News Digest — 2/10/23

IDF Chief Of Staff Makes Secret Visit To Bahrain

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi paid a secret visit to Bahrain on Thursday (9th), according to local media in the Gulf state.

Bahraini news site Akhbar Al Khaleej shared a photo of Bahraini Crown Prince HRH Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa greeting a “delegation of senior security officials,” with Halevi in civilian clothes, also in attendance.

According to the report, discussions revolved around the importance of maintaining regional security.  The meeting was not carried by Israeli media.

The Crown Prince wanted to emphasize that security and stability are the top priority and that all parties should always act to maintain them.” the report said.

He noted the “importance of meetings like these, which aim to strengthen security and have an important role in creating a unified line of thought and a common vision to achieve regional and global stability. Such collaborations guarantee protection of everyone in the face of existing challenges, and reaching peace and paving the path to prosperity.”

Halevi’s predecessor Aviv Kochavi visited Bahrain last year after then-prime minister Naftali Bennett’s visit. Later, then-defense minister Benny Gantz also visited the country.

Israel and Bahrain share extensive security cooperations, and the Israeli Navy has an attache based in the Bahrain capital Manama.



Turkey Earthquake: IDF Mapping Unit Helps Pinpoint Search And Rescue Operations

The Intelligence Corps’ Unit 9900 is participating in the IDF’s mission to rescue survivors trapped under rubble following the devastating earthquakes which struck Turkey and Syria this week.

The unit assists in deciphering satellite photographs, which allows the forces in the field to pinpoint the location of collapsed buildings and thus optimize their work.

On Wednesday (8th) a special team from the mapping unit landed in Turkey.  The unit uses advanced technological capabilities in the field which are a force multiplier for the branch of the Home Front Command that deals with field analysis.

The commander of the dedicated mapping team in Unit 9900, Lieutenant A, said: “I am proud to take part in the Israeli effort to save lives in Turkey.  We are using mapping capabilities that are usually used for special operations to save lives wherever needed.”

So far, the Home Front Command mission has rescued 17 civilians alive from under rubble.

Meanwhile, the number of people killed in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria rose to over 21,000 people.  Turkish President Erdogan spoke in the Kilis Province and said that “Turkey is facing the greatest earthquake disaster the region has ever known.”

Meanwhile, the Turkish Disaster Agency said that the search and rescue operations were completed in two of the 10 districts affected by the earthquake – Kilis and Sanliurfa.



Israeli Official: Iran Is Sending Arms To Syria Disguised As Earthquake Aid

An Israeli military official warned Iran against shipping weapons to its terror proxies in Syria under the guise of humanitarian aid to earthquake victims, following the deadly earthquake, saying the IDF would not hesitate to strike, the Saudi-owned news site Elaph reported on Thursday (9th).

“There is information indicating that Iran will take advantage of the tragic situation in Syria” to ship “weapons, devices and systems” to Hezbollah and other Iran-backed terror groups in Syria, the unnamed official told the site.

Doing so would result in a “strong military response from us without hesitation,” the official warned.

Israel was monitoring trucks and equipment that Iran is sending to the victims of the devastating earthquake that has claimed the lives of over 21,000 people so far, the site said.

Elaph also cited the official as saying that Israel was “ready to transport any medicine or humanitarian needs to the earthquake victims everywhere if the need arises and if asked to do so.”

Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria, including weapon shipments disguised as innocuous products like fruits and vegetables.



Egypt Mediating To Prevent Palestinian-Israeli Escalation During Ramadan

Egypt has stepped up mediation efforts between Palestinians and Israel in an effort to reduce violence in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and prevent its spread to the Gaza Strip ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Reuters  reported quoting officials.

Cairo hosted this week leaders of the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations, the sources said, adding that talks with Israel were held earlier.

There has been widespread violence as the IDF continues Operation Breakwater, an anti-terrorism campaign launched in the summer of 2023 in response to deadly attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in Israel on innocent Jewish citizens earlier in the year.  Most recently, a gunman opened fire outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven Jewish worshipers and injuring several more, prompting the government and the military to further step up measures.

