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Sara Netanyahu Signs Plea Agreement with Prosecutors

Attorney’s for Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the Prime Minister, announced on Wednesday morning that she had signed a plea agreement with prosecutors in the so-called “Prepared Food Affair” which will require her to pay a NIS 55,000 fine and have a conviction on the charge of intentionally exploiting another person's error entered into her criminal record, which allows her to avoid a conviction on more serious charges of fraud and breach of trust. The announcement came amidst a host of political developments relating to upcoming Knesset elections on 17 September.

Israel’s Labor Party was holding its convention Wednesday to decide, among other things, whether to retain the list of candidates which ran in the previous elections on 9 April for the upcoming elections or to form a new list. The convention comes a day after Party leader Avi Gabbay announced he would not run for re-election to his post but is still interested in being a candidate for Knesset.

Meanwhile, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz made a public appeal at a Knesset press conference Wednesday for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to advance the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on various charges of fraud and bribery, saying that the unsettled nature of the cases is having a negative effect on the national life of the country.

“Netanyahu is weak, the original elections were brought forward because of his legal needs,” said Gantz.  “Instead of the government acting to advance the county, the state is causing a situation that the country is stuck, and all of this is because he is weak. Responsibility is now in the hands of the attorney-general and I call on him to halt this corrupt escape dance from judgement. There is a hearing, there is a date, this legal mumbo jumbo cannot continue. Things need to happen.”

Here is a video giving some analysis of the current political climate in Israel

Iran Accelerates Uranium Enrichment

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano spoke out forcefully on Monday, warning about increased tensions between Iran and the US while adding that the Islamic Republic has followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium. “The situation in the region here is highly explosive and extremely serious,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas Maas told a news conference alongside Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Teheran on Monday. “A dangerous escalation of existing tensions can also lead to a military escalation.”

“Reducing tension is only possible through stopping the economic war by America,” Zarif said during his own comments. “Those who wage such wars cannot expect to remain safe.” However, he added that “Tehran will cooperate with EU signatories of the (JCPOA nuclear) deal to save it.” He also lashed out at Israel, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for provoking a conflict with his country.

Netanyahu responded to that comment by posting this video



Here is another recent video in which Iran’s renegade nuclear program is analyzed by one of the world’s leading nuclear experts




Here are some more videos giving a closer look at the current situation with Iran



Israeli Supreme Court Rules on Church Property Dispute

Israel’s Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday which rejected an appeal by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem to overturn the sale of three properties in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Jewish group Ateret Cohanim in 2004. The sales, which were made through a third party intermediary based in another country, were ruled to have been conducted properly despite the Church’s assertion that the church's director of finance Nicholas Papadimas had conducted them without proper authorization from the Patriarch, Irenaios.

In its ruling, the court overrode allegations that Papadimas had been bribed to advance the deals, which in addition to the political sensitivity of the issue were also criticized for being poor business decisions due to the market value of the properties, which were assessed to be significantly higher than the value of the deals eventually signed.

Escelating Air Campaign Against Syria’s Idlib Province
An ongoing air offensive against the last remaining rebel groups opposed to the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad, which are now concentrated in the northeastern province of Idlib, intensified on Monday with at least 25 people reportedly killed and many more wounded. Turkish officials have expressed concern that the offensive might spark yet another mass exodus of refugees from Syria into its regional neighbors.

BDS Movement Suffers Massive Setbacks
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered several defeats this week including the announcement of a major new innovation lab. The French/Japanese transportation manufacturing conglomerate Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance launched its innovation lab at Atidim Business Park in Tel Aviv Monday in partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority. “I believe that this center can serve as a role model for the future innovation labs that we will have in Israel,” said IIA CEO Aharon Aharon.

In related news, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry revealed this week that in the past two years, intelligence provided by Israel regarding ties between terrorist organizations and BDS-promoting nonprofits in the US and the EU has led to 30 such organizations having their financial accounts closed by various banks and online fundraising platforms. “Our efforts have drastically undermined the boycott campaign, leading to it having much less finances to operate with, and being barred from receiving financial services,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said.

Labor Party Leader Will Not Seek Re-Election
The ongoing saga of the Labor Party, which dominated Israel for generations but has seen its popular support dwindle in recent years took another turn on Tuesday morning when incumbent chairman Avi Gabbay announced that he would not seek another term in upcoming party primaries but would instead step down on 2 July. Referring to the latest general election in which Labor dropped from 24 Knesset seats to 6, Gabbay said "The direction was already clear the night of the last election but big decisions must not be made in a time of a storm, so I waited until the issue would be relevant to decide and make an announcement."

