News Digest — 4/7/21

Rivlin Nominates Netanyahu To Form New Government

After President Reuven Rivlin held a round of consultations on Monday (5th) with all parties elected to the 24th Knesset, he announced early Tuesday afternoon (6th) that he had selected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government.

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

Rivlin said, “Given the current state of affairs, where there is no majority of 61 Knesset members supporting a particular candidate, and without additional considerations indicating the chances of the candidates to form a government, I have come to a decision based on the numbers of recommendations, which indicates that MK Benjamin Netanyahu has a slightly higher chance of forming a government.  Accordingly, I have decided to entrust him with the task of doing so.”

With a deadlock of 60-60, Israel may be facing its fifth round of elections in just over two years.

“I am doing what is required of me as President of the State of Israel, according to the law and to the ruling of the court, and realizing the will of the sovereign Israeli people,” said Rivlin.

He ended by quoting President Abraham Lincoln and Menachem Begin, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, … let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”



14,264 Holocaust Survivors Died Over The Past Year

On the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, there are currently just over 174,500 Holocaust survivors and victims of anti-Semitism during the Holocaust living in Israel according to a report by Israel Hayom.

Since last year’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, 14,264 Holocaust survivors have passed away, with an average of 41 dying every day.

Of the 174,500 Holocaust survivors and victims of the Holocaust currently living in Israel, 83% of them are over the age of 80, according to the report.  Roughly 18%, or approximately 31,000 people, are over the age of 90, and more than 900 are over the age of 100.  Some 60% are women, or 105,000.

The average age of Holocaust survivors and victims of Holocaust-era anti-Semitism is 84.5. 

Sixty-four percent were born in Europe, including 63,500 people or 36% of the total being born in the former Soviet Union, making it the largest group.  The second-largest are the Romanian-born at roughly 20,500, or 12% of the total, followed by Polish-born with 9,600 (5.5%), Bulgarian-born with 2,500 (2.7%), and Hungarian-born (1.5%).

Thirty-six percent were born in Asia or North Africa, with 32% originating in Morocco or Algeria, where the French Vichy regime ruled as a Nazi puppet government during the Second World War.

Eleven percent, or roughly 19,200 people, are immigrants from Iraq, where they suffered from anti-Semitism during the Second World War, most notably during the 1941 ‘Farhud’ pogrom.

A further seven percent, or 11,000 people are Tunisian or Libyan-born and suffered under the racial purity laws imposed during the war, with many being sent to forced labor camps.

Haifa is home to Israel’s largest population of survivors with 12,100 people listed, followed by Jerusalem with 10,800, Tel Aviv with 9,500, Ashdod with 8,700, Netanya with 8,500, Beer Sheva with 7,600, Petah Tikva with 7,000, and Rishon Letzion with 6,900. 



Jewish Communities In Gulf To Commemorate Holocaust With Muslims

The Jews in the Gulf will commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day this week together through a program hosted by the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC), the group announced on Tuesday (6th), marking the first time such collaboration with local Muslims will take place.

“The event will include young Muslims from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates who will share their experience visiting Yad Vashem for the first time and learning about the atrocities of the Holocaust,” it said.  “On Thursday, April 8, at 7:00 p.m., in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, the AGJC will host a webinar moderated by Emily Judd from the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity featuring young Muslims from Bahrain and the UAE who will discuss their experiences visiting Yad Vashem.  Later on they will be joined by members of the Jewish community in the Gulf and together, they will discuss how Muslims and Jews can work together to create a new Middle East.”

Israel, the UAE and Bahrain have recently signed peace deals, paving the way for normalization between Israel and those countries, as well as improving Arab-Jewish relations in the region.

The House of the Ten Commandments (the Jewish community of Bahrain) and the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE) will each hold their own separate commemoration events in addition to the AGJC one in which both will participate.

“For the first time ever, the Jewish communities of Bahrain and Dubai will be participating in the Yellow Candle Project, the global communal effort to remember victims of the Holocaust, whereby members from each community will light a yellow candle in memory of the name of Jews who perished during the Holocaust,” the AGJC added.  The project includes an educational website which allows participants to explore age-appropriate themes within Holocaust education.

