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Northern Border Tense Following Violent Weekend

IDF forces on the northern border remained on alert amidst a general calming of tensions on Monday morning following a weekend which saw the Lebenese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah firing anti-tank missiles at IDF vehicles inside Israel and Israeli artillery and air strikes in retaliation. Additionally, IDF medical units carried out an elaborate ruse to make Hezbollah believe it had wounded Israeli soldiers in order to allow the terror group to save face and negate its need to further escalate the situation. Anticipating a limited and cosmetic strike in retaliation for last weeks Israeli air strikes which destroyed Iranian-built missiles and killed Hezbollah operatives in Syria, Israeli medical teams prepared a small number of soldiers with fake blood and bandages to be moved quickly to the site of the expected attack to subsequently be dramatically “evacuated” while the news cameras rolled. Shortly after arriving at a hospital in Israel the soldiers were quietly discharged after perfunctory medical tests. An announcement was then made that there were no Israeli casualties in the exchange, negating Israel’s need to escalate.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister and Defence Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received support from across the political spectrum for his handling of the situation, while a lone voice of condemnation came from Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Lapid was subsequently criticized for voicing his opposition to the PM during a crisis.

Here is a video about the situation posted by the IDF



Israel and Canada Enter Into Enhanced Free Trade Deal
The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), which builds on previous agreements, went into effect on Sunday with officials from both countries declaring that it will increase trade and economic cooperation, creating jobs and opportunities in both countries. "Canada is one of Israel's greatest friends,”  said Ohad Cohen, head of the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy. 

IAF Aircraft Join War Games in the UK
In the latest defeat for efforts to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, the Israeli Air Force joined with their counterparts from the US, Germany, Italy and the UK for a series of high-level training drills at Waddington Air Force Base in the UK last week. Dubbed Cobra Warrior 2019, the exercise is scheduled to last 20 days and include practicing a wide range of scenerios.” This is the first time IAF fighter aircraft are deployed to and flying in Britain,” said Brig.-Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, head of the IAF Air Division. “The deployment will help improve IAF readiness and capability.”

In related news, reports have surfaced in recent days that for the Justice Ministry and the IDF’s international law divisions have been assisting NATO in recent years to address questions related to its asymmetric warfare activities in several countries.  “The dialogue, which is part of Israel’s broader cooperation with NATO, has involved in-depth discussions regarding how the law can be used to promote a military and political campaign and what measures democratic states can take when these strategies are used against them or their officials by terrorist actors and enemy states promoting a political agenda,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement to the Jerusalem Post.

Iran Unveils Jet Powered Suicide Drone
The Iranian Air Force announced the operational deployment of the “Kian” jet powered, long range suicide attack drone on Sunday. "This drone can undertake any drone missions we entrust it with... it can fly more than 1,000 kilometres and find its target with precision," claimed Brig. Gen. Alireza Sabahifard. Defence analysts noted however that Iranian officials routinely exaggerate the effectiveness of indigenously produced weapons and equipment.

Elsewhere, Iranian officials continued a campaign to enlist support against the US-led sanctions regime which is crippling their economy by demanding that European, Russian and Chinese leaders find a way to circumvent the sanctions and threatening further violations of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal if those ways aren’t found.

Israel Proudly Hosts European Flag Football Championships
Jerusalem’s Kraft Family Sports Campus hosted the ninth annual Flag Football European Championship tournament over the weekend, with the Spanish Women’s team and the Danish Men’s team winning their respective Gold Medals while Israel’s Men and Women both finished in fourth place overall. Israel’s Dani Eastman was named the Men’s MVP for the tournament while Great Britain’s Marta Mathews was named the Women’s MVP. Officials with American Football in Israel, which hosted the event, expressed deep satisfaction with the tournament.

“As one of the leading sports in Israel, we are very proud with the results of the Israeli team and the achievement of [our women] reaching the quarterfinals and [our men] reaching the semifinals,” said Yonah Mishaan, AFI vice president and Women’s FLag coach. “It is a great honor to host the flag football European championships in Israel in general and particularly in Jerusalem,” agreed President Arik Kaplan of Ayelet, which co-csponsored the tournament along with the Israel Sports Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality. “American football is growing in Europe. The same is true for Israel, and it a pleasure to see that more and more Israelis are exposed to the game and take part in the various leagues here in Israel.”

