Israeli Election Season Swings Into High Gear

With the date of 9 April set for national elections in Israel, maneuvering and campaigning by the various parties and candidates has already reached a high level of intensity. On Tuesday, Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay held a shocking press event, broadcast on live television, where he publicly dissolved the partnership with Hatnua and its leader Tzipi Livni, who was standing right next to him. The move was followed by scathing back and forth press statements by the two politicians and their supporters, highlighting what some analysts have warned could be the most negative election season in Israeli history.

Gabbay appointed MK Shelly Yacimovich as opposition leader in the Knesset minutes after dismissing Livni from the post, although even Yacimovich herself appeared to acknowledge that it was largely a symbolic move as the Knesset is not currently in session pending the elections.

On Monday, Kulanu MK Yoav Gallant was fired by Kulanu party chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon from his position as Housing and Construction Minister, after which he announced that he was resigning from the Knesset and furthermore was defecting to Likud. Minutes later, he was appointed aliyah and integration minister, allowing him to remain as part of the security cabinet.

Kulanu suffered other setbacks this week, as four out of the 10 MKs from that party who were seated in the outgoing Knesset announced that they will not be running with the party in the upcoming polls, including Gallant but also including Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, who hasn’t confirmed whether he will run with a different party or quit politics. MK Rachel Azaria and MK Eli Alalouf also both issued statements that they will not seek re-election.

Finally, on Wednesday, veteran Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick announced that she will run on the list of Hayamin Hehadash (the New Right) which was formed earlier this week by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who walked away from Bayit Yehudi, the party they’d jointly led for the last several years. The National Union, which has been a political ally of Bayit Yehudi, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the move as divisive and taken "for petty politics and personal promotion."

US to Slowly Withdraw from Syria
Reports emerged this week that US President Donald Trump has given the US military four months to withdraw from Syria, instead of the 30 day time limit he was originally insisting on. The withdrawal has been widely criticized across the US political spectrum, but Israeli officials have been cautious to avoid direct criticism, instead issuing statements that Israel will continue its own efforts to counter Iranian influence in Syria regardless of what Washington does.

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

US and Israel Leave UNESCO
Following the withdrawal of the US and Israel from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over what both countries said was its institutional anti-Israel bias, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that both countries should also withdraw from the planet Earth. "UNESCO is among the most corrupt and politically biased UN agencies. Today the US withdrawal from this cesspool became official. #USStrong,” tweeted outgoing US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Israel Receives Heavy Rain and Snow in December
Israel had its wettest December in decades as the year 2018 came to a close, bringing flooding to some areas, raising the level of the Sea of Galilee and blanketing Mount Hermon with a heavy covering of snow.

Today's video shows Israel's incoming tourism numbers for 2018

Netanyahu Returning from Brazil

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was an honored guest Tuesday at the swearing in ceremony Tuesday of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, capping a five day trip to the South American country which also included meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Latin American leaders who were in Brasilia for the event. Netanyahu also met with local Jewish leaders and addressed a meeting of Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel. He was on his way back to Israel Wednesday.

Here is a video of Netanyahu with Bolsonaro

Pompeo gave brief remarks to reporters from Israel before his meeting with Netanyahu, offering reassurances of US intent to continue the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terror militia in Syria despite the recent announcement by US President Donald Trump that he is pulling US Special Operations troops out of the country.

“Our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue, and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” Pompeo said. “You all have done good work in Operation Northern Shield. We understand the threat that violation of Israeli sovereignty presents to the region and to the country – the threat from Iranian Hezbollah – and we’ll work closely together to make sure that we get this right.”

On Sunday evening, Netanyahu addressed a meeting of Evangelical Christian supporters of Israel in Rio de Janeiro, telling them "We have no better friends in the world than the Evangelical community, and the Evangelical community has no better friend in the world than the State of Israel."

