News Digest — 4/21/21

Netanyahu Sends Condolences To Chad, Slain Leader Renewed Israeli Ties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined world leaders on Tuesday (20th) in remembering Idriss Deby, the longtime President of Chad who died while visiting battlefront troops, and who in 2019 re-established ties with the Jewish state.

“I send my deepest condolences to the people of Chad on the passing of President Idriss Deby,” the Prime Minister’s Office wrote on Twitter.  “We will miss his bold leadership and always remember his historic decision to renew Chad’s relationship with Israel.”

Deby, 68, was one of the longest-ruling leaders in Africa, and had just been declared the winner in the country’s recent presidential contest.  He succumbed to injuries sustained while visiting the frontline in a battle against northern rebels, in the border region with Libya.

In 2019, Deby welcomed Netanyahu to the capital of N’Djamena, where the two re-established ties, nearly five decades after cutting relations due to pressure from the Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

“Chad will do everything it can to strengthen ties between the two countries with bilateral cooperation in various matters,” Deby said in remarks at the time.  “I note with satisfaction our shared view on the need to combine forces to tackle terrorism, which spares no country.”

Deby was an ally of Western countries in the fight against Islamist terrorist groups, including Boko Haram and others linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel.

A US State Department spokesperson extended condolences to the people of Chad in a statement Tuesday (20th).

“We condemn recent violence and loss of life in Chad,” the spokesperson said.  The United States stands with the people of Chad during this difficult time.  We support a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the Chadian constitution.”



Sudan Officially Repeals Israel Boycott Law Amid Normalization Efforts

Sudan on Monday (19th) abolished a decades-old law on boycotting Israel, part of efforts to establish normal ties with the Jewish state.

A bill was approved at a joint meeting of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council and Cabinet that annuls the 1958 law, which had forbidden diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said in a Twitter post.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.  The country is now ruled by a joint military and civilian government that also seeks better ties with Washington and the West.

Monday’s (19th) measure would allow Sudanese to do business with Israelis.  It would also allow Sudanese to visit relatives living in the Jewish state, of which there are 6,000.

Under the 1958 law, violators could be punished up to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine.

The law mirrored pan-Arab politics in the 1950s and 60s that largely supported the prohibition of dealings with Israel and Israelis.

But the situation in the Middle East changed in the late 1970s when Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, signed a peace treaty with Israel.  Jordan also established diplomatic ties with Israel in the 1990s.

Sudan became the third Arab state to agree to normalize ties with Israel last year in a deal brokered by the Trump administration.  Khartoum signed the agreement on January 6 during a visit to Sudan by then-US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Establishing diplomatic ties with Israel was an incentive for the Trump administration to remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The Trump administration also announced diplomatic pacts last year between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  Morocco also established diplomatic ties with Israel.

The agreements are all with countries that are geographically distant from Israel and have played a minor role, if any, in the Arab-Israeli conflict.



Gabi Ashkenazi: ‘Iran Undermining Stability In Entire Middle East’

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday morning (20th) met with British Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, who is also responsible for the UK government response to the coronavirus.

The meeting took place at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, during Gove’s short working visit to Israel.

During the meeting, the ministers discussed cooperation between the United Kingdom and Israel in the fight against coronavirus and the possibility of creating a “green travel corridor” between the countries, in light of the great progress made in Israel and the United Kingdom in their respective vaccination campaigns.

The ministers also discussed bilateral and regional issues, with the main one being Iran’s malicious activity.

Ashkenazi said, “Iran is undermining stability in the entire Middle East and the international community must act to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability – not today and not in the future.”

Foreign Minister Ashkenazi asked Minister Gove to convey Israel’s appreciation of Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s clear statement expressing his unequivocal opposition to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) decision to open an investigation against Israel.

“The fight against coronavirus is a challenge facing the entire world,” Ashkenazi said.  “After addressing the medical and health challenges, we must find ways to get the economy back on track as quick as possible.”

“Israel will promote, together with the UK, mutual recognition of vaccines in order to allow tourists and business people from both countries to safely return to their routines.”  



Gantz Warns Hezbollah Of ‘Heavy Consequences’ If It Threatens Israel

Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday (20th) warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group that it will suffer “heavy consequences” if it acts against Israel.

Touring the IDF’s Northern Command with senior military commanders, Gantz said the Israel Defense Forces “is ideally prepared along the northern border and definitely on the Lebanese front.”

“We are aware of Hezbollah’s attempts to challenge us in new ways,” he said, without elaborating on the new tactics.  “We will deal with any threat.  If Hezbollah challenges the IDF and the State of Israel, it will suffer very, very heavy consequences , and I hope they don’t do that.”

Gantz issued a similar warning to Hezbollah last month.

While in the north, Gantz attended a drill simulating fighting in Lebanon and visited a cross-border tunnel dug by Hezbollah, which was sealed by the IDF as part of “Operation Northern Shield” in the winter of 2018-2019.

He also highlighted the Lebanese terror group’s backing from Iran and reiterated Israel’s opposition to the Islamic Republic obtaining nuclear weapons capability.

Iran last week began enriching uranium to levels of 60%, after an attack on the Natanz nuclear facility, earlier this month, that Tehran blamed on Israel.  The Jewish state has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the attack.  However, Iran has threatened to retaliate against Israel for it.

Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also adamantly oppose the United States returning to the nuclear deal in Vienna.  Nevertheless the Biden administration is insistent upon being part of a Nuclear Deal, which is putting Jerusalem at odds with the new White House administration.  



Israel: Swimming With The Sharks

Despite being warned by Israel’s Nature Authority to stay away from the sharks, Israelis continue to swim with them off the coast of the city of Hadera, north of Tel Aviv, Walla News reported on Monday (19th).

The sharks are known to visit the area near the Orot Rabin power plant in the winter months from November to April.  They are attracted to the warm water that the plant generates.

The warm water spilling from the plant also contributes to whirlpools and strong currents, another reason to stay away from the area, Walla News reports.

Israelis aren’t listening.  They like swimming with the sharks.

Adi Barash, chairman of the Israel Shark Association, a doctoral student at the University of Haifa, isn’t excited about the warnings and says swimming with sharks in the area is routine, the Israeli news site reported.

“Playing with cockroaches is much worse,” she said, “but it is a matter of personal preference.  At the mouth of the Hadera River, people have been swimming with sharks for several years, every day.  Hadera is a very significant tourist attraction for this reason and it is no secret that a lot of people come there to watch, swim and dive with kayaks and boats and gliders.”

“This is a unique global phenomenon that is unknown elsewhere.  We do not yet know how to explain exactly why, or, why only with us.  It’s not just the hot water – there are dead fish on the beaches and they also come to find easy prey,” she said.

At the same time, Barash tells swimmers to respect the sharks’ space.

“On the other hand it is nature, and these are wild animals and should be given breathing space.  The shark is still a large wild animal that should be respected. I think their patience threshold is very high, and that they study us and understand that we are of no danger to them.”

Barash said that swimmers are of little danger to sharks but did not say of what danger, if any, the sharks “could be” to swimmers.

Nevertheless, it looks as if Israelis will continue swimming with the sharks, despite the Nature Authority warnings.