In other sports news, Kenyan-born Israeli runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter set a new European record for the women’s 10K run in an event held in the Nethlands on Sunday, finishing t in 30 minutes and four seconds. Speaking to reporters, she expressed satisfaction and promised that more is coming as she prepares for the Olympics next year.

Here is a video about the vibrant sports scene in Israel

Friday Feature - On the Map to Stay, the Story of Israeli Athletics

In 1977, just five years after the massacre of Israeli athletes and coaches by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Tal Brody led the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team to the first of many FIBA (EuroLeague) Cup championships. In addition to the measure of healing this provided for the trauma of Munich, it was a moment of great pride for Israelis to win an international sports competition. Brody gave voice to that pride in an iconic statement to reporters following his team’s upset victory of the heavily favoured Soviet Red Army team, CSKA Moscow, that Israel was “on the map and we’re gonna stay on the map, in sports, in everything!”

In the generation since then, this phrase has become a part of Israel’s national ethos, quoted in speeches by national political leaders, diplomats, military officers and of course athletes and coaches. Israel’s rising profile in the international athletic scene has also drawn positive attention to the Jewish State in a variety of ways. This week, Israelis were proud to see Sagi Muki winning the gold medal in his weight class at the Judo World Championships in Tokyo. It was the latest triumph for Israeli athletes who have become some of the Jewish State’s most widely recognized goodwill ambassadors. But it has been a long, bumpy road to get to this point.

Israel won its first Olympic medal in 1992, when Yael Arad and Oren Smadja won bronze medals in their weight classes. Israeli athletes continued to win bronze and silver medals at successive Olympic Games and in 2004, Windsurfer Gal Fridman won Gold. As he stood on the podium while the Israeli flag was raised and the Israeli national anthem was played, nearly every citizen of the country was standing in front of their TV set singing along, with tears of pride running down their faces.

Although there have not been any more Olympic Gold Medals since then, Israeli athletes have won success in a variety of international competitions. This has made Israelis proud and provided a chance for people around the world to see the fun and positive side of a country they usually only ever hear about on the news when a war or act of terrorism occurs. It has also enhanced Israel’s diplomatic, political and even economic standing.

But because some of the victories that Israeli athletes have won were at competitions held in Arab and/or Moslem countries which don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel, the issue has come up from time to time of displaying Israel’s flag and playing its national anthem. Although there are local laws in many of these countries forbidding this, as the hosts of tournaments and competitions under the auspices of international sports federations, they are required to do so. In some cases, countries have forfeited the chance to host such competitions rather than allow Israeli athletes to compete and possibly win medals there, and individual athletes from some Arab and Moslem countries have forfeited matches rather than compete against an Israeli. In other cases, Arab athletes who lost matches against Israelis have refused to shake their hand afterwards.

These demonstrations of poor sportsmanship and discourtesy have drawn sympathetic attention to Israel and allowed many observers to gain a deeper understanding of the implacable hostility it faces. This has had some surprisingly positive results, including in the Persian Gulf’s United Arab Emirates, which changed its policies and now routinely hosts Israeli athletes and displays the Israeli flag in a respectful manner, playing the Israeli national anthem when an Israeli athlete wins a gold medal and otherwise showing respect for the Jewish State. The UAE even went so far as to host Israel’s Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev in October of 2018 amidst a Judo tournament the UAE hosted. The tour included a visit by Regev to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, one of the most prestigious in the Moslem world. She was accompanied on that visit by senior UAE officials and pictures of them were widely circulated in media outlets all over the Arab world, signalling a large crack in the iron wall of hostility that the Arab world has long shown to the Jewish State.

Within Israel itself, the growing popularity of sports have had a positive effect in many ways, including a boom in retailers setting up shop in the Jewish State. International brands including NIKE, Adidas, Foot Locker and Decathlon have opened dozens of outlet stores in Israeli cities, creating hundreds of jobs and building commercial ties.

But it is the perhaps the visitors that Israel’s sports scene has drawn which has had the largest positive impact.

