News Digest — 11/4/22

Lapid Concedes After All Votes Counted, Congratulates Netanyahu

Prime Minister Yair Lapid called opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening (3rd) to congratulate him on his victory in the election.

“The State of Israel is above all political considerations.  I wish Netanyahu success for the sake of the people of Israel and the State of Israel,” Lapid said.

He informed Netanyahu that he had instructed all branches of government to prepare for an orderly transfer of power.

With more than 4.7 million votes officially counted, or more than 99.87% of the total ballots cast in Israel’s election, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc secured 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset.  Netanyahu hopes to form a coalition within two weeks, according to reports.

Voter turnout was 70.6%.  The results are not official until they are presented to President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday (9th).

Netanyahu on Wednesday (2nd) hailed his bloc’s victory and thanked his supporters for their “magnificent expression of faith.”

“It’s become clear once again that the Likud is the largest party in Israel, above all the other parties by a wide margin,” the opposition leader said.

“The nation,” he continued, “wants another way.  It wants security.  It wants to lower the costs of living.  It wants strength.  It doesn’t want shame.  It doesn’t want to lower its head.  It wants an upright stance.  It wants political understanding, but with firmness.”

He added: “You know what else it wants?  To return to the national pride that was taken from us.  And this we will bring as well.”

By November 16, at the latest, Herzog will designate a candidate to form a government, and that candidate will almost certainly be Netanyahu.

The Likud leader, who served as premier from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 to 2021, would then have four weeks to form a coalition, with the possibility of a two-week extension.

According to reports, however, Netanyahu will attempt to form a governing coalition by November 15, the date of the swearing-in of the new parliament.



Israel Strikes Hamas Site In Gaza In Response To Rockets

The IDF said Friday morning (4th) that it had struck Hamas targets in Gaza responding to earlier rockets launched from the Strip run by the Hamas terror group.

The Israeli military said in a statement it had launched airstrikes at an underground facility used by Hamas to develop rockets.

Local media reported no injuries, but said material damage was caused,  Sources cited by Al-Jazeera reported power outages after the attack.

The rockets were launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, late Thursday (3rd), but the IDF stressed it held Hamas responsible for all activities emanating from Gaza.

The rockets were fired in response to the death of a prominent member of the PIJ group during a raid by Israeli forces in Jenin earlier in the day.  The raid was part of the military’s extensive counter terrorism operation in Judea and Samaria, which was launched several months ago in response to a series of deadly terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians In Israel.



For First Time Since August, Palestinians Fire Rockets At Gaza Border Communities

For the first time since August, rockets were launched Thursday (3rd) from the Gaza Strip into Israel, the military said.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the rocket alert siren sounded around 9:10 p.m. in several communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, namely Ein HaShlosha, Kisufim, and Nirim.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group claimed responsibility for the launch of the  rockets – one, according to the IDF was intercepted by the Iron Dome, and three others landed in Gaza Strip territory.  The PIJ said the launches were “a reaction to the assassination of an Al-Quds Brigades commander in Jenin.

The commander in question was Faruk Salama, who was eliminated earlier on Thursday (3rd) in a joint operation involving IDF special forces, General Security Service Yamas (undercover unit in the West Bank) and the Border Police.

Salama was involved in the killing of Noam Raz, a commander for Yaman (Specialized Central Unit) in May of this year.  Salama was also a lead suspect in conspiring with another Palestinian terror faction known as “The LIons Den” to execute further terror attacks against Israeli targets.

The operation was carried out with intelligence support provided by the General Security Service.  The compound where Salana stayed, was raided and a fight ensued.  He tried to escape but was hunted down by Israeli forces.  While attempting to fire a gun at the soldiers, he was shot and killed.

Also arrested during the operation were five militants carrying M-16 assault rifles.  One of them was almost apprehended by the IDF months ago, but  played dead and was able to flee at the time.

The rocket fire Thursday evening (3rd) took place shortly after final election results were certified, in which the “Netanyahu Bloc” won 64 seats, thus all-but-ensuring that Benjamin Netanyahu will once again be the Prime Minister.



Iran Stages Rallies To Mark 1979 U.S. Embassy Takeover Amid Nationwide Protests

Iran on Friday (4th) marked the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran as its theocracy faces nationwide protests after the death of a 22-year-old woman earlier arrested by the country’s morality police.