Today's video shows an opportunity to study in Israel

Israeli Supreme Court Rules on Church Property Dispute

Israel’s Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday which rejected an appeal by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem to overturn the sale of three properties in Jerusalem’s Old City to the Jewish group Ateret Cohanim in 2004. The sales, which were made through a third party intermediary based in another country, were ruled to have been conducted properly despite the Church’s assertion that the church's director of finance Nicholas Papadimas had conducted them without proper authorization from the Patriarch, Irenaios.

In its ruling, the court overrode allegations that Papadimas had been bribed to advance the deals, which in addition to the political sensitivity of the issue were also criticized for being poor business decisions due to the market value of the properties, which were assessed to be significantly higher than the value of the deals eventually signed.

Escelating Air Campaign Against Syria’s Idlib Province
An ongoing air offensive against the last remaining rebel groups opposed to the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad, which are now concentrated in the northeastern province of Idlib, intensified on Monday with at least 25 people reportedly killed and many more wounded. Turkish officials have expressed concern that the offensive might spark yet another mass exodus of refugees from Syria into its regional neighbors.

BDS Movement Suffers Massive Setbacks
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered several defeats this week including the announcement of a major new innovation lab. The French/Japanese transportation manufacturing conglomerate Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance launched its innovation lab at Atidim Business Park in Tel Aviv Monday in partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority. “I believe that this center can serve as a role model for the future innovation labs that we will have in Israel,” said IIA CEO Aharon Aharon.

In related news, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry revealed this week that in the past two years, intelligence provided by Israel regarding ties between terrorist organizations and BDS-promoting nonprofits in the US and the EU has led to 30 such organizations having their financial accounts closed by various banks and online fundraising platforms. “Our efforts have drastically undermined the boycott campaign, leading to it having much less finances to operate with, and being barred from receiving financial services,” Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said.

Labor Party Leader Will Not Seek Re-Election
The ongoing saga of the Labor Party, which dominated Israel for generations but has seen its popular support dwindle in recent years took another turn on Tuesday morning when incumbent chairman Avi Gabbay announced that he would not seek another term in upcoming party primaries but would instead step down on 2 July. Referring to the latest general election in which Labor dropped from 24 Knesset seats to 6, Gabbay said "The direction was already clear the night of the last election but big decisions must not be made in a time of a storm, so I waited until the issue would be relevant to decide and make an announcement."

Today's video shows an opportunity to study in Israel

Iran Demands Sanctions Relief from Europe

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was in Teheran Monday to meet with senior officials of the Islamic Republic in what was assessed by some analysts to be a last-ditch effort to save the JCPOA nuclear deal. The meeting came despite a terse statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday declaring that Iran’s ballistic missile program, about which Germany and other European countries have expressed grave concerns, is none of their business and therefore will not be a topic for discussion during any talks.

He added that he would be interested to hear from Maas what Germany and other European countries have done to help Iran overcome sanctions imposed by the US following last year’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, dropping broad hints that if Maas doesn’t have anything to show him than he wouldn’t be very interested in holding any further discussions with him.

Here are some videos giving a closer look at the current situation with Iran



Friedman Under Fire for Annexation Comments

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gave an interview to the New York Times, published last Friday, in which he said among other things that  “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” Following the interview, another Trump Administration officials said “Our policy has not changed” regarding the West Bank, but this did not prevent a chorus of condemnation for Friedman from Palestinian and Leftist Jewish groups in Israel and the US. During the interview Friedman also said that any Israeli plan to actually annex parts of the West Bank would be very deeply scrutinized by the US before being signed off on. He added intense criticism of the Palestinian Authority for what he said was a campaign of intimidation to prevent Palestinian business people from attending the upcoming economic conference in Bahrain as well as the PA’s “very, very poor track record on human rights.”

“Friedman is ignorant in political work and belongs to the state of settlers,” the PA Foreign Ministry said in response. “Friedman’s remarks are an extension of the US administration’s policy, which is fully biased in favor of the occupation and its expansionist colonial policies. The remarks of the settler Friedman expose the truth about him and his ideas, as well as those of his settler peers. We are studying whether his racist rhetoric is sufficient to file a complaint against him with the International Criminal Court for trying to impose his racist visions and threatening peace and security in the region, as well as exposing the Palestinian people to several dangers and conspiracies.”

This statement was echoed by several other PA officials and pro-Palestinian activists, while Israeli Leftist group Peace Now issued a statement describing Friedman as a “Trojan Horse in the service of the settler Right that is sabotaging the interest of Israel and the chances for peace.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian factions announced on Sunday that they will launch a “popular uprising” on 25-26 June to protest the Trump Administration’s peace plan dubbed the “Deal of the Century” and the initial stages of it at the Manama economic workshop, which will be attended by delegations from several Arab countries but which the PA has pre-emptively denounced as a “conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause” which they will have no part of.

