News Digest — 1/31/23

In Veiled Threat To Israel, Russia ‘Strongly Condemns’ Attack On Iran

Russia on Monday (30th) “strongly condemned” an attack on an Iranian defense facility Sunday (29th), in what appeared to be a thinly veiled threat against Israel, which was reported to have been behind the strike.

“We strongly condemn any provocative actions potentially capable of provoking an uncontrolled escalation of tension in an already far from calm region.  Such destructive actions may have unpredictable consequences for peace and stability in the Middle East, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement came as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday (29th) cited US officials as saying that Israel was responsible for the bombing of the site in Isfahan.  The site was rumored to be a nuclear production facility.  The Wall Street Journal cited an intelligence analyst as saying that the site, located next to a facility belonging to the US-sanctioned Iran Space Research Center, was likely a laboratory for Iran’s ballistic missile program.

However Israel’s Channel 12 said the target was an Iranian drone factory which manufactures the HESA Shahed 136 suicide drone, used by Russia in its war against Ukraine.

The Pentagon denied reports that the US was involved, while Israel, as per its policy vis-a-vis operations in Iran, neither denied or confirmed any involvement.

According to Iranian state media, “an explosion took place at a munitions factory Sunday morning (29th),” but it was dismissed as “an unsuccessful drone attack.”

The strike comes amid increased talks between Jerusalem and Washington on ways to counter Tehran.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Blinken, Netanyahu said that “most of the international community has seen the true face of Iran.”

“I think there is a common consensus that this regime must not acquire nuclear weapons.  We’ve had very good discussions on forging a common policy, on trying to work together to thwart the danger,” Netanyahu said.

Blinken noted that Russia is “now providing drones that it is using to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians.”

“Russia’s ongoing atrocities only underscore the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine’s needs – humanitarian, economic, and security – as it bravely defends its people and its very right to exist,” Blinken said.

Israel has been cautious about taking sides in the war, and is one of the only Western democracies to share strong ties with both Russia and Ukraine.  Jerusalem also coordinates all military strikes on Iranian targets inside Syria with Moscow.  



Israel Must Refuse Jordan’s Request To Build On The Temple Mount – Op-Ed

The State of Israel must not agree to additional Jordanian construction on the Temple Mount, and certainly not a significant construction like the fifth minaret, as King Abdullah requested in the meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week.

The Palestine Arabs will see this as weakness and increase their pressure and violence.  This will be seen in their eyes as such a symbolic victory that it will inspire them with a sense of victory for many years to come.

The Jordanian leadership, will of course, not miss an opportunity to inflate their stature in the eyes of the Jordanians and Palestinian Arabs.

This also will harm Israel’s relations with other Sunni Arab countries, which will see weakness in this agreement.  This will damage relations with Morocco and Turkey, who have interests on the Temple Mount, and of course will distance normalization with Saudi Arabia, which is interested in the status on the Temple Mount, and has negotiated on the issue with Israel in the past and continues to raise the issue.  Giving into Jordan would weaken the possibility that Israel would be able to grant Saudis rights on the Temple Mount, something that if done, could strengthen the chance of normalization with them.

It will even weaken Israel in the eyes of the Americans, Europeans, Russians and Chinese.  After all, Jordan, for many years has been using threats and a show of force at Israel’s expense.  Not only in the internal Jordanian arena, but also in the regional and global arena, and in many cases has humiliated Israel in public and strengthened the status of the king at our expense.  This is despite the peace agreement and Jordan’s great dependence on us, politically, economically and security wise.  This must stop.

Even if the Israeli government and its leaders conclude that Jordanian construction will not harm our relations with the Saudis and the other Arab partners, a high price must be demanded from Jordan for every stone removed on the Temple Mount, such as the cessation of incitement against Israel’s control of Jerusalem, and the publication of relations and partnerships in the fields of security and economy.  This is an important message for the whole world.  It must be examined whether the benefit of this policy does not exceed the damage.

Anyone who claims that the status with Jordan is so important to Israel that the king should be allowed to incite against us, should re-examine this claim.  In my opinion, Jordan constantly crosses the line, and this line must be corrected.  It is true that the overthrow of the king’s rule should not be allowed, but he uses this argument unjustifiably and the price Israel pays is too high.

Among a lot of the public there is no interest in the Temple Mount and there is a feeling that there will be no harm from Jordanian construction on the Mount, which it also controls de facto. A lot of the Israeli public thinks they will not feel the difference.

This is a serious mistake, because from the other side it will look different.  The symbolism of the Temple Mount in the eyes of Muslims and Palestinian Arabs is so great, that the smallest victory in their eyes will inspire them to believe in total victory, which will ultimately mean the demise of Jewish sovereignty.

They must not be given such hope.  On the contrary, we must work towards a situation where the Palestinians will understand that they have been defeated and have no hope of victory.  Only then can we end the conflict.  All other attempts in the past have taught us that it will not work any other way.

The writer, Alex Selsky, previously served as an advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, a member of the Executive Board of the World Zionist Organization and the CEO of the International Beytenu movement.



Israel Refills Lake Kinneret, Supplying Jordan On The Way

When the floodgates are open, a torrent of water gushes into a dry river bed and races to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, a biblical lake in northern Israel that was being lost to drought and the growing population around it.

