News Digest — 2/3/23

Netanyahu In Paris For Talks With Macron

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday (2nd), hoping to gain support against Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel’s Paris embassy said the pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”

Netanyahu hopes that Iran’s role in supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.

The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict in the hope of a more confrontational Western position towards Iran.

By “playing the Ukraine card,” Netanyahu hopes to “consolidate an anti-Iranian front” with the West, said David Khalfa of Paris-based think tank Foundation Jean Jaures.

He hopes for “increased sanctions against Tehran and the addition of the Revolutionary Guards to the list” of sanctioned entities, Khalfa added– a step that both France and Germany have so far resisted.

Israel has long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon.  Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely aimed at generating energy.

Siding with Ukraine is not without risk for Netanyahu, as Russian air-defense deployed in neighboring Syria could be turned against Israeli aircraft that carry out occasional raids on Iranian interests there.

France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, saying its nuclear program has reached “a dangerous point” and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.

Tehran also holds several foreign citizens who Western governments see as political hostages.

Netanyahu’s visit comes after a drone attack at the weekend on a defense ministry facility in the Iranian city of Isfahan which Tehran has blamed on Israel.  The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, have said that the attack was carried out by Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, although this has not been confirmed by Israel.

Macron’s office said the French leader would also “reiterate to Netanyahu the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians – while offering “France’s solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism.”

Netanyahu visits as fresh violence has intensified between Israelis and Palestinians.  Israeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip early Thursday (2nd), in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

A week ago, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people outside a synagogue in an Israeli settler neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

It was the deadliest attack targeting Israeli civilians in more than a decade and came one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank that killed 9 Palestinians, most of them militants.    

There was no press conference planned around the Macron-Netanyahu dinner Thursday (2nd) beginning at 1900 GMT at the French President’s Elysee Palace office.

Staying in Paris until Saturday (4th), Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.



Judea And Samaria Jewish Population Crosses Half Million Mark

A report by, based on official figures, showed the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria has grown to 502,991 as of January 1, rising more than 2.5% in 12 months and nearly 16% over the last five years.

“We’ve reached a huge hallmark,” said Baruch Gordon, the director of the group and a resident of the Beit El settlement.  “We’re here to stay.”

The milestone comes as Israel’s new government, made up of ultranationalist parties who oppose Palestinian statehood, has placed expanding settlements at the top of its priority list.  Already the government has pledged to legalize wildcat outposts that have long enjoyed tacit government support and to ramp up approval and construction of settler homes around the West Bank.

“I think that in the coming years of this government, there will be more building than there has been in the last 20 years of governments,” Gordon said.

Settlements have flourished under every Israeli government, including at the height of the peace process in the 1990s.  Even Israel’s short-lived previous government, which included parties supporting Palestinian statehood along with those opposing it, continued to build settlements.

The settler population report does not include annexed east Jerusalem, home to more than 200,000 settlers.  The West Bank and east  Jerusalem are together home to some 3 million Palestinians.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War.  The Palestinians want those territories for an independent state.

Although Israel withdrew troops and several thousand settlers from Gaza in 2005, it has charged ahead with settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.  Dozens of settlements dot the territory, some as small as a few mobile homes and others sprawling cities, with malls and public transport of their own.

Peace efforts have been moribund for nearly 15 years, while Israel continued to establish facts on the ground with more settlement construction and a Palestinian political rivalry which has complicated peacemaking.

The settlers and their many supporters in government view the West Bank as the Biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people and are opposed to any partition.

The increasingly authoritarian and unpopular Palestinian Authority, established through agreements with Israel in the 1990s, administers part of the West Bank, while the Islamic militant group Hamas controls Gaza, which is under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.



Smotrich Doubles Penalties For Pay-For-Slay, Withholds NIS 100m.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has signed an order doubling the sum Israel deducts from the Palestinian Authority tax fees to protest its policy of providing financial stipends to terrorists, known in Israel as “pay for slay.”

“On Wednesday (1st), I signed an order doubling the amount,” he said in a notice he sent out to the press on Thursday morning (2nd), explaining why NIS 100 million was withheld.

“The PA finances terrorists and the State of Israel is saying, ‘Enough.’” Smotrich said.

