News Digest — 1/22/20

‘Without Exception,’ Netanyahu Vows Annexation Of All Israeli Towns In Judea and Samaria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed a vow to annex Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria as the embattled leader kicked off a third election campaign in under a year on Tuesday (21st).

Addressing Likud Party supporters at a campaign launch event in Jerusalem, Netanyahu promised to “impose Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.” then pledged to annex all Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, “without exception.”

Israel captured Judea and Samaria in the 1967 Six-Day War along with the Gaza Strip, in addition to reuniting Jerusalem.  The Palestinians seek to take these territories from Israel as part of a future state.

Netanyahu had previously called for the annexation of the Jordan Valley ahead of September’s repeat parliamentary elections.  The region remains crucial to defending the country’s eastern flank and represents the “biblical heartland” for many Jews throughout the world.

The Jordan Valley makes up around a quarter of Judea and Samaria and is the territory’s agricultural center.

Israel faces an unprecedented third parliamentary election in under a year on March 2 after Netanyahu failed twice to form a governing coalition after April and September’s votes.



Ambassador Danon At UN: ‘Israel Stands Alongside The Iranian People’

The United Nations Security Council convened on Tuesday (21st) to discuss the Middle East situation with Israel’s participation.

It marked the Council’s first hearing since the leaders of the UK, France and Germany decided to activate the dispute resolution mechanism in the nuclear agreement with Iran, following its repeated violations.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, who dedicated his speech to the Iranian public, surprised those in the room when he spoke in Farsi and said “Israel stands alongside the Iranian people.”

Danon presented to Council members the image of 14-year-old Nikita Espandani who was killed by regime officials when she took to the streets last November.  “After the horrific murder, the regime tried to whitewash Nikita’s death. At first they announced she died of other reasons and then forced her parents to say she died of poisoning.”

Ambassador Danon praised the strength of the Iranian people and their heritage.  “Our Persian neighbors have a rich legacy that they should be proud of. The Persian people led the declaration of human rights, helped abolish slavery, and gave people the right to choose their religion.  Water systems, algebra, animation and chess are all Iranian inventions.”

“It is unbelievable how big the gap between the spectacular history and the current regime is.  It is an absurdity that the people who invented human rights and acted for religious freedom are controlled by a regime that tramples both.  The international community must not stand aside while the Iranian regime silences, imprisons, and executes its citizens,” added the Israeli Ambassador.

US Ambassador Kelly Kraft said in her speech that “the Council should focus on an actor who hurts everyone and sows chaos, violence and hate in the Middle East.  Although it repeatedly calls for an attack on Israel, Iran is not talked about in the Security Council. After attacking the oil tankers, the Council was silent, after supporting the Houthi forces, the Council was silent.  The inability to act against Iran sends a bad message to the world and encourages instability in the region.”

Kraft added, “I’ve said it before and will repeat: Israel has no better friend than the United States.  We will continue to mention Israel’s contribution and the Iranian threat.”



3 Palestinians Shot After Throwing Explosives At IDF Soldiers Near Gaza

Three Palestinians were shot in an attempted infiltration from the Gaza border, the IDF reported.

IDF soldiers identified three suspects who crossed the perimeter fence on Tuesday (21st) in the southern Gaza Strip and entered a wooded area near the border.   

The three suspects threw IEDs at IDF soldiers and the soldiers opened fire.  The IDF confirmed that the terrorists were killed.

There was no danger to local residents.

In the past week, incendiary balloons have been launched from Gaza towards communities in the Gaza envelope.  Four rockets were fired into Israel last week from Gaza.

Tuesday’s (21st) fatalities were the first in cross-border fighting since a two-day surge of violence in November between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that left 34 Palestinians dead and dozens of Israelis injured.



IDF: Lowest Number Of Casualties Since Founding Of The State of Israel

The number of fatalities in the IDF fell to its lowest number ever in 2019, the army’s manpower division announced Wednesday morning (22nd), with 27 deaths recorded during the previous year.

The number among active service members last year marks a significant decrease from previous years, with 47 fatalities recorded in 2018, and 55 IDF fatalities recorded in 2017.

Of the 27 service members who died last year, two were declared dead as a result of terrorism or military operations.  Only one, however, was actually killed in 2019: 19-year-old Gal Keidan, who was killed in a stabbing attack in Ariel last March.

The second combat fatality registered in 2019 was Zechariah Baumel, an American-born IDF soldier who is believed to have been killed in June 1982 during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in Lebanon, but whose death was not officially confirmed until his remains were returned to Israel in April 2019.

In addition to Gal Keidan, a candidate for IDF enlistment, Dvir Sorek, was also murdered in 2019, killed in an attack in Gush Etzion. 

Twelve of the IDF fatalities recorded in 2019 were medically related while the rest were traffic-related accidents.

The IDF’s manpower directorate also noted that the number of soldiers injured in 2019 was the lowest number in over a decade with 55 service members suffering serious injuries.



International Holocaust Remembrance Day Almost Didn’t Happen – Gilad Cohen

→ This week, dozens of heads of state from around the world will convene at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to mark the Fifth World Holocaust Forum as part of the commemorations surrounding International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

→ Getting support from the UN General Assembly in 2005 to approve the annual commemoration was far from a sure thing.  In order for the resolution to pass we needed the support of 96 countries – just over half of all member states.

→ To this end, we requested that representatives of the EU convene a joint meeting with the U.S., Russia, Canada and Australia.  Taking action together would allow us to overcome the inevitable resistance and obtain the majority we needed. At the offices of the European delegation, our host stated that, to his regret, as the Arab bloc was opposed to the initiative, the Europeans would not lend their support.

→ At the time, I was serving as political advisor at the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN.  At the meeting, I turned to the European diplomat hosting us, and to the German diplomat sitting beside me, and said: “Look me in the eyes, me, a representative of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and tell me that you’re not willing to support the special session because of the Arabs.  You owe my people a moral debt. The worst tragedy in the history of humankind occurred on your soil. The Arabs and the Palestinians have enough resolutions against us in the General Assembly, and it’s time that the Jewish and Israeli narrative is given expression.”

→ After securing support from the Russian delegation, the U.S., Canada, and Australia, I then returned to the Europeans, explaining that it was up to them to decide which side of history and morality they wanted to be on.  The European diplomat finally concluded: “The European Union will join the initiative, despite the objections of the Arab countries.”

The writer is Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.