News Digest — 4/14/21

On Eve Of Memorial Day Prime Minister Sends Warning To Israel’s Enemies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed on Tuesday (13th) that Israeli resolve will prevail over its adversaries due to the determination and sacrifice of its security forces.

Speaking hours before Israel was to begin observing the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day, Netanyahu spoke at an event marking the start of events in Jerusalem in honor of the 23,928 service members and thousands of terrorism victims who have been killed over the years.

“I am doing my utmost to prevent the loss of life,” Netanyahu said.  “But our contingency plans are ready for the day the order is given, and only if we are willing to defend and willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice will we be able to guarantee our existence and our future.”

Netanyahu recalled the day he attended the funeral of his brother Yoni, who had been killed in the daring rescue mission Israel launched to free the Entebbe hostages in 1976.  Speaking to bereaved families, he said, “We all remember that moment when you see the fresh grave, the deep scar it sears on you, the empty home, the wounded heart that never fully recovers.  But we learn how to reinvent ourselves and live our lives for us and for them.”



Kochavi:  We Send Our Soldiers Only On Worthy Missions, Vow To Protect Them

Israelis stood in silence and bowed their heads for one minute Tuesday evening (13th) as the memorial siren blared across the country in commemoration of Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism began at 8 p.m. with the siren in memory of the fallen, followed by the official ceremony at the Western Wall with President Reuven Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

This year, the attendance at the ceremony was limited to 5,000 people, under the Green Pass – which meant that only people with a vaccination certificate or a certificate of recovery were allowed to attend this ceremony, and those at the National Hall for Israel’s Fallen on Mount Herzl and at Yad LeBanim Memorial Center in Jerusalem.

The memorial torch was lit by the children of two of Israel’s Fallen Soldiers.

In a speech at the main ceremony, Kochavi said that as the commander of the military, his duty is to send soldiers only on worthy missions and at the same time, to protect the soldiers themselves.

“We will do everything in our power to send them only to worthy missions; we will first improve the IDF’s ability to carry out the missions successfully, and at the same time, we will do what we can to protect and defend our own soldiers,” he said.

“Sometimes, the security that the State of Israel benefits from looks like an obvious thing,” the IDF Chief of Staff said.  “But behind every safe day stands an entire army, which collects intelligence, defends, prevents infiltrations and shooting attacks, raids, arrests perpetrators, and thwarts terror attacks and the use of weapons against civilians.”

Kochavi added that it might seem like a miracle for some, but those who are working hard to maintain this security are not focused on the miracle, but on how to carry out their missions.

“Also, being role models is one of the IDF’s duties.  The IDF soldiers exercise together, fight together and win together.  And when a comrade dies, we all bury him together,” Kochavi said.

“The price of Independence is a heavy one: 23,928 dead.  Tens of thousands of people wounded – and there are those who carry wounds in their souls for the rest of their lives,” he concluded.

President Reuven Rivlin, who is about to end his seven-year term as president, vowed to continue his struggle to return the captives and missing soldiers, even after he leaves office.

“Seven years ago, when the country was ablaze in Operation Protective Edge, I began my term as president, on behalf of the citizens of Israel,” Rivlin said.

“During that operation, I visited the families of soldiers who had fallen in action.  I stood before the families and bowed my head on behalf of the Israeli people.  I wanted to be with them in their pain, and to say what was in my heart.  I vowed to sanctify the memories of Israel’s heroes,” he said.    

“To you soldiers, I promised your families that I would be your soldier.  That is what I did and that is what I will do.  Even as I come to the end of my term in office, I am not released from service.  As long as I live, I will hold it in my heart and will work on your behalf,” he added. 

Wednesday night (14th) will mark the end of Remembrance Day, and the beginning of Independence Day.  At 8 p.m., the traditional torch-lighting ceremony will take place at Mount Herzl.



In First, Arab Sector Holds Memorial Day Service

The first and only Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day ceremony of its kind was held Tuesday (13th) by the Arab sector to commemorate the Fallen Arab Soldiers of the IDF.

The event, which took place in the Arara village in the Negev Desert, was organized by the ‘Together – Vouch for Each Other’ group which works “to connect the Arab sector to the Israeli society,” in cooperation with the Israel Police.

Yusuf Jahaja, the father of the late Sgt. Sa’id Jahaja, who fell during operational activity in Rafah in 2004, spoke at the ceremony, as did Maj. Hisham Abu Ria, the first Arab-Muslim officer in the IDF, Druze social activist Lorina Khatib, and Vouch for Each Other CEO Yoseph Haddad.

The ceremony was attended by Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druzes and Jews, as well as representatives from the Israel Police.

During the ceremony, four candles were lit to commemorate the fallen Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze soldiers.  A fifth candle was lit to symbolize hopes for unity and peace within Israeli society.

“It is moving to hold the Memorial Day ceremony in the Arab sector,” Haddad said.  “The memory of Arab soldiers should be remembered among the rest of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.”

“This is a sad and painful day for all of Israel society.  On this day, we all must bow our heads and remember the heroes that fell for our country, and make sure to guard it and make it better and more united.”



Iran Vows To Enrich Uranium To 60% In Response To Natanz Attack

Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi warned Tuesday (13th) that Iran would begin enriching uranium to its highest level to date in response to the blackout and explosion which occurred at the Natanz nuclear facility over the weekend.

Speaking in Vienna, where talks are underway over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Araghchi said that the Islamic Republic would enrich uranium to 60% purity, far above the 20% it had been enriching uranium to previously, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.  The move would shorten Iran’s breakout time for the construction of a nuclear weapon.

The report also stated that Iran would add 1,000 new centrifuges to the Natanz facility.

Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif said Israel had made a “very bad gamble” by sabotaging the nuclear facility in Natanz.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Tuesday morning (13th), Zarif downplayed the impact of the apparent bombing – widely attributed to Israel – saying that the damaged uranium enrichment centrifuges would soon be replaced with more advanced equipment.

“I assure you that in the near future more advanced uranium enriched centrifuges will be placed in the Natanz facility.”

Two intelligence officials told the New York Times on Sunday (11th) that the attack at the Natanz facility had dealt a serious setback to Iran’s nuclear program and the damage would take nine months to fix.



Israel To Let Tourist Groups In For 1st Time Since Pandemic Began, Starting May 23

A limited number of vaccinated tourists will be allowed to enter Israel in organized groups starting May 23, the Health and Tourism Ministries said in a joint statement on Tuesday (13th).

Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in the statement that only groups will be allowed to visit at first, as they will be easier to monitor.  Individual travelers are expected to be allowed in at a later stage.

“It is time that Israel’s unique advantage as a safe and healthy country starts to assist it in recovering from the economic crisis,” said Farkash-Hacohen in the statement.  “Only opening the skies for international tourism will truly revive the tourism industry, including restaurants, hotels, sites, tour guides, buses and others looking to work and provide for their families.”

Tourists will be required to take a PCR coronavirus test before boarding a plane to Israel.  Upon arrival in Israel, they will have to take both a PCR test and a serological test, which proves the existence of antibodies.

The statement said that Israel will continue to negotiate with countries over mutual recognition of vaccination certificates to remove the need for serological tests.

Israel registered a drop of some 81% in tourism in 2020, compared to the previous year amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Tourism Ministry said in January.

New hopes of a resurgent tourism industry have been raised because of Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign, which many believe will make the country an attractive destination for tourists.