News Digest — 5/19/20

Gantz Steps Into Defense Minister’s Role, Says He’ll Push Trump Plan

Benny Gantz took the reins of Israel’s Defense Ministry and said he would maintain Israel’s military advantage in the region and will push to advance the Trump peace plan, Israel Hayom reported Tuesday (19th).

At the austere ceremony at the Ministry of Defense offices in Tel Aviv, Gantz noted that as an IDF officer he had walked thousands of times on the footbridge connecting the office of the IDF chief of staff to the Defense Ministry.

“Today, I did it for the first time as Israel’s defense minister,” Gantz said.  “I pledge to do everything to protect you and protect the country.  There is no greater privilege than this.”

Due to coronavirus health concerns the usual gala ceremony for an incoming defense minister was done without an honor guard or military band.

Now sitting on the other side of the desk that he knows so well, Gantz said that one of his goals is to set a multi-year plan for the IDF to deal with future threats.

“We will defend the citizens of Israel from threats both near and far, we will identify them, cut them off and destroy them,” he said.

Gantz said peace remains one of the central goals of the government, and said that “peace is part of the Zionist spirit.  We will advance the peace plan of the American administration and President Trump,” he added.

“It is no secret that the State of Israel is going through a difficult period in the shadow of the corona epidemic,” he said.

A career soldier, Gantz was the IDF Chief of Staff from 2011-2015 and is the sixth former top soldier to go on to serve as defense minister, joining Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya’alon.  Rabin and Barak both also served as prime minister.

Gantz has major hurdles to overcome both as defense minister, and when he takes over from Netanyahu as prime minister in November, 2021.  The army general and novice politician will have to position himself as not only being strong on security, but also as a statesman in dealing with the Americans, Europeans and Israel’s neighbors in the Middle East.



Unprecedented Heat Wave Descends On Israel, Temperatures Soar Past 104

An unprecedented heat wave has descended on Israel with temperatures reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the country.  It is expected to last for six days – the longest period ever recorded.

Temperatures reached to 113 in some areas of the country on Sunday (17th).

The Israel Electric Corporation reported that 1:30 p.m. Sunday (17th) marked the highest electricity use ever in the month of May, only to announce on Monday (18th) at 1:51 p.m. that the Sunday record had been broken.

Electric outages, due to high usage loads, were reported in some areas, including Beit Shemesh and Efrat.

Israeli health authorities may decide that students in school will no longer have to wear masks against corona in class due to the heat wave.

On Wednesday (20th), Israel’s beaches, which have been closed during the pandemic, are slated to open – a welcome relief for those looking to escape the heat.

The area expected to see the highest temperature over the next few days is Kibbutz Gilgal in the Jordan Valley north of Jericho.  The temperature is forecast to pass 118 Fahrenheit.



Legal Experts Question ICC Over Alleged Israeli “War Crimes” Case – Israel Kasnett

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has set in motion an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.

Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University in Washington, told JNS that Bensouda “has come to the absurd decision that a non-country [the Palestinian Authority] can sue a non-member of the ICC [Israel] for a non-crime that nobody has ever been prosecuted for, in which the ICC prosecutor herself has said does not exist when it comes to Russia and Crimea or Turkey and Cyprus….This isn’t international law; it’s politics.”

A recent study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs highlight’s the ICC’s collaboration with and reliance on four radical NGOS: Al Haq, Al Dameer, Al-Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, some of which are affiliated with terror organizations, to promote complaints against the U.S. and Israel at the ICC.

Avi Bell of the faculty of law at Bar-Ilan University and the University of San Diego School of Law, said, “There are no good legal grounds for what the prosecutor wants to do.”  “From her annual reports since 2015, we know exactly what the prosecutor is looking at, and it is not the many Palestinian crimes,” Bell said.  “She is looking at alleged Israeli crimes related to settlements and crimes in combat, which include every military operation since 2014, including all incidents along the border of Gaza.”

“Bensouda will issue a charge sheet and arrest warrants.  If any Israelis are stupid enough to go and appear in court, they will be tried….It is clear there are going to be charges….Once Israel made the correct decision to not be part of the ICC, it really makes no sense to grant it legitimacy and treat it like a genuine court of law.”



The International Criminal Court’s Illegitimate Prosecutions

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the following statement on Friday (15th): “The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a political body, not a judicial institution.  This unfortunate reality has been confirmed yet again by the ICC Prosecutor’s attempt to assert jurisdiction over Israel, which like the United States, is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the Court.”

“We do not believe that the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities or conferences, including the ICC.”

“The ICC does not have jurisdiction to proceed with this investigation….A court that attempts to exercise its power outside its jurisdiction is a political tool that makes a mockery of the law and due process.  The United States reiterates its longstanding objection to any illegitimate ICC investigations.  If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences.”



Saudi Writer: It Is Our Strategic Interest To Maintain Real Relations With Israel

Saudi writer Abdulhameed Al-Ghobain told BBC Arabic TV on May 10, 2020: “Today the Saudi public is informed.  There is a deluge of opinions against the Palestinian cause.  It is no longer just public support for normalization and building ties with Israel.  Our public has turned against the Palestinians in general.”

“People say out in the open that they do not care about the Palestinian cause and about the Arabs in general, and that we must steer our relations in keeping with our interests.  It is in our strategic interest, and in keeping with our future economic interests, to maintain real relations with Israel.  Israel is an advanced country and we can benefit from it.”



Baby Girl From Gaza Saved By Israeli, Palestinian Doctors

The life of a six-month-old Palestinian baby girl was rescued by the collaborative efforts of Israeli and Palestinian medical staff at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, this past week.

The baby, named Lama, was born in Gaza with a heart defect and was receiving treatment there by Palestinian pediatric cardiologist Dr. Fayez Shakalia.

Dr. Shakalia had received training in dealing with heart defects through the Save a Child’s Heart Foundation located in Israel.

Six-month-old Lama was born with a defect causing abnormal flow of blood between two of the major arteries connected to the heart, and was receiving heart catheterization when something went awry, requiring immediate transfer to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for open-heart surgery.

Lama underwent the successful surgery on Tuesday (12th) and is now recovering in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Lama’s mother said she was very nervous to be in Israel for the first time but said “everything went perfect and my baby is saved.”  Lama will return to Gaza with her mother after she recovers.

Dr. Alona Raucher Sternfeld who operated on Lama, said that Israel has partnered with Dr. Shakalia for Years through the Save A Child’s Heart Foundation, and together doctors have treated some 2,500 Palestinian children with heart defects, from both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.