News Digest — 12/27/21

Golan Heights Plan: 1 Billion Shekels For Development, Strengthening Israeli Presence

The Israeli government held its weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning (26th) at Kibbutz Mevo Hama in the Golan Heights, as it approved some 1 billion shekels towards a plan aimed at increasing the area’s population and establishing it as an economic powerhouse for the Jewish state.

“We are making history in the Golan,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted ahead of the vote.  “We will authorize a historic plan to massively develop the Golan Heights that will bring many good people to this beautiful part of the country.”

Currently, the Golan has just 53,000 residents –  approximately half are Jewish Israeli citizens (25,000).  The other half are Druze, some of whom are Israeli citizens and others who are classed as permanent residents.

A significant portion of the Druze refused to accept Israeli citizenship after the 1967 Six Day War, and continue to identify as Syrians.  However, due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, a large number of Druze who declined Israeli citizenship for decades are now quietly obtaining it.

The distribution of Israel’s population has long-posed a strategic challenge to the Jewish State.  With career and educational opportunities largely centered in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem districts, some 45% of Israelis live in the central Gush Dan area, which makes up just 8 percent of the state’s available land.

Residents of the peripheral southern and northern regions have complained of inferior infrastructure, medical care, education and public transportation.

According to the government’s plan, the area is set to become the site of 2,000 new jobs.  Kan News quoted an unnamed government minister as stating that the ultimate goal is to transform the Golan into “the capital of Israel’s renewable energy technologies.” 

“Like any piece of land in Israel, the settlements in the Golan Heights are vital and need strengthening,” said Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana in a statement.

“To this end,  we endowed the plan to strengthen the Golan Heights with a budget of about one billion shekels.  The budget will be invested in improving the infrastructure, transportation, economy and quality of life of the northerners.”

“According to the government plan, settlement in the Golan will double within 5 years,” he added.  “The Israeli government will allocate NIS 576 million for this purpose in favor of adding 7,300 new housing units.  Two new localities, Asif and Matar, will also be established.”

The plan also includes initiatives aimed at strengthening tourism in the region, such as a new scenic bike trail and incentives for developers to build hotels.

In June 2018, then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon backed a plan to quintuple the Jewish population in the Golan Heights.  At that time, nothing came of the plan.



PA And Qatar Deal Will Bring Israeli Gas To Gaza

The Palestinian Authority, Qatar and an electricity company based in Gaza inked an agreement on Sunday (26th), laying the groundwork for an initiative to run Gaza’s only power plant with gas from Israel, i24NEWS reported.

The Qatari envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, said the agreement formalizes an investment of $60 million towards the construction of the gas pipeline.

The project known as the Gas for Gaza Initiative, aims to exchange the power plant’s diesel fuel for natural gas from Israel’s Leviathan gas field.

Qatar has been involved in several projects in the Gaza Strip.  It has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to pay for electricity in the Strip, build new roads and hospitals, help Hamas cover the salaries of its civil servants and provide monthly stipends to poor families.

Israel has approved the transfer of the Qatari money and has come under fire for doing so as Hamas continues to regularly fire rockets at Israeli towns in the south.

Following Operation Guardian of the Walls, it was reported that Israel planned to reevaluate the way in which the Qatari money enters Gaza in order to ensure that the funds go to the needy population of the Strip and not into the hands of Hamas.

Palestinian Arab sources later said that the UN would take on the responsibility of distributing the Qatari monetary aid to families in the Strip, replacing the previous method which involved suitcases full of cash entering the Strip through Israel.

Last month, Hamas announced another agreement by which Qatar will resume subsidizing the salaries of public employees by sending fuel to the Gaza Strip.

Under the deal reached with Qatar and Egypt, the wealthy Gulf nation will send fuel to Gaza from Egypt that Hamas can resell in order to help fund payrolls. 