Here is the video of his full address

Here is a video Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs produced about the historic visit

IDF Launches Operation to Destroy Hezbollah Terror Tunnels

On Tuesday, the IDF announced it had launched “Operation Northern Shield” to find and destroy terror tunnels dug under the northern border by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah and meant to facilitate terror attacks against Israeli communities in the Galilee. Hezbollah has yet to make any statement about the Operation but Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a close ally of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, ordered Lebanon’s military and security apparatus to “closely monitor” the IDF operation.

“The digging of the cross-border attack tunnels that the IDF has discovered, before the attack tunnels became operational and posed an imminent threat to the safety of Israeli civilians, constitutes a flagrant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty,” said IDF spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis.

“Hezbollah knows very well that anyone who attacks Israel will pay a heavy price,” said Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adding that the current Israeli operation is part of efforts to deter Iran and compel it to remove its forces from Syria and Lebanon, he said “We are now revealing just a small part of the whole picture of capabilities, actions and what we plan to do to ensure Israel’s security on all fronts.”

Elsewhere, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) released a statement Tuesday saying it "was informed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) this morning that they have started activities south of the Blue Line to look for suspected tunnels. The overall situation in UNIFIL’s area of operation remains calm and UNIFIL is working with all interlocutors in order to maintain the overall stability.”

Here are some videos Israel posted regarding the current situation

In related news, world powers were expressing concern and discussing plans to push back against Iran’s weekend test launch of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads, something most experts agree is only relevant to nuclear weapons. The US and other Western powers pointed out that this is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was a key anchor for the JCPOA nuclear deal. However, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces dismissed the criticism, saying "We will continue to both develop and test missiles. This is outside the framework of (nuclear) negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country's permission."

Here is a video giving some analysis of the situation

Here is a video about what YOUR Embassy in Jerusalem is doing to protect Israeli civlians amidst regional tensions

Syrian Border Tense Following Alleged Strikes

IDF units stationed on Israel’s northern border were on high alert Friday as the Spokesperson’s unit confirmed that air defense units had detected a surface-to-air missile which was fired from territory controlled by forces loyal to Syria’s Assad regime landing in an open field in the Golan Heights. The IDF denied regime claims that an Israeli-launched missiles had been shot down over Syrian territory or even that Israeli aircraft had been engaged in strikes inside Syria overnight Thursday, as has been reported by various Arab media outlets.

In related news Jan Egeland, the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, told reporters on Thursday that the situation in northern Syria’s Idlib Province is deeply alarming, particularly the Russian airstrikes which have been carried out in recent days. "We are very worried for recent developments," he said. “Over recent days we have seen provocations and counter-provocations, exchanges of mortars and grenades... We have seen increasing incursions in both directions…this is the worst possible kind of action in the worst possible place. It is really playing with a gigantic powder keg in the middle of three million civilians.” 

Here is a video about recent developments in Idlib Province

Here is a video about what YOUR Embassy in Jerusalem is doing to protect Israeli civlians amidst regional tensions

Here's a video giveing some In-Depth Analysis of Jihadism and the West

Artifact Unearthed in Bethlehem Linked to Pontius Pilate

The Israel Exploration Journal published research this week on a ring, unearthed in 1968 by archeologists excavating the site of ancient Herodium, near Bethlehem. The ring was stamped with an inscription which archeologists believe mark it as the property of Pontius Pilate, Roman Prefect of Judea from 26-36 AD and primarily remembered for the role he played in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Greek inscription on the ring, which the team of archeologists examining it believe is of a type used in common daily tasks such as stamping an official seal in wax on a sealed document, includes the Greek inscription “Of Pilate” [πιλατο]. The name was not common during the time and the location where the ring was unearthed was likely used by the Romans as an administrative center where official business would have been conducted, lending credence to the theory linking the ring to the infamous Roman prefect.

The research into the ring was led and produced by Malka Hershkovitz and Prof. Shua Amorai-Stark, and was co-authored by Gideon Foerster, Yakov Kalman, Rachel Chachy and Porat.

