News Digest — 12/11/19

Knesset Prepares To Dissolve Itself, Hold New Elections

Less than three months after Israel’s last election, the Knesset prepared Wednesday (11th) to dissolve itself and send the country to its third election in less than a year.

The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee met Wednesday morning (11th) to expedite the dissolution of the 22nd Knesset, after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz failed to form a new government.

With the deadline for the Knesset to select a new premier set to end Wednesday night (11th), the Arrangements Committee met earlier in the day to discuss plans to formally dissolve the Knesset and call for new elections on March 2nd.

If no last-minute breakthrough is achieved to clear the way for a new government, the Knesset will pass a bill dissolving the 22nd Knesset before midnight.

Just before noon Wednesday (11th), the Knesset voted 50 to 0 in favor of the bill to dissolve the 22nd Knesset.  The preliminary vote faces two more votes before the dissolution becomes final.

“This is not a happy day for the Knesset,” said MK Avi Nissenkorn at the opening of Wednesday morning’s (11th) committee meeting.

“We hope that there will be a last-minute change, and while we hope for a change, we continue this process.  I always thought that the first bills I would submit would be on social issues, but not for the dissolution of the Knesset.  This is a dramatic day,” he said.



Extra Security For New York Jews After Shooting At NJ Kosher Store 

Police in the New York metropolitan area were put on high-alert to protect Jewish neighborhoods after an hours-long gunbattle with two men around a Jersey City kosher market on Tuesday (10th), that killed four people, authorities said. 

The police shoot-out with two men armed with high-powered rifles erupted after midday on Tuesday (10th) in Jersey City, New Jersey’s second-largest municipality directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan.

The four victims were three civilians and a police officer, authorities said.  The two gunmen were shot dead by authorities.

Two of the victims were named by the Yeshiva World website as 24-year-old Moshe Hersh Deutch and Leah Mindel Ferentz, 33.

Jersey City police said initially that the motives of the gunmen were not known.  But Jewish Mayor Steve Fulop said on Tuesday night (10th) that the two gunmen had deliberately targeted the JC Kosher Supermarket where the four-hour gunbattle played out.

“Based on our initial investigation (which is ongoing) we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked,” Fulop said in a tweet.

Due to an excess of caution, the community may see additional police resources in the days/weeks ahead,” Fulop wrote.  “We have no indication there are any further threats.”



Netanyahu’s Social Media Campaign Has Revived Israel’s Image In Iran – Shay Khatiri

One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s greatest foreign policy legacies remains unseen to most Israelis and the world.  He has made Israel popular in Iran.

It all started with Netanyahu’s video campaign on social media, which coincided with the Islamic Republic’s rapid deterioration of popularity.  In a series of social media videos, Netanyahu directly spoke with the Iranian people with Farsi subtitles, and the videos went viral on social media and messaging apps among Iranian users.  In the videos, Netanyahu emphasized his desire to live in peace and cooperation with the Iranian people. He spoke of Iran’s rich and great history. In one video, he outlined Iran’s water challenges, and he declared that he would start sending information to Iranians on social media about how best to overcome these challenges with minimal means.

However, the most important point that Netanyahu conveyed was that the regime in Iran is the greatest obstacle to the progress of the Iranian people, by highlighting how successful Iranians are everywhere else, but not in Iran.  This campaign resonated with many Iranians.

Evidence for this claim is Farsi comments on social media.  Iranians use Instagram more than any other social medium, and that’s where they get most of their news.  Every time there is a story about Israel, the vast majority of comments are in praise of Netanyahu and of Israel.  In the comment section of stories about Israel’s attacking the IRGC bases in Syria, there are many comments like, “Good, thank you!” or “Okay, but can you hit the IRGC inside Iran please?” or recommendations for targets inside Iran, which is usually Khamanei’s residence.  When I talk to Iranians inside Iran, they no longer complain that Israel mistreats Palestinians. They see an ally in Israel.

