News Digest — 2/21/23

Judicial Reform Bills Pass First Knesset Vote After Debate

The Knesset passed the first two pieces of legislation related to the government’s judicial reform plan following a noisy six-hour-plus debate that ended after midnight Tuesday (21st).  Both bills passed by a vote of 63-47.

The first bill amends Basic Law: The Judiciary so that the Supreme Court can’t invalidate basic laws, which are considered to have quasi-constitutional status in Israel.  The second bill changes the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee to give elected officials a majority in choosing judges both for the Supreme Court and lower courts.

Through the evening, opposition and coalition MKs traded barbs as they mounted the Knesset podium.

Minister of Justice Yariv Levin said, “I hear the false claims about the end of democracy.  You know deep down that what we’re doing is to restore democracy and return Israel to the family of democratic nations.”

Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, kicked off the debate at around 6: pm by presenting the two bills from the Knesset podium.  Just before the Knesset debate was set to start, a group of protesters attempted to break through the barricades in front of the Knesset building.  They were prevented from doing so by police, Channel 11 reported.

The first phase of the government’s judicial reform program was unveiled on January 4.  It calls for a series of changes in addition to the bills just passed.

They include passing an “override clause,” which would allow the Knesset to re-legislate laws struck down by the court; abolishing the legal justification of reasonableness by which judges cancel Knesset decisions based on whether they consider them “reasonable;” and empowering ministers to hire and fire their legal advisers and decide whether or not to follow those advisers opinions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected as “baseless” claims by critics that the reforms would mark the end of the country’s democracy, and vowed to implement them “reasonably.”

“The truth is that the balance between the branches of government has been violated over the past two decades.  This unusual phenomenon does not exist anywhere else in the world – not in the United States, not in Western Europe and not during Israel’s first 50 years of existence,” said Netanyahu.



At UN: Erdan Holds Up Picture Of Murdered Children During Speech

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, spoke on Monday (20th) at a Security Council meeting on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In his speech, Ambassador Erdan criticized the members of the Council for calling the meeting to condemn Israel for its work to protect its citizens from Palestinian Arab terror but not condemning or taking actions against the murderous incitement by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Israel and the PA’s support and funding of terror.

Ambassador Erdan said, “Over the past weeks, the State of Israel has been mourning the deaths of eleven recent victims of terror with dozens injured.  Civilians.  Yet shockingly, we are not here today to condemn the Palestinian acts of terror that led to this loss of life.”

“This meeting was once again initiated to condemn Israel.  This time, for issuing building permits in already-existing communities.  Building permits in our homeland spark international uproar, while dead Jewish children illicit nothing.  This is an utter disgrace.”

Ambassador Erdan emphasized that the PA is the one that fundamentally violates all the agreements, the very PA which pledged to fight terror, does the opposite and also unilaterally joined the UN as an Observer Member, without any negotiations and in complete contradiction to its commitment.

He added, “You are all aware of the huge, huge extent of illegal Palestinian construction throughout Area C, in Judea and Samaria in flagrant violation of international agreements – you can see it on the ground.  Why is this never discussed by the Council?”

The Ambassador noted to the Council that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas does not even condemn acts of murder and terror, and while the Palestinian Arabs were handing out candies to crowds, celebrating the murder of innocent civilians, Fatah officials treated the attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem that killed seven as an act of heroism.

Ambassador Erdan said that the fact that the Security Council does not find it appropriate to address and condemn these actions, is a disgrace.

The Ambassador said, “You know, it is not by chance that Haj Amin al Husseini and the Palestinian leadership at the time, were close allies of Hitler and later led the rejection of the UN Partition Plan in 1947.”

“Nothing has changed since then.  The Palestinians’ main goal has remained the same – to prevent the existence of a Jewish state,” he added.

In his speech Ambassador Erdan told the stories of the 11 murdered civilians in the recent terror attacks, among them brothers Yaakov and Asher Paley, aged six and eight, who were murdered in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem.  The Ambassador presented their picture and dedicated a moment of silence to their memory and the memory of the nine other victims of terror.

“These two beautiful children were murdered just for being Jews.  Today’s meeting should have been convened to condemn the price paid by innocent Israelis for the Palestinian Authority’s incitement and hate.  I will not let the victims be forgotten.  I will now rise for a minute of silence in their memory and the memory of all the other victims of Palestinian terror.  I pray for their memory and I pray that you think of them in the future when discussing the true obstacles to peace in our region.”



Earthquake Registering 6.3 Hits Turkey/Syria Border, Felt In Israel

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook near the Turkey/Syrian border Monday (20th) and was felt throughout Israel.

According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC), the earthquake occurred in the area at a depth of 2.4 miles. The tremor was felt in many cities in Israel including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheva, Ashdod, Rishon Lezion, Nahariya, and Afula.

According to Israel’s Geological Survey, “An earthquake was felt in the country, a little after 7 p.m.  The epicenter wasn’t located in the country, but to the north.  We are looking into the details further.”

Israelis from all over the country reported feeling the tremor in their homes.

In Turkey and Syria, where more than 45,000 people were killed in major tremors over two weeks ago, authorities fear further damages and loss of lives as a result of the quake.

Witnesses in Turkey and Syria so far reported damage to buildings in Antakya and Aleppo, alongside power outages.

Two other quakes were felt in Israel two weeks ago, the first measuring at 3.5 and the second – which occurred a day later – at 3.3 according to data from the Geological Survey.  The survey also added that both quakes originated in central Israel.