Iran Accused of Violating Weapons Export Ban
Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, held a press conference in Washington DC on Thursday to display fragments of weapons and military equipment found on battlefields in Afghanistan, Bahrain and Yemen which originated in Iran, which is banned from exporting such weapons by several UN Security Council resolutions. "The Iranian threat is growing, and we are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to act," Hook said.

Here is the video of Hook’s presentation

Here is a video about Iran published by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

IDF Unit Wins UN Accreditation
The IDF Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue Brigade made history this week through its acceptance into the United Nations’ International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG). The unit successfully completed a comprehensive set of tests, following which it “was accredited and joined a small and prestigious international community of rescue units around the world,” the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said.

Israel Somberly Marks International AIDS Day
Rambam Medical Center in Haifa issued a somber report to mark International AIDS Day on Thursday, including statistics showing that rates of HIV infection continue to increase in Israel while still being far below levels in most other Western countries. The study added that the majority of newly diagnosed infections occur in immigrant communities from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.

"Today, there are new drugs, groundbreaking treatments, comprehensive studies and completely new treatment concepts that make the disease chronic and treatable,” said Dr. Eduardo Shachar, director of the AIDS Institute at Rambam. ”But to our regret, there are groups in the population who operate out of complacency, shame or are unaware of treatment available.” 

Here is a video about what YOUR Embassy in Jerusalem is doing to protect Israeli civlians amidst regional tensions

IDF HFC Chief Warns of Threat to Civilian Communities

IDF Home Front Command chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai told a conference of local authority leaders this week that the next war will involve large numbers of civilian casualties, straining hospitals and other civilian emergency response infrastructure. Meanwhile, elite IDF units held extensive drills this week in order to prepare for various contingencies they believe will be relevant on future battlefields. “There is no dispute that the threat to the Israeli home front in the next war will be very challenging, especially around the ability to ensure essential services for the civilian population and the resilience of Israeli society,” Yadai said. "The Middle East is organized differently. There is a possibility of launching military campaigns on both the northern and the southern fronts, since we are aware of coordination attempts."

He added that large-scale evacuations of border communities are likely to be necessary in any future conflicts.

Meanwhile, the IDF’s Kfir Brigade wrapped up a series of drills on Thursday. The exercises centered around preparing for scenarios in which they might have to enter the Gaza Strip to engage the Islamist terror militias there, including Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups. It was the 11th Brigade sized training exercise carried out by the IDF this year.

Here is a video about what YOUR Embassy in Jerusalem is doing to protect Israeli civlians

Hamas Demands UN Facilitate Attacks on Israel

The Islamist terror militia Hamas issued a statement this week demanding that the UN ensure its ability to carry out violent kinetic attacks against Israel. “We reiterate the right of our people to defend themselves and to resist the occupation, by all available means, including armed resistance, guaranteed by the international law,” Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh wrote in a letter to UN General Assembly President Maria Fernada Spinosa. “The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted dozens of resolutions that affirm the right of peoples to independence, self-determination and struggle by all available means, peaceful and non-peaceful, for that right. The UN singled out the Palestinian people for dozens of relevant resolutions, including 2621, 2649, 2787 and 3236.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon replied by releasing a statement saying, “Hamas speaks about international law while it fires rockets into civilian populations, holds the bodies of IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens, and uses its own people as human shields. A terrorist organization going to the UN for assistance is like a serial killer asking the police for assistance. Israel and the United States will continue to mobilize the countries of the world into a united front against the terrorism that Hamas engages in on behalf of Iran.”

Here is a video about what YOUR Embassy in Jerusalem is doing to protect Israeli civlians

Ultra-Orthodox Protesters Block Traffic in Jerusalem
Several hundred ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men sat down in the middle of busy intersections and in front of train lines in Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon as part of a protest against a proposed law which would require 18 year old men from their community to serve in the IDF the way most other Jewish men in Israel do. Police arrested dozens of protesters and scuffles broke out in some locations as traffic was blocked for several hours.

