News Digest — 3/10/21

‘We Will Work To Designate Hezbollah A Terrorist Organization’

Eduardo Bolsonaro, a Member of the Chamber of Deputies for Sau Paulo and the son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, told Israel Hayom Tuesday (9th) that he will work to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Several hours before flying back to Brazil, the third son of the Brazilian president sat down to discuss his three-day visit to Israel – as part of a delegation that included Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo – which focused on combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Bolsonaro hailed Israeli technology and expressed cautious optimism about the fight against the coronavirus, which has claimed nearly a quarter-million lives in his country.  “We signed several contracts with the Weizmann Institute of Science, Hadassah Medical Center and Ichilov Hospital,” said the 36-year-old Bolsonaro from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

The Brazilian delegation was particularly intrigued by the Israeli developed EXO-CD24 nasal spray against COVID-19, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as a “miracle” treatment.

As for Hezbollah, Bolsonaro said the Iran-backed Lebanon-based organization sworn to Israel’s destruction “cannot be considered a normal political body, and is similar to the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerillas – it is not a diplomatic arm,” said Bolsonaro, noting the deadly terrorism perpetrated by the Hezbollah Shiite organization in the 1990s in Argentina.

“We should have designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization before this.  We’ll put this matter on the table,” Bolsonaro added.



Netanyahu To Host Tripartite Summit On Covid Thursday

The Hungarian and Czech prime ministers will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (11th) to discuss policies to fight COVID-19 as a third wave of the coronavirus sweeps central Europe.

“The main topic of the meeting will be the effort to curb the pandemic,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s press chief said in a statement.

Netanyahu, who has said 90% of eligible Israelis have either received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or recovered from the virus, has touted Israel’s vaccination program as exemplary.

Last week, Austria and Denmark said they would set up a joint research and development fund, and possibly production facilities for COVID-19 vaccines, to ensure they had long-term supplies for booster shots or to contend with virus mutations.

Hungary imposed tough new lockdown measures on Monday (8th) to curb a rise in virus infections and has accelerated its vaccination campaign.  

PM Orban’s government has closed all schools and most shops in his country of 10 million.

The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million, has been hit hard by the pandemic in recent weeks, with the number of COVID-19 patients in serious condition at new highs and some hospitals nearing full capacity.  Prague has asked Germany, Poland and Switzerland to take in some patients.

The Czech government has sought to turn the tide with a strict lockdown restricting travel around the country and has boosted testing at industrial companies that have been untouched by restrictions.



President Warns Politicians: Public Fed Up With Elections

Speaking at an event attended by top intelligence officials of the Israel Defense Forces, President Reuven Rivlin said: “The continued political crisis not only emboldens those who want to exclude entire segments of society from our collective identity but also threatens the very trust people have in the institutions, in the democratic system, in our ability to debate and express criticism and in the end, to reach a common denominator and move Israel forward as a Jewish and democratic country in unison.”

The president further said that the IDF had a duty to represent Israeli society and maintain its inclusive status in order to help integration. 

“The notion that the IDF is the ‘People’s Army’ is still very important, and even crucial, for maintaining our sense of collectivism and strength,” he stressed.  “The IDF, true to the vision articulated by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, should protect society from within and ensure we remain connected to one another even as it protects us from external threats,” he continued.

Although Rivlin’s duties are mainly ceremonial as the official figurehead, under Israeli law he is tasked with selecting a prime minister after the votes are tallied based on his assessment as to who has the best chance at securing the confidence of the Knesset.

If the March 23 vote ends with a hung parliament in which no party emerges with a clear mandate to form a coalition with its allies, Rivlin could become instrumental in arbitrating between the factions before he officially gives a nod to a specific person to form a government.  But even then, there is no guarantee that a government would be sworn in or that it would remain stable, and many Israelis fear that the outcome of the vote this month would not change the political dynamics and at best only lead to another short-lived government.

The March 23rd election will be Israel’s fourth election in less than two years. 



Report: Hamas Gaza Chief Sinwar Defeated In Secret Internal Election

Hamas’ Gaza governor was said Tuesday (9th) to have lost the internal Hamas elections to one of his opponents, Nizar Awadullah, according to Lebanese al-Mayadeen TV.

No official confirmation was immediately made by the Hamas terror group.  The Palestinian movement’s internal elections are normally conducted in utter secrecy over a period of months.