In early 2018, a portion of the Giro Italia, one of the world's most popular bicycle races, was held in Israel. It was the first time a portion of the race had ever been held outside of Italy and it brought a tremendous amount of positive media coverage to the Jewish State along with visits from many of the sporting world's most popular athletes and personalities. The Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Marathons have both become annual events attracting thousands of competitors from around the world, including some of the most famous names in long distance running. Beyond that, dozens of professional athletes, including delegations from the NFL’s Hall of Fame and the NBA, have come to Israel as part of goodwill tours to visit with their local counterparts. Their millions of followers on social media were treated to pictures and videos of their heroes eating falafel, riding camels and otherwise enjoying the Holy Land. Israel’s government has acknowledged the positive impact these visits have had on the country’s image and economy, including the bump they’ve given to incoming tourism.

Finally, this week Jerusalem’s Kraft Family Sports Campus (sometimes called the “Lions Den” because it is the homefield of the Jerusalem Lions, three-time defending champions of Israel’s Semi-Pro Gridiron Football league) hosted the European championships of Flag Football. Hundreds of young men and women from European countries spent the week competing for the prize while enjoying the city and learning about its people. 

The stories these young athletes and their coaches and fans take home with them will be part of the reason Israel will stay on the map, in sports and in everything else.

Here is a video produced by Israel's Tourism Ministry giving some highlights of the vibrant and fun athletic scene in the Holy Land

Jerusalem Recognized as Israel’s Capital by RON

The South Pacific island nation Republic of Nauru announced on THursday that it is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz tweeted in response "I commend @Republic_Nauru’s important decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We will continue to strengthen Jerusalem and to bring about the recognition and opening of diplomatic missions and embassies in our capital."

Israeli Athlete Wins Judo World Championship
Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki won the gold medal in the under 81 kg. weight class at the Judo World Championships in Tokyo on Wednesday, making history as the first male Israeli athlete to win at that level. Muki, who had previously won the gold medal at the European championships in 2015 and 2018, was congratulated by Israeli PM Netanyahu and several other political leaders, celebrities and ordinary Israeli citizens. In his Twitter response to Netanyahu Muki said it is a “privilege to represent Israel.”

Turkey and Russia Draw Closer
In the latest indication of a budding strategic relationship between NATO-ally Turkey and Russia, Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan was a guest of honor at a Moscow airshow  this week. During his visit Erdogan was personally escorted by Russian President Vladimir Putin on a tour of inspection of the latest Russian-built military equipment, including the fifth-Generation Sukhoi Su-57, Moscow’s answer to the F-35. Washington announced earlier this year that Turkey won’t be allowed to buy the F-35 following its decision to buy the Russian-built S-400 air defence system, but Putin is reported to have frankly offered for Erdogan to buy the Russian plane instead.

Israel Blesses the World
Egged, Israel’s iconic bus company and one of its most recognizable brands, has recently launched operations in three Dutch cities to provide transport using electrically powered buses through its Dutch subsidiary, EBS. Egged Chairman, Avi Friedman said, "Egged is the first and only Israeli company to decide to take the knowledge and experience it has gained in Israel and use it to operate transport lines in Europe.”

Today’s video celebrates ten years of Technion Israel’s International Students program

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Demands Action on Iran

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon sent a formal letter to the Security Council on Wednesday in which he demanded that action be taken regarding Iran’s recent attempts to attack Israel from Syrian territory. In the letter, Danaon said it was not the “first nor the second major Iranian attack intended to escalate the security situation in the region, guided by Soleimani and the Quds Force.” He also demand that the Security Council "make it clear to Iran, in the clearest terms possible that it will not tolerate its regional malign activities including its central role in supporting terrorism." Meanwhile, Iranian and US officials continued their own rhetorical battles in various forums.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday that "The United States is engaged in an economic war against the Iranian people and it won't be possible for us to engage with the United States unless they stop imposing a war and engaging in economic terrorism against the Iranian people. So if they want to come back into the room there is a ticket that they need to purchase and that ticket is to observe the agreement.”

Elsewhere, the US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on two financial networks linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on Wednesday.

"As the Iranian regime attempts to use complex schemes to hide its efforts to bolster its WMD program, the U.S. government will continue to thwart them at every turn," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker. "We urge governments worldwide to recognize the extraordinary lengths to which the regime in Tehran will go to conceal its behavior, and to ensure that their companies and financial institutions are not facilitating Iran's proliferation activities."