Iranian Men Indicted for SamSam Hacking Attacks
Two Iranian men have been indicted by the US Justice Department on suspicion of their involvement in the “SamSam” hacking scheme which extorted tens of millions of dollars from several large corporations, hospitals, universities, municipalities, government agencies and NGOs. The Treasury Department added that it had indicted two other Iranian nationals for their involvement in schemes to launder money gleaned by the hackers.

Airbnb Facing Backlash for De-Listing West Bank Properties
Hospitality website Airbnb is facing a strong backlash against its recent decision to de-list properties in Israeli settlement communities in the West Bank. The move has led to a small but growing list of political and community leaders around the world condemning Airbnb for subjecting Israel to a standard it doesn’t hold other countries to and has also resulted in two lawsuits against Airbnb in the US court system and one in Israel’s courts.

US Continues Arming Middle East Allies
The US State Department announced on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia will buy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system from defense giant Lockheed Martin in a deal valued at $15 billion. The announcement came one day after the State Department cleared potential sales of 10 AH-64E Apache helicopters for Egypt, along with a large consignment of tank ammunition, as well as $215 million worth of Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) to the Qatari Air Force.

Today’s video gives some In-Depth Analysis of Jihadism and the West

PA Outraged at Israel’s Growing Ties with Moslems

The Palestinian Authority is demanding an urgent meeting of the Arab League to address the increasingly public and cordial relations between Israel and Arab/Moslem countries. “What we see in recent weeks – from [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's visit to Oman and the visit of the president of Chad to Israel, and now we talk about Bahrain, Sudan and about ties with Saudi Arabia. It raises question marks! Therefore the Arab and Islamic position needs to be clarified,” PA official Nabil Shaath told Haaretz. “Both Israel and the US are exploiting the Palestinian schism in order to get closer to Arab and Islamic countries.”

Here is a video about recent PA statements regarding Israel

In related news, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani gave a fiery address to the Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran on Monday, saying among other things that “They have called it the ‘deal of the century’ to achieve a number of major goals. Their first goal is to increase the power of Israel in the region… The other goal is to end the story of Palestine by telling Palestinian refugees to stay in other countries and not to return to their homeland. We will stand against the Israeli regime and will not let the deal take place in this region.”

Referring to the support Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries gave to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1080-88 war with Iran, Larijani added that “We overlooked that mistake and did not retaliate, but their second mistake – supporting Israel – wouldn’t remain without retaliation. You are the leaders of Muslim countries, but know that we will stand against Israel, and won’t let the ‘deal of the century’ happen in the region. People never forget the issue of Palestine. Their governments may say something for their own interests or to appease the US; they may remain silent or establish ties with Israel. But their people hate it. The people of the region, in every country, consider Israel a cancerous tumor, and hate it."

Trump: Support of Israel is Reason for Staying in Middle East
US President Donald Trump gave an exclusive interview to the Washington Post on Tuesday in which he said, among other things, that the US has "reached a point where we don't have to stay in the Middle East. One reason to stay is Israel…oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don’t have to stay there. One reason to stay is Israel.”

Israeli Sports Scene Thriving
NBA global goodwill ambassador Dikembe Mutombo and Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams were both on hand Wednesday to help launch the Sylvan Adams Sports Center at the Jerusalem YMCA. Mutombo was especially thrilled to be there as the facility, the largest of its kind in the Middle East, will be used to host the Jr. NBA youth basketball program in the capital. “Israel is a very important market for us; basketball-wise. We believe that this is the one place that we had to come to in order to establish ourselves very well,” Mutombo said. “We are so happy that we have the chance to bring this beautiful program to our Israeli youths.”

IDF Forming New Brigade to Guard Border with Sinai
The IDF Spokesperson announced on Wednesday that a new unit, the Paran Brigade, is being formed to guard the border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. “It’s establishment is part of the process of integrating the border defense battalions into routine security missions, in a way that provides a qualitative response to missions,” the IDF said. The Islamic State (IS) terror militia is fighting an ongoing insurgency against the Egyptian government in Sinai and criminal networks have taken advantage of the chaotic situation to increase attempts at smuggling various contraband material into Israel in recent years.

