News Digest — 1/4/23

Netanyahu Announces New Security Cabinet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will establish an 11-member security cabinet that will be authorized to make decisions for the government on matters of national security, it was announced Tuesday (3rd).

Likud politicians which will have decision-making power on highly sensitive security matters are: Defense Minister Yoav Galant, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Energy Minister Yisrael Katz, and Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter.

The remaining three seats on the cabinet went to Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri, who heads the Shas party, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who heads the National Religious Party and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

A smaller ministerial committee on Israel’s Security Agency will include, Netanyahu, Levin, Galant, Education Minister Yoav Kisch and Ben-Gvir.

While Regev will be the only woman in the security cabinet, the makeup of the ministers will give Netanyahu a clear majority that will likely follow his lead on key votes.  The idea behind the addition of some of the ministers was to provide a counter-balance to Ben-Gvir and Smotrich who are considered to be more hawkish in their diplomatic and security positions.

Traditionally, the security cabinet regularly meets – sometimes weekly – to discuss key ongoing IDF, Mossad or Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operations as well as tough diplomatic matters, such as settlement construction in the West Bank.

Frequent participants include the IDF chief of staff, the head of Military Intelligence, the head of the Mossad, head of the Shin Bet, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, as well as additional government and security officials needed on a case-by-case basis.

Netanyahu’s key allies in the cabinet will include Deri who had been said to be one of the more thoughtful and level-headed ministers in diplomatic-security debates in the past.  Dermer is also expected to play a key role due to his close relationship with the prime minister and his expertise when it comes to the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

In the past, Netanyahu has also created smaller decision-making or consultation forums.  In 2010, for example, he created a sub cabinet to the security cabinet that was called the “group of eight” that would meet regularly to discuss Israeli preparations for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.



Report: Netanyahu Postpones Trip To UAE After Ben-Gvir’s Temple Mount Visit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not fly to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates next week as he had originally planned, a Channel 12 report said on Tuesday (3rd).  

The announcement that the visit would not take place came hours after National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount, drawing international condemnation, including from the UAE.

Netanyahu had planned to travel to the UAE for his visit there as prime minister to meet with the Crown Prince and ruler of the Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed Al  Nahyan;  it would have been Netanyahu’s first public visit to the Gulf state.

According to the report, the official reason the visit – which was to take place as early as next week – was postponed was to allow both governments to work together to ensure a successful trip at a later date.

In his previous term which ended in 2021, Netanyahu helped broker and secure the Abraham Accords with the Trump administration that saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.

In a statement, the UAE condemned Israel for allowing Ben-Gvir to visit the site and “reiterated the need to provide full protection for the Al-Aqsa mosque and halt provocations taking place there.”

The UAE government “underscored the need to respect the custodial rule of Jordan over the holy sites and endowments in accordance with international law and the historical situation at hand, and not to compromise the authority of the Jerusalem Endowment Administration and Al-Aqsa mosque” and called on Israel “to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region.”

The Muslim world holds Mecca as its holiest site – then Medina, second –  followed by the Al-Aqsa mosque area, third.

To the Jews, the Temple Mount is their number 1 most holy and sacred place in Judaism.  History proves that the Jewish Temples of antiquity were built there.



French Imam: Europe Should Emulate Israel’s ‘Magnificent Mosaic’

A French Imam praised Israel’s atmosphere of religious plurality, tolerance and coexistence during a recent visit to Jerusalem, telling The Media Line that France and the rest of Europe should be inspired by the Jewish State’s example.

“Just in this small room… you hear people talking in Arabic and in Hebrew, talking of peace – Salaam, Shalom, – and it’s a dream,” Tunisian-born Imam Hassen Chalghoumi told The Media Line during an interview at their offices.

“In Europe it is difficult to see such things as we can find here,” he said, alluding to antisemitism and violent Islamist attacks against non-religious Europeans that have rocked the continent in recent years.

In Jerusalem, “there is a magnificent mosaic of people,” he said.  “Jerusalem [is a] link for the three religions, from the past to the future.”

Chalghoumi is widely known as a moderate Islamic voice in France, harshly condemning terror attacks, while encouraging other Muslims to speak out against extremists..

However, his views have resulted in his suffering from “death threats” and needs of “protection by police every day.”  That reality, Chalghoumi says, means that other Muslims with similar views avoid speaking out.

Chalghoumi said the Abraham Accords represent the realization of a “dream” and that Arab countries who normalize relations with Israel are part of the “axis of good,” whereas nations that continue to deny Israel’s existence are members of the “axis of evil.”

Turkey, Qatar, and Iran are part of the evil axis due to their animosity towards Israel and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, he told The Media Line.