On the Palestinan issue, most responses vary from “none of my business” to “Israel is in the right.”  This is also evident in one of the most popular chants in every protest in Iran: “No to Gaza and Lebanon, my life only for Iran.”  They are just tired of starving for the benefit of Hamas and Hezbollah.

For four decades, the United States has failed to meaningfully engage with the Iranian people to turn them against the regime.  Just 10 years ago, it was inconceivable to imagine an Israeli prime minister, especially a Likud one, would play this role. But Netanyahu cracked the code.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s video campaign has paused for now, perhaps because of the unresolved elections in Israel.  Resumption would help, but his campaign has already planted the seeds.



Arming Israel To Defeat Iranian Aggression (Jewish Institute for National Security of America)

The U.S. increasingly depends on Israel to uphold regional stability in the Middle East due to rising threats from Iran and others, while America seeks to reduce its footprint in the region.

We recommend providing Israel what it needs to secure a strategic advantage over the growing challenges.  Priorities for the IDF include, but are not limited to: 

→ Combat aircraft, including an additional Lockheed Martin F-35 squadron, and potentially new Boeing F-151 advanced fighters in the interim while the F-35 squadron is onboarded.

→ Airborne refueling tankers, including the latest- generation Boeing KC-46.

→ Longer-range transport helicopters like the Lockheed Martin CH-53K, and Bell Boeing V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft.

→ Precision-guided munitions such as Boeing JDAM kits for unguided munitions, Boeing GBU-39 and Raytheon CBU-53/B small diameter bombs, and Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

→ Missile defense systems such as Rafael- Raytheon Iron Dome, Rafael-Raytheon David’s Sling and IAI-Boeing Arrow 2 and Arrow 3, as well as interceptors for these systems.

Providing these weapons to Israel would send a clear strategic signal that American policymakers appreciate the rising risks from Iran and other adversaries to both the U.S. and Israel.

Moreover, the American worker and economy are key beneficiaries, since Israel must spend the lion’s share (and eventually all) of U.S. military-aid-funds on U.S.-made equipment.



Israeli Student In Paris Beaten Unconscious for Speaking Hebrew

An Israeli student said he was beaten Monday (9th) in the Paris metro after he was heard speaking Hebrew.

France’s National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, (BNVCA), identified the student as B. Yogev, 30.  It said he entered the train at the Chateau d’Eau station in Paris and answered a phone call from his father before he was accosted by two men, described as tall and of African origin.

One of the men attacked the student, striking him on the head, body and face, until he fell on the train car floor unconscious, according to the report.  “They hit me a few times. My glasses broke and I lost consciousness,” the Israeli was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site.  “I was lucky people helped me.”

The student who was hospitalized for his injuries, said “it is clear to me they attacked me only because they heard I’m Israeli.”

The attack comes amid a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in France, many of which were in the east of the country.

The recent up-surge in anti-Semitic violence and hate speech has prompted soul-searching for many in France, which has long wrestled with its history of discrimination and prejudice against Jews.



Jerusalem Green-Lights Fast-Track Construction Of New U.S. Embassy Building

“The U.S. Embassy has received a green light from the Jerusalem Municipality,” the city’s Mayor Moshe Lion announced on Monday (9th), referring to the embassy’s permanent building that will be built in the city.

The U.S. was the first country to make the historic move and relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.  After the move, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem was upgraded and given the status of an embassy temporarily, until a permanent embassy building could be built in the city.

On Monday (9th), Lion and representatives from Jerusalem municipality met with representatives from the U.S. Embassy and State Department to discuss various issues that have come up in the planning process.

At the end of the meeting, Lion said that the municipality had given the Americans the green light to fast-track the planning process for the embassy’s permanent building.

“Within six months, we will reach advanced stages, and God willing, in a few years we will be able to inaugurate the permanent residence of the U.S. Embassy in Israel’s capital,” he said.

The U.S. is considering two possible plans for its Jerusalem embassy.  It will decide which plan will be advanced in the coming months.

A statement from the Jerusalem Municipality said that the building will fit in with Jerusalem’s unique architectural tradition and that the permanent embassy will likely have a significant positive impact on the surrounding area.