Here are some videos with analysts sharing their thoughts on the situation



Hezbollah Chief Walks Back Threats to Attack Israel

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, appeared to walk back his threats to “imminently” launch attacks on Israel with a statement Tuesday evening quoted by the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper in which he said, among other things, “we are not in a hurry ... let us leave the Israelis on alert." However, the newspaper quoted other Hezbollah officials as saying that an attack is coming sooner or later and that it would be designed to “establishing a new equation" preventing Israel from carrying out strikes on Iranian or Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.

However, “the home front is in a state of routine, and we are working to preserve that,” said the commander of the IDF’s Bashan Division in the Northern Command, Brig.-Gen. Amit Fisher. “The IDF has increased its level of preparedness, both in terms of defense and attack.”

“In light of an operational status assessment, it was decided that the movement of certain military vehicles on several roads would be possible only on the basis of individual approval and in accordance with the situational assessment of the situation,” the IDF added in a public service announcement.

Mobileeye Launches New Facility in Jerusalem
Tech giant Mobileye laid the foundation for its new development center in Jerusalem on Tuesday in a ceremony presided over by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Economy Minister Eli Cohen, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and Mobileye president and CEO Prof. Amnon Shashua also participated in the ceremony to begin construction of the building, which is projected to employ 2,700 people when it officially opens in October 2022. “The largest investment in the history of the State of Israel is underway,” Cohen wrote on social media. “An investment that will propel the Israeli economy and Jerusalem forward, and add lots of jobs.”

Hamas Facing Challenge from Salafi Groups
The Islamist terror militia Hamas declared a state of emergency and launched a crackdown which included several arrests following a pair of suicide attacks killed three Hamas police officers and wounded several others in Gaza City Tuesday evening. Reports in the Arab media said the attacks were carried out by Salafi jihadists groups seeking to challenge Hamas’ rule in the Strip "The sinful hands that carried out this crime will not escape punishment," said Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman, Eyad Al-Bozom. The incident also comes amidst a statement by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Strip that they will attack Israel in the event of a conflict between it and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Here is a video which gives some deeper analysis of the situation in and around the Gaza Strip



El Al Launching New European Routes
Israel’s iconic national air carrier El Al announced this week that it will soon be adding three weekly flights from Tel Aviv to Dublin and the western German city of Dusseldorf. "We are working to continue expanding the company's networks of routes," said El Al vice president of marketing Miki Strassburger. "This is in order to adequately address the evolving demands of our business customers as well as departing Israeli tourists, while at the same time strengthening foreign tourism to Israel."

New Zealand Suspends Funding to UNRWA
New Zealand, a country which has historically been very sympathetic to the Palestinian national cause, took the step this week of suspending funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which is the UN aid agency whose purpose is taking care of Palestinian refugees. The action was taken pending the release of a report the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services regarding a series of allegations made against UNRWA, including links to terrorist organizations, anti-Semitism and corruption. The move by New Zealand follows similar action by the governments of Holland and Switzerland.
 
“We expect UNRWA to cooperate fully with the investigation under way and to report back on the investigation’s findings and recommendations,” the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement. “The Ministry will review the findings of the UN OIOS report once the investigation is complete and, after that point, will provide advice to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on future funding.”

Today’s video shows scenes of life in Tel Aviv

Iranian Officials Appear to Rebuff US Negotiations Offer

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a public statement Tuesday in response to an offer made by US President Donald Trump to resume negotiations regarding the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program by saying that the clerical regime in Teheran is open to the idea, "but first the US should act by lifting all illegal, unjust and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran. We will continue to scale back our commitments under the 2015 deal if our interests are not guaranteed."


In related news, the Pentagon declared on Monday that it is not responsible for recent attacks against Iranian militias and equipment deployed in Iraq. Some American officials have voiced concern that the strikes, widely believed to have been carried out by Israeli aircraft, could leave Washington with no choice but to withdraw its forces from Iraq and Syria, leaving Israel alone to face the Iranian regional offensive.

Finally, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Beijing Monday at the start of a regional tour aimed at enlisting the aid of Asian trading partners in an effort to circumvent US-led sanctions.

“We reject actions of interference by others in the affairs of progressive countries including Iran and China,” China’s foreign minister told reporters after the meeting with Zarif. “We have stood together in dealing with these interventions and interferences and rejecting them as a major threat to international peace and security and friendly relations among countries.”

