News Digest — 4/27/21

Report: Hamas Rejects Ceasefire Offers, Threatens ‘Major Conflict’ Over Jerusalem

Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas said overnight that he would not agree to hold Palestinian legislative elections scheduled to take place on May 22 if Israel will not allow voting in eastern Jerusalem.

“We will not agree to hold elections without Jerusalem and without its candidates, because it is our eternal capital.  We are calling on the international community to pressure Israel to live up to the agreements,” Abbas said.

Meanwhile, mediated attempts to de-escalate violence from the Gaza Strip, led by a senior official in Egypt’s security apparatus and diplomatic officials in the US, continued over the weekend.

The Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, identified with Hezbollah, said Hamas officials had told it that there had been contact between Hamas and Israel in the past two days, via a third party, and that Hamas had rejected any proposal to reinstate calm as long as Israel continued its “current policy” in Jerusalem.

Al Akbar reported that Hamas wants to “prevent any incursion by settlers to Al Aqsa Mosque, and stop the plans to ‘Judaize’ the city, and for Israel to allow Palestinian voting in eastern Jerusalem elections.”

According to the sources quoted, Hamas issued a warning to Egypt that if Israel continued its current policies, it would “lead to an explosion in various areas, especially in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, even if that drags down the situation in Gaza and things develop into a major conflict.”

Egypt and Jordan also warned that their attempts to broker a ceasefire might fail.  A high-ranking Egyptian official involved in the attempts to mediate between Israel and Hamas told Israel Hayom that “Hamas is convinced that Israel and Abbas are working together to cancel the elections in the West Bank because Hamas is growing stronger and Fatah has a split.”



Israeli Security Cabinet Authorizes IDF Strikes On Gaza If Rocket Fire Persists

The Israeli Security Cabinet decided at the end of a Monday evening (26th) meeting to approve a substantial air force attack on the Gaza Strip if continued rocket fire is launched into Israeli territory.

The IDF presented various operational scenarios to target Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group which Israel holds responsible for any cross-border aggression.

Military officials told cabinet ministers that the Islamic Jihad was apparently behind recent attacks and Hamas relayed messages to Israel through the UN and Egyptian mediators that it was trying to get the ‘rogue faction’ under control.

The Cabinet authorized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz to decide whether and when Israel should respond.

“The ball is now in Hamas’ court,” an official said.  “We are not interested in seeing violence escalate but are prepared for any event.”

Officials added that Israel was relaying messages to that effect to the terror group through diplomatic channels but added that they could not say what Hamas’ next move would be. 

Three projectiles were launched from Gaza towards Israel overnight Sunday (25th), while over the weekend, at least 36 rockets were launched on Israeli communities in the south.  Some defense officials view Hamas’ actions along the border as a response to days of clashes between police and Palestinians near the Damascus Gate in the Old City.

The officials added that Hamas, at the very least, enabled Gaza’s Palestinian factions to target southern Israel.  They also opined that by only targeting the border area, it appeared Hamas was seeking to prompt a limited response from Israel that would not spiral out of control and lead to a large-scale conflict.



$1.1 Billion Deal: Delek Sells Rights To Israeli Gas Field To UAE Company

Israeli energy partnership Delek Drilling announced on Monday (26th) that it has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) to sell its stake in the Tamar natural-gas field to Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Petroleum for $1.1 billion.

Mubadala Petroleum, a government-owned oil and gas exploration and production company, was established in 2012 and operates in 10 countries. Its primary focus is in the Middle East, North Africa, Russia and Southeast Asia.

Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu called the development “a large step toward the final completion of the Gas Framework, in accordance with all our undertakings at the outset,” reported the Israeli business daily Globes.

The agreement also represented a “further important stage in fulfilling the vision of strong regional cooperation,” he added.

After the sale of its rights in Tamar, Delek Drilling will continue to hold a 45.3 percent share in the Leviathan reservoir, alongside holdings in Ithaca Energy, which operates in the North Sea, and other assets, according to Globes.



