News Digest — 11/13/20

Netanyahu: Our Friendship With Bulgaria Is Blossoming

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Thursday (12th) with Bulgarian Foreign Minister and Deputy Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

It was recalled during the meeting that this year marks 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Bulgaria.  Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Bulgarian foreign minister emphasized that bilateral relations are very good and that their meeting was an opportunity to further strengthen and embrace cooperation in various fields.

Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting, “Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Zakharieva, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Jerusalem.”

“Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is a very close friend of mine and of the State of Israel and I’m very happy to hear that he is doing well and is back on the job.  Please give him my warmest regards.”

“Our friendship has a long, long experience and it’s a shared experience that goes back to Roman times when the Jewish people settled in Bulgaria.  And of course, we never forget the exemplary leadership of the clergy and the intellects of Bulgaria, in Sofia, in World War II, in the Holocaust.  We’ll never forget that.  And since then we have had a blossoming friendship – and I’m very proud of it,” said Netanyahu.

“Now, we are taking our relationship into the future in the areas of technology and trade, diplomacy and security, and every possible direction.  So I am very happy to have the opportunity to forge these very strong relations and make them even stronger – and to again – welcome you to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu added.



Helicopter Crash: 8 Israeli-Egypt Peacekeepers Killed In Sinai

The international force that monitors the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement said Thursday (12th) that eight peacekeepers, including 6 Americans, were killed when one of its helicopters crashed during a routine mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.  A ninth peacekeeper was badly injured.

The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) said a French peacekeeper and Czech member of the force were also killed.  It did not release the names of the dead, pending notification of their families.  It said the injured peacekeeper was American.

The MFO said the helicopter crashed during a routine mission near Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular Egyptian resort city on the Red Sea, and that an investigation was underway.  It did not give a precise location of the crash or say whether the helicopter fell on land or crashed into the sea.

An Egyptian official speaking on condition of anonymity per regulations, said the helicopter crashed over Red Sea waters outside Egyptian territorial boundaries.

Islamic militant groups and a regional affiliate of the Islamic State group are known to be active in Sinai.  But the MFO said there were no signs of an attack.  “At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” it said.

An Israeli official said the injured peacekeeper was airlifted to the Israeli border city of Eilat.  From there, he was flown to an Israeli hospital.  The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement expressing its “deepest sorrow,” and saying the MFO is “highly regarded for its work.”

“I send my sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” said Foreign Minister Gabi Askenazi.

The Czech Republic’s military confirmed one of the fatalities of the Black Hawk’s crash was a Czech.  It said the cause of the crash was a technical malfunction and added that the survivor is in critical condition.  There was no comment on a French peacekeeper, also killed.

The MFO monitors the four-decades-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.  Thirteen countries contribute troops to the MFO, with the United States making up the largest contingent.  Its responsibilities include monitoring troop levels along the border and ensuring the freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran.   



Iran Nuclear Program Goes Underground Further Breaching 2015 Deal

On the heels of a bombshell report that revealed Iran has violated its 2015 nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic has finished moving a large batch of centrifuges to an underground plant.

The move is likely a preemptive attempt to thwart air attacks which could be launched against an above-ground site.

In July 2020, an alleged nuclear development plant in the city of Natanz was destroyed by a mysterious blast and blaze, which some Iranian government officials blamed on the United States and Israel.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on Wednesday (11th) that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium had reached 2,442.9 kilograms this month, marking 12 times the amount allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The IAEA said Iran is currently enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5%, which is higher than the 3.67 percent permitted in the deal.

According to the IAEA report, the Iranian government told the nuclear watchdog group that Iran’s goal is to “concentrate” all its enrichment research and development – a phase which is almost exclusively used for advanced centrifuges – to an underground plant.

The report also explained that uranium particles were found in areas that had not previously been declared to the IAEA. 

“A full and prompt explanation from Iran regarding the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin … at a location in Iran not declared to the Agency, is needed,” it added.

Iranian officials provided an explanation, but “the agency informed Iran that it continues to consider Iran’s response to be not technically credible.”

The group is still processing samples collected in September from two alleged Iranian nuclear development sites.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud rang the alarm on Thursday (12th), calling on the world to take “a decisive stance” to stop Iranian nuclear weapon development efforts.

“The kingdom stresses the dangers of Iran’s regional project, its interference in other countries, its fostering of terrorism, its fanning the flames of sectarianism – we call for a decisive stance from the international community against Iran that guarantees a drastic handling of its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and development of its ballistics program.”



PA Watches As Israeli Settlers Visit Dubai Following UAE Accord

A delegation of Israeli settlers is visiting Dubai, where they met with Emirati business people to discuss commercial opportunities following the United Arab Emirates’ establishment of formal ties with Israel earlier this year.

The visit angered the Palestinians, who view Israeli settlements as a major obstacle to peace and a violation of international law.  The Palestinians rejected the normalization agreement as a betrayal of their cause because the UAE broke with a longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel should only be granted in return for territorial concessions.

The Israeli delegation was led by Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, which represents settlements in northern Judea and Samaria.  They arrived on Sunday (8th) and planned to remain in the Emirates until the end of the week.

A council statement Tuesday (10th) said the delegation held “marathon business meetings” with around 20 individuals and companies working in agriculture, pest control and plastics.

“The business people heard from them about the unique needs of the region and discussed with them cooperation, particularly in the fields of agronomy and water desalination,” it said.

“The UAE is an advanced country at the forefront of development and investment, and it is our honor to forge trade and industry ties with them,” Dagan said.

Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said it was “painful to witness Arab cooperation with one of the worst manifestations of aggression against the Palestinian people, which is the Israeli settlements on our land.”

The UAE has defended its decision to become the third Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan, saying it advances regional peace efforts.  Israel put its plans to annex up to a third of the West Bank, including all the settlements, on hold as part of the agreement, but it insists the pause is only temporary.

Bahrain and Sudan have also agreed to establish ties with Israel.  All three agreements were brokered by the Trump administration, which had touted the deals as a historic diplomatic achievement ahead of last week’s US election.



Greek Newspaper Likens Pfizer’s Jewish CEO With Nazi Doctor Josef Mengele

A Greek newspaper whose publisher was convicted recently of anti-Semitic defamation warned its readers that Pfizer’s Jewish CEO will “stick the needle” into them while calling the pharmaceutical company’s prospective COVID-19 vaccine “poison.”

The front-page article, with graphics including a picture of Albert Bourla and the Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, appeared Tuesday (10th) in the daily Makeleio.  Its publisher, Stefanos Chios, was fined $2,200 last month for an op-ed in which he called a former leader of the Athens Jewish community a “crude Jew who runs a loan-shark firm.”

Bourla, a Greek Jew from Thessaloniki, also is a veterinarian.

“A Jewish veterinarian will stick the needle!  Terror countdown for the mandatory vaccine,” read the article, which also defined the vaccine as “poison.”

Mengele was infamous for experiments performed on concentration camp inmates.

On Monday (9th), the New York-based Pfizer announced that it has developed a vaccine for the coronavirus that is 90% effective – a claim that may signify a breakthrough in a fight against the pandemic, which has killed over a million people worldwide.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece condemned the paper in a statement and urged authorities to “intervene,” though it did not specify how.  The statement expressed “outrage and repulsion,” saying the article “perpetuates hatred and bigotry against the Jews.”

The Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs also condemned the paper in a statement, calling it the “most vile anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the Middle Ages.”