News Digest — 1/16/23

Herzi Halevi Succeeds Aviv Kochavi As IDF Chief Of Staff

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem held a ceremony Monday morning (16th), marking the end of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi’s term as the country’s senior military commander.

At the ceremony, which began at 10:00 a.m. Kochavi was joined by his successor, Major General Herzi Halevi.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant promoted Halevi during the ceremony to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Halevi and Kochavi later visited Mount Herzl military cemetery, the Western Wall and the presidential residence Monday (16th).  

Halevi, 55, is the 23rd IDF Chief of Staff, and the first Orthodox Jew to serve in that position.  He resides in Kfar HaOranim, an Israeli town in western Samaria.

Appointed by then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz last September and confirmed by the Lapid government last October, Halevi served as deputy chief of staff, and previously served as chief of the IDF’s Southern Command as well as chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate.

A native-born Jerusalemite, Halevi’s father is the son of Haim Shalom Halevi, who fought for the Irgun underground before the founding of the State of Israel.  His mother, Tzila was the daughter of Dov Ber Kook, and the niece of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook.

Herzi Halevi was named after his uncle, Herzl, who was killed in the Six Day War during the battle for Jerusalem.

A father of four, Halevi holds a BA in philosophy and business management and an MA in national resource management from National Defense University in Washington, DC.



Netanyahu: November Elections Were The ‘Mother Of All Protests’

“Millions of people participated two-and-a-half months ago in the ‘mother of all protests’ – the national election,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday (15th).

Netanyahu’s comment came in response to the protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night (14th) of approximately tens of thousands of people against his government’s proposed judicial reforms.

The prime minister rejected the claim that the Likud had not clearly stated its plans for the legal system during the election campaign, and quoted himself saying during the campaign that “we will do the necessary changes of the legal system with level-headedness and responsibility.”  

“My friends and I, many of whom are sitting around this table, said this countless times, and millions of voters for the right-wing camp knew about the intention to carry out a widespread  reform of the judicial system,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister added that a long list of ministers from “all political camps” called for this reform over the years.  These included Tom Lapid, father of opposition leader and previous prime minister MK Yair Lapid; Yaakov Ne’eman; Haim Ramon; Daniel Friedman; and “many others,” he added.

“These things were said by right-wing and left-wing governments, and no one then thought to say it was the ‘end of democracy.’  The truth  of the matter is, what we are attempting to do is return the balance between the branches of government that existed for 50 years, and which exists today in all Western democracies.”

Netanyahu called for “deep, serious, relevant” debate, and cautioned everyone not to be swept into “inflammatory slogans of civil war and destruction of the country.”

“I have to say when we were in the opposition, we did not call for civil war or speak about the country’s destruction, even when the government carried out decisions that we fiercely opposed, and I expected the heads of the opposition to behave in the same way with us,” Netanyahu added.

“I am convinced that when we finish the deep and important dialogue in the Knesset Constitution Committee, we will conclude the legislation of the reform in a way that will fix what needs fixing, fully defend individual rights and return the public’s trust to the judicial system, which needs this reform so much,” he concluded.



Attempted Stabbing Attack Near Israeli Town In Samaria, Terrorist Eliminated

A Palestinian man wielding a knife was shot by Israeli soldiers after he charged at troops while brandishing his weapon on Sunday morning (15th).

According to Hebrew language media reports, locals began hurling rocks at IDF troops stationed between the Jewish municipality of Ofra and the Palestinian Authority-controlled village of Silwad in Samaria.

While the soldiers were distracted by the rock-throwing, a man carrying a knife ran at the troops and attempted to stab them.

The man was shot and killed.  No troops were wounded in the incident.

The assailant was identified by Ynet as Ahmed Hassan Abdel Jalil Kahala, a 45-year-old resident of a nearby PA-controlled town, north of Ramallah.

According to an IDF statement, Kahala had tried to grab one of the soldier’s weapons during the stabbing attempt.

Sunday’s (15th) incident comes on the heels of an uptick of violent attacks against IDF soldiers and civilians in Judea and Samaria.

On Saturday (14th), two men affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group were shot dead in a firefight with Israeli soldiers near Jenin.

The two men, identified by the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry as Izz a-Din Basem Hamamra, 24, and Amiad Adnan Khaliliya, 23, opened fire on IDF troops as they drove on a road outside of the city.   The pair shot at troops from a car which they drove near the military vehicle.

An M-16 assault rifle was recovered from the terrorists’ vehicle by troops after their deaths.