Turkey in Danger of Losing Access to F-35
The US Defense Department announced late last week that they are laying the groundwork to cancel Turkey’s participation in the international program to build the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in light of Ankara’s apparent intention to go ahead with the purchase and deployment of the Russian-built S-400 air defense system. The move would cost Turkish industry billions of dollars and exacerbate already poor relations between Turkey and its NATO allies. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has reportedly offered to sell Turkey its own fifth-generation aircraft to replace the planned purchases of the F-35.

Weizmann Institute Ranked Among World’s Top Universities
In another defeat for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot was ranked among the top 25 research institutes in the world in two main categories in lists published last week by the prestigious U-Multirank website. “This ranking shows that our striving for excellence – our basic drive to conduct curiosity-based research and investigate the workings of nature – is paying off,” said Daniel Zajfman, President of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Israeli Chess Champion Takes Second Place at European Tournament
Eight-year-old Israeli Or Shatil defeated previously unbeaten Ismayilova Khanim from Azerbaijan and took home second place honors at the European School Chess Championships in Mamia, Romania over the weekend.

Israel Blesses the World
Access Israel, an NGO which assists people living with physical disabilities, held its 7th International Conference in Tel Aviv recently, welcoming over 800 participants from 22 countries discussing a wide variety of policies, technology and best practices for facilitating the desire of physically disabled people to contribute to their communities. In a related development, the "First International Conference on Wearable Devices for Medical Diagnosis" was held last month at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, with the participation of practitioners and technology experts from around the world.

Today's video shows a panel discussion about China's growing presense in the Middle East

(Video Begins at 36:30)


ICEJ Attends the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast

This week ICEJ leadership visited the annual Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast. The Prayer Breakfast is a prayer movement initiated and chaired by Knesset Member Robert Ilatov, and co-chaired by US Congresswoman Michelle Bachman. Each year the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast brings together government leaders and Christian leaders from around the world to gather in Israel’s capital city to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

This year’s breakfast was truly the “gathering of the nations” said ICEJ President Juergen Buehler, “With over 800 delegates from 60 nations the breakfast is growing quickly which is evidence of the hand of the Lord on the event. Albert Veksler has given strong leadership to the breakfast since its inception and he and his team did a spectacular job again this year.”

ICEJ's International Director Mojmir Kallus said, "I was impressed by the unity between Christian and Jewish leaders who often chose the same theme in their speeches. As an example, the book of Ruth came up several times, due to the proximity of the holiday of Shavuot/Pentecost. In the Jewish tradition, the book of Ruth is read. Even though she was a Gentile, she is highly regarded by Jews. Her confession: “Your God will be my God” foreshadows the attitude of Gentile believers today. Both Christians and Jews acknowledged it, and I found that very strong."

The delegates came from all over the world and from all over Israel, from every culture and demographic. From Israel, local believers joined Arab Christians as well as Jewish Rabbis in unity in order to pray for the peace of Israel. From around the globe Christian leaders as well as government ministers and parliment members joined together to show their support and offer their own prayers for the city of Jerusalem. 

ICEJ VP of Operations Barry Denison said, “The 2019 Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast was a tremendous success. The large turnout encouraged the Israelis especially in light of the difficult beginnings of 2019. The Heavy anointing of the Spirit of the Lord rested on the prayers of those involved and his Presence was acknowledged by all, including the Israelis.”

LGBT Pride Parade Held in Jerusalem

Police estimated between 15-30,000 people participated in the LGBT Pride parade in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, with a few hundred attending counter-demonstrations, all of which was watched over by several thousand security personnel. The march occurred just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the appointment of Amir Ohana to be Justice Minister, making a point of mentioning that he would be the first openly homosexual senior cabinet member in Israeli history.

“As a Jew, as an Israeli, as the partner of the love of my life Alon Haddad, as the father of Ella and David, as a Mizrachi, as a Likudnik, as a Beersheba native, as a liberal and as a lawyer who has spent thousands of hours in court, it is a great honor to serve Israel as justice minister,” Ohana said.

The LGBT Pride parade in Jerusalem is the first of several such parades scheduled to be held in cities around Israel in the month of June.

Several Large Fires Burning in Hills Around Jerusalem
Firefighters were battling multiple blazes in the hills around Jerusalem on Thursday, with arson being suspected by many local residents and insurers estimating that nearly NIS 700,000 in damage has already occurred. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, told Hadashot, “My heart breaks to see thousands of dunams of farmland and pastures being burned.”

Israeli Elected to Key UN Committee
Israeli Diplomat Anat Fisher Tsin was elected to the post of Deputy Chairman of the UN's Economic and Financial Committee this week, breaking a long-standing drought in Israelis elected to positions on UN Committees. “The election of Anat adds to the many victories we have reached in recent years that promote the status of the State of Israel in the international community,” declared Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.

Here is a podcast giving some insights into Israel's complicated relationship with the UN



Netanyahu Suffers Legal Setback
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit dealt a legal setback to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday by rejecting his request for a second delay to his pre-indictment hearing beyond October 2-3, despite Netanyahu’s plea that the re-run elections made such a delay necessary.

