News Digest — 1/3/22

Entering 2022, Israel’s Population Nears 10 Million

Israel’s population grew by about 160,000 people (1.7%) in 2021, reaching about 9,450,000, a report by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) said on Thursday (12/30).

According to the survey, which was released ahead of New Year’s Day, 6.98 million (73.9%) of Israel’s residents are Jewish, about two million (21.1%) are Arab and 472,000 are from other sectors.

Most of the population growth in the country in 2021 was natural (83%), while the rest (17%) came from immigration.

About 184,000 babies were born in Israel in 2021: 73.8% to Jewish mothers, 23.4% to Muslim mothers and 2.8% to mothers from other sectors.

About 25,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel in 2021, 5,000 more than in 2020.  According to CBS, 30% of them came from Russia, while 14.6% came from France, 13.9% came from the US and 12.4% came from Ukraine.  Another 9,000 migrants from various countries also entered Israel last year.

About 51,000 Israelis died this year and about 7,500 moved out of the country for more than a year.

According to the Health Ministry, 4,870 Israelis have succumbed to corona-related complications in 2021.



Bennett: Anyone Who Aims At Israel Will Be Held Responsible

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touched on rocket fire toward central Israel at the first cabinet meeting of the new year on Sunday (2nd).

On Saturday (1st), Hamas opted to usher in 2022 by firing two rockets at central Israel.  In response, IDF fighter jets, helicopters, and tanks targeted a number of the group’s military targets in the Gaza Strip overnight Saturday (1st) and early Sunday (2nd).

The rockets landed off the coast, and there were no reports  of wounded or damage.  As per protocol, because the rockets were on course to land in the sea, no sirens were activated and they were not intercepted.  Tel Aviv residents reported hearing explosions off the coast as the rockets fell.

The IDF said airstrikes hit a rocket manufacturing facility, while tanks fired on several Hamas outposts on the border.

“As fireworks lit up the skies #NewYear2022 around the world, a different type of fire came from Gaza – terrorist rocket fire toward Israel,” the IDF said on Twitter.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Bennett said, “The air force attacked several targets in Hamas’ rocket manufacturing compound in Khan Younis last night.  In addition, the IDF also attacked Hamas positions on the border.”

“These strikes are a response to the rocket fire yesterday [Saturday] toward the Mediterranean coast.  I want to make something clear: all Hamas’ stories about thunder and lightning [causing the rockets to go off] which are repeated every winter, are no longer relevant.  Anyone who aims rockets at Israel will bear the responsibility,” Bennett said.

The IDF stressed that Hamas was responsible for what took place in Gaza and would carry the ramifications for any terrorist actions carried out from the Gaza Strip.

Video film in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip showed three huge explosions, and fighter jets could be heard flying overhead.

Hamas Radio said some of the groups’ security posts and a training camp were targeted by Israeli aircraft and tanks. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

A source in the terrorist organization said the rockets had been fired  due to “weather conditions.”  However, various reports in Arab media outlets said that the rocket fire had been intentional and carried out by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Recently the PIJ issued threats that if Hisham Abu Hawash, one of its members currently on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison, dies, the group will treat his death as a “targeted killing” and “act accordingly.”

On Saturday (1st), the PIJ declared that it held Israel “completely responsible” for the continued decline of Abu Hawash’s health.

The news site Falastin al-Youm, identified with the PIJ, reported Saturday (1st) that any Israeli retaliation to the latest rocket fire would be “met with a violent response.”

Egyptian media reported that Cairo has intervened and called on both sides to de-escalate.



Israel Signs $3 Billion Arms Deal With The US

Israel signed a $3.1 billion deal with the US to buy 12 Lockheed Martin CH-53K helicopters and two Boeing KC-46 refueling planes, the Defense Ministry said on Friday (12/31).

“The procurement plans include the purchase of a new fleet of F35 aircraft, refueling aircraft, CH-53K helicopters, advanced air munitions, aid defense systems, and new marine and land platforms as well as cyber systems,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The deal is a part of a larger operation by Israel’s air force to update its capabilities and includes an option to buy an additional six helicopters.

“These procurement agreements are significant milestones in the IDF’s force buildup processes,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

“We continue to strengthen our capabilities and to change and adapt our air force to face future challenges both near and far.”

The agreement was signed with the US Navy by the head of the Defense Ministry mission to the US, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Michel Ben Baruch.

However, the refueling planes will not be delivered until 2025, Brig. Gen. Shimon Tsentsiper, chief of material for the air force, told Army Radio last week.  He added that he was trying to bring forward the delivery of the KC-46s sooner.



Iran’s Missiles Have Become A More Immediate Threat Than Its Nuclear Program – Robin Wright

On January 8, 2020, Iran fired eleven ballistic missiles – each carrying at least a thousand-pound warhead – at US troops stationed at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.  It was the largest ballistic missile attack ever by any nation on American troops.  110 Americans suffered traumatic brain injuries.  Two years later, many are still experiencing profound memory, vision and hearing losses; 80 have been awarded Purple Hearts.

Iran’s missile arsenal is the largest and most diverse in the Middle East, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported.  Iran can fire more missiles than its adversaries can shoot down or destroy.  Iran’s missiles have become a more immediate threat than its nuclear program, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said.  “Iran’s strategic capacity is now enormous.  They overmatch in the theatre – they have the ability to overwhelm.”

Underground complexes house Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.  Most of Iran’s “missile cities” are in the west, facing Israel, or on the southern coast, across from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf sheikhdoms.

Iran now has enormous reach in several directions from afar.  Iran is gambling that it can harass the US into eventually withdrawing from the entire Middle East.  Seven American presidents have failed to contain Iran’s political influence and military leverage.



Ireland: Not A Welcoming Environment For Jews – Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin

In May 2021, the lower house of the Irish parliament voted unanimously  to discuss a motion to support BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) legislation to try to strangle Israel economically.  The motion was fully supported by at least two of Ireland’s leading NGOs sponsored by the Irish Catholic Church: Sadaka and Trocaire.  Fully a third of Irish members of parliament voted to expel Israeli diplomats from Ireland.  Sein Fein, a democratic socialist party that won the most votes in Ireland’s 2020 parliamentary elections, has been spearheading the increasingly anti-Israel orientation of Ireland’s foreign policy.

According to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, Ireland is perceived as the most anti-Israel state in the EU.

In Ireland, hatred of Jews does not rise up from the general public but seems clearly driven from the top down.  Sein Fein MP Martin Browne claims that Israel created ISIS.  MP Matt Carthy has stated that Israel is the worst human rights offender on earth – presumably dwarfing China, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran.  Pro-Palestinian activism on Ireland’s college campuses is spearheaded by Palestinian students who have been granted scholarships to study in Ireland.