News Digest — 1/9/23

Government Sanctions PA For Pushing Anti-Israel Measures At UN

The Diplomatic Security Cabinet approved Friday (6th) a series of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority in response to Ramallah’s pushing the International Court of Justice to give its opinion on what it calls “occupation” by Israel.

The request is “a decision to wage political and legal war against the State of Israel,” the Diplomatic Security Cabinet said in a statement, stressing that “the current government will not sit idly by in the face of this war and will respond as necessary.”

Measures include withholding $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transferring the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian terror attacks.

In addition, Israel would further deduct revenue it typically transfers to the PA – a sum equal to the amount the authority paid last year to families of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists or those killed in the conflict.  The Israeli government has repeatedly stressed that the policy – infamously known as “pay-for-slay” – only incentivizes violence. 

Palestinian officials will also be sanctioned, with the Diplomatic Security Cabinet saying it will deny benefits to “VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel.”  The Defense Ministry later said these include Palestinian officials  Mahmoud Aloul, Azzam Ahmad and Rawhi Fattouh, who last week met with Karim Younis, who was released  after 40 years in prison for the murder of IDF Cpl. Avraham Bromberg.

The Diplomatic Security Cabinet – a small group of high-level ministers who answer directly to the prime minister – also said it would freeze Palestinian construction in Area C, which, according to the Oslo Accords, is under full Israeli civil and security control.

The final step detailed by the government involves taking unspecified “action” against organizations in the West Bank that “promote terrorist activity or any hostile activity.”  That includes groups carrying out “political and legal action against Israel under the guise of humanitarian work,” it said.



Mahmoud Abbas Begins 19th Year In Power – Maurice Hirsch

On Sunday, January 8, 2023 Mahmoud Abbas celebrated 18 years in his position as Chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

According to section 3(2) of the 2007 PA Law Pertaining to the General Elections, “The Chairman’s office term shall be four years.  He/She shall not be elected for more than two terms.”

Abbas was elected in the last PA elections for the position of Chairman, held on January 9, 2005.  In preparation for those elections, the PA Central Elections Committee reported that there were 1,760, 481 registered voters.

Hamas boycotted the elections, and only 802,077 actually cast their vote.  Of those who voted, only 501,448 voted for Abbas.

In other words, Abbas was elected by only 28% of the Palestinians eligible to vote.

Ignoring the law, and unconcerned about the fact that he was elected by a small minority vote, Abbas has remained in his position for 18 years.

While the PA constantly references its democratic values and nature, the reality is that Abbas is just another dictator who refuses to uphold the law and relinquish the power he illegitimately usurped in 2009 at the end of his four-year term and consequent to his refusal to hold new elections.

True to the anti-democratic dictatorial values, the PA under Abbas has similarly refrained from holding general elections to the PA parliament since 2006.  In those elections, the majority of the votes cast were for Hamas, an internationally designated terror organization.

Bowing to international pressure, Abbas agreed, in January 2021, to call general elections for the PA parliament in May followed by elections for the position of PA Chairman in July 2021.  When Abbas realized that he and his Fatah party were destined to lose the elections and be replaced by Hamas, he again invoked the anti-democratic tradition of the PA and demonstrated his dictatorial  nature by canceling the elections

As Palestinian Media Watch recently noted, the absence of elections is just one of the moves adopted by Abbas to consolidate his and Fatah’s dictatorial dominance over the PA.

Monday, January 9, 2003, Abbas began the 19th year of his first four-year term as chairman – i.e. dictator – of the Palestinian Authority.



With Space Force, Israel Designs New Defense Against Familiar Foe

Israel’s Air Force announced last week the creation of its own space force–or “space administration.”

Very little is known about the body at this time, except it will be commanded by an officer with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and its goal is to examine “how Israel can use space for purposes that cannot be specified,” in the typically vague manner of descriptions subject to Israeli Military censorship.

The story is similar enough to the United States; previously space fell under the command of the air force, named the Israel and Space Arm.

Military planners have noted that despite its role, the air force has not made space a significant focus of operations or procurements.

Now the military says that space will be a near future combat arena–but against who, and with what capabilities?

Israel has been a space power for more than 30 years–launching its first satellite in 1988, and many more in the following years.