Archeologists Uncover Gate from King David’s Time
Archeological excavations in the ancient city of Bethsaida in the Golan Heights’ Jordan Park uncovered a city gate from the time of King David (around the 10th to 11th century BC) this week. Professor Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, chief archaeologist overseeing the excavations, told the Jerusalem Post that “there are not many gates from capital cities in this country from this period. Bethsaida was the name of the city during the Second Temple period, but during the First Temple period it was the city of Zer” before adding that a city by that name is mentioned in Joshua 19:35.

Today's video shows the care Israel takes for the physical environment

Iranian Supreme Leader Vows to Continue Missile Development

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a fiery speech on Tuesday declaring, among other things, that his county wouldn’t negotiate with the US over its renegade ballistic missile program. He added that "The US president recently said Iran can achieve development with its current leaders. That means they do not seek regime change...but this political trick will not deceive Iranian officials and the Iranian nation. In the missile program, they know we have reached a point of deterrence and stability. They want to deprive us from it, but they will never succeed."

In related news, reports emerged in official Iranian state media outlets on Wednesday that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps assesses that its anti-ship missile capability has deterred the US from sending the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf.

Here is a video giving some analysis of the current situation



Israel Blesses the World
A team of medical researchers at Tel Aviv University announced this week that they have found promising lines of treatment that has the potential to delay the onset of the neurodegenerative disorder popularly known as Parkinson’s disease. The research was published on Wednesday in the Acta Neuropathologica medical journal. Also on Wednesday, the seventh annual report by the National Academy of Inventors and Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) in the US listed Tel Aviv University and Haifa’s Technion–Israel Institute of Technology among the top 100 leading universities worldwide to be granted US patents for invention in 2018.

“Patenting an invention is the first step towards making a lasting impact on the innovation ecosystem,” said IPO deputy executive director Jessica Landacre. “The [report] demonstrates which institutions are at the forefront of this change, and highlights the important role innovation plays in local, regional and global economies.”

Tourism Numbers for May Point to BDS Failure
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat this week when the Tourism Ministry released a report showing that the Jewish State welcomed 11% more incoming visitors in May of 2019 than the same month in 2018. "The May 2019 tourism statistics continue the consistent upward momentum and record-breaking trend in incoming tourism to Israel," said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. "As a continuation of the growth trend, we are also developing infrastructures.”

Poverty in Israel Continues to Be a Major Challenge
A report published Wednesday by the Taub Center for Social Policy in Israel contained good news and bad news, showing an increase in the overall quality of life for Israeli citizens but also showing a very difficult situation for groups with traditionally low levels of income and employment. “The integration of ultra-Orthodox men in the labor force remains, therefore, one of the major challenges facing the Israeli economy,” said Prof. Avi Weiss, president of the Taub Center and author of the report. “Israel’s high ranking reflects the large inequality in income compared with other OECD countries, which results in a large gap between the income of households in the poorest decile and the median income according to which the poverty line is calculated.”

Israelis Mourn First Lady Nechama Rivlin

Nechama Rivlin, the wife of Israel's president Reuven Rivlin, died Tuesday morning at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah, where she’d been recovering from surgery to receive a transplanted lung. She was 73. Tributes from many government officials, private organizations and NGOs spoke lovingly of her devotion to the country and all its citizens. Nechama Rivlin had been hospitalized for the last four months awaiting a lung donor following several years of battling pulmonary fibrosis. She is survived by her three children and seven grandchildren, as well as her sister Vered.

Iran Condemned for Human Rights Abuses
Self-described “human rights organization” Amnesty International issued a statement on Monday condemning Iran’s clerical regime following the sentencing by a court in Teheran of anti-regime activist Amirsalar Davudi to 30 years in prison and 111 lashes following his conviction on charges that included "insulting officials" and "spreading propaganda against the system." AI’s director for the Middle East and North Africa Philip Luther lamented that "With this sentence, Iran's authorities have demonstrated that human rights lawyers in Iran today are effectively treated as enemies of the state."

Replacement for Shaked Required on Tuesday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was legally required to appoint a replacement for outgoing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked upon her termination becoming effective at 3:30 PM on Tuesday, despite his desire to postpone the appointment in order to hold consultations with Knesset factions. The Justice Ministry forbade Netanyahu from assuming the position himself because of the pending legal cases against him.

Lebanon Hit by IS Terror Attack
Israel’s northern neighbor, Lebanon, was rocked on Monday evening by an attack on a routine security patrol in the northern city of Tripoli which left two paramilitary police officers and two soldiers dead. The attacker, who blew himself up before he could be captured, was formally imprisoned for being a member of the Islamic State (IS) terror militia.

Today’s video shows interactions between US and Israeli soldiers

 

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