BDS Movement Suffers Defeats on Several Fronts

The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered several crushing defeats this week on the diplomatic, economic and cultural fronts. Perhaps the most significant event occurred on Tuesday evening when visiting Czech President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jointly presided over a ceremony inaugurating a “Czech House” facility just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City while broadly hinting that it is the precursor to a full-fledged Embassy in Israel’s capital city.

“In near future, I firmly believe – and deep in my heart I do believe – we shall overcome, there will be not only the embassy, but also a nice Czech tavern with good Czech beer,” Zeman said at the ceremony at the Cinematheque building in Jerusalem. “I firmly believe that my fourth visit to Israel will be the opening of the Czech Embassy.”

Here is a video of the joint statements by Zeman and Netanyahu

On the cultural front, Israel hosted Michelin star chefs Ciro Scamardella and Giancarlo Morelli for “Italian Culinary Week” in cooperation with the Italian Foreign Ministry and ENIT, Israel’s tourism promotion agency. Events were held at celebrated Italian restaurants in major Israeli cities as well as the residence of Italian Ambassador to Israel Gianluigi Benedetti. Additionally, events were held to highlight the health benefits of the “Mediterranean diet” in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Health.

Elsewhere, the armed forces of South Korea announced on Tuesday that they plan to buy two Israeli-produced Green Pine Block C radar systems to augment their defenses against air and missile attack. Unofficial estimates put the value of the deal at around $292 million. Also on Tuesday, British trade minister Liam Fox arrived in Israel for discussions on how to boost trade volumes with Israel, already listed by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics at $9.5 billion in 2017, in light of the upcoming British exit from the European Union.

Here is the video of Fox's meeting with Netanyahu

Iranian Nuclear Chief Warns EU of Need for Appeasement

Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi issued a dire threat on Monday of “ominous” consequences if the European Union is not able to deliver economic benefits to his country despite the re-imposition of sanctions on it by the US over its ballistic missiles, support for terrorism and renegade nuclear program. EU diplomats close to the issue admitted that there wasn’t much they could do to appease the clerical regime in Teheran, as few European businesses are willing to risk US sanctions for the sake of Iranian demands.

In related news, the governing body of world football (soccer) FIFA received a recommendation from its own Human Rights Advisory Board on Monday to censure Iran over its refusal to allow women to attend matches.

Czech President Zeman Addresses the Knesset
Czech President Milos Zeman gave a cordial speech before the Knesset plenum on Monday, bringing a “message of solidarity with Israel and the Jewish People” which he proclaimed himself to be the “best friend” of. “If we betray Israel, we betray ourselves,” he said, adding that he plans to exert his best efforts to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

El Al Executive Arrested for Trafficking Drugs
Israelis were shocked on Monday evening by reports that Rami Yogev, a senior officials with national airline El Al who had deep ties to Israel’s security and law enforcement agencies, had been arrested on suspicion of using El Al aircraft to smuggle massive amounts of narcotics into the Jewish State. Three other suspects were also arrested as El Al has declined requests from the media for comment on the situation.

Scientific Conferences Held in Israel
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat on Monday when the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the French Academy of Sciences held a joint conference in Jerusalem, the culmination of a series of dozens of events held in both France and Israel to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State. Next week, another international conference will bring over 2,000 specialists from 50 countries to Tel Aviv for the ICL 2018 – the International Conference for Cardiology Innovation (Heart, Brain and Vascular Systems) and the Hi-Tech Industry in Life Sciences.

Israel blesses the world
Prof. Michael Glikson, Director of the Integrated Heart Center Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, told a conference in the capital on Wednesday that Israeli cardiologists and engineers have patented dozens of devices and procedures in recent months which have already revolutionized the way heart conditions are treated all over the world. The advances include miniaturization of traditional technologies like pacemakers and clothes which monitor heart conditions and send information directly to hospitals to alert them of impending issues with patients.

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


Share this: