News Digest — 4/15/21

Israel Celebrates Its 73rd Independence Day

Israelis celebrated the country’s 73rd Independence Day, beginning Wednesday evening (14th) in public celebrations after the coronavirus pandemic shut down all gatherings last year.

With over 50% of the country vaccinated against the coronavirus, Israel has been able to largely reopen its economy and allow large public gatherings, albeit restricted to those who have been vaccinated or can show they have recovered from being sick with the virus and thus have antibodies.

The country made an emotional switch from mourning to celebration, having marked Wednesday’s Memorial Day with somber visits to cemeteries and recollections of those who have fallen in Israel’s wars or been victims of terrorism.

“Thanks to the fallen, our nation’s heroes who are always with us, we mark 73 years of renewed life, 73 years of building the country, of impressive achievements, and remarkable prosperity,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Wednesday (14th) at the national memorial ceremony.

Independence Day ceremonies are being held in communities across the country featuring speeches, musical performances and fireworks, with the main event Wednesday evening (14th) held at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem where members of government and invited dignitaries launched televised celebrations – one of the most widely watched events in the country each year.

Thursday (15th) is a national holiday with Israelis by the millions expected to exploit the good weather to hold barbecue picnics, go on nature hikes and visit museums and beaches.

A highlight of the day will be a national flyover by Israeli Air Force jets and aircraft that traverse the country flying over dozens of towns and cities, while the Israeli Navy will parade some of its fleet along the Mediterranean coast, with a special sail-by off the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Also Thursday (15th). President Reuven Rivlin will host a reception at his official residence honoring the 120 outstanding IDF soldiers, with Rivlin saying he was excited that Israel has emerged from the coronavirus closures that canceled the in-person awards event last year.

“I see your excited faces and I am happy we can hold this moving ceremony this year almost as normal,” Rivlin said Tuesday (13th) at the dress rehearsal for the event.  “You are the outstanding soldiers, men and women, of the IDF, with berets of all colors, combatants, support troops, intelligence officers – you are, all of you together, the beautiful face of our country.  We thank you, and on the morning of Yom Haatzmaut, we will spotlight you as the best of the best.”



US Jewish Leaders: Today We Commemorate A Modern Miracle

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Wednesday (14th) issued a statement on the occasion of Israel’s Independence Day.

“Today we commemorate a modern miracle.  73 years ago, the State of Israel was declared in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people and then was successfully defended against all odds,” said Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents.

“For 2,000 years, Jews were an oppressed, stateless minority.  We suffered persecution, expulsion, inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, and the horrors of the Holocaust.  We dreamt of, we prayed for, and sought to return to Zion and Jerusalem with which we never lost our deep connection.  Hatikvah, the 19th century poem that became the Jewish State’s national anthem, expresses the yearning that was felt for generations, the hope the Jewish people clung to, that we would somehow one day have a state of our own in the Land of Israel once again,” they added.

“The rebirth of Israel in 1948 was the realization of that 2,000-year old dream, representing the restoration of the Jews as a sovereign people.  For more than seven decades, Israel has been a thriving, vibrant democracy and a light unto the nations.  As we celebrate another birthday of the world’s only Jewish State, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to it, and pray that we never take this hard-won sovereignty for granted.  We wish a happy Yom Haatzmaut to all.”



UK: PM Boris Johnson Denounces ICC Probe Into Israel

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday (13th) denounced the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel.

Johnson wrote a letter to Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) heads Lord Polak, Lord Pickles and MP Stephen Crabb, stating “We oppose the ICC’s investigation into war crimes in Palestine,” reported the Jewish Chronicle.

He said that the investigation appeared biased and described it as a “prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s.”

He explained that his government “did not accept that the ICC has jurisdiction in this instance, given that Israel is not a party to the Statute of Rome and Palestine is not a sovereign state.” 

The UK is a founding member of the ICC.  Johnson noted this fact in his letter.

Johnson’s statement comes in the wake of CFI speaking with him and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in writing and in person.

