News Digest — 10/18/19

Pompeo Meets Netanyahu, Calls For Renewal Of Arms Embargo On Iran, Visits Sukkah

Arriving in Israel from talks in Ankara on stopping Turkish military strikes against Kurds in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Friday (18th) in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In addition to Israeli concerns over the well-being of the Kurdish population, Netanyahu is worried that a U.S. pullout from Syria will mean a further Iranian entrenchment near Israel’s northern border.

“Netanyahu and I had a productive meeting on efforts to counter the Iranian regime’s malign influence as well as regional developments and other issues related to Israel’s security,” the U.S. secretary tweeted after the meeting.

Netanyahu thanked the U.S. administration for its support.

Before his talks with the Israeli premier, Pompeo called on the UN to renew the arms embargo on Iran.

“Because of the flawed Iran deal, the UN arms embargo on Iran will expire in one year,” said the secretary, referring to the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six world powers in 2015, from which President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.

“Countries like Russia and China will be able to sell Iranian sophisticated weapons,” Pompeo warned  “The Iranian regime will be free to sell to anyone. This will trigger a new arms race in the Middle East.”

If you are worried about Iran’s behavior now, imagine what Iran will do with advanced missiles, drones, tanks and jets,” Pompeo tweeted Friday (18th).

Meanwhile, at the end of the meeting, Netanyahu showed Pompeo his sukkah (temporary booth, built for the Sukkot holiday), at his residence.

He told Pompeo, “We sit in the sukkah during the Feast of tabernacles (Sukkot) to remember what it was like when we didn’t have a permanent home.”  

“We, and visitors sit here to have family meals in this sukkah.  When you put the [schach] on the top, it is supposed to be porous enough so that you can see the stars.  The problem is, what do you do when it rains? The answer is you go inside.”

The prime minister told Pompeo, “This is a typical sukkah and the one my children had growing up  – and they used to draw pictures for it.”



IDF Downs Drone Along Gaza Security Fence

IDF troops spotted and downed a drone near the southern Gaza Strip security fence, the Israel Defense Forces reported on Thursday (17th).

The IDF Spokesman’s Unit confirmed the incident and said that there were no injuries or damages as a result of the event.

The drone was taken by the IDF for further inspection.

This is not the first drone to be shot down by the IDF after entering Israel from Gaza, leading to concerns that this could become a new threat from the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

Last month, the IDF launched an airstrike hitting Palestinian terrorists behind an earlier drone attack from the Gaza Strip.

Drones are emerging as a new technological component of warfare.  Israel has developed new ways to counter the threat to ensure its forces and civilians are protected.   

The reports from Gaza raise fear that drone attacks might become the warfare-method in the next round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Israel also fears the danger of drone attacks in the north from the terrorist group Hezbollah.



Turkey And Kurds Agree To Syria Truce; Trump: ‘A Great Day For Civilization’

The U.S., Turkey and Kurdish forces agreed Thursday (17th) to a five-day ceasefire in the Turk’s attacks on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria to allow the Kurds to withdraw to roughly 20 miles away from the Turkish border.  The arrangement appeared to be a significant embrace of Turkey’s position in the weeklong conflict.

After more than four hours of negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence said the purpose of his high-level mission was to end the bloodshed caused by Turkey’s invasion of Syria.

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria a week ago, two days after President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the US from the area.

Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded the deal as a significant achievement, and Trump tweeted that it was “a great day for civilization.”  But the agreement essentially gives the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation in the first place. After the Kurdish forces are cleared from the safe zone, Turkey has committed to a permanent ceasefire but is under no obligation to withdraw its troops.

In addition, the deal gives Turkey relief from sanctions the US administration had imposed and threatened to impose since the invasion began, meaning there will be no penalty for the operation.

Speaking to reporters, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed the suspension of the offensive but rejected the motion that the agreement constituted a ceasefire.

“We are suspending the operation not halting it,” he said.  “We will halt the operation only after Kurdish militants completely withdraw from the region.”

“This is not a ceasefire.  A ceasefire is reached between two legitimate parties he said.”



American Withdrawal And The Future Of Israeli Security – Dore Gold

→ America’s withdrawal from the Middle East validates the long-standing Israeli view that it must not rely on external guarantees but rather do what’s necessary to defend itself by itself.  This applies especially to the discussion over Israel’s retention of the Jordan Valley.

→ Israel captured the valley and the rest of the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.  UN Security Council Resolution 242 did not insist upon a full Israeli withdrawal to the old armistice lines.  Britain’s Ambassador to the UN at the time, Lord Caradon, who helped draft 242, commented on PBS: “We all knew – the boundaries of ‘67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers.”

→ Immediately after the Six-Day War, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, who in 1948 had served as the commander of the pre-state Palmach strike force, became the architect of a string of mostly agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley and along the hills that dominate it.  Today, nearly 30 Israeli communities are situated in this area. Allon’s map became known as the Allon Plan.

→ The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are structured around mostly reserve units.  To match the quantitative superiority of its neighbors, Israel has to mobilize its reserve forces, which requires up to 48 hours.  The terrain Israel captured in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley, provided Israel with a formidable barrier for the first time that would allow the IDF to buy the precious time it needed to complete its reserve call-up.  The lowest parts of the Jordan Valley and its mountain ridge form a virtual strategic wall 4,500 feet high.

→ Even after the Oslo Agreements were signed in 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reiterated a vision for a final peace settlement that kept the Jordan Valley under Israel: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the widest meaning of that term.”  What he had in mind was Israel continuing to control the high ground along the eastern slopes of the mountain range that descended down to the Jordan River.

→ The Jordan Valley is to the West Bank what the Philadelphi Route was to Gaza.  This refers to the border zone between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai. After Israel’s Gaza disengagement in 2005, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel shot up as Palestinian terror organizations smuggled enormous quantities of rockets through tunnels under the border into Gaza.  Three wars resulted from this escalation in Palestinian rocket fire.

→ Israeli public opinion has clearly internalized the importance of the Jordan Valley for Israeli security.  In the last decade, as many as 81% of Israeli voters agreed that in any peace arrangement, Israel must preserve its sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

Dore Gold is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.  Previously, he served as Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.



English Teacher Fired After Threatening To Send Jewish Students ‘Off To The Gas Chambers’

A British primary school teacher has been fired after she told a group of Jewish students that they would be sent to the “gas chambers” if they failed to finish their work on time. 

Local media outlets reported that the incident took place at Newberries Primary School in Radlett, Hertfordshire, which has a large Jewish community.  Eleven of the teacher’s students were Jewish.

The teacher reportedly told the class last Thursday (10th), “You better finish your work quickly, or I’ll ship you off to the gas chambers.”

She then said she was “joking” and asked the students not to reveal what she had said to anyone.

The news quickly spread among the students and parents, however, and after widespread protests, the school fired the teacher.

Speaking anonymously, one parent said the school had reacted well to the incident.

“To the credit of the school, they made it clear they wanted to deal with the situation without delay,” the parent said.

“They did not seek to dispute the suggestion that the teacher had made a reference to “gas chambers,” the parent added.  “The fact that the woman was sacked the following day says everything you need to know.”

The school issued a newsletter after the firing, saying, “This year we are asking particularly for the focus to be on strengthening the important messages of religious tolerance and respect.”