Also, last week, a Jewish resident of Hebron was brutally stabbed in the head and neck by an 18-year-old terrorist, who was subsequently shot dead by a bystander.

“When we arrived at the scene, we saw the wounded man sitting, fully conscious and suffering from laceration injuries in his upper body.  We gave him medical treatment that included stopping the bleeding and bandages and evacuated him for further treatment to the hospital where his condition was pronounced moderate and stable,” said Magen David Adom paramedic Elyashiv Ameti.   



US Bill Would Sanction Financial Backers Of Hamas

A bipartisan bill submitted by two Congressmen last week seeks to sanction all financial backers of Hamas.

The Hamas International Financing Prevention Act was passed by the previous Congress and re-introduced on Wednesday (11th) by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).

“There is a reason why we call Israel our strongest ally.  We share the same ideals of freedom, democracy, and mutual respect for all people.  That’s why I fight for policies in Congress that will strengthen Israel and, in turn, bolster our own national security,” Brian Mast said in a statement, adding, “One of the biggest threats to Israel- and to its shared values – is Hamas.”

“Hamas has launched tens of thousands of missiles into Israel, indiscriminately killing hundreds of men, women and children.  The continued aggression has rightly earned Hamas a global terrorist organization designation from the United States,” noted Mast.

“That however, does not go far enough to neutralize the threat these Islamic extremists pose to Israel.  That is why today, I introduced a bipartisan bill that would sanction all financial backers of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or their affiliates: the Hamas International Financing Prevention Act.  Any person, group, or government who supports Hamas is complicit, and the US should not reward them with aid or access to our economy.”

Mast said the bill passed the House in the previous Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, but unfortunately was removed from the bill by the Senate.

“However, the bipartisan support it has received in the House shows us that we have the momentum to get it to the President’s desk to become law,” he continued.

“The Hamas International Financing Prevention Act sends a strong message that the United States will not tolerate anybody who supports these terrorists.  It’s about confronting hate, and standing with our allies.  Period.” concluded Mast.

The bill would require the President to submit to Congress an annual report for the next three years identifying “foreign persons, agencies or instrumentalities of a foreign state who knowingly and materially assists Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or an affiliate or successor of one of those organizations.”

After identifying the organizations, the President must impose two or more sanctions, including denying export-import guarantees or seizure of property held within the United States.

If signed into law, it would also require the President “to report to Congress on each government that provides support for acts of terrorism and provides material support to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or any affiliate or successor organization, or that the president determines to have engaged in a significant transaction knowingly, and materially providing support to Hamas, the PIJ or any affiliate or successor organization.”



UK To Classify IRGC As Terror Group After Brit Was Executed

The British government is set to officially classify Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terror group, following the Islamic Republic’s execution of a British citizen on Saturday (14th).

The execution sparked outrage from the UK government, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying he was “appalled by the execution of British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari” and called the move a “callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people.”

Shortly after news of Akbar’s execution was made public, UK officials summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in London for a dressing down.

According to a report from UK outlet The Guardian, the UK is considering a number of punitive measures against Iran, including a travel ban and asset freeze of accounts belonging to Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

Officially classifying the IRGC as a terror group would have serious consequences for Iran regarding its assets in the UK and other European countries.

Iranian resources abroad could potentially be seized or frozen, and sanctions against the country which are meant to be lifted later this year may remain in place.  The EU is set to follow the UK’s policy towards Iran, The Guardian reported.

Deeming the IRGC as a terror group would mark a major shift in relations between the UK and Iran.

Although the two countries have had strained ties in recent years, the UK has repeatedly attempted to coax Iran into a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and the country has maintained an embassy in Tehran since the Islamic revolution in 1979, when the US broke off ties with Iran.

In 2022, UK’s intelligence agencies and police warned Iranian dissidents living in the country that agents operating on behalf of Tehran were targeting them for kidnapping and murder.



Anti-Regime Iranian Cleric Visits Israel, Meets With Officials Close To PM

An Iranian Shiite Imam, who is known to be a critic of the Islamic Republic’s regime, recently visited Israel secretly and met with officials close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu according to a report by i24NEWS.

A source close to the Prime Minister confirmed the cleric’s visit to i24NEWS.  The channel says it knows the identity of the imam, who is known for his harsh criticism of Iran’s regime but is not disclosing the information to protect him from being persecuted in his home country.

According to the report, the imam is frequently a guest of American right-wing circles.  Additionally, he is a former student of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

In a conversation with i24NEWS, the imam did not deny the visit and noted his friendship with an official close to the prime minister.