News Digest — 11/21/19

Gantz Fails To Form Coalition, Third Elections Loom

On Wednesday night (20th), Blue and White’s Benny Gantz informed President Reuven Rivlin that he could not form a governing coalition, which means the nation faces a near-imminent third round of elections in less than one year.

President Rivlin will Thursday (21st) inform the Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that 28 days have passed since Gantz received the mandate to create a government, with no success.

From Thursday (21st), 61 MKs can request from the President to ask for a specific MK to form a new government, which must be concluded within 21 days.  Once the President receives such a letter, he must inform the MK within 2 days that he has a mandate to create a new government.

In the case that no such letter is received within 21 days, the President must inform the Speaker, the Knesset will disperse, and new elections will be called for 90 days hence. 



Russia Upset Over Israel’s Aerial Strikes On Syria, Its Envoy Tells UNSC

Moscow opposes Israel’s aerial attacks against Iranian military facilities in Syria, its Charge d’Affaires Dmitry Polyanskiy told the United Nations Security Council in New York on Wednesday (20th).  “Israel’s missile strikes on Syria which have increased recently, run counter to normalization efforts in the region. Such acts cause our utmost concern and resentment,” Polyanskiy said.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement against the attacks on over 20 Iranian and Syrian targets, saying:

“We believe it is absolutely imperative to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other states in the region.  So far, Israeli actions have ratcheted up tension and conflict-potential in the situation around Syria, and are running counter to the efforts to normalize the situation and achieve stability and a political settlement in Syria.”

Israel and Russia have a deconfliction agreement, which allows the Israel Air Force to strike Iranian targets in Syria, without the risk of hitting Russian forces.  In spite of this agreement, Israeli aerial attacks against Iranian military targets and Iranian proxies have created tension between Jerusalem and Moscow. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in New York defended Israel’s strikes in Syria, noting that they came after rockets were launched at northern Israel from Syria and warned of additional retaliatory moves if the violence continued.

“We struck numerous Iranian military sites in Syria,” Danny Danon told reporters outside the UNSC chambers.  “It was Iranian facilities that we attacked. We will not tolerate any aggression against Israel. We will attack forcibly anyone who will attack Israel,” he stated.

“The rocket attacks against Israel earlier were ‘unprovoked’ and were the result of aggression coming from Syria by Iranian proxies,” Danon said.  “No other nation would allow those attacks to go unpunished.”

Israel has said it has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against Iranian targets trying to establish a permanent military presence there, and against advanced weapons shipments to Tehran-backed Lebanese militia, Hezbollah.



Iran Has Middle East’s Largest Missile Arsenal, Pentagon Report Says

Iran has been able to develop an extensive missile arsenal, which is most likely the largest in the Middle East, a new report by the Pentagon said on Wednesday (20th).

“The size and sophistication of Iran’s missile force continues to grow despite decades of counter-proliferation efforts aimed at curbing its advancement,” the study by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, titled “Iran Military Power,” said.

The Islamic Republic’s arsenal includes ballistic missiles that could strike its regional foes at a range of 1,200 miles, the report said.

In the absence of a modern air force, “Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries in the region – particularly the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – from attacking Iran.”

Tehran also uses unconventional warfare operations and a network of military partners and proxies to advance its interests in the region, with the aim of obtaining “strategic depth,” the study said, adding that military buildup efforts serve two important objectives, namely “ensuring  the survival of the regime and securing a dominant position in the region.”

The report further noted that Iran “provides financial, political, training, and material support” to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, as well as the Afghan Taliban.

“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power, but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said.

Much of this effort stems from the fact that Iran remains “implacably opposed to the United States and its presence in the Middle East.”

DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said that Iran “sees itself as closer than ever to achieving its goals.”

“By applying a rigorous lessons-learned process during decades of conflict in the Middle East, Iran has adapted its military capabilities and doctrine to account for developments by the United States and its allies.  Although still technologically inferior to most of its competitors, the Iranian military has progressed substantially over the past few decades,” Ashley noted in the introduction to the report.

Iran would develop its defense capabilities faster if it were not for a UN-mandated arms embargo for most weapons that is set to expire in October 2020, he warned.



Dutch Parliament: ‘We will Not Aid The PA, They Fund Terrorists’

The Parliament of the Netherlands has voted to halt all aid to the Palestinian Authority, quoting the payments the PA makes to convicted terrorists and their families.

In the explanation of the decision, Dutch lawmakers wrote that they object to any money paid to the PA, when they are aware that some of the funds are used to pay terrorists and their families a monthly stipend.  This is the second difficult decision for the PA. Tuesday (19th), Dutch lawmakers decided that Dutch representatives would approach EU lawmakers and make the case that the law of stamping Israeli produce, is “discriminatory in comparison to other areas of conflict.”

The Dutch parliament agreed to stamp Israeli products according to the new EU law only when all conflict area produce is stamped.  According to Israel Hayom, this law was achieved through Christian-Zionist groups lobbying.

The Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands praised the decision, “I hope that the EU will follow the Dutch example – at least Holland will not label Israeli goods.”



US Jewish Man Stabbed, Critically Hurt, Outside Synagogue In Upstate New York

An Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed multiple times on Wednesday morning (20th) in Monsey, New York, while walking to morning prayers at a local synagogue, local news reports said.

Police were searching for the attacker or attackers, who apparently fled the scene by car.

The attack, some 70 yards from the synagogue and religious center, was reported initially before 6 am as a vehicular accident.

“Upon arrival it was quickly determined that the individual had been stabbed and slashed with an unknown weapon and not struck by a vehicle,” read a statement from the Town of Ramapo Police Department.  “Investigation confirms that the victim who was walking to synagogue was stabbed more than once by at least one individual in the street.”

The assailant fled the scene before police and first responders arrived.

Rockland Hatzolah, an emergency medical service, reached the victim and began treating him.  He is now undergoing surgery and is in critical condition, according to Aaron Hershkowitz, an assistant rabbi at the synagogue.

A member of the local emergency service, Chaveirim, told The Journal News that security camera footage had captured the attack.  He said the victim was jumped upon, beaten and stabbed multiple times.

Monsey is home to a large Orthodox Jewish community.