CFI leadership replied to Johnson’s letter, stating: “We strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s confirmation of the UK’s opposition to the ICC’s controversial investigation.  The investigation has rightly been condemned for giving ‘the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally.’  As the Prime Minister states, the ICC does not have jurisdiction and we support the UK’s decision to stand with Israel against the probe.”

In his letter, Johnson highlighted the UK’s attempts to “reform” the ICC, which has faced criticisms in the past for bias.  Two British jurists were recently elected to serve important positions on the court.

In June, British lawyer Karim Khan who heads an investigation into ISIS war crimes will take over from Fatou Bensouda.  Bensouda is the ICC chief prosecutor who is heading the current investigation into Israel.



Palestinian Elections: Nearly A Third Of Party Logos Erase Israel From Map

A total of 11 out of 36 parties running in the Palestinian elections have logos that seem to reject Israel’s right to exist, with the entire country being represented  as Palestine, the watchdog Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has found.

These 11 parties make up nearly one-third of all parties running – among them Fatah and Hamas.

The Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas has a logo featuring a green circle with the Palestinian flag at the bottom.  Inside is a picture of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock square in the center, and in the back an image of all of Israel in green.  This, according to PMW, means the map itself is Palestine, erasing Israel.

Meanwhile, Fatah, the current ruling party under PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas, has a logo featuring a shield with an image of all green Israel on the inside.  Below it are two arms painted with the Palestinian flag, each holding guns, with a grenade lying between them.  This PMW explains, indicates that not only is Israel going to be liberated into Palestine, but it will be done through military means.

This map is a common theme among all the logos, with other parties such as The Future party, belonging to Abbas’ arch-rival Mohammad Dahlan, having the same map.

A variety of other symbols are included as well.  For instance, the independent party, We Shall Return, has two hands shaking in front of Israel, which is colored in the Palestinian flag.  Another party, Homeland’s Awakening, has the country and the Dome of the Rock by an upright fist painted in the Palestinian flag colors.

The idea of an image of all Israel as Palestine isn’t new, and has been the subject of controversy in the past.

Back in March 2020, US Rep. Rashida Tlaib sparked online backlash after posting an image of her wearing a T-shirt with all of Israel as Palestine enrobed with a black and white keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.



Iran Dismisses ‘Humiliating’ Vienna Offer To Revive Nuclear Deal

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed proposals made so far during indirect talk with the United States in Vienna on Wednesday (14th).

“The offers they provide are usually arrogant and humiliating, and not worth looking at,” said Khamenei in an address for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, reported the AP.

“The talks shouldn’t become talks of attrition.  They shouldn’t be in a way that parties drag on and prolong the talks.  This is harmful to the country,” he said.

Iran announced on Tuesday (13th) that it will begin enriching uranium to the 60% purity level – its highest level yet – two days after it accused Israel of being behind a blast at a key nuclear site that reportedly caused extensive damage to Iran’s nuclear program.

The current dialogue is meant to allow America to re-enter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration withdrew from in May 2018.



How Israel Helps Defend American Interests In the Middle East – Michael Makovsky and John Hannah

Israel plays an indispensable role in helping defend American interests in the Middle East, serving as a stabilizing bulwark in a dangerous region that remains vitally important to the US.

Israel’s determination to prevent a nuclear Iran represents significant leverage for American diplomats in negotiations with Tehran.  If wielded skillfully by American negotiators, this leverage can play an essential role in pressuring Iran to dramatically curb its nuclear ambitions.

Should talks fail, and Iran’s march toward the bomb continues, Israel’s ability to act decisively is a unique strategic asset – one that the Biden administration should have every interest in preserving and ensuring is as effective as possible.

Israel also has taken the lead against Iran on the ground.  In Iran’s shadow-wars across the region, Israel alone has mastered gray-zone combat, conducting more than 1,000 strikes against Iranian-related targets in Syria, Iraq and the surrounding seas, almost single-handedly crippling Tehran’s master plan to turn Syria into an IRGC fortress and forward operating base.

For the US, it’s hard to put a price on the value of having a local partner with the power and skill to operate so effectively.

Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).  John Hannah, JINSA’s senior fellow, is a former national security advisor for VP Dick Cheney.