News Digest — 2/9/21

Netanyahu After Blinken Remark: ‘Golan Will Remain Israeli’

The Golan Heights will always be part of Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Tuesday (9th) after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walked back the Trump administration’s recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

“Israel’s position is clear.  In any future possible scenario the Golan will remain Israeli,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said. 

Blinken said in an interview on CNN Monday night (8th): “As a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel’s security.”

“Legal questions are something else, and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we’d look at, but we are not near that,” he stated.

Former US President Donald Trump officially granted US recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory in 2019, a dramatic shift from decades of US policy.

Israel gained control of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, and applied its laws to the area in 1981.  No country other than the US has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

Right-wing parties running in the Knesset election in March said Blinken’s statement would not deter them from developing the Golan Heights.

In the same interview, Blinken reiterated past comments that “If Iran returns to compliance with the obligations in the nuclear agreement, we would do the same thing, and then we would work with our allies and partners to try and build a longer and stronger agreement, and also bring in some other issues in the region, that need to be addressed as well.

“The problem we face now,” he said, “is that in recent months, Iran has lifted one restraint after another…And the result is they are closer than ever to having the capacity, in short order to produce the solid material for a nuclear weapon.”

Blinken criticized the Trump administration’s decision to leave the Iran deal in 2018.

When asked why Biden had not spoken with Netanyahu, as other US Presidents had done upon taking office, Blinken said, “I’m sure that they’ll have occasion to speak in the near future,” 



Hamas And Fatah Launch Election Negotiations In Cairo

Iran-backed Palestinian terror groups met with over 10 other factions in Cairo on Monday (8th) to initiate negotiations surrounding proposed Palestinian elections.

The Palestinians have not held elections in 15 years, despite Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas’ previous promises to do so.

Abbas and his Fatah faction have maintained a bloody feud with Hamas since the terror group won elections in 2006 and ran Abbas loyalists out of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Fatah’s negotiating team was led by Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub, who has openly supported Palestinian terror targeting Israeli civilians.

Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri leads the Hamas delegation, with other terrorist groups slated to join the negotiations, including Islamic Jihad and the Popular Struggle Front.  Hamas and Islamic Jihad are financially supported by Iran.

While the possibility of a Hamas-Fatah unity ticket has been floated for upcoming elections, Hamas’ participation in any official Palestinian regime would create legal and ethical problems for Western countries due to its status as a ‘designated terrorist organization.’

Both Hamas and the PA provide monthly salaries to terrorists and the families of those killed committing terror-related crimes, which is illegal under US and Israeli law.  

Hamas has spent years building up its vast arsenal of rockets and other arms, bankrolled by Iran, which it uses against Israeli civilians in periodic attacks.

A Hamas win in the elections, even on a joint ticket, could complicate US Joe Biden’s plans to restore aid to the Palestinians.

Under the Palestinian election decree, legislative elections would be held on May 22, followed by PA-Chairman elections on July 31 – the first since Abbas was elected to a four-year term in 2005.  On August 31 elections would be held for the National Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a group “responsible for scores of acts of terrorism from its creation, resulting in the deaths of thousands of civilians,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.



US To Rejoin Anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council Even As It Admits It’s ‘Flawed’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday (8th) that the US was reversing a Trump administration decision and would rejoin the “flawed” UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that is known for its anti-Israel bias.

“We recognized that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said, in a statement released by the State department.

“We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the Council in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach,” Blinken added, but did not specify any changes the US was seeking from the council that is known to be dominated by some of the world’s worst offenders of human rights.

Two years ago the Trump administration said it was fed up with the inherent bias of the UNHRC and pulled out so it did not have to continue funding the dysfunctional body.  Then US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called the council the UN’s “greatest failure.”

“For too long,” Haley said, “the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.”  Haley specifically pointed out that the UNHRC has a permanent agenda item for only one country, Israel, which it regularly subjects to a disproportionate number of condemnations.

The independent human rights group, UN Watch, noted that in the period between 2006-2021, the UNHRC issued 90 condemnations of Israel.  The next closest was Syria with 35, while some of the countries with reputations for flagrant violations of human rights received none at all.

“The cost of the US rejoining is that it lends legitimacy to a council where tyrannies and other non-democracies now comprise 60% of the membership, including serial abusers of human rights like China, Russia, Cuba, and Pakistan, all of whom have escaped any censure in the form of council resolution, inquiry or urgent session,” UN Watch director, Hillel Neuer told World Israel News in an email.



Russia, China And Iran To Hold Joint Naval Drills In The Indian Ocean

Russia plans to hold joint naval drills with Iran and China in the Indian Ocean later this month, the RIA News Agency cited Moscow’s ambassador to Tehran as saying on Monday (8th).

The three countries held similar naval drills in the Indian Ocean in December 2019.

“The next multilateral naval exercises will take place in the northern part of the Indian Ocean in mid-February 2021,” Levan Dzhagaryan, the ambassador, told RIA in an interview.

The drills would rehearse search and rescue operations and ensure the safety of shipping, he said.

Speaking in 2019, Iranian flotilla admiral Gholamreza Tahani said that the result of the exercise is “to show that Iran cannot be isolated,” Reuters reported.

The Iranian state broadcaster at the time said the drills included rescuing ships on fire or vessels under attack, and shooting exercises.

It is possible that the upcoming naval drills will take place near the Gulf of Oman, a sensitive  waterway which connects to the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes.

US President Joe Biden, at the beginning of the month, ordered that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier return home.

US Naval Institute News said that the Nimitz was operating within the US 7th Fleet off the coast of West India when it got the order to go home after nearly eight months on the water.



Holocaust Survivor Dies At 105, Leaving Over 400 Descendants

Holocaust survivor Shoshana Ovitz, who went viral on social media celebrating her birthday with about 400 of her descendants at the Western Wall in 2019, passed away on Sunday (7th) at the age of 105.  

Ovitz survived Auschwitz after witnessing her mother being handed over to the infamous Nazi doctor and “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele, known for his cruel experiments on prisoners.

Her father also died in the Holocaust.  After the liberation of Auschwitz, Shoshana met Dov Ovitz, whose wife and four daughters had also perished in the Holocaust.  They married soon after and lived in Austria before moving to Haifa, where they had four children together.

At the time of the 2019 Western Wall birthday-celebration, Ovitz’s eldest granddaughter Panini Friedman said, “Only during the celebration did we understand how important she is.  We all had tears in our eyes. It was very moving,” Walla reported.

Friedman told Walla that even with 400 people there, not all of the family could make it.

“We’re missing about 10% of them,” she said.

Ovitz took the opportunity to bless all her family together, and said that she thinks she survived the Holocaust because she always honored her parents, one of the most important commandments in Judaism.