News Digest — 1/20/23

Israel To Fully Reopen Embassy In Kyiv – Step Up Aid

Israel plans to fully open its embassy in Kyiv and to increase its humanitarian assistance to that war-torn country, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday (19th) after he spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

“I just spoke with my colleague Kuleba and informed him of the return of the Israeli Embassy to full activity in Kyiv within 60 days,” Cohen tweeted.

It was the first conversation between the two men since Cohen took office earlier this month.  He has already spoken with his Russian counterpart Sergi Lavrov.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also spoken with both the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelemsky, since his new government was sworn in late last month.

Israel has sought to maintain relations with both countries even as it has condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine and has provided it with humanitarian assistance.

Israel’s embassy in Kyiv had ceased operating full-time when the war broke out last February, with staff members relocating to neighboring Poland for safety.  However, it has restored a lot of its operations and will be fully opened within 60 days, Cohen said.

In addition, he tweeted, “I promised to continue humanitarian aid, with an emphasis on the restoration of energy infrastructure.” 

To date, Israel has provided Ukraine with some $30 million in humanitarian assistance, including medical supplies, generators and charging stations for phones.

Kuleba said that Cohen had “condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine” and “affirmed Israel’s plans to step up humanitarian aid and assistance in other spheres.”

The two men “discussed cooperation within international organizations” and “ways to counter shared security threats,” Kubela said.

Cohen said he had asked Kubela for Ukraine to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization.  To date, only the United States, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have done so.  Cohen’s request comes as Russia has used armed Iranian drones to attack Ukraine.

Israel had in the past promised to provide Ukraine with an early alert system to help it warn citizens of missiles and drones in a more targeted fashion, but the system has yet to be delivered.

Israel has also been under pressure from Ukraine to provide it with defensive weapons, such as an anti-missile and anti-drone system, but to date, the Jewish state has not done so.



Recently Released Israeli Arab Terrorists Were Paid $100,000 By Palestinian Authority

Israeli citizens Karim and Maher Younis, released from prison this month after serving 40-year sentences for murdering an Israeli soldier, have both received large sums from the Palestinian Authority under its “pay for slay” policy, according to Israeli NGO Palestinian Media Watch.

PMW filed a complaint to the State Attorney’s Office on the matter two months ago, said Maurice Hirsch, the organization’s head of legal strategies.

“We know that this happened because we took the information from an order by then -Defense Minister Benny Gantz in September 2022 to seize millions of shekels that were paid by the PA to Israeli Arab terrorists.  The document stipulated that both Karim and Maher Younis had each received 335,362 shekels ($98,698) from the PA in compensation for murdering an Israeli soldier,” said Hirsch.

There were 49 terrorists included on the list, with Karim and Maher having received the largest sums,” he said, adding that two weeks ago, PMW had submitted the complaint to the Israel police as well.

“It is outrageous that Arab-Israeli terrorists see themselves as Palestinians who carry out acts of terror on behalf of Palestinians, and the PA also sees them as people who acted on behalf of the Palestinian interest.  In fact, they see them as their soldiers,” he said.

Cousins Karim and Maher Younis murdered Israeli Defense Forces Cpl. Avraham Bromgerg on the Golan Heights in 1980.  Both were sentenced to life in prison in 1983 but had their sentence commuted to 40 years in 2012 by then-Israeli President Shimon Peres.  Maher was released from jail on Thursday morning (19th), two weeks after Karim, who received a hero’s welcome in the northern village of ‘Ara.

The warm welcome reflected the views of the Palestinian leadership; PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has described Palestinian and Arab-Israeli terrorists as “pioneers” and “stars in the firmament of the Palestinian people’s struggle” who top the list of the PA’s priorities.  He has vowed that if the PA had “only a single penny left” it would go towards paying “the families of the martyrs and prisoners.”

Earlier this month, the Israeli Cabinet decided to withhold taxes and tariffs collected on behalf of and transferred to the PA in an amount equal to that which Ramallah paid to terrorists and their families in 2022, as part of a larger set of punitive measures in response to the PA’s ongoing “political and legal war” against the Jewish state.

The move came after the UN General Assembly in late December approved, at Ramallah’s behest, a resolution calling on the International Court of Justice to “render urgently an advisory opinion” on Israel’s prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”  In parallel, the Knesset this month green-lit the fast tracking of legislation to revoke the Israeli citizenship and residency of terrorists who receive a salary for their crimes from the PA.

“For years we’ve become accustomed to having an entity [the Palestinian Authority] receive funding from the State of Israel while it maintains an official price list: ‘Murdered a Jew?  Here’s a stipend.  And if you‘re an Israeli citizen you’ll get more, depending on how many people you’ve killed,’” said Religious Zionism Party lawmaker Simcha Rothman, who drafted the bill along with Likud colleagues.

“The bare minimum we can do as a moral country is to revoke their citizenship and residency,” he added.

