News Digest — 5/3/22

Herzog Meets 120 Outstanding Soldiers At Independence Day Rehearsal

On Israel’s Independence Day this Thursday (5th), Israeli President and First Lady Michal Herzog will host the main national celebrations of the morning of Independence Day in the gardens of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

The event will be attended by Israel’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and General Staff officers past and present.  The festivities will continue with the traditional ceremony saluting outstanding IDF soldiers.

Ahead of the event, President Isaac Herzog went to the garden of the President’s Residence Tuesday morning (3rd) to meet the 120 outstanding and excited soldiers, who were in the middle of rehearsals for the Independence Day ceremony.

President Herzog congratulated the soldiers and said: “Good morning to the State of Israel’s most outstanding  soldiers! It brings such immense pride to see you.  You have an exhausting few days ahead of you, but know that this is an experience that will stick with you your whole lives.  This is a great privilege.  You were chosen out of tens, if not hundreds of thousands.  You are a great source of pride.  I love you immensely and I am proud of you as if you were my own sons and daughters.”

The President added: “I wish you all good health and success in your service and later in civilian life.  Keep serving our country.  Thanks to you, our country is strong, successful, and well defended.  Long live the Israel Defense Forces and best of success to you all.”

As in every year, the ceremony will open with an honorary flyover with the participation of Israeli Air Force fighter jets and helicopters, in a tribute to the outstanding soldiers.  At the end of the flyover, the President and the IDF Chief of Staff will review the ranks of the outstanding soldiers.

The event, which will be broadcast live, will include the first-ever screening of artist Yardena Arazi’s new cover of songs in a special tribute to the Independence Day celebration.



Jews Urge Leaders To Condemn Hamas Chief’s Call To Attack Synagogues

The World Organization of Orthodox Communities and Synagogues called on world leaders to condemn Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar after he apparently called to attack synagogues around the world.

Speaking in the Gaza Strip on Saturday (4/30), Sinwar stated that “those who allow the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to be desecrated have in fact made a decision that allows the desecration of thousands of Jewish synagogues around the world.”

In response, the Jerusalem-based World Organization of Orthodox Communities and Synagogues stated Sunday (1st) that “world leaders must get up and strongly condemn the threats and remarks of Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.”

“Such anti-Semitic and murderous statements of the terrorist Sinwar should be condemned by the prime ministers and presidents of countries who are entrusted with the security of the Jews in their synagogues.  They must continue to ensure that synagogues remain secure, allowing every Jew to pray with confidence and without fear,” the statement said.

The organization noted that Sinwar’s “choice to threaten synagogues is not accidental – it symbolizes the historical desire of terrorist organizations to harm the symbols of Judaism and the holy places for the Jewish people.”

“However, the Jewish worshipers around the world are not afraid.  They will continue to enter their synagogues without fear and will not succumb to the threats of one terrorist or another,” the organization vowed.

In his speech, Sinwar gave Hamas’ war against Israel a religious tone and declared that “violating Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem means a regional, religious war.”

He also praised the recent wave of terror attacks against Israelis that left 15 dead and called on the Arabs in Israel and in Judea and Samaria to carry out further attacks.



In Change Of Policy, Hamas Claims Deadly Attack That Killed Israeli Guard

The Hamas military wing claimed responsibility on Monday evening (2nd) for a deadly shooting that left an Israeli security guard dead at the entrance to the city of Ariel in Judea and Samaria last week, saying the attack was retaliation for Israeli actions on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

It was the first time since 2018 that Hamas has claimed such an attack targeting Israelis in Judea and Samaria.  Friday evening’s (4/29) attack was the latest in a long string of incidents in recent weeks.  Tensions have mounted after deadly attacks on Israelis by Palestinian terrorists and clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police on the Temple Mount.

The site contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam, but it is the holiest site to Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it is the location of their biblical Temples destroyed in antiquity.

“This is an episode in a series of responses by Al-Qassam Brigades to the aggression on Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas’ armed wing said in a short statement, marking a fundamental change in the terrorist group’s policies.

“The fighters of the al-Qassam Brigades in the West Bank still have the sword of Jerusalem drawn for all Palestinian fighters everywhere,” the statement continued.

The claim of responsibility essentially signals that Hamas no longer fears “leaving its fingerprints” behind and is willing to assume more risks and consequences, a sign to Israel that it now faces a new challenge.

One of the reasons Hamas has thus far avoided such claims of responsibility was its desire to keep Gaza out of the fight in Judea and Samaria, with the group’s leader preferring not to give Israel an “excuse” to attack the coastal enclave in response to attacks in Judea and Samaria.

