News Digest — 2/22/23

‘A Credible Military Threat Is The Best Way To Stop Iran’s Nuclear Race’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday (21st) that a credible military threat was the best way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at the Hartog National Security Conference in Tel Aviv, he said, “The only thing that has credibly stopped rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons is a credible military threat or a credible military action.  You can couple that with crippling economic sanctions, but that’s not a sufficient condition.  A necessary condition – and an often sufficient condition – is credible military action.”

The prime minister stressed that time was of the essence as “the longer you wait, the harder that [deterrence] becomes.  We’ve waited very long.”

Netanyahu also touched on the issue of normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, which he said could “end the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

“If we have the upper hand, I think we can expand the circle of peace, and if we expand the circle of peace to Saudi Arabia, I think we will actually end the Arab-Israeli conflict.  This means we have to work not from the inside-out to solve the Palestinian problem,” he said.  “I believe that we can reach a breakthrough if the Saudi leadership decides that they want to be a part of it officially.  In an unofficial way, they are already a part.”

Similarly, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Tuesday (21st) stressed the importance of a credible military threat to Iran and called on the United States to step up its efforts.

Speaking at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, he said, “If the United States does not establish a credible military threat immediately, either Israel will attack, or Iran will have a nuclear weapon, which we will not allow under any circumstances.”

“Iran is Israel’s biggest challenge – they are constantly striving for a nuclear weapon…and they continuously endeavor to establish military threats against Israel, especially on our northern border, in the form of terror group such as Hezbollah,” Cohen said, adding that the nuclear threat was a time-sensitive issue as “Iran is close to 90% enrichment [of uranium]; therefore steps must be taken immediately.”

The minister explained that the current government in Israel is willing to “use any means at its disposal to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” but stressed that a hardline anti-Iranian policy from the United States might prevent the need for military escalation.



Magnitude 4.4 Earthquake Hits Off Lebanon, Felt In Israel

A 4.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the shores of Lebanon Wednesday morning (22nd), the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (ESMC) said, with reports the shock was also felt in Israel.

The ESMC added that the quake originated 18 kilometers (11.4 miles) below sea level and that so far no injuries or damages were reported as a result of the tremor.

The earthquake occurred early in the morning and was reported to have been felt in Haifa, Nahariya, Afula, Nazareth, and parts of central Israel.

Naftali Gleitman, living near Tiberias, said that “I felt all the furniture in the house moving and then the floor moved – it was really scary.  It feels like the quakes are getting closer to Israel, but no one was injured and nothing was damaged here.”

According to Ohad Hazan from Kiryak Bialik, “At 8 a.m., I felt the bed move for about three seconds.  It was the first time I felt an earthquake.  We live in a 24-story building, and it seems that everyone felt it this time.  We hope for the best because it’s getting really stressful.”

Two days prior, another 6.3-magnitude tremor rattled the Turkey-Syrian border region and was felt in many places across Israel.

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



Netanyahu Could Visit Kyiv In Near Future, Officials Say

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could go to Ukraine in the near future and meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Israel Hayom has learned based on conversations with officials.

The officials confirmed that the matter is being considered, although the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the matter.

Since the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, Netanyahu has generally adopted a cautious approach, which he maintained until returning to power.  Upon taking office again, however, he stressed several times that Israel would consider providing Ukraine with weapon systems and even approved Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s visit to Kyiv last week.

With Cohen’s visit not prompting a strong reaction from Russia, officials believe that under the circumstances, Netanyahu can visit Kyiv without causing a stir in Moscow.

On Monday (20th) , US Joe Biden made a visit to the Ukraine capital, and officials assess that given his international stature, Netanyahu too should follow suit, which is what prompted considerations of a visit.  A Ukrainian official said that an invitation has already been extended to the prime minister, but a date for the visit has not been set yet.

Also on Monday (20th), Kyiv hosted Israeli lawmakers Ze’ev Elkin and Yuli Edelstein, who head the Knesset’s Israel-Ukraine parliamentary friendship group.

The two met with Zelensky at his office for a meeting that lasted about an hour and spoke of increased Israeli aid and Israeli-Ukrainian cooperation against Iran in the international arena.

In a joint statement after the meeting, Elkin and Edelstein stressed that as a Western nation and one that is familiar with “the meaning of protection against unjust aggression and continuous shelling of civilians,” Israel should not just stand by but should increase its support for Ukraine significantly.

So far, Jerusalem has refrained from providing Kyiv with weapons and defense systems for fear of triggering conflict with Russia, which has a military presence in Syria.  It has, instead, opted for humanitarian aid and was the first country to open a field hospital on Ukraine territory after the outbreak of the war.