Here is a video which gives some deeper analysis of the international standoff with Iran

Netanyahu Fires Salvo in Rhetorical War with Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech on Tuesday in which he said, among other things, that he had heard the hysterical warnings from Hezbollah leader Sheik Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to Israel that it should be ready for a spectacular attack in response to Israel’s recent moves in the region. "I heard what Nasrallah said. I suggest to Nasrallah to calm down. He knows well that Israel knows how to defend itself and to pay back its enemies…to Lebanon and to Qasem Soleimani too, I say: Be careful what you say, and be even more careful about your actions."

The speech came following another public address Netanyahu gave on Monday evening in which he said, among other things, that “Iran is working on a broad front to carry out murderous terrorist attacks against the State of Israel. Israel will continue to defend its security however that may be necessary. I call on the international community to act immediately so that Iran halts these attacks.”

Also on Monday, Lebanon’s titular President Michael Aoun told UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis that “The attacks on Dahiyeh and the Qusaya region violate [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701, and its stipulations that bind Lebanon should also be binding for Israel. What happened resembles a declaration of war that entitles us to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We are people who seek peace, not war, but we do not accept to be threatened by anyone in any manner.”

“Whoever allows Hezbollah to turn his country into a storehouse for rockets against Israel is responsible for the results,” responded Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. “A state that allows attacks on Israel is liable to face very difficult consequences. We will defend ourselves, and – wherever necessary – stop the Iranian army from attacking us.”

Teams Fighting Several Forest Fires in Israel
Several forest fires broke out across Israel Monday afternoon, including in Beit Shemesh, Mt. Yaaran and Kfar Mash'had. Israel’s firefighting teams were at work battling the flames while campfires and barbecues were banned in some areas and public officials urged residents to be careful with cigarettes and other flammable materials.

Katz Demands Pushback Against Turkey in East Jerusalem
Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced this week that he is ordering a series of steps to be taken to “stop Turkey’s incitement and subversion in East Jerusalem.” The plans follow several years during which money from Turkey has been injected into various civic, cultural, economic and Islamic organizations in the eastern neighbourhoods of Israel’s capital city, leading many analysts and even Arab governments to warn that Ankara is attempting to buy influence in the city at the expense of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality.

Israel Blesses the World
4M Analytics, a private Israeli company founded by Itzik Malka and Nir Cohen, two veterans of the IDF Combat Engineering Corps, has pioneered methods for using Artificial Intelligence and robotics to clear minefields and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) at a small fraction of the financial cost and physical danger involved in traditional methods. Their methods have already been successfully tested in clearing some of the massive numbers of ERW’s in and around Israel’s borders, with the company also continuing to do research in other applications of its methods for fields such as agriculture and construction.

“Our case study has been the Golan Heights, where there are more than 100 sq. km. of minefields,” 4M Analytics chief product officer Raz Ezra told The Jerusalem Post. “If we continue at the current clearance pace of one sq. km. per year, it will take 100 years to clear the Golan Heights. The cost of the clearance exceeds $1 billion, amounting to 35 shekels per sq. m. We can assure them with our technology to reduce clearance time from 100 years to 10 years, reduce cost from $1 billion to $60 million, and to minimize the 100 sq. km. to under 20 sq. km. of hazardous territory.”

Today's media is a podcast from the INSS Think Tank in Tel Aviv giving some analysis of the upcoming elections in Israel

IDF On High Alert Following Strikes on Iranian Militias

After Israeli air strikes Saturday on Iranian-backed militia forces deployed in Aqraba, Syria, who were in the advanced phase of a plan to attack Israel with suicide drones, reports emerged early Monday morning of an Israeli drone attack on a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) position in Qousaya, located in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, close to the border with Syria. Israel’s enemies were issuing dark threats of imminent retaliation for the weekend’s strikes and the IDF was on high alert.

"These insane operations are absolutely the last tries of the Zionist regime," IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani Tweeted on Sunday.

