News Digest — 12/17/19

IDF Chief: The Number Of Israel’s Enemies Is Greater Than The Number Of Fronts

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Monday (16th) that Israel was facing a growing number of enemies and fronts and discussed the missions and challenges lying ahead.

“The IDF is one of the most active militaries in the world, if not the most active.  The IDF is fighting and operating daily and nightly on numerous fronts which have grown in number recently, and the number of enemies is greater than the number of fronts.  In Syria, for example, the Iranian Quds Force and Hezbollah are operating, and in Lebanon, Iran’s terrorist tentacles are solidifying their grip,” he said, speaking at an award ceremony for outstanding military units.

Kochavi continued: “Any organization, and especially the IDF, cannot be satisfied with maintaining and preserving the status quo.  The IDF must change and innovate to beat its enemies to the punch and develop a significant advantage.”

The army chief also addressed the publication of an IDF report that allegedly distorted statistics on haredi enlistment saying “there is an investigation, which is a building block of the army’s foundation.  Every inquiry requires the reporting of all the facts, analyzing them from every angle, and conveying the conclusions honestly. We will always do this accurately and clearly while presenting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and moreover, while contending with the real consequences.”

In early December, a media report said the army had inflated figures for the ultra-Orthodox draft, while the IDF maintains that the ultra Orthodox draft figures have surged in recent years.



Lost Jewish Property In Arab Countries Estimated At $150 Billion

Lost Jewish property in Arab countries could amount to $150 billion according to a government assessment obtained exclusively by Israel Hayom.

The property valuation pertains to assets left behind by Jews who were expelled or fled Arab nations and Iran in the late 1940s and 1950s.  The review was two years in the making and its authors stressed that it is a conservative assessment that does not account inflation rates.

The report sheds light on a particularly tragic chapter in the history of Arab and Iranian Jewry and constitutes the first time that the government has compiled comprehensive data on this issue, whose historical, sociopolitical, and international political ramifications could be highly significant.

The project has been in the works since 2002, but it wasn’t until 2017, when Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel assumed the mantle, that serious progress was made in this investigation.

Gamliel teamed with the National Security Council, which cast a wide international net with the aim of estimating the scope of lost Jewish property in Arab nations.

The exact methods used to compile the report remain classified, but a rough breakdown of the figures shows lost Jewish property  in Iran is worth about some $31.3 billion. Assets in Libya, for example were pegged at $6.7 billion, followed by Yemen proper ($2.6 billion), its temporary capital of Aden ($700 million), and Syria ($1.4 billion).

Gamliel is expected to present the findings to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming weeks.

“We may be able to begin correcting a historical wrong, as part of which hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who have lost their property could regain it, alongside their forgotten place in the historical narrative of the young Israeli state that emerged as they became refugees,” said Gamliel.

For the most part, when addressing the issue of “refugees” in the Middle East, the international community, as well as different sectors, automatically attribute the term to Palestinian refugees, even though the same period of time (1948-67) saw over 850,000 Jews leave various Arab countries and Iran.  Some 600,000 arrived in Israel and the rest relocated mainly to the U.S. or Europe.

Since 2014, Israel officially marks the Day of Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran on November 30.

The symbolic date was chosen since it follows November 29 on which the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted and after which many Jews living in Arab countries were pressured or forced to leave their countries. 



Sudan Says It Will Shut Down Hamas And Hezbollah Offices

Sudan’s transitional government has announced that it will be shutting down the local offices that the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah operated in the country, the Middle East Eye reported Monday (16th), quoting an unnamed Sudanese official.

According to the official, the government plans to close down not only the offices of Hezbollah and Hamas, but also of “any other Islamist group whose goal is terrorism.”

“Sudan has no ties to these terrorists – Sudan’s own interest comes above all else,” the official said, adding that in recent years, Hamas and Hezbollah had been “hiding” their presence in Sudan.

The report said that Sudan’s decision to oust Hamas and Hezbollah from its territory is a move designed to convince the U.S. administration to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The U.S. added Sudan to its terrorism list in 1993 after the country hosted a visit by Al-Qaida leaders.



Israel Becomes Major Energy Exporter After Signing Egypt Gas Permit

Israel became a major energy exporter for the first time on Monday (16th) after signing a permit to export natural gas to Egypt.  

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called the permit a “historic landmark” for Israel.  He said it’s the most significant economic cooperation project between the neighboring countries since they signed a peace deal in 1979.

The European Union, seeking to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, has encouraged the formation of new delivery routes, including through the eastern Mediterranean.  These routes could also curtail Iranian ambitions to use Syria as a gateway to the Mediterranean.

“The natural gas revolution turns us into an energy power and affords us not just huge income for the country but also a dramatic decrease in air pollution,” Steinitz said.  Israel is planning to wean itself off coal, thanks to the expected gas boon.

Aside from the economic benefits, the promise of gas appears to have helped Israel grow closer to Arab governments and other Mediterranean countries.

Israel signed a $15 billion deal last year to provide Egypt with 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period that will help transform both into regional energy players.

Israel already delivers small quantities of gas to the Palestinians and to Jordan with whom Delek and Noble Gas signed their first export agreement in 2016.  



Johnson To Pursue Anti-BDS Agenda As British PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to pursue an anti-boycott policy after winning last week’s general election.

The Times of Israel reported Monday (16th), citing a report in the British daily newspaper “i”, that the Conservative Party leader included the issue among those he presented to the queen to cite during her speech when she opens the session of Parliament later this week.

The platform of the ruling Conservative party endorsed legislation that would “ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, divestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries” because such policies “undermine community cohesion.” 

Last Thursday (12th), Johnson’s Conservatives handily defeated the opposition Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, gaining 365 seats of the 650 seats in Parliament to some 202 for Labour.  The Conservatives gained 48 seats from the 2017 general election and Labour lost 60 in its worst showing since 1935.

Corbyn a fierce critic of Israel, had promised to recognize Palestine as a state and cease arms sales to Israel if elected.

Under Corbyn, anti-Israel and anti-Semitism has proliferated in Labour ranks, placing the party under scrutiny in the Parliament, the media and in a probe by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government watchdog.