News Digest — 11/15/21

Govt. Votes: All Ministries To Relocate To Jerusalem Or Face Sanctions

The Israeli government on Sunday (14th) affirmed that all government ministries will move to Jerusalem or face sanctions, Hebrew media reported.

According to The Government and Basic Law: Jerusalem, Israel is the capital of the State of Israel, and all ministries must be located there with few exceptions.

Already back in 2007, ministries were supposed to start relocating.  However, many failed to do so or established small hubs in the Holy City and kept their main operations elsewhere.

Now, the Finance Ministry has been instructed not to approve the renewal of leases outside the city if they do not comply with the transition schedule.  The ministry was also instructed not to approve renovations.

If ministries fail to comply, they could be faced with sanctions, including not being able to purchase some office equipment, or even paying higher taxes, the media explained.

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Zeev Elkin celebrated the decision.

“The government’s decision to move national offices to Jerusalem is significant news for the city that can develop economically, attract new residents and position itself as a real government city,” Elkin said in a statement.  “It is time for all government offices to move to the Israeli capital.”



‘US Air Force Will Maintain Presence In Middle East,’  Top Official Says

A senior United States Air Force General in the Middle East said Saturday (13th) that American personnel would continue to be stationed in the region even as military planners consider competition with China and Russia as Washington’s next major challenge.

Speaking to journalists ahead of the Dubai Airshow, Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot acknowledged that presence “could adjust” after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.  The Air Force operates a major base in nearby Qatar, which oversees operations in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq and Syria.

“But I don’t see any scenario where the United States does not have an important role,” Guillot said.

The general’s comments come as tensions remain high between Iran and the US after years of confrontations following then-President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. 

As talks over the deal remain stalled, Iran elected a hard-line protege of the country’s supreme leader as president and has itself seized vessels at sea and is suspected of launching drone attacks.

Guillot several times declined to directly attribute recent drone attacks in the region to Iran, though he acknowledged the rising number of such assaults in the area.

“The collaborative defense of multiple countries in the region is going to be key to detecting those threats and staying one step ahead of them as they evolve.” he said after appearing at the Dubai International Air Chiefs Conference.

Russia is expected to display its Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate fighter jet at the Dubai Airshow this week.  It’s a direct competitor to the American F-35 fighter, which the United Arab Emirates has been trying to buy since diplomatically recognizing Israel last year.  That sale has slowed recently.

Asked about the Checkmate, Guillot said he hoped that US allies and partners would use equipment that would be “interoperable” with the American military.  He said buying the new Russian fighter “absolutely” Would affect that.

During his presentation, Guillot displayed a graphic that included the Israeli flag among others in the region.  The American military now considers Israel as falling under US Central Command due to its recent recognition deals.

Bahrain and the UAE just conducted a joint drill with the US Navy and Israel in the Red Sea.  Guillot said air drills with Israel and those nations could happen as well.



Polish President Denounces Anti-Semitism At Nationalist Rally As Treason

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Sunday (14th) denounced displays of anti-Semitism at a nationalist rally last week on Poland’s Independence Day that included chants of “Death to Jews” and a symbolic burning of a historical text on Jewish rights.

His remarks joined those of Israeli and Polish government officials who have slammed the public expression of hatred to Jews that occurred in the central Polish city of Kalisz on Thursday (11th) amid holiday celebrations across Poland.

“The barbarism carried out by a group of hooligans in Kalisz is contrary to the values on which the Republic of Poland is based,” Duda wrote on his Twitter account.  Noting the current crisis on Poland’s border with Belarus, Duda added that the acts were “even an act of treason.”

Participants at the gathering burned a copy of a medieval document that offered Jews protection and rights in Polish lands.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Saturday (13th) that he hoped “the people who organized the shameful and scandalous assembly in Kalisz on November 11 will suffer legal consequences.” 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina said Poland’s national holiday had been “used to propagate hate, anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the “unequivocal condemnation” by Polish authorities and said Jewish people “expect the Polish government to act uncompromisingly against those who took part in this shocking display of hate.”

“The horrific anti-Semitic incident in Poland reminds every Jew in the world of the strength of hatred that exists,” Lapid said.

Poland’s influential Catholic Church also strongly condemned the outpouring of hatred.

Independence Day celebrations in Poland have in recent years been overshadowed by events led by far-right groups.

