News Digest — 12/10/19

Natan Sharansky Receives Israel’s Prestigious Genesis Prize

Former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky has been awarded Israel’s prestigious 2020 Genesis Prize for a lifetime of work promoting political and religious freedoms, organizers announced Tuesday (10th).

The $1 million award is granted each year to a person recognized for outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity and commitment to Jewish values.  Following a tradition set by previous winners, Sharansky has decided to forego the award, and the prize money will be donated in his honor to nonprofit organizations not yet chosen, the Genesis Prize Foundation said.

In a statement, Sharansky said he was “humbled” by the award.  Quoting the late president Ronald Reagen, he said, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

“It is not passed to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset-years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like to live when men were free,” he said.

Sharansky rose to prominence in the 1970s as a dissident in the Soviet Union, where he worked closely with the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andre Sakharov.  He was a founding member of the Helsinki Group, which monitored rights abuses by the Soviets, and became one of the best-known “refuseniks,” Soviet Jews who were denied permission to emigrate to Israel.

In 1977, Sharansky was imprisoned on fabricated charges of spying for the United States.  He spent nine years in prison, serving much of that time in solitary confinement. A former chess prodigy, Sharansky passed the days playing chess games in his head, famously boasting that he won every match.

Sharansky was freed in a prisoner swap in 1986 after an intense international campaign led by his wife, Avital, and immediately moved to Israel.  The following year he led a demonstration in Washington where, on the eve of a visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, some 250,000 Jews called for an end to persecution of Soviet Jews and for the freedom for them to emigrate.  Gorbachev subsequently opened the country’s borders, clearing the way for an estimated 1.6 million Jews to leave.

Natan Sharansky is one of the great human rights advocates of our times – his values and ethics, rooted deeply in his Jewish faith have been his moral compass – and his life has been a beacon to many freedom dreamers.



Netanyahu Tells Christian Leaders: Stand With the Truth About Israel

The friendship between Jerusalem and pro-Israel Christians is based on shared values, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting with lawmakers from 25 countries on Monday (9th).

“There are two kinds of friendships: friendships based on values and friendships based on interests.  Sometimes they overlap,” Netanyahu told the delegation from the Israel Allies Foundation in his office.  “What’s important about this group is that, first and foremost, it is based on shared values.”

Netanyahu told the parliamentarians that the truth is on their side.  “Even when Israel is under attack and defamed, you know the truth. There is no replacement for the truth when facing lies,” he stated.

In addition, the prime minister praised U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the U.S. no longer considers settlements to be illegitimate.  “We are not occupiers in a foreign land. This is our homeland since Abraham the patriarch came here 3,500 years ago. The word ‘Jew’ comes from ‘Judea,’’ Netanyahu said.

The IAF delegation gave Netanyahu a signed declaration stating that “never again will nations stand silent in the face of boycotts against the Jewish people.”  The petition was a response to the European Court of Justice’s decision to label products from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights, as not being from Israel.

The MPs came to Jerusalem for three days to take part in the Israel Allies Foundation’s annual conference.  Among attendees are the foreign minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza; the population minister of Estonia, Riina Solman; and the president-elect of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei.

Many of these parliament members serve as chairmen of the Israel Allies Caucuses in their parliaments and advance pro-Israel legislation and combat anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic bills.

The Israel Allies Foundation works with the U.S. Congress and parliaments around the world to mobilize faith-based support for Israel.  Most of its participants are Evangelical Christians.



Erdogan Bashes Israel, Calls On Muslims To Unite Against The West

In a speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israel and called for Islamic unity among the “brothers and sisters” to confront the West and conspiracies against Islamic countries.  Turkey’s ruler insinuated that Turkey was a victim of “terrorist attacks” because of its “principled stance” against “oppression in Jerusalem.”

Ankara claimed it is the “lone voice” standing up for Palestinians today.  Turkey has warm relations with Hamas. Hamas member Saleh Arouri arrived in Turkey on Sunday (8th).  He was accused of involvement in kidnapping, murder and other froms of terrorism in 2014. Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas also came to Turkey with Arouri and Moussa Abu Marzouk and other leaders, as part of a large delegation.  Ankara has asked NATO to condemn terrorism but continues to host Hamas.