Iranian state-run television aired live feeds of various counter protests around the country, with some in Tehran waving placards of the triangle-shaped Iranian drones Russia now uses to strike targets in its war on Ukraine.  But while crowds in Iran looked large with chador-wearing women waving the Islamic Republic’s flag, other protests in the country appeared smaller, with only a few dozen people taking part.

Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, speaking to people gathered in front of the former US Embassy, criticized those protesting the theocracy.

“Anyone taking the smallest step in the direction of breaching security and riots, must know that they are stepping in the direction of enemies of the Islamic Revolution,” he said.  “Americans think they can execute the plan they carried out in some countries like Syria and Libya, here.  What a false dream!”

Demonstrators also waved effigies of French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Signs and chants from the crowd called out: “Death to America!  Death to Israel!” 

The demonstrations that have convulsed Iran for more than six weeks after the death of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by the country’s morality police, mark one of the biggest challenges to the country’s clerical rulers since they seized power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  At least 300 protesters have been killed and 14,000 arrested since the unrest began, according to human rights activists in Iran.

Hardliners within Iran long have bussed government workers and others into such November 4 demonstrations, which have a carnival-like feel for the students and others taking part on Taleghani Street in downtown Tehran.

This year, however, it remained clear that Iran’s theocracy hopes to energize its hardline base.  Some signs read “We are obedient To The Leader,” referring to 83-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say over all matters of state in the country.  The weeks-long demonstrations have included cries calling for Khamenei’s death and the overthrow of the government.

The annual commemoration marks when student demonstrators climbed over the fence at the embassy on November 4, 1979, angered by then-President Jimmy Carter allowing the fatally ill Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to receive cancer treatment in the United States.

The students soon took over the entire compound.  A few staffers fled and hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran before escaping the country with the help of the CIA, a story dramatized in the 2012 film “Argo.”

The 444-day crisis transfixed America, as nightly images of blindfolded hostages played on television sets across the nation.  Iran finally let all the captives go the day that Carter left office on Ronald Reagan’s inauguration day in 1981.

On Friday (4th), some protesters waved giant placards of atoms as a reminder that Iran now enriches uranium to its closer than ever weapons-grade levels.  Non-proliferation experts warn that Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon if it chose to, though Tehran insists its program is peaceful.



FBI Warns Of “Credible Threat” Against Synagogues In New Jersey

The FBI in Newark, New Jersey, said on Thursday afternoon (3rd) it had received “credible information of a broad threat to synagogues” in the state, according to a tweet from the office quoted by CNN.

“We ask at this time that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility.  We will share more information as soon as we can.  Stay alert.  In case of emergency, call the police,” the post said.

In a second tweet, the agency said it was taking a “protective measure” with this warning, while “investigative processes are carried out.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he is in touch with the FBI, the state’s  Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the state attorney general.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are working with local law enforcement to ensure that all houses of worship are protected,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The Anti-Defamation League said it was working with the FBI to address the credible threat and advised synagogues and Jewish organizations to “remain calm and in a heightened state of alert.”

The American Jewish Committee wrote on Twitter, “We are deeply alarmed by FBI reports of a credible threat to synagogues in New Jersey.  Our thoughts are with the local Jewish community at this time.  We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops.”

In 2019, a kosher supermarket in Jersey City was attacked by two shooters who killed three civilians and a police officer before being killed in a shootout with police.



Germans Who Saved Jews From Nazis Honored By Yad Vashem – Deborah Cole

On Wednesday (2nd), Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor and Berlin’s Deputy Mayor Bettina Jarasch presented descendants and grand-daughters of four Germans with “Righteous Among the Nations” medals from Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial during a posthumous ceremony in their honor.

Moritz and Henriette Mandelkern survived the Holocaust, thanks to the help of their neighbors, Bruno and Anna Schwartze, and a farming family, Friedrich and Helene Huebner.

“Even in Berlin, where my father was born, there were people who fought for good and didn’t forget humanity and compassion,” said Amb. Prosor.

The Schwartzes took Moritz Mandelkern into their attic from December 1942 for 18 months.  Henriette found safe haven at the same time on the Huebners’ farm in the village of Gross-Schoenebeck, 31 miles away, where her cousin had already sought refuge.  After the Schwartzes’ home was badly damaged in a bombing, Moritz also fled to the farm, where they were eventually liberated.

Yad Vashem has since 1963 kept a historical record of non-Jewish people who risked their lives trying to save Jews from Nazi extermination, with nearly 28,000 people recognized.