Al-Mayadeen  reported that Sinwar lost to Awadullah by seven votes.  The Hamas Shura Council, a quasi-legislative body within the terror group, casts ballots to determine who will sit in the group’s senior spots.

Palestinian reports from Gaza, however, indicated that three rounds of internal voting by senior Hamas members had failed to see any candidate win a majority of votes.  A final vote was said to be delayed to a later date, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News.

Sinwar, a long-time terror chief who spent decades in Israeli jails, had been marked by many as an ambitious Hamas official with his eye on the terror group’s top spot – currently occupied by political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh.

Known by his Israeli interrogators as “the Butcher from Khan Younis” due to his enthusiastic execution of Palestinians alleged to have collaborated with Israel, Sinwar was released from an Israeli jail during the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.

In 2017, he was appointed the head of Hamas’ Gaza office, making him the Strip’s de facto ruler.

The Hamas member alleged to have defeated him, Nizar Awadullah, played a key role in the 2011 prisoner exchange negotiations.  He is a member of the Hamas politburo, the group’s highest decision-making body, and was a close confidant of Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin.

Awadullah’s house was bombed twice by Israel. Once in 2009 and again in 2014.

Hamas elections occur once every four years and appoint members at every level in the terror group’s hierarchy: from local leaders in Gaza and the West Bank, to the Shura Council, a quasi- legislative branch.

The last Hamas internal vote was conducted in 2017 when Ismail Haniyeh took the top spot, replacing Khaled Mashaal, who had held the post since 1996.   

Unlike Fatah elections, which are festive events, drawing large crowds to public polling places, the Hamas vote is held in secret.

The full results are expected to be released in April.



Israel To Send Aid To Equatorial Guinea After Deadly Blasts

Israel on Tuesday (9th) announced it was sending a medical team to Equatorial Guinea, following deadly blasts at a military camp in the African country.

The death toll from the series of explosions rose by dozens to at least 98 killed after more bodies were recovered, the government said Tuesday (9th).

The joint Health Ministry-IDF delegation will include intensive care physicians, pediatricians, and other medical specialists, according to a Health Ministry statement.

The ministry said the National Security Council requested the delegation be sent to Equatorial Guinea.

The announcement came after Spain, Equatorial Guinea’s former colonial power, said an aid plane would be leaving Madrid on Wednesday (10th) with drugs and medical equipment.  The United States embassy also said that Washington is sending experts to help with damage assessment and reconstruction.

The blasts on Sunday (7th) in the Mondong Nkuantoma neighborhood of the coastal city of Bata also wounded at least 615 people, authorities said.  The government said that 316 of the injured have been discharged and 299 remain hospitalized in the city.

More than 60 were rescued from under the rubble by the civil protection corps and fire service, the government said.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said the government will hold an emergency meeting to look into victims receiving aid from Equatorial Guinea until international aid arrives.  Investigations into the blasts have begun, he said in a Tuesday (9th) statement.

The president initially said the explosion was due to the “negligent handling of dynamite” in the military barracks, and the impact damaged almost all the homes and buildings in Bata.

Equatorial Guinea, an oil-rich West African country of 1.3 million people located south of Cameroon, was a colony of Spain until it gained its independence in 1968.  Bata has roughly 175,000 inhabitants.

On February 19, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Equatorial Guinea had decided to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

It would become the third country to move its embassy to the city, after the United States and Guatemala.  Kosovo and Malawi have also announced plans to open embassies in Jerusalem.



Why Iran’s Hate-Filled Schools Should Be A Global Concern – David Andrew Weinberg

Public school teachers in Iran indoctrinate young people to export global revolution using terrorism.  A new study of hate and extremism in current Iranian textbooks finds that they encourage terrorism and political subversion against Arab states.  They also demonize America, Israel and the Jewish people.

The textbooks indoctrinate children with messages that put them on a permanent footing for war.  They teach children how to assemble assault rifles, to carry out military maneuvers, and to learn about cyber warfare.  The books idealize young people who sacrifice their lives to export the Iranian revolution, glorify child-soldiers who died during the Iran-Iraq War and display children wielding rocket launchers.

Iran’s textbooks ‘scapegoat’ Jewish people for a range of societal ills.  All Jewish people who aspire to any form of self-determination are labeled “enemies of Islam.”

(The writer is Washington Director for International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League)