Erdogan claimed that Israel was making the “situation in Jerusalem and Palestine” worse everyday.  He said that Israel doesn’t recognize justice, law, rights or humanity and that this “deepens the crisis in the region against Muslims.”  Turkey is seeking to champion Islamic countries against Israel, Ankara claims. “We will never stop defending the rights of the Palestinians and standing in solidarity with all the oppressed.”  Turkey is involved in an expanding military campaign and occupation of northern Syria that has caused more than 150,000 people to flee Afrin in 2018, and 200,000 to flee areas near Tel Abyad in recent months.  Turkey doesn’t see those people as oppressed according to Erdogan’s speech.

So far Turkey’s attempt to become a new global Islamic leader has not materialized. Turkey nevertheless tries to work with Malaysia, Pakistan and some other countries that are becoming more nationalist, far-right and conservative, seeking to create a front of political Islam, often linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, as part of a larger agenda.  Turkey’s current ruling party sees itself as an economic model and seeks to expand its power in Syria, Iraq, and other countries, while working with Iran and Russia.



Sovereignty Over The Jordan Valley Is Crucial To Israel’s Survival – Brig.-Gen. Amir Avivi

→ The first plan dealing with the Jordan Valley was drafted immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War by former Labor party minister Yigal Allon and is known as the “Allon Plan.”  The broad aim of the plan was to annex most of the Jordan Valley from the Jordan River to the eastern slopes of the Judean-Samarian mountain ridge in the West Bank along what is known today as the Allon Road.

→ Former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin declared that the Jordan Valley will be forever the eastern border of the State of Israel.

→ The biggest misconception is the assumption that the Israeli-Arab conflict is all about a land dispute regarding Judea and Samaria and once we fix this, peace will emerge.  The problem is that no Palestinian leader shares this vision. The fact is that in every Palestinian Authority map, the State of Israel does not exist. In PA schools, every child is educated to hate Israel and Jews, ensuring that future generations will continue to fight Israel until every centimeter of “Palestine” is liberated.

→ The Jordan border is 186 miles long.  If Israel relinquished control, the Palestinians would be able to bring into the heart of Israel thousands of armed terrorists from all around the Middle East.

→ Critics claim that applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley will undermine security cooperation with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.  The same threats were made when the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem. But both Jordan and the PA depend on security cooperation with Israel for their survival.  They need this cooperation more than Israel does.

→ Some have suggested ceding the Jordan valley to the Palestinians in a 10-15-year process.  This reminds me of the Iran-deal-logic to postpone an Iranian nuclear bomb. When you have a really bad plan, suggesting implementing it in 15 years with less antagonism presently, does not help the next generation who will suffer from it.

(The writer has more than 30 years of military and national defense experience, concluding his service as Head of the Auditing and Consulting Department of the Israeli Defense Establishment.)



Albania Hails Israeli Engineers Helping Rebuild After Devastating Quake

TIRANA, Albania–Albania’s prime minister on Monday (9th) hailed the work of Israeli engineers who came to the country to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that destroyed thousands of buildings.

The Israelis are among scores of engineers and experts who arrived in or will be headed to the country to help determine whether buildings left standing can still be inhabited, or to help construct buildings to replace those that were destroyed.

On Monday (9th) Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was in the western port city of Durres, encouraging residents to have confidence in the work of the engineers.  Durres and northwestern Thumane were the two areas hardest hit by the deadly quake that killed dozens in late November.

“They [the engineers] are from Israel and they are No. 1,  trust them,” Rama said to a resident who was afraid to enter an apartment building.

In a video Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared on Twitter, Rama thanked Netanyahu for the support, while standing alongside the Israeli team in Durres.  

“Bibi, shalom from Durres.  We’re here with your fantastic guys.  They are doing a great job in calming the people and telling them how to be resilient,” Rama said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.

Netanyahu responded, saying, “Thank you for your warm words, my friend.”

“Israel stands with Albania in this difficult hour,” Netanyahu wrote.

The Israel Defense Forces said the team consists of ten regular and reserve troops, led by the army’s Home Front Command and assisted by the Foreign Ministry.

The IDF has a long history of participating in international aid efforts following earthquakes and natural disasters, including sending teams to Mexico following a devastating quake in 2017, and to Brazil after the Minais Gerais Dam collapse.

Israel has close relations with Albania, a Muslim-majority nation in southern Europe, since diplomatic relations were formally established in 1991.