News Digest — 11/1/22

For The Fifth Time In Three Years, Israelis Head To The Polls

For the fifth time in three years, Israeli citizens head to the polls Tuesday (1st) to vote in the elections for the 25th Knesset with 6,788,804 Israelis being able to exercise their right to vote.

Polling stations throughout the country opened at 7 a.m. A total of 12,495 polling stations are in operation, and most will close by 10 p.m., when the exit polls will be published on the various television channels.  In localities where there are less than 350 residents living, polling stations will close at 8 p.m.  In hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes, polling stations will be open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

An additional 280 COVID-19 polling stations will operate for patients who are in isolation – opening times 8 a.m. – closing time 8 p.m.

A general closure has been imposed on Judea and Samaria and all crossings to the Gaza Strip have been closed for election day.  The closure will be lifted at midnight Tuesday (1st).  

The counting of the votes will begin with the closing of the polls at 10 p.m.  Each polling committee will count the votes and transfer them centrally, with the ballot boxes, to the regional election committee – where the voting protocol will be approved.  From there the results will be streamed to the computers of the Central Elections Committee in the Knesset.

Initial results will be posted to the website of the Central Elections Committee as soon as Tuesday night (1st), and they will be updated gradually.  The final results after the double envelopes are counted (used by those with disabilities or elderly) are expected to be received on Thursday (3rd).  The official final results will be published by Friday afternoon (4th), and will be submitted to President Isaac Herzog on November 9.

The winner of the election will then have three months to form a government.



Palestinians Fear Israeli Strikes Against Terrorist Leaders In Gaza

The Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have reinforced security measures around figures in the Strip linked to terrorism in the West Bank, due to concerns of Israeli strikes against these figures, the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Monday (10/31).

The report referenced the 2017 assassination of Hamas official Mazen Faqha, which Hamas blamed on Israel.  Faqha was shot and killed near his home in Gaza by suspects which Hamas claimed were working for Israel.

According to al-Akhbar, there has been a “remarkably active” movement of drones over the Gaza Strip recently.  Later on Monday (10/31), the Hamas-affiliated Shehab News Agency published footage it said showed an Israeli Orbiter drone over Gaza City.

The Palestinian factions have warned Egyptian mediators that any attack inside the Strip would be considered a “declaration of war,” according to al-Akhbar.

Earlier this month, al-Akhbar reported that there has been intense drone activity over the Gaza Strip since the end of Operation Breaking Dawn, with sources from the Palestinian factions telling the newspaper that there were “indications” of an expected strike.



Azerbaijan, Key Ally On Iran’s Border, Eyes Israeli Embassy After 30 Years

Azerbaijan decided to open an embassy in Israel after 30 years of relations between the countries and amid tensions with neighboring Iran, local media reported.

Arzu Naghiyev, a lawmaker and member of the Azerbaijan-Israel parliamentary friendship group, told his country’s Pravda news site last week that “there is already a decision” and that the “opening of Azerbaijan’s embassy in Israel can only be delayed by technical reasons.”

Naghiyev pointed out that, despite the lack of an embassy, the countries have high-level ties.

“Israel is our partner of political, military, economic, and cultural-spiritual strategic importance,” he said.

The lawmaker also cited Iran opening an additional consulate and declaring close ties with Armenia, with which Azerbaijan fought a war in 2020.

Iranian state television aired a song threatening Israel and Azerbaijan last week, with the lyrics: “Israel…don’t dig your grave with your own hands…Iran declares this so that Azerbaijan knows and understands…anyone who looks at Iran the wrong way must be destroyed.”

President Isaac Herzog wrote a letter in honor of 30 years of relations between Israel and Azerbaijan earlier this year, and invited President Ilham Aliyev to visit Israel and open an embassy.

“As we mark this significant landmark in our relations, I hope to see us fulfill an additional milestone, in the opening of the Azerbaijan Embassy in Israel,” Herzog wrote.

“I would like to reiterate my invitation to your Excellency to visit Israel during this upcoming year, so we may jointly inaugurate your new embassy,” Herzog added.

Azerbaijan has trade and tourism offices in Israel, but has yet to open an embassy, partly due to not wanting to alienate other Muslim majority states or to provoke Iran, but the Abraham Accords and rapprochement between Israel and Turkey – in which Aliyev was involved – have made that less of a problem for Baku.