"The time at which Israeli war jets used to strike targets in Lebanon while the usurping entity in Palestine kept safe has ended. From tonight, I tell the Israeli army on the border: wait for our response, which may take place at any time on the border and beyond the border. Be prepared and wait for us,” Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a video broadcast from an undisclosed location Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured the northern border region on Sunday alongside IDF chief of staff Lt. General Aviv Kochavi, telling reporters that he acted on the Talmudic dictum that “If someone rises to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” He added that “In a complex operation by the security services, we discovered that the Iranian Quds Force sent a special team of Shi’ite militants through Syria to kill Israelis in the Golan Heights, using explosive drones. I want to stress this was Iran's initiative, it was under Iran's command, and it was an Iranian mission…I want to emphasize that we will not tolerate attacks on Israel from any country in the region. Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences, and I stress, the country will bear the consequences.”

Here is a video the IDF released of the Iranian teams who were preparing to launch suicide drones into Israel when the IDF struck them.



Here is a video which gives some deeper analysis of the international standoff with Iran


Gaza-based Terror Groups Launch Rockets at Israel

IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major General Kamil Abu Rukun posted a message in Arabic on his Facebook page Monday warning Gaza residents not to allow Iran to manipulate them into opening an unnecessary conflict with Israel following a weekend which saw rockets fired into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Strip and Israeli airstrikes on terrorist militias there. Rukin said. “Israel will protect its citizens. That is something that your leaders and their allies do not do. The [terror] organizations in Gaza and their allies are more concerned with what is best for Iran, than what is in your best interest.”

The post came hours after Israeli officials announced that they will cut the fuel supply for Gaza’s power plant by half in retaliation for the rocket barrage. The officials also confirmed that two of the incoming rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome air defence system while a third landed in a field near Sderot, causing a large brush fire which took several hours to contain.

Here is a video of the concert in Sderot which was interupted by rocket attacks



Israel Offers to Help Brazil Fight Forest Fires
Growing alarm at reports of forest fires in the Amazon jungle region of Brazil prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer his assistance to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the weekend. Israel’s donation of flame retardant material was accepted by Bolsonaro, as have the offers of help from other countries.

PA Blames Hamas for Attack on Gaza Offices
The PLO issued a statement over the weekend condemning what it described as an “assault” on its Department for Refugee Affairs offices in the Gaza Strip, adding an accusation that the Hamas terror militia which rules the territory was responsible for the incident. However, some Palestinian analysts pointed out that it might have been a simple burglary, as crime in the Strip has soared along with poverty in recent years.

Manhunt Continues for IED Attackers
In reaction to an IED-roadside bomb attack last Friday on an Israeli car at the Ein Buvin spring near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Jerusalem, which killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounded her brother and their father, the Prime Minister’s Office approved the construction of 300 new housing units in the community. "We will take root and cripple our enemies," PM Benjamin Netanyahu said. "We will continue to strengthen and develop the settlement." A massive manhunt was underway Monday to find the perpetrators of the attack.

Israel Blesses the World
An experimental method to rebuild coral reefs damaged by pollution is currently being tested in the shallow waters off Israel’s southern resort city of Eilat. The 3D-printed synthetic reef materials and designs were produced by a team of researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Bar-Ilan University.

Here is a video about other ways Israel is blessing the world

Friday Feature - A tough week for American Jews

We started this week with many in the pro-Israel community fretting over the short and long-term implications of Israel’s ban on two antagonistic US Congresswomen from entering the country, and the role US President Donald Trump played in perhaps forcing Jerusalem into this controversial decision. But that ‘tempest in a teapot’ has been quickly overshadowed by Trump’s latest barrage against the provocative freshman lawmakers, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), which many have now twisted into an antisemitic trope against the Jewish people.

Just to recap, Trump first tweeted late last week that Israel (read Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) was showing “weakness” in allowing Omar and Tlaib into the country. Within minutes, news broke that Israel had decided to block the two agitators from visiting. Many saw it as Netanyahu instantly bowing to pressure from Trump. It took a few days, but Israel clarified that the decision was already in process well before Trump’s tweet. But by then, Republicans and Democrats alike, American Jewish leaders and Israeli officials in tow, were all wringing their hands over the potential damage to US-Israel relations of closing the door on two sitting members of Congress.

