the Islamic University of Gaza, recently gave an interview to Al-Aqsa TV in which he said, among other things, that all Moslems have a religious duty to “strive to fight them [the Jews], using any means that might enable us to get to them anywhere in our pure land…when the time Allah gave runs out, fighting them will become mandatory… kill the polytheists wherever you may find them.” He added that all of Israel is “a battlefield between us and the Jews. Therefore, we must strive to fight them, using any means that might enable us to get to them anywhere in our pure land.”

Hapoel Jerusalem Wins Basketball State Cup
Basketball fans in Israel’s capital had something to cheer about Thursday evening as the Hapoel Jerusalem club defeated Maccabi Rishon Lezion 82-67 to clinch the 2019 Israel State Cup for the first time since 2008. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin presented the trophy to the team amidst wild cheers from their loyal fans.

Israel Blesses the World
Israel’s IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) NGO sent a delegation to fire-ravaged southern California earlier this year to train their counter-parts there and share best practices for disaster response. The training sessions are designed to assist with responding to "man-made and natural disasters catalyzes change for vulnerable populations worldwide, applies professional skills as part of IsraAID missions, and acquires the know-how to respond to local disasters," according to the organization.

Israel’s Religious Zionist Parties Agree to Run Together in Elections
The Bayit Yehudi (National Home) and National Union factions agreed late Thursday evening to run a combined list in the upcoming elections on 9 April. “This agreement was reached with an understanding of the importance of this time and the challenges ahead of us, and with friendship and mutual modesty we are starting a new path,” said Bayit Yehudi chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz.


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