News Digest — 3/13/23

Netanyahu: Those Who Try To Attack Us Will Pay The Price

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israeli security personnel who eliminated three terrorists near the town of Kedumim in Samaria Sunday (12th), and vowed to demolish the home of the terrorist responsible for a shooting attack in Tel Aviv last Thursday (9th).

“On behalf of the government of Israel, I would like to convey our prayers for the recovery of those who were wounded in the severe shooting attack last Thursday evening (9th),” Netanyahu said during the government’s weekly cabinet meeting Sunday (12th).

“I salute the police and the soldiers who eliminated the terrorist.”

“I have instructed that his home be demolished.  We have arrested the terrorist’s father, together with others who were involved in this severe attack, and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law.”

“I would also like to commend the Golani Brigade Reconnaissance Unit soldiers who eliminated three terrorists in Samaria overnight.”

“As we can all see, our forces are in action around the clock against our enemies. The main point is simple.  Those who try to attack us will pay the price.”

Turning to his recent visit to Italy, Netanyahu expressed optimism the new government under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni can be persuaded to adopt a tougher stance against Iran’s nuclear program and bolster the “pro-Israel circle” in the European Union.

“This morning (Sunday, 12th) I returned from an important diplomatic visit to Italy as part of our policy to formulate a stronger and – to the extent that it is possible – more unified position among Western countries against the Iranian nuclear program.”

“In addition to the Iranian issue, I spoke with Italian Prime Minister Meloni about strengthening the pro-Israel circle in the EU, changing Italy’s vote at the UN and international institutions, the export of Israeli gas to Italy and on to Europe, and other significant economic projects.  We will advance all of these during the Italian government’s visit to Israel in the coming months.  We also agreed about this during my visit.”



Opinion: Israel Is Divided But Palestinian Terrorists Target All Jews – Stephen M. Flatow

Israelis are angry and divided.  They are yelling at each other and staging demonstrations.  Accusations and name-calling abound.  But once again Palestinian Arab terrorists have reminded us that at the end of the day, what Israelis have in common is more important than the disagreements over this or that policy proposal.

On Thursday evening (9th), a Palestinian Arab terrorist walked up to a cafe in Tel Aviv and started shooting.  He wasn’t shooting at soldiers or “settlers.”  He was trying to massacre unarmed Israeli civilians sitting at an upscale cafe in the heart of secular, politically left-wing Tel Aviv.

That same evening, another Palestinian terrorist tried to massacre Israeli civilians.  He boarded a bus in the Orthodox (haredi) town of Beitar Illit, near Jerusalem, and planted a bomb.  Smoke began to come from the bomb, but in one of those countless miracles that Israelis experience every day, the device did not immediately detonate.  That gave bomb disposal experts the crucial minutes they needed to neutralize it.

If the would-be murderer in Tel Aviv had had a sharper aim, countless secular Israelis would have been slaughtered.  If the would-be murderer in Beitar Illit had more expertise in bomb construction, countless Orthodox Israelis would have been slaughtered.

Consider for a moment, how vastly different those two segments of Israeli society are: What they wear.  What they eat.  How many children they have.  The books they read.  The movies they watch (or don’t watch).  Where they go on vacation.  What they do on Shabbat.  By these measures, secular Israeli Jews and Orthodox Israeli Jews are as different as night and day.

But Palestinian Arab terrorists couldn’t care less about those differences.  Like other violent enemies of the Jewish people throughout history, they never try to kill only a certain type of Jew.  They don’t care if an Israeli Jew is more religious or less religious.  They don’t care if he/she lives in Tel Aviv or in a hilltop outpost.

The automatic weapons that the terrorists shoot, the bombs they plant, the rocks they throw, the knives with which they stab, are aimed at all Jews.

That’s why, despite all the overheated social and political controversies that consume the country these days, Israelis remain remarkably united on the most important issue of all: Life and Death.

On the need to take strong action against Palestinian Arab terrorism, there is a wall-to-wall, Right-to-Left consensus.  On this crucial topic, there is a degree of unity that is difficult to find in any other country, including the US.

Consider how members of the Knesset voted on the recent legislation authorizing the deportation of convicted terrorists who are receiving financial subsidies from the Palestinian Authority.

The New York Times described the bill as “harsh,” “hardline,” and the product of a “far-right” government.  In fact, the new legislation represents the centrist, not far-right, position in Israel today.  It passed by an astonishing margin of 94 to 10.

The supporters included the major left-of-center opposition parties, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Benny Gantz’s National Unity.

MKs from the Left-Wing Labor Party were absent from the vote, but not because they opposed the bill.  “We supported the bill when it was first proposed,” a Labor spokesman explained.  But they decided to be absent from the voting as a protest against some of the government’s domestic policies.

Consider, too, the widespread public support for the Israeli army’s “Operation Break the Wave,” the strategy of sending the security forces into Palestinian Authority-governed cities in hot pursuit of terrorists.  After the wave of Palestinian Arab shootings, bombings, and stabbings that left 19 Israelis dead, in early 2022, the left-of-center government headed by Naftali Bennett launched the operation.  Bennett’s successor, Yair Lapid, continued the action – with the support of his left-wing allies, Labor and Meretz, because chasing terrorists has never been a “right-wing” or “left-wing” position.

