News Digest — 4/6/21

On Eve Of Iran Talks Netanyahu Warns Tehran Against Harming Israel

On the eve of talks to revive the Iran deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that it faced “grave danger” if it harmed Israel, as he recalled the battle for Jaffa in the 1948 War of Independence.

“Those who want to harm us, place themselves in grave danger.  It was true of Jaffa in 1948 and it is true today, with all the differences, with respect to Iran and its proxies,” Netanyahu said.

He delivered his words at a special memorial ceremony for the Irgun fighters who fell in the 1948 campaign for the coastal city, but he mentioned Tehran, just as the world powers are about to gather in Vienna to discuss ways to reactivate the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Netanyahu has been one of the chief opponents of the deal, which was designed to curb the Islamic Republic’s ability to produce nuclear weapons, but which Israel argued actually empowered it to become a nuclear power in the future.

The Trump administration had agreed with Netanyahu and withdrew from the deal in 2018.  The other signatories to the deal – Russia, China, Great Britain, France and Germany – have maintained that the deal remained the best vehicle to prevent a nuclear Iran, even as Tehran increasingly stopped complying with its terms.

The current US administration now wants to return to the agreement.  It will participate Tuesday (6th) along with other signatories and the European Union in talks to allow the US to become part of the deal and to secure an agreement from Tehran that it would once again comply with its terms.

During his speech in Jaffa, Netanyahu spoke of the difficulty of relying on allies and friends, and the importance of self-defense.

Israel, he said, must have the ability to “defend itself by itself.”  He recalled how in 1948, Israel could not rely on the British.  “We know all our covenants and all our friends, but in the end, our future has been determined by our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves,” Netanyahu said.

The talks between Washington and Tehran are expected to be indirect.  They will be speaking to the other signatories to the deal, but not with each other.  Tehran has ruled out face-to-face bilateral talks.

Washington State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the United States did not expect any direct talks “at present” but remained open to the possibility.

Price said the US would not “entertain unilateral gestures and concessions,” but rather it would seek to set the stage for a mutual return to compliance of both Washington and Tehran.



Netanyahu Garners Most Votes As Rivlin Concludes Consultations

President Reuven Rivlin held a round of consultations on Monday (5th) with all parties elected to the 24th Knesset ahead of nominating a candidate to form a government.

At the end of the round of consultations, 52 Members of Knesset (MKs) nominated Prime Minister and Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, 45 MKs recommended head of Yesh Atid Yair Lapid and seven MKs nominated chair of Yamina Naftali Bennet.

Three parties did not recommend any candidate.

Rivlin will announce Tuesday (6th) a Knesset Member who will be entrusted with forming a government.  If additional time is required, the president is authorized to grant an extension of up to 14 days.

Netanyahu is expected to be entrusted with the mandate to form a government.

Netanyahu’s bloc can join Bennet’s seven members and may try to get a few MKs from the opposing bloc to complete a coalition of 61 MKs, possibly former members of the Likud party.  Or he may also “pull a political rabbit from his hat,” as one government member said.

However, with a deadlock of 60-60, Israel may be facing its fifth round of elections in a little more than two years.



Terrorist Who Murdered IDF Soldier Released From Prison

An Arab Israeli terrorist who received a life sentence for murdering an IDF soldier was released from prison Monday (5th).

Rushdi Hamdan Abu Mukh, from Baka al-Gharbiya, was a member of a PFLP terrorist cell that kidnapped and murdered an Israeli soldier in 1984.

Abu Mukh and three co-conspirators spotted Moshe Tamam, 19, in uniform near the Netanya interchange and offered him a ride.  The terrorists kidnapped Tamam and shot him to death outside Jenin.

A video published by Palestinian media on Monday showed Abu Mukh leaving Ktzi’ot Prison after serving 35 years of his life.  The video shows Abu Mukh embracing his supporters, before driving away from the prison.

Although Abu Mukh was originally sentenced to life in prison, former Israeli President Shimon Peres commuted his sentence to 35 years due to a legal re-evaluation of Arab Israelis convicted of terrorism charges before the 1994 Oslo Accords.

Tamam’s family slammed the decision to release Abu Mukh to Baka al-Gharbiya, which is just a few kilometers away from their hometown of Netanya.

Tamam’s brother Oren spoke out on Army Radio on Monday (5th), asking that the government revoke Abu Mukh’s citizenship. 

“We live a 10 minute drive away from him,” he said.  “This terrorist has been receiving support from the Palestinian Authority for decades.  We could see this human scum in the mall near our house.”

Dr. Ortal Tamam, Moshe’s niece, told Ynet, “The killer is released back to his home, which is a short drive from our family home….The killer is going to be my family’s neighbor and Interior Minister Deri is not doing anything.  Why does the Interior Minister have power to revoke citizenship if not exactly in these cases?”

A Palestinian Media Watch report from 2019 revealed that the Palestinian Authority in its “Pay for Slay” policies paid Abu Mukh more than 1.5 million shekels during his incarceration. 



Israel Ranks Among World’s Top 5 Corona-Resilient Nations

Israel is the fifth most resilient nation in terms of its response to the COVID-19 crisis, according to “The Best and Worst Places to Be as Global Vaccinations Take Off,” released March 26 by Bloomberg.

“A lightning-fast vaccination drive has propelled Israel toward the top of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, transforming everyday life to put the country alongside New Zealand and Taiwan as one of the best places to be in the coronavirus era,” the authors wrote.

“Since starting shots three months ago, Israel has vaccinated more of its population than anywhere else in the world, helping it vault nine rungs to fifth place.  The resilience ranking uses data to capture where the pandemic is being handled most effectively, with the least social and economic disruption – from mortality rates and testing, to vaccine access and freedom of movement.”

Israel is the first new entrant into the top of the Resilience Ranking since Bloomberg started keeping track in November.

Until then, most Covid success stories were coming from the Asia-Pacific region, and indeed the top four are New Zealand, Singapore, Australia and Taiwan.

“But unlike many top-performing places where entry is tightly policed to keep the coronavirus out, Israel’s vaccine-driven normalization means it’s easing border curbs quickly,” Bloomberg noted.



New Rules For Memorial Day, April 27-28

In preparation for Memorial Day 5771 and in light of health restrictions, a new protocol has been formulated to honor the memory of the fallen, while following guidelines from the Ministry of Health.

The general public is asked to visit the cemeteries a week before Memorial Day to allow bereaved families to be reunited with the memory of their loved ones, while maintaining healthy social distance.

In the week before Remembrance Day, IDF commanders and soldiers, in cooperation with representatives of the Ministry of Defense, will welcome visitors to the cemeteries, and together with students from around the country will place memorial candles, wreaths and Israeli flags on the graves of the fallen.

On the Remembrance Day for the Martyrs of the Israeli Armed Forces, state memorial ceremonies will be held in the military cemeteries throughout the country.  In addition, the IDF will hold ceremonies at the memorial sites in various units.

In addition, unlike previous years in which soldiers were stationed near the graves of the fallen – this year an officer and a quorum of ten soldiers will visit the cemeteries for a more limited salute to the fallen.

IDF commanders and soldiers who have studied the legacy and stories of the fallen will light candles in their memory on the Yizkor website and will continue to fulfill their role in defending the country with dedication and pride, out of a deep commitment to the memory of the fallen and out of appreciation and love for their families.