In addition to receiving funding from the PA under the “pay for slay” policy, Karim is also a member of the Fatah Central Committee, which is also a violation of Israeli counter-terror laws since Fatah was declared a terrorist organization by Israel in 1986, noted Hirsch.

Then-PA Director of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qarage said in 2017 that Karim had been appointed to the Committee to dispel the notion that Palestinians jailed in Israel were criminals.  

“They are freedom prisoners and fighters who enjoy an important national, human and legal status among their leadership and among the Palestinian people,” Qarage said in a PA TV report.

However, Hirsch explained that while there was no doubt that Fatah remains on Israel’s list of designated terror groups, Israel has not put anyone on trial for Fatah membership since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.



Mini Missiles: IAI Unveils Missile That Can Fit In A Backpack

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has unveiled its POINT BLANK electro-optically guided missile that can be carried in a soldier’s backpack.  The system answers the battlefield requirement to provide tactical units ranging in size from small tactical teams to battalion level, with an independent and organic capability to increase their lethality.

POINT BLANK allows these units to attack various targets in real time with great precision and high lethality without the need for support.  The missile is hand-launched, operated by a single soldier, and can take off from and land vertically back to the soldier’s hand.

IAI, as prime contractor, has been competitively awarded a multi-million-dollar contract by the ‘Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate,’ [IWTSD] of the US Department of Defense (DoD) to rapidly develop and deliver “ROC-X” a version of the POINT BLANK system that meets specific US DoD requirements to increase the organic precision strike lethality and survivability of small tactical teams.  IAI will provide the first prototypes and training to DoD for Operational testing & Evaluation in FY23.

POINT BLANK weighs about 15 lbs. and is about 3 ft. long.  The missile can fly at altitudes above 1,500 ft. at a maximum speed of 178 mph, and can hover or loiter in the air while the target’s nature and exact position is confirmed prior to attack.  The missile can carry electro-optical systems to validate and collect surveillance information in real time, thanks to IAI’s advanced manufacturing technologies.  It is also being developed to be equipped with a warhead to destroy the target.

IAI’s Executive VP of Systems, Missiles & Space Group, Guy Bar Lev, said: “POINT BLANK joins Israel Aerospace Industries’ family of missiles to provide ground-based tactical forces with more precision capabilities to undertake offensive operations, especially against short-lived targets.  We wish to thank the IWTSD for its support and cooperation in the field of precision munitions, confirming, yet again, the importance of tactical missiles to the modern army.  IAI continues to develop and improve a wide range of offensive systems which provide precision operational solutions, and stands firmly to support our US customers.”



Lebanon’s Woes: The Economy, Emigration Struggles And More

The court system in Lebanon is on strike, as judges and prosecutors wait for state funding that would enable them to return to work.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value since the economic crisis began in 2019.  The monthly salary of judges, based on the black-market exchange rate, is now $150, compared to $4,500 before the crisis.

Moreover, the courtrooms aren’t being maintained, the cleaners aren’t coming, there is no electricity and the bathrooms have no running water.

Public school teachers have announced a week-long strike, but it may last longer.  The teachers live on $130 a month.

Three tankers have been anchored in Beirut for three weeks with fuel meant for the Lebanese electric company’s power plant.

The cause of the delay in unloading the ships is lack of money to pay for the fuel.

The number of Lebanese emigrants soared from 17,721 in 2020 to 79,134 in 2021, according to the Beirut-based Information International Research Center. 

More than 40% of Lebanon’s doctors have already left the country, data from September 2021 indicates.

A Gallup poll from December 2021 found that 63% of Lebanese say they want to leave forever, and 90% of Lebanon’s youth have indicated that they are thinking about or actively seeking emigration, according to the Arab Youth Opinion Poll.



Most Armies Ignore Autistic People, But Israel Is Calling Them Up – Joshua Zitser

Ro’im Rachok is an innovative Israeli program founded in 2013 to match young adults on the autism spectrum with military professions that need manpower.  Tal Vardi, a Mossad veteran who helped found the program, described it as mutually beneficial for the IDF, people with autism, and their families.  Autistic volunteers are assigned to units where they are deemed to have a comparative advantage – usually military intelligence.  So far, more than 300 soldiers have been recruited to the IDF and serve across 27 different units.

The first unit to recruit these soldiers was Unit 9900 that collects, analyzes, and interprets visual images from satellites, drones, and reconnaissance flights.  Many autistic soldiers seem to have a natural aptitude for aero-photo analysis, while neurotypical soldiers are easily distracted.  People with autism show an increased ability to focus their attention on certain tasks.

Pvt. E., an autistic soldier, said he finds his work for the IDF enjoyable, and it’s easier for him than many of his neurotypical colleagues.  “I don’t want to say I’m slightly superior, because that’s condescending, but it sometimes is really annoying when you can clearly see something that others can’t,” he stated.