News Digest — 4/12/19

Netanyahu’s Israel – David M. Halbfinger

→Israelis prize stability, as well as the military and economic security that Benjamin Netanyahu has delivered.  Though in many ways they have never been safer, they remain afraid – especially of Iran and its influence over their neighbors, against which Netanyahu has relentlessly crusaded.

→Israelis credit Netanyahu, whose strategic vision, values, power and fortitude above all, with piloting Israel to unprecedented diplomatic heights.  And they are loathe to let anyone less experienced take the controls.

→Israelis have grown accustomed to Netanyahu’s assessments of the country’s condition: 10 years of uninterrupted economic growth, its best-ever credit rating, and diplomatic openings and new trading partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

→“Let’s be honest with ourselves,” said Michael B. Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington.  “Our economy is excellent, our foreign relations were never better, and we’re secure.”

→Netanyahu proved once again that his talents, stamina and willingness to do what it takes to win are all unmatched in Israeli politics.  This summer he will surpass David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding leader, as its longest-serving prime minister.



Druze Officer Appointed Israeli President’s Military Secretary

President Reuven Rivlin’s new military secretary will be a Druze officer, Col. Ala Abu Rukan, the IDF announced Thursday (11th).  Rukan will be immediately promoted in rank to brigadier general to serve in the role.

 Abu Rukan is replacing Brig. Gen. Boaz Hershkowitz, who has worked at the President’s Residence for almost three years.

The position of military secretary is that of a liaison between the president and the security establishment.  This includes the IDF, intelligence services, police and prison services. He is responsible for keeping the president updated on the security situation, and makes arrangements when the president wants to visit security-related facilities.

Col. Rukan is not the first Druze to serve as the president’s right-hand military man.  Brig. Gen. Hasson Hasson spent eight years advising mainly Shimon Peres and then Peres’ successor, Rivlin, on security matters.

Col. Abu Rukan, 47, is the father of four from the Druze town of Usfiya, and currently is the IDF’s military attache in China.  He is a career soldier, having served over half his life in various command posts, such as the Paratroopers Brigade and for many years in the intelligence branch.

During his military service, Col. Abu Rukan finished a doctorate in Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan UNiversity.

The president decided upon Col. Abu Rukan together with Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Aviv Kochavi.



Israeli Spacecraft Falls Short In Attempt To Reach Moon

An Israeli spacecraft has failed in its attempt to make history as the first privately funded lunar mission.

The SpaceIL spacecraft lost contact with Earth late Thursday (11th), just moments before it was to land on the moon, and scientists declared the mission a failure.

The small robotic spacecraft, built by the non-profit SpaceIL and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, had hoped to match a feat that has only been achieved by the national space agencies of three countries: U.S., Russia and China.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on hand for what organizers had hoped to be a celebration.

Meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin soothed the children who were invited to his residence to hopefully watch the successful landing.

Rivlin told the assembled youth, the moon mission was “an excellent achievement,” calling the evening “an important night for the State of Israel,” reported Israeli media.

“There is no need to be disappointed.  We need to praise what we accomplished.”

Netanyahu for his part predicted a moon landing within three years.



Buzz Aldrin To Israel: Never Lose Hope

Famed Astronaut Buzz Aldrin called Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft “inspiring” after it failed to land on the moon due to last-minute engine failure Thursday (11th).

The second man on the moon Tweeted: “Condolences to the Beresheet lander @TeamSpaceIL for what almost was! Communications were lost with the spacecraft just 150 meters (!!!) above the surface, and it couldn’t quite stick the landing. Never lose hope – your hard work, teamwork, and innovation is inspiring to all!”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated Israel for putting a craft into orbit around the moon.

“While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, Israel Aerospace Industries and the State of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit,” Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress.  I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore, and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements,” he added.

Meanwhile, while SpaceIL’s attempt to land the Beresheet spacecraft on the moon on Thursday evening ended in disappointment, the non-profit organization will receive a $1 million “Moonshot Award” from the XPRIZE Foundation for its achievements.

The Moonshot Award was established last month to recognize teams demonstrating the achievement of a “moonshot” technological feat outside the parameters of the time-frame of an XPRIZE competition, including the $30m. Google Lunar XPRIZE which led to the establishment of SpaceIL.

“SpaceIL’s mission not only touched the Moon, it touched the lives and hearts of an entire world that was watching,” said XPRIZE founder and executive chairman Peter Diamandis.



Anti-Semitic Fliers Found In Library At University Of North Carolina

Anti-Semitic fliers were found on bookshelves and tables in the library of the University of North Carolina this week.

The fliers include references to “an evil Jewish plot” and said “do everything you can to fight the silent covert Jewish attempt to enslave and kill good Americans,” according to the UNC Hillel.

They were discovered this week, The Daily Tar Heel student newspaper reported.

“I am extremely disappointed and appalled that anyone would write these abhorrent messages and direct them toward members of our Jewish community,” UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement sent Wednesday (10th) to the campus community.  “This behavior conflicts with the University’s long-standing commitment to fostering an environment where all students, faculty and staff can be free from harassment.”

The campus Hillel said in a statement: “We are disgusted by the vile and hateful rhetoric on these flyers.  The language is reminiscent of centuries-old anti-Semitic rhetoric that incited the murder of thousands of Jews in pogroms throughout Eastern Europe and the murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.  This racist, repulsive language has no place on any campus or in any society.”

The statement said the UNC administration “has been responsive to the concerns of the Jewish community.”

Two weeks ago, the university’s Unsung Founders Memorial and an art installment outside the Hanes Art Center was vandalized with “racist and deplorable language.”