Israel has had an embassy in Baku since 1993.

Israel and Azerbaijan have a close defense relationship.  Israel has supplied drones to Baku, which were used in the war against Armenia, according to foreign reports.  The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that 69% of Azerbaijan’s arms imports in 2016-20 came from Israel, which was 17% of Israel’s arms exports in that period.

Iran and Azerbaijan share a 420-mile border, and there has long been speculation that Israel has launched covert operations in Iran from Azerbaijan.  Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian accused Israel of having “established its presence in several regions of Azerbaijan,” which Baku denied.

Soon after, Iran staged a military drill with thousands of soldiers along the border with Azerbaijan.  Aliyev responded by having himself photographed with Israeli Harop Kamikaze drones, which are produced in his country.  Iran has held further military drills near its border with Azerbaijan in recent weeks.

About 40% of the petroleum imported to Israel comes from Azerbaijan.

Romen Gurevich, the Jewish Agency’s honorary envoy to Azerbaijan, his country of birth, expressed enthusiasm about a possible embassy opening in Israel, saying that, “the time has come.”

“Azerbaijan is a tolerant Shiite Muslim country in which their was never anti-Semitism,” Gurevich said.  “The country always respected and loved the Jewish people, and warm relations between the nations will only grow stronger if an Azerbaijan embassy opens in Israel.”



What’s Behind Israel’s Reluctance To Share Iron Dome With Ukraine? – Bradley Bowman

→ After Kyiv asked Israel to provide its highly-effective Iron Dome missile defense system to help protect against Russian rockets, Jerusalem’s reluctance to do so has invited criticism.

→ But Americans should not hold Israel to a standard the US is unwilling to follow itself.  First, consider why the US has not provided the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System to Ukraine.

→ Why?  Primarily because the American military has nowhere near enough of them to protect US troops.  In addition, the US industrial base has an insufficient surge production capacity to address the Pentagon’s own needs and often leaves allies that have purchased Patriots waiting for years.

→ Any decision to send Patriot systems to Ukraine would require the US Army to under-resource vital contingency plans or pull Patriots currently protecting forward-deployed US forces in harm’s way. 

→ Moreover, some in Israel worry Russia could capture an Iron Dome system sent to Ukraine and then provide the system and its information to Iran, which could then develop capabilities to circumvent it, increasing the ability of Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to kill Israelis in future conflicts.

→ One can understand why a country confronting such threats might be reluctant to reduce its means of self-defense.

The writer is the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.



Surfside, Samaria Regional Council Sign Sister-City Agreement Despite BDS Opposition

Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danziger pushed back at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, signing a sister-city agreement with the Samaria regional Council.

“The people of Surfside support Israel,” said Danziger as he visited the council’s office in the West Bank’s Barkan Industrial Park on Thursday (10/27) to sign the document.

The politician, who wore a black skullcap just above his small ponytail, is Surfside’s first Orthodox mayor.  He was elected in march, eight months after a 12-story condominium collapsed in the Florida beachfront town, killing 98 people.

Danziger recalled the gratitude he and the residents of Surfside felt toward Israel, which sent an IDF research and rescue team to help sift through the rubble for survivors.

“As soon as we saw the green uniforms walking through the town…there was a sign of relief.  There was a lot of hope that went through our town,” Danziger said.  “When they left…everyone in town came down to walk them down the street.”

In the aftermath of that tragedy, he and members of the town searched for a way to express their gratitude and decided to take a step to support the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, he said.

These are the people, he said, “who are fighting on the frontlines to make sure that Israel is safe.”

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who signed the sister-city agreement with Danziger, said that his region was the Biblical heartland of Israel, where Abraham and Joshua once walked.  “It is also the future of the State of Israel…and the future of the Jewish people.”

“We stand together against terror attacks and against the BDS campaign and the war of lies,” said Dagan, adding that he knew there had been pushback against the agreement.

Joe Zevuloni, CEO of Zevuloni & Associates, who helped initiate the agreement, said that “many haters did not want this to happen.  We stood against strong opposition.”

He emphasized that “today is a huge defeat for the BDS movement…you do not know how proud we are as US citizens…to have this great opportunity to continue this relationship between Judea, Samaria and the US.”