On Sunday (1st), Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar called for more attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria, saying the “real battle arena is there.”  In a speech, Sinwar saluted the terrorists who killed the Israeli guard last week.



Arab Protesters Burn Israeli Flag On Temple Mount In Jerusalem

New video footage from last Friday’s (4/29) events at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem emerged on Sunday (1st), showing an inflamed Arab mob shouting nationalistic slogans while one protester wearing a mask, burns the Israeli flag amid loud cheers.  Protesters at the scene also shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is great, in Arabic).

Matan Peleg, head of the Im Tirtzu organization, said, “The Israeli government is handing over the Temple Mount to Jordan and the Islamic Movement.  The phrase ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’ seems no longer relevant for this government.  We call on anyone who still has a drop of integrity in this coalition to act immediately to arrest and halt all negotiations over handing over the Temple Mount, and to immediately restore sovereignty over the mount, including the presence of the security forces; and allow Jews to freely enter the mount.”

As a reminder, tensions at the Temple Mount have refused to subside over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  Israeli police are currently stationed at the site to ensure the public order and the safety of non-Muslims.  Finally, police confirmed that after 10 days, a PLO flag was removed from the Dome of the Rock.  

“We’re glad the flag of terror was removed,” Peleg said.  “However, the negotiations currently taking place with Jordan over the de facto surrender of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount isn’t just a stain on Israeli politics, it is a slippery slope that puts the Zionist enterprise in danger.  There is no Zionism without Zion, and there is no government without Jerusalem.  Disgraceful, he added.”



Netherlands Rejects Amnesty Report Accusing Israel Of Apartheid

The government of the Netherlands has rejected Amnesty International’s report accusing Israel of apartheid against the Palestinians, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra has said.

“The Netherlands’ Cabinet does not agree with Amnesty’s conclusion that there is apartheid in Israel or the territories occupied by Israel,” Hoekstra wrote on Friday (4/29) to a group of legislators asking the government to respond to the report.

“Apartheid is a specific legal term and a serious international crime, and it is up to a judge to decide whether this is the case,” the Dutch foreign minister wrote.  “In light of the above the cabinet rejects the recommendations made by Amnesty in the report.”

Hoekstra pointed out that Germany, the US and the UK rejected the report, as well, and said that calling Israel an apartheid state does not help solve conflicts.

Also at the UN, Hoekstra said, the “Dutch commitment in resolutions… is aimed at achieving balanced and factual texts, preventing disproportionate attention to Israel,” while trying to vote as a bloc with the rest of the EU as much as possible.

“Thanks in part to the Netherlands’ commitment during the negotiations, the language of the Palestinian resolutions has been better balanced,” he argued.

The Netherlands has also called to reduce the number of resolutions under the UN Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item 7, the permanent agenda-item condemning Israel.



First-Ever Direct Flight Between Israel, Egypt Takes Off

Air Cairo launched Monday (2nd) the planned direct flight-route between Tel Aviv and Sharm el-Sheikh, marking the first time that an Egyptian airline has operated a flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport to Egypt.  

The new route was agreed upon by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a meeting between the two in September.  The route was originally planned to be inaugurated during the intermediary days of Passover.

Air Cairo flights are expected to be operated between Israel and Egypt three days a week according to Diesenhaus Unitours, the Egyptian airline’s representatives in Israel.

“Israelis are very interested in flying out to Sharm el-Sheikh,” Hani Sobul, Diesenhaus Unitours CEO said, noting the success of the first flight, which was “filled to the brim” by 170 Israelis.

“Tourism is a bridge to forming strong diplomatic relations between nations,” Tourism Minister Yoel Razbozov said at the groundbreaking of the flight on Monday (2nd).  “The historical peace with Egypt, with Jordan and the Abraham Accords are what led to cooperation in the field of tourism which cements the strong ties between Israel and those countries.”

The new flight route, Razbozov said, is a “good example” of the ties’ benefits.  The Tourism Ministry reportedly urged airlines to lower prices for the new flight route, with several agreeing to comply with Razbozov’s request.

The route, which was announced in March, is “another step in warming up the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the time.  The prime minister also thanked the Shin Bet for leading the formulation of the security framework that enabled the operation of the flight route.

Egypt, specifically the Sinai Peninsula, is a popular vacation spot for Israelis during holidays.  During Passover this year, some 5,000 Israelis crossed the Taba border crossing into Sinai, causing delays that lasted for several hours.