Two Egyptian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cairo believed the situation could escalate even further (which it usually does) during Ramadan, which begins in March and lasts for an entire month and because of Israel’s new right-wing government taking power.  

Officials said Egypt sought the United States to appeal to Israel to help constrain an escalation of violence, while Cairo was, for its part, appealing to the  PIJ and Hamas, which both spurn direct contact with Israel.

“Egypt understands that if things blow up in the West Bank it will also ignite an explosion in Gaza,” a Palestinian official said.

The latest conflict between Israel and the PIJ took place in August 2022 and lasted 36 hours.  With Hamas, the latest conflict occurred in May 2021, known as Operation Guardian of the Walls.  

Both groups are usually involved together in terror activity toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, however Hamas is officially in control of the Gazan government and responsible for everything emanating from the coastal enclave.



Coming Out As An Arab Advocate Of Peace With Israel – Hussain Abdul-Hussain

→ As a student in Lebanon in the 1990s, I believed that the Jewish state sought to occupy Arab lands “from the Euphrates to the Nile,” and I was hardly alone.  I immigrated to Washington in 2004, where I started consuming everything Hebrew.  Yet to this day I have not visited Israel.  Doing so would risk entanglement with Lebanese authorities during my visits to Beirut.

→ Still, I came to see that Zionism is not a conspiracy, but the basic idea that the long history of antisemitism and Jewish suffering, culminating in the Holocaust, created the need for a sovereign Jewish homeland.  For Israel, that sovereignty is non-negotiable.

→ It should not be surprising that some Arab states finally decided that there was no point in waiting for Palestinians to accept a version of the two-state solution that did not embed within it a demographic threat to Jewish sovereignty.  Was it their obligation to perpetuate an endless conflict and harm their own interests in the name of solidarity?

→ Saudi Arabia has been inching closer to peace with Israel, with its media leading the way, including Al-Arabiya’s unprecedented interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.  Saudi networks have started inviting Israeli pundits on their shows, a practice that remains taboo on most Arab channels.

→ While Riyadh and Jerusalem negotiate, Arab advocates of peace have a crucial role to play.  The first step is to defy pervasive shaming by fellow Aabs and come out as proponents of normalization.  Their voices can help bring peace talks across the finish line, because fear of a public backlash is precisely what constrains so many Middle Eastern leaders who would prefer to treat Israel as a neighbor, not an enemy.

The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.   



Kentucky Jews Dealing With Record Levels Of Antisemitism

The number of reported antisemitic incidents in Kentucky has grown exponentially in the last year, according to a new study.

The report by the Kentucky Jewish Council released this week, found that 32 incidents occurred in the state in 2022.  And they had more reported incidents in 2022 than 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018 combined,” the Council chairman Rabbi Shlomo Litvin told WTVQ.

The report examined a worrying increase in antisemitic acts that the state’s small Jewish community has been dealing with in the last year.  At 12,500 members, the community makes up less than 0.3 percent of Kentucky’s population.

Incidents listed in the report included the attempted assassination of Jewish Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg, antisemitic tweets from a Kentucky Congressman, threats made against synagogues in Lexington, antisemitic speeches about Jewish women delivered by a state politician, and violent threats against Jewish students and community leaders.

While Rabbi Litvin said that the antisemitism is harmful to the community, he attempted to put the report in an overall context of global trends.

“I am an extremely proud Kentuckian and although these numbers are horrifying, Kentucky is not the issue.  This is a global issue, it’s a societal issue that we all need to face,” he said.  “It’s incredibly painful to see antisemitism in the paper I grew up with, it’s incredibly painful to see it in Louisville, Lexington – Kentucky cities, in the place that I love.”

He praised Kentucky for adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in 2021 but urged the state to go further, including adding antisemitism education in schools.

“Codifying that adoption would be a positive step.  There is to be a bill this year by the BDS movement, one of the most antisemitic movements across the country.  We need to make sure that Kentucky in no way endorses that movement.  We need to engage with the Jewish community to ensure those voices are not listened to – that would be a positive step for Kentucky to take,” he added.