104 New ‘Olim’ From North America Arrive In Israel

On Monday (26th), the aliyah flight chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh brought 28 families, 18 singles and 27 retirees to their new homes in Israel.

The new immigrants hailed from New York,  New Jersey, Ontario, California, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland.  They have chosen to live in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Beit Shemesh, Nahariya, Ra’anana, Herzliya and Netanya among other destinations.

The oldest oleh is aged 98 years old and the youngest is a four-month-old baby.

“I am honored and excited to welcome today’s olim from North America,” said Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata upon their arrival.

“Despite these challenging times, we are doing our utmost to expedite aliyah from around the world.  We will continue to provide the support necessary for new olim in order for them to feel at home from the moment they arrive, in full cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency,” she added.

Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog said he was excited by the arrival of the new olim and lauded their arrival despite ongoing difficulties caused by the global COVID-19 crisis.

“Despite the significant travel restrictions during the pandemic, we’ve succeeded in bringing tens of thousands of Jews home to Israel, proving that nothing can stop Aliyah.  I wish these latest arrivals all the success in building their new lives in Israel,” said Herzog.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh noted that interest in aliyah has risen during the pandemic despite actual immigration to Israel having decreased sharply due to airport closures and massive reduction in commercial air travel.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, despite all the challenges and uncertainty, interest in aliyah has continued to rise,” said Fass.

“As a result, we have worked harder than ever to overcome the hurdles and prepare for the unexpected as best as we can.  Our dedicated staff has been working round the clock to support and help facilitate the aliyah of our olim, who have shown incredible resilience in the face of delayed dreams and continue to inspire us with their commitment to the Zionist dream of living in Israel.”



Paris Street To Be Named For Sarah Halimi

At a mass protest against the decision by France’s highest court not to prosecute the suspected killer of Sarah Halimi, Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo announced the French capital would name a street for the victim of the extremely violent anti-Semitic hate crime.

“We know that what’s at stake in this story is not just the Jewish community, but the Republic.  We must show up because an anti-Semitic murder has taken place, and this crime must be tried,” Mayor Hidalgo told the French-language BFMTV news channel at a mass protest against the court ruling Sunday (25th).

On Tuesday (20th), France’s Supreme Court rejected a complaint lodged by the family of Sarah Halimi, who was brutally killed by her neighbor Kabili Troare in 2018, against the Paris Court of Appeals 2019 ruling that Kabili Troare, 27, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” before killing his 65-year-old neighbor, could not be tried as he consumed an excessive amount of marijuana and had been “delusional” at the time of the attack.

“Justice must be done for Sarah Halimi.  I think we need a new law and that this law should be named after Sarah Halimi.  And we must fight against anti-Semitism because it is a plague, a plague that undermines the foundations of our republic and our democracy,” Hidalgo said.

“We also have the responsibility today to carry this message, it must be done with determination.  I mean that a street will bear the name of Sarah Halimi in Paris – it is a project we’ll work on with the family,” she said.



Netanyahu Offers Gantz Premiership In New Rotation Government

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz the opportunity to be first as prime minister in a rotation government, Israel’s Channel 12 reported Sunday evening (25th).

The offer may be seen as a sign of desperation as the prime minister is unable to gather together a coalition government.

According to the report, if agreed upon, Gantz would serve as prime minister the first and fourth years of the four-year term, with Netanyahu leading the government for the two years in between.

Gantz would also remain defense minister throughout the entire term.

In fact, had Netanyahu not called for new elections, Gantz would have taken the reins in November.

According to the report, Netanyahu already made the suggestion to Gantz last Tuesday (20th).

Gantz reportedly responded that he “does not see it as a possibility,” but he did not outright decline the offer.

In the most recent election campaign, he affirmed that he would not join Netanyahu, however if he decides to accept the offer, he can serve in the position that he was supposed to enter anyway in November.