The water is fresh, high-quality, expensive and desalinated from the Mediterranean Sea and transported across the country where it awaits the order to replenish the lake should it start to shrink again.

This network will also let Israel double the amount of water it sells to neighboring Jordan under a broader water-for-energy deal forged through a working, though often fractious relationship.

The Sea of Galilee, whose waters Christians believe Jesus walked upon, is Israel’s main reservoir and a big tourist draw.  Hotels and campsites line the perimeter encircled by lush hills.  It feeds the Jordan River that flows south to the Dead Sea.

After a heat wave or a strong rain, the level of the lake makes national news.  Alarms went off regularly this past decade following protracted droughts and receding shorelines.

So Israel built a chain of five desalination plants along its Mediterranean coast putting it in the unlikely position of having a surplus of water, a bright spot in an arid region extremely vulnerable to climate change.

“All the extra water that the plants are producing, we will be able to bring through the national water carrier system up north and into the Sea of Galilee,” said Yoav Barkay, who manages the national carrier at state-owned Mekorot. 

He stood at a collection pool above the lake on a dry, sunny day in late January that felt like spring rather than winter.

“With this environment of climate, you don’t know what to expect next year and the year afterward,” he said.  “Basically, we are no longer dependent on rain for water supply.”  

The refill system may be used more frequently with water exports to Jordan on the rise, he said.  It can raise the lake’s level by half a meter each year, according to Mekorot.

Water was a major component in the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan signed in 1994.  The arrangement was for Israel to supply Jordan with 50 million cubic meters of drinkable water a year.  That was doubled in late 2021.

Both countries are active participants in the pact, even as they accuse each other of exacerbating the broader problem of water shortages through the management of their shared and connected rivers.

Around a year ago Israel and Jordan agreed to partner in a project that would see Jordan build 600 megawatts of solar generating capacity to be exported to Israel in return for the additional water supply.

Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation at the time said that climate change and an influx of refugees exacerbated Jordan’s water challenges, but that there are opportunities for regional cooperation to solve it.

Construction is now underway on a pipeline to again double the amount that will reach Jordan, industry officials told Reuters.

That means some 200 million cubic meters of water – the same amount consumed by the five biggest cities in Israel combined – will be supplied to Jordan.

The national water carrier is empty at the moment, undergoing seasonal repairs and upgrades.  At one junction in northern Israel, engineers work on a pipe more than large enough for them to stand inside.

They are adding a new line that jets off to the city Beit Shean and from there east to the Jordan border.  Mekorot hopes to complete it in 2026.

The US Agency for International Development, which partners with Jordan in water security, says that it is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, with renewable water supply meeting around two-thirds of demand and groundwater being used twice as quickly as it can be replenished.



The Hatred Of Jews In The Palestinian Narrative – David Suissa

It’s comforting to think that the terrorist who murdered seven Jews coming out of a Jerusalem synagogue was striking a blow against “the civilized world,” as President Biden asserted.  But he wasn’t.  Khairi Alqam, 21, a resident of eastern Jerusalem, was specifically going after Jews.  His Palestinian brethren who celebrated his murderous act were rejoicing at the death of Jews.

The hatred for Jews within much of Palestinian society is ugly and personal.  They teach Palestinian kids that “the Jews don’t belong here.”  No amount of clever reframing can change that.  The narrative that has always been exceedingly difficult to Westerners to contemplate is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a political conflict but an existential one.  This narrative doesn’t lend itself to solutions.

Unlike the Palestinians who kept saying no and built an identity around victimhood, the Zionists took what the UN gave them in 1947 and built a powerful state.  The Jews, who for centuries had to accept their second class dhimmi status in Arab and Muslim lands, have broken free to a place of empowerment through the Jewish state.

Until a radically new and brave leadership infiltrates Palestinian society, teaching its people that Jew-hatred is violently against their interest, we are relegated to dealing with facts on the ground.  Terrorists will continue to try to kill Jews, and Jews will continue to try to stop them.  This may not be very comforting for the civilized world, but for the Jews of Israel, it’s the only world they know. 



Palestinians Must Confront The Violence In Our Culture – Bassem Eid

Friday night’s (27th) massacre of civilians outside a Jerusalem synagogue was celebrated by Palestinians.  There is something deeply broken in a Palestinian street culture that honors violence against innocents, a culture in which some were filmed dancing in the streets and handing out candies after the 9/11 terror attacks.  Multiple generations of Palestinian young people have been taught to hate Jews and Israel’s allies.  Too much of the Western world has coddled this perverse cycle.  Enough is enough.  Palestinians and all those who truly support us must stand for humanity.

All humanity should recognize the difference between a preventative assault on a terrorist cell in Jenin on Thursday (26th) and the massacre of civilians near a house of worship on Friday (27th).  Yet Palestinian culture has somehow come to tolerate such chilling slaughter.

It’s time to admit that Palestinian institutions are broken, and that they have developmentally harmed generations of Palestinian men and women, boys and girls, by whipping them into a constant froth with violently antisemitic educational and media content that celebrates “martyrdom” attacks against Israelis.  The Palestinian Authority provides a financial incentive for terrorism by providing pensions to the families of those who attack Israelis.

The writer is a Palestinian political analyst and human rights pioneer.