Yet that [important] debate quickly faded into obscurity when Trump commented in an Oval Office press appearance on Tuesday that American Jews who vote for a Democrat are showing “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Democratic Jewish lawmakers, 2020 Democratic hopefuls and major American Jewish groups all rushed to condemn Trump’s statement, accusing him of being ‘divisive’ and employing antisemitic stereotypes, among other charges. Charles Schumer insisted that Trump was “encouraging – wittingly or unwittingly – antisemites throughout the country and world.” Joe Biden described his comments as “insulting and inexcusable.” Dan Shapiro labeled Trump “disgusting.” The headline of one critical article even claimed “Trump is now echoing the same antisemitic tropes used by the Nazis”.

Despite the backlash, Trump doubled down on his pasting of Omar and Tlaib in a tweet on Wednesday, while also clarifying that he simply meant American Jewish voters were being disloyal to Israel and their own people when voting for radical, Jew-hating Democrats like the two ‘Squad’ members. Yet by now, the noise and mayhem surrounding this controversy is drowning out any sane voices and goodwill efforts to bring things back to a proper, realistic perspective.

Here is my attempt to be one of those sane voices:

1. Trump is indeed the Most Pro-Israel President Ever
It is hard for anyone to argue with that premise. He was the one who finally granted American recognition to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there. He has challenged the unfair treatment of Israel in the United Nations, including UNRWA’s distorted definition of Palestinian refugees. He has cut off US funding to UNRWA, and to the Palestinian Authority over its pay-for-slay policies. He has removed the US from a very flawed nuclear deal with Iran which endangered Israel. And he has recognized Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights. It is hard for any US president to match that track record, accomplished in only two years.

2. Trump is a Political Firebrand but he is not Anti-Semitic
There is an election season on, and Trump obviously enjoys the fray. He dishes out as good as he gets. And everyone knows Trump is trying to paint Omar, Tlaib, and other members of the “Squad” as the true face of the Democratic party. His initial remarks and subsequent tweet on “disloyalty” may have been a clumsy attempt to make that point, and it would certainly help if he were more careful in driving it home, but it was not expressed with evil intent against the Jewish people. It is just the rough-and-tumble way Trump tries to sway voters.

3. Comparing Trump to Hitler is Absurd
To do so is an insult to the six million Jews who died and the millions of others who suffered horribly under Hitler and the Nazis. Let us all be careful in the slippery game of drawing Nazi equivalencies.

4. Maintaining Bipartisan Support for Israel is Important
Yes, it is vital that American support for Israel must remain bipartisan. Both parties have had their problems with letting in antisemitic elements. For every Democratic mainstay like Jesse Jackson (“hymie town”), the Republicans have had to cope with their Pat Buchanan (“Congress is occupied Israeli territory”). But today, polls consistently show that the Republican party is overwhelmingly pro-Israel, while the Democrats have a real and growing problem with antisemitic, anti-Zionist, BDSers trying to seize the reins of the party. The Democratic strategy of appealing to identity politics has let in many ethnic and social groups that are ideologically anti-Israel. We saw this when a typically pro-forma plank on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was openly booed and hissed at a recent Democratic convention. Omar and Tlaib now personify that troubling wing of the party. So Trump is right in beginning to question why so many American Jews remain so wedded to the Democratic party, and frankly many conservative Christians are mystified by this as well.

5.  Do Not Mistake Silence for Patience
Many Trump critics upbraided Republicans and conservatives for not immediately jumping on the bandwagon to condemn the president for his “disloyalty” comments. But some of us have learned that – in the age of Trump – it is often best to let things settle down first before making a judgment on what was really said and with what intent. This president does use strong and edgy terms sometimes, and people are just too quick to launch into lunar orbit against him. It is best to let everyone come down, regain perspective, and then assess what the truth really is. And at the heart of Trump’s complaint is that voters in several heavily-Democratic congressional districts elected some very radical politicians in 2018, and we are now waiting to see if they will be turned out or returned to office in November, which would signal a much deeper problem not only in the Democratic party but in America in general.

6. Omar and Tlaib are Indeed Anti-Semites
Not so long ago, Democrats in Congress were reluctant to expressly condemn by name their fellow lawmakers for openly espousing antisemitic views, such as Omar’s comments, “It's all about the Benjamins, baby.” No matter one’s political affiliation, that does not bode well for Israel and the Jewish community. As one commentator noted in The Forward: “The truth is, it’s been a tough week for American Jews.”

 

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