News Digest — 10/22/20

Report: Israel Had Embassy In Bahrain Since 2009

As Bahrain and Israel celebrated the formalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries with a visit by an Israeli delegation to the Gulf state earlier this week, Axios reported that Israel has had a secret embassy in Bahrain since 2009.

The Axios report, which is partially based on a story from Kan News last week, claims Israel has been conducting diplomacy and business deals in Manama via a front company called The Center for International Development.

After a series of secret meetings in 2007 and 2008 between Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and his then-counterpart Tzipi Livni, Bahrain warmed to the idea of Israel establishing a clandestine mission in Manama.

Once Israel closed its mission in Qatar, which has strained relations with Bahrain, the Manama mission was given the go-ahead.

The Center for International Development was founded in 2009, but has since changed its name.  The new name cannot be made public due to security concerns.

According to Bahraini public records, the company offered commercial consulting, marketing, promotion and investment services, specializing in the areas of medical technology, renewable energy, food security and IT.

The company’s shareholders and board members, past and present, are Israeli diplomats who hold dual citizenship.  Former shareholder Brett Jonathan Miller, who holds South African citizenship was later appointed as Israel’s Consul General to Mumbai.

Another former shareholder, Ido Moed, who is a Belgian national, is now a cyber coordinator for the Foreign Ministry.

British national Ilan Fluss, who served on the company’s board, is currently the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director general for the economy.

Immediately after the signing of a joint communique on diplomatic relations on Sunday (18th) in Manama, an Israeli official asked Bahrain’s Foreign Minister for formal permission to open an embassy.

Israeli officials told Axios that establishing the embassy would be easy, because the groundwork and infrastructure is already in place.

“All we have to do is change the sign on the door,” an Israeli official said.



IDF Chief: Gaza Terror Tunnel Was ‘Very Significant Asset Of The Enemy’

The commander of the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday (21st) that the military attack tunnel that was discovered under the Gaza-Israel border was a “significant asset” of the terror group that built it.

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said the tunnel was detected using new technology that is part of the almost 40-mile-long security barrier being built along the entire length of the Gaza border where the Hamas terror group has invested vast sums of money building tunnels with which to attack Israel.

“The tunnel is a clear example that the threats have not disappeared,” Kochavi said during a tour of Rambam Hospital in Haifa, calling the tunnel “a very significant asset of the enemy.”

The tunnel penetrated into the Israeli territory in the southern Gaza Strip near the town of Khan Yunis.  Over the years, Hamas has invested vast resources into building the tunnels and has not hidden its goals of staging attacks on Israeli border communities to wreak destruction, and kidnap and kill as many Israeli civilians and soldiers as possible.

Israel itself is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the new high technology barrier running the entire length of the border that is expected to be completed in March 2021.  The barrier includes a deep underground wall equipped with listening devices to detect attempts at digging deep tunnels under the barrier.

“We will continue to act in the coming days to neutralize the tunnel, which significantly infringes on Israeli sovereignty,” stated IDF spokesman Brigadier General Hedi Zilberman.

It was not known which Gaza terror group was responsible for the tunnel, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad – both backed by Iran –  have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in both weapons and attack tunnels, all money meant for the impoverished Gaza Strip, but diverted to terror groups and used for terror purposes.

“It is still not possible to pinpoint the organization responsible for it.  However the terror organization Hamas bears responsibility for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip and will bear the consequences of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens,” Zilberman said.

Only hours after the IDF announced the discovery of the tunnel, terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket at Israel in apparent anger, but the single rocket was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.



Benny Gantz In Washington For Security Meeting With Mark Esper

Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz took off for Washington on Wednesday (21st) to meet with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other US security officials.

Gantz is expected to return to Israel on Friday (23rd).

His trip comes one month after his previous meeting with Esper, where he discussed Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), procurement, international policy regarding Iran, including halting Tehran’s military aspirations in the region, and Israel-US security cooperation.

It is not clear what the conversation will be about this time around.  Esper, however, addressed the recent agreements to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain on Tuesday (20th), saying that they could help deter Iran.

The previous meeting with Esper arose as Israel was set to ask for compensation from Washington should a sale of advanced F-35 stealth fighters be made to the United Arab Emirates, following normalization of ties.  This meeting follows the finalization of the aforementioned agreements (Abraham Accords)  as well as the recent headway made in Bahrain within the past month.

“It is a great success for Trump’s team in the White House,” Esper said on Tuesday (20th) in remarks at the Atlantic Council in Washington, adding that “we’ll see if more countries follow as well.  We’re all hopeful, and everybody is trying to roll in that same direction.”

Esper said that the normalization agreements are essential for multiple reasons, one being economic opportunities.  He noted that Arab countries “see the potential for great economic growth if there is normalization with Israel.”



French Chief Rabbi Praises Government’s Crackdown On Radical Islam

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia praised his government’s crackdown on radical Islam, writing in an op-ed that it makes clear that “things are changing – belatedly, but all the same.”

Korsia’s op-ed Wednesday (21st) in Le Figaro followed news that the French Interior Ministry has dissolved a Hamas front group as part of a slew of actions prompted by the October 16 beheading of a history teacher near Paris.  The teacher, Samuel Paty, had been killed by a Muslim refugee from Chechnya after showing his students the same caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that had prompted  a deadly assault on a satirical magazine in 2015.

“There are no lone wolves… [and] there is no auto-indoctrination,” Korsia wrote.  “The spirit of those made-in-France terrorists is part of an elevation of heroes, an affinity for horror, a glorification guaranteed by a multinational bunch of fanatics.  That is what’s being targeted.”

The Hamas Front, “Collectif Cheikh Yassine,” was named for one of the founders of Hamas who was killed in an Israeli strike in 2004.  Several suspected Islamists have also been arrested by French authorities and at least one mosque was closed.

Even before Paty’s murder, French President Emmanuel Macron had announced a plan that he called an “attack on Islamist separatism,” and which aimed to ban underground Muslim schools among other venues of Islamist indoctrination that Macron said endangered the integrity of the public.



Glowing Engineered Bacteria Point Out Explosive Landmines

Researchers who discovered how to utilize fluorescent E. coli bacteria to locate landmines have recently further mutated them so that they are now both more sensitive and emit a glow visible to the naked eye, eliminating the need to scan the ground using laser light beams.

In 2017, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem molecularly engineered E. coli to emit a fluorescent light upon coming in contact with explosive vapors accumulated in the soil above landmines.  This light was recorded using a laser-based scanning system so the mines could be located safely from afar.

Now in a study published in New Biotechnology, the researchers describe how they replaced the green fluorescent protein in the mutant E. coli strain with luciferase, an enzyme that produces bioluminescence to the naked eye. 

“To effectively identify landmines and especially old ones that are perhaps already emitting fewer toxic vapors but which can still explode, it was important to us to increase the sensitivity of the genetic sensing circuit,” explained researcher Benjamin Shemer.

These engineered bacteria are “the most sensitive biological sensors to detect traces of explosives ever described,” he adds.  To demonstrate how they work, the newly mutated bacteria were placed in tiny polymeric beads that were scattered over ground containing buried explosives.

The difference between the soil containing explosives and the clean soil could be clearly seen,” said Professor Shimshon Belkin, who led the study.  “The quantification of the signal showed a very strong reaction from the bacteria some three hours after they were scattered on the ground.”