“It is truly remarkable that we can celebrate Yom HaShoah so openly this year in the Gulf – both as the broader Jewish community of the Gulf and in our individual communities,” Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, the rabbi of the AGJC and the senior rabbi of the JCE, said.

“Yom HaShoah is both a day to commemorate the travesties which took place during the Holocaust as well as to look toward the future and build a better world for the next generation so that it does not happen again,” said Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, President of the AGJC and House of the Ten Commandments.  “Living in the Gulf, we are blessed not to experience anti-Semitism which is increasing in other areas of the world.  This is due to our close relationships with our Muslim neighbors as we look out for one another.  Therefore, it was important for us to also include a component of our program focused on how Muslims and Jews can build a new – and better – Middle East with a united front.”



Reports: Iranian Spy Ship Hit By Blast In Red Sea

An Iranian-flagged ship in the Red Sea was targeted Tuesday (6th) in a missile strike near Yemen, according to reports in Arabic-language media.

Media reports in Israel claimed the ship, the “Saviz,” was an intelligence-gathering vessel linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

According to Israel’s Channel 12, the Saviz is used by Iranian forces operating in the Red Sea and disguises itself as a cargo ship.

Israel and Iran have accused each other recently of attacking a number of merchant ships, damaging them with explosives.  The vessels in each case were lightly damaged with no injuries reported.

On February 26, a blast struck the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged cargo ship, in the Gulf of Oman.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of attacking the ship.  Iran denied the charge, but experts say the attack bears hallmarks of previous attacks ascribed to Tehran.

Another Israeli-owned vessel reportedly came under missile fire in the Gulf of Oman in late March, no doubt by Iranian forces. 

Israel has also reportedly attacked Iranian ships headed to Syria carrying Iranian oil, mines and weapons intended for Hezbollah.

Iran, whose leaders have repeatedly called for Israel’s demise, backs the Hezbollah terror group, as well as terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Iran has blamed Israel for a number of other recent attacks, including a mysterious explosion last summer that destroyed an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at its Natanz nuclear facility and the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top Iranian scientist who founded the Islamic Republic’s military nuclear program two decades ago.

Tensions have heated up in the Middle East in recent months, as Iran repeatedly violates the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, ahead of possible talks with the Biden administration.



Sudan Moves To Cancel Israel Boycott

Sudan moved toward repealing its law mandating a boycott of Israel in a cabinet vote on Tuesday (6th).

“The cabinet voted to cancel the 1958 law, which forbade diplomatic and business relations with Israel,” it said in a statement.

The Sudanese decision still needs the approval of a joint meeting of Sudan’s sovereign council and cabinet, which serves as Sudan’s interim legislative body.

The government in Khartoum had also promised Israel it would cancel a law used to imprison migrants who left Sudan and then returned, which would open the opportunity for some of the 6,200 Sudanese migrants in Israel to return.

Sudan was the third of four countries to join the Abraham Accords, the normalization and peace agreements between Israel and several Arab and Muslim states negotiated by US President Donald Trump’s administration last year.

Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, who led a recent Israeli delegation to Sudan, welcomed Khartoum’s move.

“This is an important and necessary step toward signing a peace agreement between the countries,” he said.  “Cooperation between the countries will help Israel and Sudan and contribute to regional security and stability.”

Cohen visited Khartoum in January, where he and Sudanese Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim Yassin signed a memorandum of understanding on “diplomatic, security and economic matters,” Cohen’s spokesman said.

Cohen also met with the transitional head of state, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan.   

Sudan’s current transitional government came after longtime ruler Omar Al-Bashir was toppled in 2019, and it seeks to shift the country toward democracy.

Khartoum had sent troops to fight Israel in the War of Independence and the Six Day War.  In 1967, after the Six Day War, it hosted an Arab league summit that issued the Khartoum Resolution, known as “The three Nos:” No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel.

Sudan hosted al-Qaeda and served as a way-station for Iran to smuggle arms to Hamas in recent decades. Last year, the US removed Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.  Getting off the US blacklist has opened Khartoum to more foreign investments and cooperation, which it hopes will rehabilitate its economy.