“Israeli citizens will not be part of this farce,” he added.

The move came one day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel and urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to take any steps that would weaken the PA.

The move was in line with the security cabinet’s decision last week to increase the deductions that Israel takes from the tax fees that Israel collects on behalf of the PA and then transfers to it.

Israel took that step to protest the PA’s successful push at the United Nations, which ended in the submission of a request that the International Court of Justice render an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s occupation.

But it also used that moment to underscore its opposition to the PA’s practice of providing monthly stipends to terrorists and their family members.

Aside from doubling the reduction of that sum from the tax fees, Netanyahu’s new government has also pursued legislation that would allow it to expel any Israeli citizen or resident who accepts those fees.

Smotrich also deducted from the tax fees NIS 200,000 that will be transferred to bereaved Israeli families who lost loved ones in terrorist attacks.  The move was based both on the security cabinet decision and a court ruling.



Why Do Some Palestinians Celebrate Violence Against Israel? – Stephen Daisley

On Friday night (1/27) in Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus and eastern Jerusalem, Palestinians gathered to celebrate the synagogue murders in Jerusalem.  Crowds fired their weapons into the air, honked car horns and chanted.  In Hebron they handed out sweets to children, while in Gaza cries of “Allahu akbar” boomed from mosque loudspeakers.  Such festivities are part and parcel of every Palestinian terror attack.

Someone somewhere must be able to explain why anyone would pass this bloodlust onto children.  Hand out enough candies and pastries every time an Israeli is murdered and you will teach your children that killing is sweet.

It’s not a cycle of violence.  It’s a choice of violence Palestinians keep making – a generation of violence within sections of Palestinian society.  When Jerusalem assures foreign audiences there is “no partner for peace,” it is not easily rebutted.  The Palestinian Authority operates a Martyrs’ Fund that pays stipends to the families of Palestinians captured or killed while carrying out terrorist attacks against Israelis.  In 2020, the fund disbursed $170 million in such payments.  Sweets for the children, dollars for their widowed mothers.

Where does this get the Palestinians?

Nowhere near a state, nowhere even close to the conditions necessary to achieving one.  Grieve at the national self-sabotage that takes so many lives.



Man Who Firebombed New Jersey Synagogue Sunday, Arrested

A man who threw a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue was arrested on Wednesday (1st) for his part in the attack, federal prosecutors announced.

Nicholas Malindretos, 26, was arrested after police tracked the car’s license plate used in the Sunday morning (1/29) attack.  Police found the clothing used in the attack in his vehicle, linking him to the incident.

“The defendant is alleged to have gone to the synagogue in the middle of the night and maliciously attempted to damage and destroy it using a firebomb,” US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in the indictment.

“An alleged attempted firebombing on a house of worship is an attack against the entire community,” acting Special Agent in Charge Bryan Miller of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.  “We are honored to work side by side with our local, state, and federal partners to bring today’s charge.”

The incident took place on Sunday morning (1/29) at around 3: a.m. local time.  The suspect believed to be Malindretos, wearing a ski mask at the time of the incident threw the explosive at the front door of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, NJ before driving off.

“At approximately 3 a.m. this morning (Sunday), an unknown individual wearing a ski mask ignited and threw a hand-held incendiary weapon “Molotov cocktail” at the front door of a Greater MetroWest New Jersey community synagogue,” Jewish Federation Greater MetroWest NJ CEO Dov Ben-Shimon wrote.

“Thankfully, the device did not work as intended, and as such the damage was limited,” Ben-Shimon added.  “Police are on scene and investigating.”

Malindretos faces a minimum of five years to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

“I commend and thank the entire New Jersey law enforcement community for their seamless collaboration and tireless effort to identify and apprehend the suspect in Sunday’s (1/29) attack on Temple Ner Tamid,” New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in the indictment.  “In New Jersey we stand united against hate and bias, and we speak with one voice to show that our state will remain a place where all can live and worship freely and safely.”

“No one should find that their lives are at risk for exercising their faith,” added US Attorney Sellinger.  “Protecting communities of faith and houses of worship is core to this office’s mission.”

“We will continue to devote whatever resources are necessary to keep our Jewish community and all New Jersey residents safe,” Sellinger declared.