News Digest — 4/8/19

IDF To Close West Bank, Gaza Crossings To Palestinians On Election Day

The Israeli military announced that it will shut down all crossings into Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday (9th), for the national elections, as is standard practice during festivals and holidays.

The Israel Defense Forces said the closure will begin Monday (8th) at midnight and last through midnight Tuesday (9th).

Exceptions will be made for humanitarian cases, namely the passage of medical patients to Israeli hospitals, but will require the approval of the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the army said.

Election Day in Israel is a paid vacation day for workers.  Most polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

The closure will affect tens of thousands of Palestinians who legally work in Israel every day, most of them in construction and maintenance.

Israeli citizens will still be permitted to move between the West Bank and Israel.



Senator Graham Calls For US-Israel Mutual Defense Alliance

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham reaffirmed his support for Israel on Saturday (6th) by suggesting that the United States and Israel should formalize a defense alliance, so that “an attack on Israel would be considered an attack against the United States.”

Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the 63-year old senior senator from South Carolina said that it was especially important at present that the whole world know that the relationship between the two countries is unbreakable.

Israel’s enemies should know that if they want “to destroy the one and only Jewish state, they have to go through us to get it,” he told the audience that came to show support for enhancing the Jewish Republican voice in the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

Graham has been a staunch Israel supporter throughout his years in the legislature.  Last month, while touring the Golan Heights with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, he called on the Trump administration to recognize the Golan Heights “as part of the State of Israel now and forever.”

The president subsequently signed a proclamation officially granting recognition when Netanyahu met with him March 25th, saying that the move was good for Israel’s security as well as “regional stability.’



Revealed: Gaza ‘Collaborators’ making New Lives Inside Israel

The former mayor of an Israeli town near the Gaza border has revealed that it is also home to the families of 17 Palestinian collaborators – and the locals are absolutely fine with it.

Speaking to Jewish News during a recent visit to Sderot, (the Negev town that takes the brunt of rocket attacks from Gaza), the former mayor revealed that “collaborators who once lived in Gaza have now made their homes here.”

“The collaborators – Israel’s eyes and ears in the Strip –  were later extracted,” said former mayor Dr. David Bouskila, “and both Sderot residents and the ex-collaborators are more than comfortable with the situation.”

“They use the same names as they had in Gaza,” he said.  “They work in our factories. Their children go to the same schools as our children.  They feel part of our community. One of the families is my neighbor,” he added.

The startling revelation follows a month of rising violence, after a rocket fired from the Strip flew 75 miles and hit a house in Tel Aviv, injuring seven family members.  Israel retaliated with air strikes, destroying terrorist buildings and infrastructure.

It has long been known that Israeli agencies recruit Palestinians to report on – and disrupt – terror operations against Israel, but, the news that the families of 17 one-time Gazan collaborators now live and work in Sderot is nevertheless striking.



Oman’s Foreign Minister Calls On Palestinians To Stop Menacing Israel

At the World Economic Forum in Jordan Saturday (6th), Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi declared that Palestinians should “help Israel” to no longer feel threatened, reported the Associated Press.

While Oman doesn’t maintain formal relations with Israel, ties between the Arab nations are warming quickly.  In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a visit to Oman, where he was welcomed with open arms.

“The West has offered Israel political, economic and military support and it now holds all the means of power…but despite that, it fears for its future as a non-Arab country surrounded by 400 million Arabs,” added Alawi.

While Alawi stopped short of advocating official recognition of Israel, he explained, “I believe that we Arabs must…try to ease those fears that Israel has… through initiatives and real deals between us and Israel.”

“We want Israel itself to feel that there are no threats to its future,” he added.

Yusuf bin Alawi’s comments arrive amid a shifting landscape in the Middle East in which Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman appear far more willing to engage with Israel, notwithstanding officially refusing to normalize ties with the Jewish state.     



South Africa’s Plans To Downgrade Israel Embassy ‘Well Underway’

At a time when Israel is enjoying a surge of international support, with a string of countries moving their embassies, to its capital Jerusalem, South Africa is going in the opposite direction, announcing on Sunday (7th) the planned downgrade of its Tel Aviv embassy well underway, the Agence-France Presse reports.

In Johannesburg on Sunday (7th), Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu told reporters that the plans to downgrade the country’s Israel embassy to merely a liaison office were going ahead, AFP reports.

“The office will remain at the level of a liaison and that is how it will operate,” she said, adding that it would stick to consular and “people-to-people relations.”

“We will not be putting up a nomination for a representative at the level of an ambassador in Israel,” Sisulu said.

On Wednesday (3rd) of last week, Sisulu told delegates at the South African Institute of International Affairs that the liaison office in Tel Aviv will have no political mandate, no trade mandate, and no development cooperation mandate.  It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities.

The decision to downgrade the embassy was taken more than a year ago, in December 2017, by the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party.

“In order to give our practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine, the ANC has unanimously resolved to direct the SA government to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office,” the party said in a statement at the time.

The South African government has strongly favored the Palestinian side in the Arab-Israel conflict.

In May, 2018, the country withdrew its ambassador to Israel in protest over violence on the Israel-Gaza border, despite the fact that the violence was initiated by Hamas.

South Africa remained adamant in its position despite the fact that it quickly emerged that of the 62 Palestinians killed in the May 2018 violence, 53 were terrorists, a fact admitted by Hamas.

South Africa is one of 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and has pushed for actions against Israel at the 15-member body which sits in New York.

“The situation between Israel and Palestine is one of the oldest issues on the Security Council agenda.  It is one of the only issues that the Council has been meeting on monthly, for several years,” Sisulu said.