“The Iranian regime is a diabolical one that is making Islam into an instrument for political reasons,” he said.

While Chalghoumi acknowledged right-wing racism against Muslims is a problem in France, he sees the greatest danger as coming from the radical left, whom he categorized as “accomplices to the Islamists.”

“They want to import the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to France,” he told The Media Line.  “They are spreading the hate of Israel.  They destroyed the Muslim youth through the speech of victimization.”

One of the main sources of radicalization is social media, he noted.  “Social media is responsible for 80% of radical Islamists,” Chalghoumi said… “Google, Twitter, Facebook, all of them – j’accuse!”



Iran Vows Vengeance 3 Years After Soleimani’s Assassination

Iran’s President on Tuesday (3rd) vowed to avenge the killing of the country’s top general on the third anniversary of his death, as the government rallied its supporters in mourning amid months of anti-government protests.

General Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s regional military activities, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in neighboring Iraq.  He is hailed as a national icon among supporters of Iran’s theocracy, while the protesters have torn down billboards and defaced images of him.

Addressing a ceremony marking the general’s death, President Ebrahim Raisi said those behind it “should know that retaliation is obvious,” adding that “there will be no relief for murderers and accomplices.”

He said Soleimani had defeated “U.S. hegemony” and praised him for his role in leading Iran-backed forces against the Islamic State extremist group.

Soleimani was also mourned in neighboring Iraq alongside Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader killed in the same strike.  Iranian-backed militias make up the bulk of Iraq’s state-supported Popular Mobilization Forces.

Iran responded, at the time, to the killing of Soleimani by launching a barrage of missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq, causing dozens of brain concussion injuries but no deaths among U.S. soldiers stationed there.  Iranian officials have repeatedly vowed to take further steps and imposed sanctions on individuals accused of taking part in the operation. 



Jewish Man And Infant Son Violently Attacked In London

A Jewish man and his infant son were viciously attacked in the Stamford Hill section of London while taking a walk, according to Stamford Hill Shomrim.

The community safety organization said that the man was walking with his wife and one-year-old son when they were attacked by an assailant who threatened to stab them.

“A racist male unhappy with the child’s speed pushed the 1-year-old shouting ‘Move Jew, I will stab and kill you’  before cutting the father on his face and hands,” Stamford Hill Shomrim said on Twitter.

The incident is the latest in a series of antisemitic attacks on Jewish Londoners that have continued into the new year, which Stamford Hill Shomrim referred to in November as a “racism pandemic.”  The comment was made in reference to a “prolific racist male who assaulted Jewish victims shouting ‘You Jews, you think you own the world.’”  “Locals are terrified of this violent male,” they added.

In August, three serious antisemitic incidents occurred in one day in London.

According to police, a woman was hit over the head with a wooden stick by another woman near the subway station in Tottenham, with the assailant shouting ,”I’m doing this because you are a Jew.”

A second incident occurred half a mile away when a 29-year-old Jewish woman was sprayed with an unidentified liquid and threatened by a female attacker.  

That same day, a visibly Jewish 13-year-old boy was attacked by three teenagers who took his hat and yelled “filthy Jew” at him.

The Community Security Trust, the organization tasked with security resources for Britain’s Jewish community, reported in February that antisemitic incidents in the UK had reached record levels.

In response, a new center for studying contemporary antisemitism opened in London in September.  The London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism described its mission as “challenging the intellectual underpinnings of antisemitism in public life and confronting the hostile environment for Jews in universities.”

The organizers of the institute described its creation as a response to antisemitism “leaking into academic thought and liberal cultural life.”  

The center will serve to “define debate, and will deconstruct and defeat this hostile environment.”  Its mandate is to become “the international hub for the work, rather than merely a provincial endeavor” according to the report.



Israel Has 10th Highest Life Expectancy In The World

Israelis enjoy the 10th highest life expectancy in the world, according to a report from NiceRx based on data about OECD countries from Worldometers Life Expectancy of the World Population.

Average life expectancy in Israel is 83.49 (81.98 for men and 84.91 for women) according to NiceRx, a project that helps Americans access affordable prescription medications.

Hong Kong came in first place with an average life expectancy of 85.29.  The other countries ranking above Israel were Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Italy, Spain, Australia, Iceland and South Korea.  Latvia has the shortest life expectancy of the countries profiled, averaging 75.73 years.

NiceRx also found that Israel ranks 27th out of 39 countries for health expenditure per capita, totaling $3,057 in 2021.  The United States ranked first in health expenditure per capita, totaling $12,318.

And on average, Israelis wait 1.6 days to get an appointment for cataract, knee or hip replacement surgery.  That puts Israel 13th on healthcare waiting times, well below the top three, Norway, Australia, and Canada.