News Digest — 12/27/19

Netanyahu Trounces Rival In Landslide Likud Primary Victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (26th) scored a landslide victory in a primary race for leadership of the ruling Likud party, giving the embattled leader an important boost ahead of the country’s third election in less than a year.

The strong showing by Israel’s longest-serving leader could give him another opportunity to form a government following the March election, after falling short in two previous attempts this year.

“A giant victory,” Netanyahu tweeted early Friday (27th), just over an hour after the polls closed.  “Thanks to the members of Likud for the trust, support and love,” he added. “God willing I will lead Likud to a big victory in the coming elections.”

In a tweet, Saar congratulated Netanyahu and said he would support the prime minister in the national election.  “I am absolutely comfortable with my decision to run,” he added. “Whoever isn’t ready to take a risk for the path he believes in will never win.”

Official results released by Likud showed Netanyahu capturing 41,792 votes, or 72%, compared with 15,885 votes, or 28%, for Saar.



Rivlin: ‘Impossible’ Does Not Exist In Mossad Dictionary

As he does every year at Hanukkah, President Reuven Rivlin and Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen came together to award certificates of excellence to four women and nine men of the Mossad.  The traditional ceremony took place for the tenth time at Beit HaNassi (the President’s Residence) Thursday evening (26th).

Among the outstanding men and women to receive certificates of excellence was a female combatant who leads her comrades in complex and dangerous missions, taking personal responsibility for carrying them out safely and effectively, trains the next generation of combatants and ensures their professional development under her command.  A certificate of excellence was also awarded to a combatant who took part in a key and significant mission including unique and wide-ranging activity overseas, performing his role with exceptional dedication and always aspiring to excellence. Other certificates were awarded to a female intelligence officer whose work includes dealing with key strategic issues and a cyber engineer who has developed ground-breaking new technology that allows the intelligence community access to new areas.  Another outstanding employee creates unique solutions for the Mossad’s activities as a whole, in Israel and overseas.

“In the Mossad’s dictionary, you will never find the word ‘impossible.’  No target is too far away, there is no individual who cannot be reached, and nothing that remains out of its sight.  The best intelligence agencies in the world are proud to work with the Mossad because of its spirit, its daring and its bravery, because of Israeli creativity and chutzpah,” said the president at the beginning of his remarks, making special note of the legendary Marcelle Ninio and Rafi Eitan, the outstanding combatants, who passed away this year.

The president added, “The difference between failure and success is sometimes the blink of an eye – an unnecessary step, a forgotten item, or a biological trace left behind.  It requires – and that is the reason for this special occasion – the Mossad to be an institution of excellence. For the Mossad, excellence is not a luxury; it is the only way to survive in a world of shadows.  You, the recipients of certificates of excellence, are essential to our security. Our enemies lie in wait, looking for any crack or gap to get through. They are frustrated by their failure to harm us, and never stop searching for a way to catch us unawares.  To protect ourselves in the neighborhood we live in, we have no option but to be sharper and much better. We have technology: smart weapons, advanced software and cyber tools – but in the end, it is the people who face the enemy. Without the operative who manages to infiltrate wherever it is, the analyst who finds the spot, the programmer who writes perfect lines of code, the combatant who hits the right target and the data miner who finds pearls in the sea of information that turns into operations – without you, we would not be able to win.”

The president concluded his remarks with thanks to the Mossad families, who know and don’t know, understand and don’t understand and live with a great number of question marks, saying, “Thank you.  Thank you for your patience, thank you for your great support. Do well and succeed. Chag Sameach.!”     



Shepherd Drowns In Flash Flood As North Buffeted By Rain, Wind

A 27-year-old man drowned Thursday (26th) in a flash flood near the northern town of Karmiel as severe weather battered the country, swelling streams, flooding streets and knocking down trees.

The victim was identified as Majd Qassem Su’ad, a shepherd from the village of Wadi Salameh.

Paramedics treated Su’ad after he was caught in a deluge in a swollen stream, but their efforts were unsuccessful and he was declared dead at Ziv Medical Center in Safed.