The largest on Thursday (11th) was in Warsaw.  The mayor tried to ban it, saying the capital city was no place for “fascist slogans.”  He had court-backing for the ban, but Poland’s right-wing government gave the march the status of a  state ceremony, the latest example of the ruling nationalists seeking to curry favor with extremist groups.

Poland was for centuries one of the most welcoming European lands for Jews, with kings offering them protection after they fled persecution in German lands.

Poland’s Jewish community grew to become the largest in Europe in the 20th century, with some 3.3 million living in the country on the eve of World War II.  Most were murdered by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.  Today, the community is very small, numbering in the thousands.

Israel has accused Poland of taking an anti-Semitic stance over Holocaust restitution over a new law that will effectively prevent Jewish heirs of property seized by the Nazis during World War II from reclaiming it.

In response to the passing of the law in August, Israel recalled its charge d’affaires from Poland and told the Polish envoy to the Jewish state, who was vacationing in Poland, to not bother coming back.

Lapid at the time called the law “anti-Semitic and immoral.”



Hamas’ Growing Role In Iran’s Scheme To Encircle Israel – Yaakov Lappin

→ A senior Hamas delegation that visited Iran in October and met with Supreme Leader Khamenei is the latest sign of the close partnership between the Sunni Palestinian terror organization and the Shiite Islamic Republic.

→ “Iran has an interest in relations with Hamas, because it wants to surround Israel from all sides,” said Col. David Hacham, a former Arab affairs adviser to seven Israeli defense ministers and a senior research associate at the Miryam Institute.  “By establishing strongholds in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, it is surrounding Israel.”

→ The head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar, and the head of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, have a positive view of Iran.  Haniyeh was a prominent guest at the funeral of the late Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

→ “Since 2017, the money has been flowing to Hamas without stop, and the sum is estimated to be many tens of millions of dollars per year,” Hacham said.  At the same time, Iran provides support to, “all variants of radical Islamic organizations in Gaza, with an emphasis on Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is a central Iranian proxy.”

→ Within Gaza, Hamas is using Iranian technical know-how to enhance its rocket arsenal’s range.  “Iran has taught Hamas how to build its own domestic rocket manufacturing industry.” Hacham said.

→ Iran also provides training for Hamas operatives, shares offensive and defensive operational plans and battle doctrines, and passes along scientific and engineering information needed for producing and ever-improving rockets, explosives, and other weapons in Gaza.  “This is all continuing at full speed,” said Hacham.

→ “Around a decade ago, according to Palestinian reports, Iranian military experts worked on Gaza soil and were killed in Israeli attacks,” he added.

(Investigative Project on Terrorism)



Report: Iran’s Supreme Leader Suffering Serious Health Decline

Iran’s longtime Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, 82, is in failing health and recently missed critical meetings with the Islamic Republic’s president and other senior officials, reported Kuwaiti daily  Al-Qabas on Sunday morning (14th).

Sources in Iran did not tell Al-Qabas exacting what is afflicting Khamenei, but said his condition has deteriorated enough that a team of doctors was flown in from Germany especially to treat him.

Last Friday (12th), he was too ill to attend a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Parliament Speaker Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, the head of the Judiciary, Hojjatul Islam Mohseni, and others.

As the nation’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei has the final say on military, political, and judicial matters.  Because Khamenei did not make it to the meeting, Friday (12th) any pressing decisions would have likely been put on hold.

Rumors about Khamenei’s health have swirled for years.  In December 2020, after not being seen in public for several months, some media outlets reported that the Iranian government was hiding his death.

Khamenei eventually made a public appearance to dispel the rumors, though he was reported to have transferred some of his powers to his son out of fear that his condition would deteriorate further.

In September 2014, Khamenei underwent surgery for prostate cancer.

The Supreme Leader called upon Muslim nations including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to reverse their normalization agreements with Israel in a fiery October 2021 speech.

“Some governments have unfortunately made errors — have made big errors and have sinned in normalizing their relations with the usurping and oppressive Zionist regime,” he said.

“It is an act against Islamic unity.  They must return from this path and make up for this big mistake…If the unity of Muslims is achieved, the Palestinian question would definitely be resolved in the best fashion.”

A Reuters investigative report from 2014 revealed that despite his austere image, Khamenei controls a financial empire worth some $95 billion.