News Digest — 2/23/21

Message To Iran? Israel Purchases Boeing Aerial Refueling Tankers

Israel has made the first move under the recently approved procurement program over the weekend, signing an agreement for two Boeing KC-46 aerial refueling tankers.

Brig. Gen (Res) Mishel Ben Baruch, head of the Israel Ministry of Defense Mission to the US, signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for two KC-46 Tanker Jets, to be manufactured by the Boeing Corporation.  In the next phase, two additional tanker aircraft will be acquired out of a total of up to eight that will make up the future fleet.

In addition to the tankers, similar processes will be launched to acquire a third F-35 squadron, heavy lift helicopters, advanced munitions and more.

The procurement programs are conducted with US military channels, utilizing Foreign Military Financing (FMF).

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “I welcome the progress in the procurement plan, which is critical at this point in time.  It is a cornerstone of the IDF’s security concept.”

“I would like to thank our great friend the United States for supporting the State of Israel on all levels.  We will continue to work to complete the agreements that will enable the IDF to fulfill its purpose and to move forward with the missions facing us in the various arenas, near and far – at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace.”

As part of the agreement, the tanker aircraft will be fitted with unique Israeli systems in accordance with the operational requirements of the Israel Air Force (IAF).  The first aircraft delivery is expected by the middle of the decade.

The procurement plan, based on US security assistance, is crucial to strengthening the IAF and for the IDF’s QME (Qualitative Military Edge) in the decades to come, the IDF said.



Western Wall Gets Its Own Inoculation Ahead Of The Holidays

Before thousands of worshipers vaccinated against COVID-19 flock to the usually bustling Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation launched efforts to preserve the stones making up the 2,000-year-old holy site – injecting its crevices with filler material using syringes.

Officials said they were aiming at preventing the scenes from July 2018 from repeating, when a large stone detached from the wall and shattered in the egalitarian prayer area, only a few feet away from one of the women praying there. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

According to the Antiquities Authority, one of the main reasons for the stones’ wear is the vegetation that entrenches itself in the rock’s ancient foundations, as well as the various poultry that find homes in the crevices of the wall. 

“We take into account the importance of the place’s unique flora and fauna when carrying out preservation work,” said Yossi Vaknin, who oversees the conservation of the Western Wall area on behalf of the Antiquities Authority.

“At the same time, we are working to ensure the stability of the stones, so that the Western Wall will maintain its strength for another 2,000 years.”

According to Vaknin, conservation workers gently inject materials into the cracks and cavities of the stone which mimics its composition.

“This is the ultimate vaccine for the most important stones in the world against the ravages of time,” he added.



Abbas’ Rival Woos Gaza With Corona Vaccines

The United Arab Emirates is sending 20,000 doses of the Russian coronavirus vaccine to the Gaza Strip, a rival to Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced Thursday (18th), in a decision that could have repercussions for upcoming elections.

The announcement by Mohammed Dahlan came a day after Abbas’ government managed to deliver 2,000 vaccines to Gaza and appeared to be aimed in part at embarrassing the Palestinian leader.

Dahlan called the shipment a “generous grant” from the UAE “at a sensitive time where the pandemic is targeting all our beloved.”  An aide to Dahlan said the Sputnik V vaccine will be delivered to Gaza through Egypt.

Dahlan, a former senior member of Abbas’ Fatah party, has lived in exile in Abu Dhabi since falling out with Abbas in 2011.

May’s parliamentary elections are to pit Fatah against the Gaza ruling Hamas terror group.  Abbas has blocked Dahlan from running in the election, which will be the first Palestinian vote in 15 years.  But Dahlan’s allies, running as a Fatah splinter group called the ‘Democratic Reform Bloc,’ are planning to contest the race and could emerge as kingmakers.

Dahlan was once a bitter foe of Hamas when he served as the Palestinian security chief in Gaza.  But after the terror group seized control of Gaza in a bloody 2007 coup and forced him to flee the territory, the sides later found common ground in their animosity toward Abbas.

Hamas has allowed Dahlan supporters to run humanitarian and relief projects in Gaza, which has spiraled into poverty as rival terror groups in the coastal enclave waste precious resources targeting Israeli civilians with rocket strikes and cross-border attack tunnels, in addition to blowing millions of dollars on salaries for terrorists who commit violent crimes.

The expected delivery of vaccines could further boost Dahlan’s standing in the territory as Abbas continues to struggle to procure vaccines for his people.

Gaza’s Health Ministry has reported more than 53,000 cases and at least 538 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and authorities have been reluctant to impose widespread lockdowns because the territory is already mired in poverty due to Hamas’ policies and gross mismanagement of resources.

With Emirati money, Dahlan’s group will deliver tons of medical aid, including an oxygen generator, to support Gaza’s weak health care system dealing with COVID-19 patients.



German President Lauds Jewish Culture In Germany And Warns Of Anti-Semitism

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of rising anti-Semitism as he praised over 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany on Sunday (21st).

Steinmeier visited a synagogue in Cologne where a ceremony was held to honor the contributions of the Jewish people in Germany during the past two millennia.

“Whether in philosophy, literature, art and music, science, medicine or business, Jews have been instrumental in writing and shaping our history and illuminating our culture,” Steinmeier said at the ceremony, according to Deutsche Welle News (DW).

He added that Jewish contributions to German culture “made a decisive contribution” to Germany’s emergence into the Modern Age.

DW reported that the German president requested that the world take an “honest look” at the history of the Jewish people – referring to the open anti-Semitism and persecution they face “and see that they are emancipated and prosperous, but also face humiliation, exclusion and disenfranchisement.”

“By taking an honest look, that is the only way we can learn lessons for the present and the future – that remains our responsibility,” Steinmeier said.

He then added that Jewish life within the Diaspora is under direct threat from open anti-Semitism and called on his audience to work toward combating its relevancy.

The ceremony marked the start of a festival celebrating 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany, where close to 1,000 events will take place over the next few months.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited Germany in late January to meet with his German counterpart.  The two presidents sat down with students at the Berlin Moses Mendelssohn School, a Jewish school in Berlin.

“We are grateful for the German commitment to Israel’s safety,” Rivlin said at the time, mentioning the German Air Force officers who train in Israel alongside the IAF.  “Such joint training is important to ensure we are ready to deal with threats now and in the future.”



Hate Mail To French Jewish Lawmaker: ‘Soon The Camps Begin’

The Paris Prosecutor’s office opened an investigation after a Jewish member of the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, received anti-Semitic hate-mail, according to the European Jewish Congress.

Parliament member  Yael Braun-Pivet published the offensive email on Twitter. “Yid, prepare yourself, soon the camps begin,” it read in part, referencing Nazi Germany concentration camps during World War II and the Holocaust.

Replete with threats and insults, it also evoked international Jewish financial conspiracies.

In response, Parliament member Yael Braun-Pivet posted: “Faced with such filth: denounce, file a complaint, never let anything go.”

Fellow parliamentarians came to Braun-Pivet’s defense, as did Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, who said, “These words are to be vomited…these insults are addressed to the whole nation.  I wish it with all my heart that justice will be done.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin also tweeted: “Infamous and unbearable.  All my support to Yael Braun-Pivet.”

Braun-Pivet, an attorney whose family came to France to flee the Nazis in the 1930s, said she was “particularly moved” to see “the national representation united” for the day.