News Digest — 2/16/23

Mike Pompeo: Israel Has A Biblical Claim To Judea And Samaria

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he believes Israel has a biblical claim on Judea and Samaria and is therefore not an occupying force.

“Israel is not an occupying nation – as an evangelical Christian, I am convinced by my reading of the Bible that 3,000 years on now, in spite of the denial of so many, [this land] is the rightful homeland of the Jewish people,” the former official told One Decision Podcast.

Pompeo was asked about the Israeli government’s planned judicial reform and whether he felt that America’s historic partnership with Israel was conditional on adherence to democratic principles.  Pompeo responded that although he prefers not to discuss foreign countries’ domestic policies, he would note that while the American government always advocates for democracy, it still maintains close ties with several nations that are not democracies, such as those in southeast Asia and the Middle East.  He added that if an ally planned to do something that was perceived as inconsistent with US interests, they would ask them to refrain.

Nonetheless, Pompeo insists that Israel’s judicial reform is a relative non-issue compared to other problems in the region.  “If you look at the list of troubles we have in the Middle East, that doesn’t make the “hit parade,” he said.  “Let’s start with the fact that Iranians are trying to kill Americans here at home, including former US senior government officials.”

The former Secretary of State also discussed the Abraham Accords and the benefit they bring to the American public.  “I’m happy about the Abraham Accords because the chance that a US Marine will have to fight and die is substantially lower now that peace and prosperity are on the march in the region.  We fundamentally took down the risk for the United States of America as a result of the Abraham Accords,” he stated.

“What’s in America’s best interest?  Is it to sit and wait for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a known terrorist who’s killed lots and lots of people, including Americans…to draw a line on a map?  That’s what the State Department would do.  The previous Secretary of State ran back and forth from Tel Aviv and Ramallah and tried to draw lines on a map.  We said: “That’s not in America’s best interest.  Let’s go create peace, and we did.”

Throughout the interview, Pompeo refused to voice support for a two-state solution, saying that he supports an outcome that guarantees Israeli security and makes life better for everyone in the region.  (One Decision Podcast)



Bill Taking Israeli Citizenship From ‘Pay-To-Slay’ Terrorists Is Now Law

The Knesset passed legislation on Wednesday (15th) stripping the citizenship of terrorists who receive stipends from the Palestinian Authority as part of Ramallah’s ‘pay-for-slay’ policy.

The new law, which drew support from opposition MKs, applies to Israeli citizens and permanent residents convicted of terrorism, aiding terrorism, inciting war or aiding an enemy.  It gives the Interior Minister authority to revoke citizenship and resident status after a mandatory hearing and, if citizenship is revoked, deny entry of those expelled into Israel.

The law passed in a 94-10 vote on its third and final reading, garnering rare cross-Knesset support.

The development comes after a string of deadly terrorist attacks in recent days carried out by Arab-Israelis.

“Our answer to terrorism is to strike back,” tweeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the vote.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir  added: “We succeeded in passing, in the Knesset, the important law to deny citizenship to terrorists.  Whoever tries to harm us does not deserve to live in our country.  This is an important step in the war against terrorism, one of many that I am demanding.”

Ben-Gvir has repeatedly called for the Knesset to pass a law to apply the death penalty to terrorists.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, Israeli citizens Karim and Maher Younis, who were released from prison last month after serving 40-year sentences for murdering an Israeli soldier, have received more money from the PA under “pay-for-slay” than any other terrorists.

Karim and Maher Younis murdered Israeli Defense Forces Cpl. Avraham Bromberg on the Golan Heights in 1980.  Both were sentenced to life in prison in 1983 but had their sentence commuted to 40 years in 2012 by then-Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Both Karim and Yaher Younis each received $98,698 in compensation for murdering Avraham Bromberg.



Israeli FM Arrives In Kyiv To Explore ‘Joint Potential’ Says Ukrainian Counterpart

Ukraine’s foreign minister announced on Wednesday (15th) that his Israeli counterpart would visit Kyiv “in the coming days,” hailing the two countries “joint potential.”

Actually Foreign Minister Eli Cohen arrived in Ukraine on Thursday morning (16th).

In a remote address to the 2023 Kyiv Jewish Forum – an annual event that is being held in Washington, D.C., this year due to the Russian invasion – Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed the imminent arrival of newly-appointed Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

“We have common security challenges, and we are obliged to face them together,” Kuleba said.  “Our two nations share the same democratic ideals.”

Kuleba noted that he had already spoken with Cohen on the phone “but this will be his first official visit to Ukraine.”

Added Kuleba: “I believe there is no better way to understand what is happening in Ukraine than to come and see everything with your own eyes.  I also look forward to talking about everything on our joint agenda.  I am sure that Ukraine and Israel have great joint potential.”