Jabotinsky Conference Held In Jerusalem As Speakers Celebrate Zionist Leader’s Vision

A Jabotinsky Zionism Conference, which celebrates the vision and legacy of Zionist leader and founder of the Betar youth movement, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, got underway on Sunday (26th) at the VERT Jerusalem Hotel.  The conference was organized by Israel Hayom and the Betar youth movement.  

The editor-in-chief of Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, said at the opening plenary that “Jabotinsky wanted to pursue the humane value of making justice, from which he derived the call to give back to the Jews what they rightfully own.”

According to Bismuth, the “Jews were forcibly exiled from their land, but they never gave up their right to it, and there is no greater historical justice than their return to their homeland.”  Bismuth then said, “The young Jabotinsky was among the harshest critics of the idea that Jews could find an alternative homeland, and was among the most vocal opponents of having the Jews establish a refuge, albeit temporary, that would serve as an artificial national home, be it in Uganda or in other places around the world.”

Bismuth further said that the “troubles facing the Jews were a consequence of their very presence in exile and their sense of foreignness.  A mere decades later, the tragic events of the Holocaust proved just how right he was.”  Bismuth concluded that “it is no coincidence that every time Israeli governments pursued territorial concessions and essentially discarded the notion that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, Israel’s situation worsened.  In international forums, we have made it clear what the strategic depth in these areas have and how crucial they are to the nation’s defense, but we forgot to drive home the most important and principled value: the indisputable right of our people to come back to their homeland, which is above and beyond what any other people can prove.”

The conference speakers included President Isaac Herzog, who sent a video message in which he said, “Jabotinsky knew that only by being proactive and determined can we build our national home, and it is amazing to see just how essential these values are today in Israeli society.”

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the conference on Sunday evening (26th).



The Abraham Accords – Who’s Next? – Dr. Norman Bailey

So far, four Arab nations have signed agreements with Israel in the past year, collectively named the Abraham Accords.  What is the likelihood that the accords will be expanded to include other Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa?

Arab states that will under no circumstances enter into an accord with Israel include Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, all of which are satellites of or under the overriding influence of Iran.  Unlikely countries include Kuwait, Qatar and Algeria.

Possible countries include Libya and Saudi Arabia.  The crown prince, who is dedicated to turning Saudi Arabia into a world-class hi-tech center, didn’t establish his new tech city in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia, a stone’s throw from Israel, for nothing.  Finally, those almost certain to join include Oman and Tunisia.  Oman was on the verge of acceding to the accords when the sultan passed away.

The implications of the Abrahamic Accords for the region and the entire Muslim world are that it can be done, the sky didn’t fall, and the members are reaping important benefits.  Once the Saudis, the very center of the religion of Islam, sign on, this will have an enormous effect on the rest of the Muslim world.

The writer is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and was chief economist at the US National Security Council.  



The Anti-Semitism Of Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion Staff At American Universities – Jay Greene & James Paul

Universities ostensibly employ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) staff to create more tolerant and welcoming environments for students from all backgrounds.  To measure anti-Semitism among university DEI staff, we searched the Twitter feeds of 741 DEI personnel at 65 universities to find their public communications regarding Israel, and for comparison purposes, China.

Those DEI staff tweeted, retweeted, or liked almost three times as many tweets about Israel as tweets about China.  Of the tweets about Israel, 96% were critical of the Jewish state, while 62% of the tweets about China were favorable.  The overwhelming pattern is that DEI staff at universities pay a disproportionately high amount of attention to Israel and nearly always attack the Jewish state.

The inordinate amount of attention given to Israel and the excessive criticism directed at that one country is evidence of a double-standard with respect to the Jewish state, which is a central feature of a widely accepted definition of anti-Semitism.  Frequently accusing Israel of engaging in genocide, apartheid, settler colonialism, and ethnic cleansing, while rarely leveling similar criticisms toward China, indicates an irrational hatred that is particularly directed toward Jews and not merely a concern for human rights.  The evidence demonstrates that university DEI staff are better understood as political activists with an often radical political agenda rather than promoters of welcoming and inclusive environments.

Jay P. Greene, PhD and James D. Paul both work for the Heritage Foundation.