An Israeli military spokesman said recently that in the first eight months of Operation Break the Wave (from March to November 2022), the security forces “thwarted some 500 terror attacks.”  They captured “at least 250 weapons” and “$785,000 in cash” that was to be used to finance terrorist attacks.  And more than 2,500 terrorists were arrested.

The only critics of the army’s operation are the champions of the Palestinian cause who are prominent in academia, the media, and extreme advocacy groups.  They don’t like Operation Break the Wave because their side is losing.

It may be distressing to see Israelis arguing so vehemently about differences of public policy.  But it’s heartening to remember that when it comes to the issue that counts the most – stamping out terrorism and ensuring the survival of the Jewish State – Israel’s national consensus is holding strong.  It shouldn’t take Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and Beitar Illit to remind us of the ties that bind.

The writer is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.  He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight For Justice Against Iranian Terror, and is an oleh chadash (new immigrant)



Israel Airstrikes In Syria Kill 2 Pro-Iranian Fighters, War Monitor Said  

Israeli airstrikes targeting a weapons depot in Syria on Sunday (12th) killed two pro-Iranian fighters and wounded three soldiers, a war monitor said.

“Israeli strikes targeted a weapons depot belonging to pro-Iranian forces located between the Tartus and Hama provinces,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

“Two pro-Iranian fighters were killed and three Syrian soldiers were wounded,” he said.

Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a military source,  reported that “at around 7:15 am, the Israeli enemy carried out an air attack, firing missiles from the direction of north Lebanon with targets in the Tartus and Hama countryside.”

SANA did not specify the target, but said the attack “wounded three soldiers and caused some material losses,” adding that Syrian air defenses intercepted some of the missiles.

The Israeli military said it did not comment “on reports in the foreign media.”

Since Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes against its northern neighbor, targeting government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and Lebanon’s  Hezbollah fighters.

The Israeli army rarely comments on individual strikes against Syria, but has vowed repeatedly to keep up its air campaign to stop arch foe Iran from consolidating its presence there.

On Tuesday (7th), Israeli warplanes killed three people in a raid on the airport in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, the observatory said.  On February 19, an Israeli airstrike killed 15 people in a Damascus district that houses state security agencies, according to the war monitor.



IDF And U.S. Air Forces Have Begun A Joint ‘Red Flag’ Exercise

The IDF and the U.S. air forces on Sunday (12th) began the joint ‘Red Flag’ exercise.

The joint drill is being hosted at the U.S. Air Force Base in Nellis, Nevada, said an IDF statement.

It is slated to run for approximately two weeks and is expected to include simulations for different kinds of operations: from attacks on long-range distance targets to achieving aerial superiority in the aerial battle space, to complex joint attack operations by a mix of aircraft, to providing defense and support to land-based units, to interception of invading enemy aircraft, to low-altitude flying and attacks in unfamiliar areas which are filled with anti-aircraft defense, according to the IDF.

Next, the aircraft will carry out other complex tasks such as joint midair refueling, both with Israeli aircraft refueling American fighter jets, and Israeli F-35 attack aircraft getting refueled using American KC135 refueling aircraft.

Moreover, the IDF said that for the first time, seven Israeli F-35 two Ram (the Boeing 707) aircraft will participate in the exercise flying over US airspace.

Red Flag takes place only days after the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Israel and only about two months after the joint Israeli-U.S. “Juniper Oak” exercise, the largest joint drill ever held including the IDF and U.S. Central Command (Centcom).    

The “Juniper Oak” joint drills were viewed by many as a not-so-veiled threat to Iran in the ongoing nuclear standoff, as well as to other adversaries.

At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the drill, “manifests the unbreakable strategic partnership between Israel and the U.S. and constitutes another stage in building Israel’s military power.”

“Israel will always defend herself, but obviously praises the powerful cooperation with our great ally,” added the prime minister.

That exercise involved thousands of forces, a dozen ships, significant numbers of attack and intelligence collection drones and 142 aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers, and ran for a full week.

Beyond B-52 bombers, the U.S. aircraft included F-35s, F-15s, F-16s and F-18s.



Report: Saudi Arabia Denies Visas To Israeli Delegates At UN Event

Against the backdrop of reports of diplomatic efforts between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the desire to normalize ties, the reality on the surface seems to be completely different.

An Israeli delegation was invited to participate in a UN tourism event in Saudi Arabia, but Saudi authorities refused to give them visas, according to a report in Bloomberg.

The delegation consisted of residents of the Circassian town of Kfar Kama, who were invited to a special ceremony by the UN after it was included in an exclusive list of tourist destinations.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) invited residents of Kfar Kama and people from 22 other countries for a two-day event in the Saudi city of Al-Ula.  However, the Israeli delegation wasn’t given visas, despite an appeal by UN officials who demanded that Saudi authorities treat each of the organization’s member states equally.

The Israeli delegation started to worry when they didn’t receive their visas at the beginning of the month.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the UNWTO insisting that the delegation receive the visas.  The UNWTO secretary-general reportedly sent a letter to the Saudi Tourism Ministry asking for the visas.

Both the ministry and the UNWTO declined to comment.

Kafa Kama was included on the UNWTO list, the purpose of which is to leverage rural tourism.