News Digest — 10/15/20

‘One Day, The Palestinians Will Recognize Israel As The Jewish State’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (15th) spoke before the Knesset at a special hearing at which the UAE-Israel peace deal signed at the White House a month ago is to be approved.

“They say you make peace with enemies.  This isn’t accurate – you make peace with those who have ceased to be your enemies.”

Netanyahu added that the “deal” breaks the de-facto Palestinian veto on Israeli relations with the Arab world.

He called on the Lebanese government to continue with and conclude talks with Israel regarding mutual maritime borders.

“It might be a first sign for peace that could maybe happen in the future,” he added, but declared, “There will be no peace with Lebanon as long as Hezbollah is in control of it.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu predicted that there will be more normalization deals with other Arab countries.

He added that, “The day will yet come when the Palestinians recognize the Jewish rights to a homeland in the State of Israel.” 

He stressed that, “There are no hidden clauses in our peace agreement with the UAE.”



Ben Gurion Airport To Reopen Thursday Night As Coronavirus Cases Trend Down

Israeli ministers agreed Wednesday (14th) to reopen Ben Gurion Airport for travel abroad amid dropping coronavirus infection rates, despite the national virus lockdown being extended until next week.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and transportation Minister Miri Regev, in coordination with the Prime Minister’s Office, agreed that the airport will resume operations from midnight between Thursday (15th) and Friday (16th).

Travel will be permitted under the so-called “open skies” plan under which those who have tested negative for the virus before traveling to “green” countries with low virus infection rates will not require quarantine when they come back.  Those returning from “red” countries with high infection rates will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after coming back to Israel.

From Friday (16th) anyone who wants can travel anywhere they want,” Regev said in a statement reported by Ynet. 

There are only three countries where Israelis can currently travel without quarantine either upon arrival or return: Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Ministers on Tuesday night (13th) unanimously agreed to extend the national lockdown for another five days but are to meet again on Thursday (15th) to review easing some of its limitations.  On Tuesday night Regev had urged that airports be opened even if other restrictions remain in place.

The Health Ministry said just 2,255 cases were confirmed on Tuesday (13th), bringing the country’s total tally since the start of the pandemic to 297,274, of which 48,015 are active cases.  Less than three weeks ago, daily infections were above 8,000.

The rate of positive coronavirus test results is the lowest since July, the Health Ministry said.



Iran Reports 2nd Cyberattack On Port City, Ministries Also Struck

Iran reported on Wednesday (14th) another widespread cyberattack that struck Bandar Abbas, a port city on the southern coast of Iran that was the site of an earlier cyberattack on May 9.  The attack was attributed to Israel.

The Wednesday (14th) attack also hit Iran’s Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and various communications systems, Israel’s Channel 12 reports.

The new cyberattack closely resembles the one in May, which The Washington Post linked to Israel, saying it was in retaliation for an Iranian cyberattack on Israel’s water systems.  Israeli authorities spotted the attack and prevented it from doing any damage.

“The attack… was carried out by Israeli operatives, presumably in retaliation for an earlier attempt to penetrate computers that operate rural water distribution systems in Israel, according to intelligence and cybersecurity officials familiar with the matter,” the Post reported at the time.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied its responsibility for that attack which was described as highly effective.

“A security official with a foreign government that monitored the May 9 incident called the attack “highly accurate” and said the damage to the Iranian port was more serious than described in official Iranian accounts,” the Post reported.

“‘There was total disarray,’ said the official, who spoke on the condition that his identity and national affiliation not be revealed, citing the highly sensitive nature of the intelligence.”

Iran has yet to blame Israel for the most recent attack on Wednesday (14th).



Australia Slashes Financial Aid To UN’s Palestinian Refugee Agency

The Australian government has followed in US footsteps and cut financial aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget papers.

While the aid reduction was not officially announced by the Australian government, according to a report published on the website of the Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council on Friday (9th), it was listed in the 2020-21 budget papers, released on October 6.

According to the budget estimate, Australia will give $10 million to UNRWA in 2020-21, compared to $20 million in 2019-20.

Separately, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini told The Guardian on Monday (12th) that the agency is “constantly in crisis mode when it comes to the cash flow.  UNRWA is constantly running after the cash.”

The Trump administration cut Palestinian aid in 2018.



2-Shekel Weight From First Temple Era Appears In Archaeological Debris

A 2-shekel weight dating back 2,700 years to the time of the First Temple has been discovered near the Western Wall, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday (13th).

The round weight, made of limestone, turned up as excavated material from an IAA dig near Wilson’s Arch was being sifted.

The IAA is cooperating with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation on the excavation, which is part of the preparatory work in plans to build a new visitors’ entrance to the Western Wall tunnels.

Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehillah Lieberman, who are overseeing the dig for the IAA, pointed out that the weight is rounded at one end with a flat bottom.  The rounded end is incised with a sign that resembles the Hebrew letter Ayin, an Egyptian symbol that represents the word “shekel.”  Next to the symbol, they said are two lines, indicating that this object is a double weight.

“In this period, silver coins were not used, so a precise measurement played a very important role in trade.  Men and women would carry weights like this around, and go shopping in ancient Jerusalem 2,700 years ago.  They used it to weigh out precise amounts of spices or food,” the archaeologists explained.

Earlier finds have established that the weight of a single shekel was 0.4 ounces, so a double shekel should weigh 23 grams (0.8 ounces) – which the newly discovered weight does.

Director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation Mordechai Eliav said, “How exciting, in the month of Tishrei, whose symbol is the scale of justice, to find a souvenir from the First Temple Period.

At this time, when visits to the Western Wall are so restricted due to the COVID pandemic, this discovery strengthens the eternal connection between the Jewish nation, Jerusalem, and the Western Wall while offering us all encouragement,” Eliav said.



Heavy Rains Reveal Remains Of Romanian Jewish Cemetery Destroyed By Fascists

Heavy rainfall in northeastern Romania exposed an underground chamber full of headstones from a Jewish cemetery that was destroyed in 1943.

The cave was exposed last week at Tatarasi Park in the city of Iasi, which is near the site where allies of the Nazis stole thousands of headstones from the ancient Ciurchi Street Jewish Cemetery.

The downpour caused the ceiling of the cache to collapse, exposing fragments from dozens of ornate headstones.  The oldest documented graves in the cemetery date to 1467, historian Adrian Cioflancc wrote on Facebook Sunday (11th).

The cemetery, which had more than 20,000 graves, was razed on orders from Ion Antonescu, Romania’s wartime prime minister.  The Jews of Bucharest were allowed to move some of the bodies to another cemetery, but thousands more were desecrated.  The headstones removed were used as construction material on orders from Iasi’s mayor, Constantin Ifrim.

In 1941, Iasi was the site of one of the most infamous pogroms of the Holocaust, in which 15,000 Jews died.