News Digest — 11/24/20

Saudi-Israel Meeting Confirmed As Show Of Unity Against Iran

Following reports of a “secret” meeting in Saudi Arabia between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday (22nd), accompanied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mossad head Yossi Cohen, Israeli officials have now confirmed the gathering, Israel Hayom reports.

The meeting’s apparent purpose, the paper said, is to show a united front against Iran before a Biden administration takes over in January.  Biden has spoken out in favor of a return to a nuclear deal with Iran, a move staunchly opposed by Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf that are repeatedly threatened by the regime in Tehran.

Biden is expected to appoint Antony Blinken as secretary of state.  Blinken was heavily involved in shaping the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the agreement in 2018.

The meeting in Noem, Saudi Arabia, was arranged by US Special Representative for Iran, Elliot Abrams.  Riyadh has made no comment on the gathering, which was leaked to the media sooner than planned.  An Israeli business jet was tracked after it took off Sunday evening (22nd) from Ben Gurion Airport for Saudi Arabia, where it remained for several hours.

A senior Saudi official told the Wall Street Journal that Netanyahu and bin Salman discussed several issues, including the Iranian threat and normalization of ties, but no formal agreements were made.

Israel’s Education Minister Yoav Galant called the meeting an “amazing achievement.”

“The very fact that the meeting happened, and was announced publicly, even if semi-officially for now, is a matter of great importance,” he said.

Despite confirmation from Israel and Saudi Arabia, however,  Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud on Monday (23rd) denied that the meeting took place, as reported by both Reuters and the AP. 



Israel Sends Diplomatic Delegation To Sudan, Firming Up Relations

A small delegation left for Sudan Monday morning (23rd) for a one-day meeting to discuss the firming up of diplomatic relations.

The delegation was headed by a Mossad agent named “Stronghold,” who holds a senior position in Israel’s National Security Council.  The talks were expected to focus on  defense issues, but were also intended to prepare for a visit by a larger trade and development delegation that will leave for Sudan in a few weeks, Israel Hayom reported.

The delegation took off for Khartoum exactly one month after Sudan’s decision to normalize relations with Israel was announced on October 23.

Last week, the fruits of the new relationship began to bloom when Sudan reversed its traditional position and did not vote in the UN against an Israeli resolution in the field of innovation that passed in a large majority.

The proposal, “Sustainable Development Entrepreneurship,” initiated by the Israeli delegation to the United Nations, was opposed by 26 countries, including Iran and Syria, as well as by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, despite the recent signing of the Abraham Accords.

On Sunday (22nd), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted the change in vote by Sudan.

“Sudan, last week, for the first time abstained from voting against Israel at the UN, after traditionally voting against us.  These are signs for the future, and not only in these areas, I hope we will always have more and more good news,” Netanyahu tweeted.

In a similar development, a news report last week said Sudan will now allow Israel’s national El Al airline to fly through its airspace.



Netanyahu’s Visit To Saudi Arabia ‘Dangerous,’ Hamas Warns

Hamas on Monday (23rd) lambasted the Saudis for agreeing to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the move an “insult” to the Palestinian cause.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, called the Neom meeting between Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “dangerous” and demanded that Riyadh “clarify what happened because this represents an insult to the nation and the squandering of Palestinian rights.”

Saudi Arabia was the architect of the 2002 Arab peace initiative seeking to promote a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The US has been pushing for the Saudis to be the next Gulf state to reach a peace deal with Israel under the Abraham Accords, but top officials in the kingdom have linked normalizing ties with the Jewish state with a major breakthrough in the talks with Ramallah.

It is unclear whether Netanyahu’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed signals a shift in Riyadh’s policy on the issue.

Mossad Director Yossi Cohen was also present at the meeting, which reportedly focused on Jerusalem-Riyadh ties and possible rapprochement between the Gulf power and the Jewish state.

Both US President Donald Trump and Netanyahu have in recent weeks said additional Arab states were interested in signing peace deals with Israel.