Su’ad had gone out to close a gate near the stream when he went missing, Ynet news site reported.

His family called the police, who launched a search for him in vehicles, on foot and with the aid of a search helicopter.

Meanwhile in nearby Yarka, rescuers were continuing to search for a 14-year-old teenage boy who went missing when his ATV was swept away by a flood.  

Earlier Thursday (26th) the boy and a relative were riding all-terrain vehicles through the area when they were swept away by a flash flood through a dry river bed.  The boy’s relative was rescued, and later the lost boy’s ATV was recovered, overturned, from the water.

Large numbers of police and emergency services, including divers, formed search parties to continue looking for the boy around the village of Yarka, where he went missing.

The incidents came amid a cold and wet snap that began Wednesday (25th) and saw strong winds and rain drive across most of the country, and in particular, the north.



In Possible First, Moroccan Officials Attend Hanukkah Ceremony In Casablanca

Moroccan government officials on Sunday (22nd) attended a Hanukkah celebration in Casablanca, which a Jewish group hailed as a first in the Muslim country.

Over 800 Jewish community members marked the holiday with Said Ahmidouch, the local governor of the Casablanca-Settat region, and Rachid Afirat, governor of the Casablanca-Anfa prefecture, both of whom are appointees of King Mohammed VI.

The event at a Casablanca hotel was featured widely in Arabic media in the country, Chabad said, hailing it as a historic first for the community.

“This sends a strong message of peace and tolerance,” said Rabbi Levi Banon, director of the Jeunesse Chabad of Morocco, which organized the event alongside the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco and Casablanca’s David Hamelech Synagogue.

“Morocco, under the leadership and inspiration of King Mohammed VI, has been a true example for the world of what coexistence between all people looks like,” Banon said

Some 5,000 Jews live in Morocco, a fraction of the number from before the 1948 creation of Israel, but still the largest community in the Arab world.

Israel and Morocco do not have diplomatic ties, however Morocco has unofficially welcomed Israeli investors and tourists in recent years.



‘He Sits and Cries’: Elderly Jew, Harassed For Year By Arabs At Jerusalem Market, Finally Gets Help

Abraham Maximov, 93, owns a small shop in Jerusalem’s main market where he sharpens knives.  For at least a year, he has suffered physical and verbal abuse from young Arabs. But finally help appears to have come as Israeli police arrested a fourth suspect this week.

The motives of the Arabs, residents of eastern Jerusalem, are mixed, according to reports.  They have been described as racially motivated, efforts at extortion, and as a means to drive the elderly store owner away – the Arab owners of the fruit stand next to his small shop want to take over his space, reports say.

What led to the Arabs’ arrest is that they were apparently proud of the abuse they delivered.  They filmed it and posted it to Tik Tok, a web application. The videos show the suspects cursing Maximov, throwing vegetables at him, splashing water in his face, and putting a plastic box over his head.

The website Kikar HaShabbat reports that one of Maximov’s grandchildren posted to Facebook: “A year ago my grandfather complained to the police that they threw a bottle of acid at him but nothing happened.  It only made things worse.”

“The other day I received videos of my grandfather  appearing in the Tik Tok application where he is being humiliated and attacked by an Arab in the Mahane Yehuda market.”    

“He and elderly and helpless people are being ignored every day.  Where did we get to the point that such a thing happens in the heart of our market – in the heart of Jerusalem?  Just sad and angry.”

Israel’s Channel 13 reported that Maximov’s daughter said, “He is very scared, hardly talking.  He sits and cries. He is 40 years in the market, a dedicated worker. We couldn’t imagine it would come to such a situation.”

On Monday (23rd), Jerusalem’s Mayor Moshe Leon lit a Hanukkah Candle at the Mahane Yehuda market with Maximov.

“I came to the market to strengthen Abraham and the merchants.  He is a sad case that must not happen in Jerusalem. I will do everything possible to prevent more such cases,” Leon said.