Kuleba stressed his hope that Israel would throw its weight behind “the formula for peace in Ukraine proposed by President Volodymyr Zelensky.  We count on Israel’s participation in this issue.”

Zelensky unveiled a 10-point peace plan last November that includes the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine and the establishment of a war crimes tribunal among its measures.

Israeli media outlets have speculated over the demands the Ukrainians will make of Cohen during his visit.  On Sunday (12th) the Walla news outlet reported that Zelensky was demanding that Israel issue a strong denunciation of the Russian invasion, endorse Ukraine’s territorial integrity and agree to a $500 million loan to the Kyiv government.

In the year since Russia attacked its southern neighbor, Ukrainian leaders from Zelensky downwards have issued frequent appeals for Israeli military aid.

In recent months, that demand has been amplified against the backdrop of Russia’s military alliance with Israel’s arch-foe, Iran.  In a speech on Thursday (9th), Kuleba argued that Iran’s involvement meant that Israel had a vested interest in a Ukrainian military victory.

He also expressed frustration that talks on the transfer of Israeli air defense technology to Ukraine had apparently stalled, saying that he could not think of any logical reason” why there had been no progress “when Ukraine made the critical determination to protect the lives of the civilian population from the barbaric missile strikes of Russia.”



Ancient Book Of Esther Scrolls Survive Turkey Earthquake, Brought To Israel

As Israeli rescue teams were rummaging through the rubble in the Turkish city of Antakya after last week’s devastating earthquake in hopes of finding survivors trapped underneath, a local elderly Jewish man approached them holding something unique in his hands – two centuries-old Book of Esther scrolls that were kept in the local synagogue before the shock.

The articles hold special meaning to the local Jewish community as they contain a book from the third section of the Hebrew Bible.

The teary-eyed man approached Major Haim Otmazgin, commander of the ZAKA search-and-rescue force, with an unusual request.

“The last head of the community has now tragically passed and with our proximity to Syria, I’d hate to see the scrolls fall into the wrong hands.  Please guard them and make sure our community is remembered.,” he said.

Moved by the elder’s request, Maj. Otmazgin accepted the duty of keeping the artifacts safe.

“In my capacity as a ZAKA volunteer of several decades, this is one of the most moving moments of my life,” he said.  “I’m truly honored to save such a significant historical document and to make sure the heritage of Antakya’s Jewish community remains intact, even after the quake reduced it to nearly nothing.  In the next few days, we will confer with a Chabad emissary in Istanbul in order to find out to whom we should entrust the scrolls.”

The Israeli mission returned home safely on Wednesday (15th) after toiling to save lives under harsh conditions for days.  While the Israeli rescuers managed to pull almost two dozen survivors out of the rubble, they also retrieved many bodies of people who weren’t as fortunate, such as the leader of Antakya’s Jewish community Saul Cenudioglu and his wife Fortuna.



World’s Oldest Hebrew Bible Could Fetch Up To $50 Million At Auction

The world’s oldest and most complete Hebrew Bible will go on display in London next week before an auction in May where it could sell for up to $50 million, Sotheby’s said on Wednesday (15th).

If the 1,000-year-old holy book sells for near its estimated value, the Codex Sassoon would become the most valuable printed text or historical document ever sold at auction, Sotheby’s said.

Billionaire investor Kenneth Griffin set the record in 2021 when he paid $43.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction for a first-edition copy of the US Constitution.

The Codex Sassoon is named after previous owner David Solomon Sassoon, who acquired the Bible in 1929 and assembled one of the most significant private collections of Judaica and Hebraica manuscripts in the 20th century.  

The document offers a critical link bridging Jewish oral tradition to the modern Hebrew Bible.

It was not until recently that the current owner, collector Jacqui Safra, had the Codex Sassoon carbon dated, confirming it was older than the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex, two other major early Hebrew Bibles according to Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s said the Codex Sassoon had been dated to either the late 9th or early 10th century on both scientific and paleographic grounds and contains almost the entirety of the Bible.  The oldest copies of Biblical text ever found were the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered in the Qumran Caves in 1947.

The codex, or manuscript in book form, will be available for public viewing for the first time in 40 years next week at Sotheby’s London and will then go on exhibition in Tel Aviv, Dallas, Los Angeles and finally New York in May.

The Hebrew Bible contains 24 separate books organized into three parts – the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.  Starting with the Book of Genesis and ending with Chronicles, the Hebrew Bible is foundational to Judaism, as well as Christianity.

“It’s electrifying,” Sotheby’s senior Judaica consultant Sharon Liberman Mintz told The New York Times.  “This represents the first time the text appears in the form where we can really read and understand it.”