Islamic Jihad Leader Bassam Al-Saadi Sentenced To 22 Months   

Tuesday (21st), senior Islamic Jihad official Bassam al-Saadi was sentenced as part of a plea agreement, the IDF announced.  Al-Saadi, who served as Islamic Jihad’s leader in the Samaria region, was convicted of activity in an illegal association, incitement and impersonation.

The plea agreement was drawn up following a mediation process before a military judge.

According to the indictment, al-Saadi worked alongside additional suspects to advance the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization’s activities within its student wing, among other things, by receiving funding from an IJ operative in Gaza and purchasing flags and scarves.  In addition, al-Saadi called for the continuation of the violent Palestinian struggle.  Moreover, when Israeli security forces arrived to apprehend him, al-Saadi impersonated someone else in an attempt to escape arrest.  

The Military Prosecution accepted al-Saadi’s plea agreement and sentenced him to 22 months in prison, along with a suspended sentence in financial compensation.

Al-Saadi was arrested on August 1, 2022.  Following his arrest, Islamic Jihad threatened to attack Israel from Judea and Samaria as well as from Gaza, prompting Israel to take precautionary measures to protect its civilians in the Gaza envelope and launch a pre-emptive military operation in Gaza, “Operation Breaking Dawn.” 



‘Heart Torn In Half:’ Graffiti Artist Gifts Portrait Of Young Terror Victims To Their Mother

A graffiti artist gifted a painting he spontaneously made of two young terror victims to their mother at a religious commemoration event Sunday evening (19th), having been touched by their innocent faces.

Eight-year-old Asher Paley and his six-year-old brother Yaakov were murdered along with newly-wed chassid Shlomo Alter Lederman by a terrorist who rammed into a bus stop where they were standing on February 10th.  Another brother was slightly injured and their father was seriously hurt in the attack and is still hospitalized.

Benzi Brofman was on vacation in London at the time, but he saw pictures of the boys on Facebook and when he came back home to the northern town of Migdal HaEmek, he simply began to draw.

“As an artist, and particularly one who very much loves to paint faces and portraits, their gaze left me no choice,” he told the ultra-religious news site Behadrei Hadarim.  “I returned, made time, and painted, without thinking twice.”

He documented the process, embedding the song “My Heart” in his video.

“I chose the song…[because] it starts “My heart has been torn in half” and that’s exactly how I felt,” he said.

When he was finished, he posted the clip to his own Facebook account, asking a favor of anyone who saw it.

“The boys’ penetrating gazes and smiles that seem to be one broad smile are fused in my heart as a painting in the memory of Asher Menachem and Yaakov Yisrael Paley.  It is important for me to give the painting to their family.  Whoever can help with this  – it will be much appreciated,” he wrote.

On Sunday evening (19th), he got his chance at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center in an event that was arranged for the religious public by the children’s mother, Devorah, to strengthen faith in God after such a tragic event.

When he brought out the large painting, the audience burst into applause.

“I didn’t think I’d come,” he began, “but if the hands drew, they also have to bestow.”

He then spoke poetically of how he felt while he painted.

“Through the eyes you can see everything – the voice, the movements, a person’s soul,” he said.  “And through their eyes I saw light, heard laughter…through their eyes I saw them and I drew for hours, the light and the shadow…yes, I met them for a few hours and they are no longer – but, really they are here.”

Reactions to the gift on religious website Kikar HaShabbat ranged from pleasure over the beauty of the painting to word of appreciation for his gesture as a signal of the Jewish nation’s basic unity by some one who is not a member of the religious community.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the family during the shiva mourning period, he had asked Mrs. Paley, if he could keep a photo of her sons that she showed him, to put in his office, because “This tragic story will help me explain to world leaders the difference between the people of Israel and our enemies.”



Jews In New Jersey City Targeted With Antisemitic Hate Mail

Police in Linden, New Jersey have heard from dozens of Jewish residents after unknown individuals sent them threatening antisemitic hate mail in the last few weeks.

According to the StopAntisemitism advocacy organization, Jews living in the city were mailed letters with threats such as “We’re not done yet, Hitler was right!” 

They denounced the letters, describing being “horrified” upon learning that Jews in the area were being targeted.

“In America 2023, Jews deserve to live safely in their communities,” StopAntisemitism tweeted, tagging the Linden police department and local lawmakers.

“We received letters which say things like ‘We’re not done yet.  Hitler was right!’ and other hateful messages, and it is of great concern to the community,” a resident who did not want his name used told Hamodia.  “Several such letters were delivered to addresses of Jewish families.  Some have contacted the local police, but the response has been sort of weak.  It has many of us worried,”

Linden has seen a significant number of Jewish families move into the area over the last few years, which has led to the construction of Jewish communal infrastructure, according to the news outlet.  Jewish residents believe that the threats are the result of local anti-Semites who do not want an active Jewish community in the city.