Missile Attack In Damascus Attributed To Israel

The Israeli air force allegedly struck Iranian-backed forces in Syria overnight Saturday (18th), killing 15 in and around Damascus.  Syrian army sources said several buildings were hit by missiles in and around the Syrian capital that came “from the direction of the Golan Heights.”

The London-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) said that Israeli missiles “hit positions where Iranian-backed militias and Lebanese Hezbollah are stationed…causing fires and explosions.”

It stated that the attacks targeted a “radar system battalion in Tel Masih” as well as “an Iranian school” in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood which is a long-known center for Iranian activity.

In 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, Iranian proxy Hezbollah’s international operations chief, was killed by a car bomb in Kafr Sousa, in what was reportedly a joint Israeli Mossad -CIA attack.

According to Dubai-based Al Arabiya, the neighborhood is considered “one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the Syrian capital and contains military, intelligence and security branches.”

As per its usual custom, Israel refused to comment on the attack.  Jerusalem has conducted a “war between the wars” against Iranian entrenchment in Syria for years hitting command and control centers, Hezbollah missile production sites, and arms convoys heading for Lebanon, among its thousands of targets.

The SOHR estimates that there are about 15,000 fighters in Syria who are backed by Iran.

This is the second alleged Israel attack in Syria in 2023.  Last month, Israeli forces struck the two runways at Damascus International Airport and several buildings at the site used by pro-Iranian groups, including a weapons warehouse.

Israel considers that airport a key funnel for Tehran’s smuggling of weapons into the country, and hit it twice last year, in September and June.



Boeing VP: New F-15IA Will Give Israel ‘Unmatchable Air Dominance’

Ted Colbert, Boeing VP and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, told military reporters that his visit to Israel will help make “sure that it is absolutely, positively clear that we remain committed to serving Israel.  This is expressed through two big programs we have right now which we are working on – the F-15IA and the KC-46.”

The F-15IA is called the F-15EX in the US and is designated to replace Israel’s old F-15I which has been used for about 50 years.

“We believe those represent the capability of the long arm of Israel for its key missions today and into the future.  We are expressing how Boeing can continue to move forward, to support Israel’s attack and defense capabilities,”  Colbert said.  “We are using the latest software and engineering techniques to take a brand that existed for 50 years [the old F-15I Israel currently uses], and take it to the next level using open architecture, payload and range.”

After Israel’s government stalled for years in moving forward the process for its order of 25 F-15IAs, with an option for another 25 at some later date, Jerusalem recently started to push forward again.

Questioned about when the aircraft will arrive, Colbert said, “We are working very closely with the US government to deliver the capabilities as fast as we can.  Our team is working very hard in factories to meet all the commitments we have agreed to do.”

Colbert was asked how the F-15IA could cope with Iran’s S-300 anti aircraft missile system, and the S-400 anti aircraft missile system, if the Islamic Republic ever acquires it, given claims that Lockheed Martin’s F-45 aircraft can outmaneuver those systems.

He answered, from an “air dominance perspective,” that it has the ability to carry out any mission it would be required for,” while not addressing specifically the S-300 or S-400 scenarios.

Boeing President for Business Development Heidi Grant added, “it is not a matter of either or, you have to have a mix of fighters to have the competitive edge Israel needs.”

Military strategists guessing how a potential Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program would look, often suggest that the F-35 might go in first to remove the anti-aircraft missile system threat, but then that the F-15 aircraft (old or new) would do most of the actual striking targets since it can carry far more weapons than a typical F-35.

Besides the F-15IA, the KC-46 refueling aircraft, important for a potential long-range attack, for example on Iran, was also a big focus of Colbert’s talk.

Previously, Boeing said that the delivery of four KC-46s to Israel was estimated to be delivered in 2025.



Iran Mapping Jews In Diaspora For Kill Squads – David Rose

→ Iran has been mapping the Jewish diaspora for an assassination campaign that will be triggered if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities, Catherine Perez-Shakdam, a Jewish woman who met Ayatollah Khamenei, has told the JC.

→ Khamenei only seemed scared of one thing – an Israeli attack, she said, adding: “He believes Netanyahu’s threats and he knows that, for now, Israel is militarily superior.”

→ A research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, she said, was told of the plan “to identify all the prominent NGOs run by Jews, identify who was doing what in each business sector, and identify who the important rabbis were.  They wanted to figure out their influence and where they lived with their families in order to target them.”

→ A Spokesperson for the UK’s Community Security Trust said: “We have known for many years that Iran is involved in plotting terrorism against Jewish communities, but it is utterly chilling to have it spelled out in such clear detail.”

→ Describing her meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei, Catherine Perez-Shakdam said, “He began talking about the End of Days, how he would be the one who would usher in the return of the Mahdi [the mythical leader who will herald the apocalypse].”

→ “He talked about this great war that would take place and how Al-Aqsa had to be liberated for the Mahdi to return to save humanity.  He talked about the wars Iran was fighting in Yemen and Syria and how he had a divine mission.”

→ “He was basically…saying you have to harm the enemies of God, who shouldn’t be seen as human beings.  He said killing the innocent was OK, because they weren’t innocents.  A mistake we make is assuming that he cares about his country.  He doesn’t.  He will literally see it burn if it means Islam will triumph.” 

→ “We know now that Churchill was right and taking on the Nazis much earlier would have saved many lives.”  

(Jewish Chronicle – UK)