PMW: PA Highlights Arafat’s Call For Martyrdom On Anniversary Of His Death

On the anniversary of his death, the Palestinian Authority (PA) selectively rebroadcasted some of Yasser Arafat’s speeches, specifying glorifying war, and calling for martyrdom, the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported on Monday (23rd).

Arafat died on November 11, 2004.  He is commonly remembered for signing two peace accords with Israeli leaders: the Oslo Accords with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993 and then with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Arafat was the Chairman of the PLO/PA.  On official PA TV, on Tuesday, November 10, and Wednesday, November 11, 2020, was broadcast a speech in which Arafat can be heard saying, “this blood [Arafat’s own] will spread on the land [Israel] as it has spread on the Palestinian land – with burning and fire.”

He added, “Millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem, millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem.”

Arafat’s martyr-encouraging rhetoric was then further perpetuated by other Palestinian media authorities, including Palestinian governor of Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith.

On Saturday, November 14, Ghaith told Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official PA daily, that Arafat continually “repeated the saying ‘Millions of Martyrs are marching to Jerusalem,’ in a clear and unequivocal sign that the path to Jerusalem is paved with sacrifices.”

In November 2019, Fatah accused Hamas of banning rallies in Gaza commemorating Arafat’s death.



German Right-Wing Group Planning To Protest Zionism In Front Of Synagogue

Right-wing extremists in Germany are planning to demonstrate for “freedom for Palestine” and against “Zionism” in front of a synagogue.

The event is scheduled for Tuesday (24th) in Brunswick, 120 miles west of Berlin, the Braunschweiger Zeitung reported Friday (20th).

Separately on Friday (20th), an unknown individual threw a large stone slab through a window of the Jewish Community Center in Essen, 150 miles west of Brunswick, the RIAS anti-racism watchdog group reported.  No one was hurt in the incident, which police are investigating as a hate crime.

The organizers of the Brunswick rally belong to the far-right Dierechte Party and have advertised the event on social networks as scheduled to take place between 7:33 and 7:45 p.m., a reference to the 12 years in power (1930s-1940s) of the Nazi Party.

“Freedom for Palestine – Humanity is non-negotiable.  Stop Zionism!” the slogan for the event reads.

City authorities said they have not authorized the demonstration and will disperse it, if it takes place.

In Wesel, a town 20 miles northwest of Essen, unidentified individuals stole a large stone plaque from the local Jewish cemetery that displayed the names of hundreds of Jews and other victims of Nazism, Radio K.W. reported Friday (20th).



Israel And India To Open Agriculture Research Institute

Qualified students in India will soon be able to earn a degree from Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in dryland agriculture and biotechnology, hydrology and water quality, desert studies, or ecology and conservation.

The new initiative is centered on BGU’s establishment of a joint agricultural research institute in Chennai, India, in partnership with Aban Offshore, an international Indian company in the offshore drilling and wind-energy markets.

“Through this partnership with Aban, we are looking forward to being able to offer the vast knowledge and experience we develop here to students in India … so that they will be able to have an impact in their home country,” said Prof. Noam Weisbrod, director of the Israeli university’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.       

“This new generation of local scholars will receive the tools to tackle some of the most pressing concerns of the modern world: the need for efficient and modern agriculture to optimize and improve food production and the methods and technologies to increase and improve water availability and quality, all while keeping in mind the environmental concerns,” Weisbrod said.

BGU Vice President for Global Engagement, Prof. Limor Aharonson-Daniel, has been working on this initiative with Indian partner Sailendra Bhaskar.

“I am delighted that despite the challenges set by Covid-19, we were able to move forward with this important project, reinforcing BGU’s mission of combating desertification and exploring global challenges by bringing together water, food, energy and environmental research,” she said.

BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz noted that the university has been researching desert agriculture for more than 50 years.

“We are proud to be leading global research in these fields and therefore it is natural for Ben-Gurion University of the Negev to direct the academic establishment of an agriculture institute in India.  The students will benefit from studies at BGU at our Sde Boker Campus, and then carry out relevant research in the new institute under the mentorship of BGU scientists.”