Since then it has shown offensive space capabilities–in 2015 demonstrating the Arrow 3 missile’s ability to intercept a target in space–a capability that could easily double as an anti-satellite weapon like those shown off by the United States, Russia and China.  These capabilities alone though were not enough to justify creating a new space command structure.

But in the past, Israel’s adversaries did not pose a threat in space or to Israel’s satellite and orbital communications infrastructure.

The new space administration has its eyes focused on Iran, and Tehran has been advancing its space program by leaps and bounds, despite a string of recent catastrophic failures.  Tehran has successfully launched its  own satellites on modified ballistic missiles, and that advanced missile program poses an existential threat to Israel–one that requires space-capable interceptors, such as the Arrow 3 to encounter.

It isn’t just a question of regional threats anymore–the United States, China and Russia all have their own space force variations, and Russia has entered a strategic partnership with Iran over the war in Ukraine.  This will allow Iran access to more advanced space technologies but also will force Israel to look for ways to counter Russian-made space threats that could be provided by Moscow.

Israel’s future will be one with far more spaceborne threats than the nation faced in the past–meaning space technologies can no longer be neglected by the air force or consigned to the MAPAT research and development wing of the Defense Ministry.  Instead a detailed space defense policy needs to be signed–and that means a new command structure willing to invest in it.



Report: South Korea Wants Israel’s Advanced Drone Tracking System 

South Korea’s military is considering buying an Israeli drone detection system after North Korean drones entered the country in December, a defense source told the South Korean Yonhap News Agency on Sunday (8th). 

The system, called Sky Spotter, is produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and can detect and track drones, kites and other threats that legacy radar systems may not be able to detect.

Sky Spotter uses a network of sensitive optical sensors which can detect small targets or aircraft using radar countermeasures.  The system uses AI to separate, classify and identify objects in order to avoid false alarms.

According to Yonhap, the Korean military plans to decide whether to formally request the purchase of the system after a review of its effectiveness, in the coming weeks.

The decision to consider the Israeli system comes after five North Korean drones infiltrated South Korea’s airspace two weeks ago.  One of the drones even entered a no-fly zone surrounding South Korea’s presidential office.

South Korea’s military failed to intercept the drones.

The reported interest in the Israeli defense  system also comes just weeks after a new free-trade agreement between South Korea and Israel came into force.



Car Rams Into Jewish Man In Brooklyn

Attempted murder in the heart of a New York Jewish neighborhood?  A hasidic pedestrian was hit by a vehicle while attempting to cross the street Friday evening (6th) in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York.

The hasidic resident in his 50s attempted to cross the Albany Avenue and Union Street intersection, and as he began, a vehicle approached and struck him.

In a surveillance video obtained by the NYPD, a white sedan can be seen stopping at the intersection then continuing to drive, ignoring the crosswalk and sending the Jewish victim flying.  Following the incident, the driver did not stop and escaped the scene.  

“It appears that the perpetrator intentionally struck the victim,” said a police source that was quoted by local media.

The victim suffered a broken leg and was treated by local Hatzalah before being transported to the hospital.

The NYPD has deemed the attack a possible bias incident and the Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating.



German Zoo Receives $26 Million From Widow Of Holocaust Survivor It Saved

The zoo in Cologne, Germany, has gotten its first check from the $26 million gift promised by the widow of a Holocaust survivor who credited the owners of the Cologne zoo for saving him during the war.

Elizabeth Reichert willed the funds to the Cologne Zoological Garden in 2017 in honor of her husband Arnulf, who died in 1998.  Both Reicherts were born in Cologne and met during World War II, when Elizabeth was part of the local anti-Nazi resistance network and Arnulf , a German Jew, was hiding at the zoo with the network’s help.

“They only survived the war in Germany thanks to the help of courageous people from Cologne, who offered hiding places to Jewish Arnulf Reichert,” the zoo said in a statement in German this week.

Though they moved to Israel after the war and, after five years, to America, Arnulf and Elizabeth maintained affection for the city of Cologne for the rest of their lives.

The zoo reported that it had received the first payment from the trust of $700,000 and would be getting annual disbursals of $1 million in the future.  The zoo is planning to name its South American section after Arnulf Reichert.

Cologne’s zoo is not the first in Europe to hide Holocaust survivors.  Zookeepers in Warsaw sheltered 300 Jews from the Nazis inside their zoo, in a dramatic story that was the subject of a novel and then a 2017 movie adaptation, starring Jessica Chastain.