News Digest — 6/1/22

Israel Simulates Massive Strike Against Iran With Hundreds Of IDF Aircraft

Hundreds of Israeli Air Force aircraft including fighter jets and refueling aircraft took off overnight Wednesday (6/1) from various bases in Israel to simulate striking targets far from Israel’s borders, including in Iran.

The exercise, part of the IDF’s month-long Chariots of Fire wargames, saw fighter jets, transport planes and refueling aircraft take off from several bases in Israel for Cyprus.  

Israel has significantly increased its readiness level and has taken steps throughout the past year to prepare a credible military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The IDF, which is seriously planning several military options against Iran should the nuclear talks between the West and the Islamic Republic fail, is carrying out its largest drill in its history with thousands of soldiers and reservists.

One of the possible military options has been practiced during the exercise.

IAF platforms, Israel naval units, and troops from the elite Shayetet 13, Yahalom special combat engineering unit,  Oketz canine unit, Intelligence forces and troops from the C41 and Cyber Defense Directorate, are also taking part in the drill that will end Friday (3rd).

Troops are training on various types of terrain, including wilderness, urban, rural and high-altitude mountainous areas on the island, which is acting as a substitute for intense fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The drill “constitutes an important component in maintaining the readiness of the IDF for a variety of operational scenarios,” the military said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi both visited Cyprus on Wednesday (1st) during the exercise called “Beyond the Horizon.”

During the visit, Gantz met with Cypriot Chief of the National Guard Lt.-Gen. Demokritos Zervakis and held a situational assessment and discussions with senior IDF officers including the Commander of the 98th Division Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter.

Thanking the Cypriots, Gantz said that the drill on the island nation illustrated the “depths of the strategic alliance” between the two countries.

“We’re talking about the peak of one of the largest and most widespread exercises ever done throughout the years,” Gantz said.

But he warned, “The IDF will strike back harshly towards whoever threatens the citizens of the State of Israel.”



Gun License Applications Spike By 600% In Israel Since March Terror Wave

Israel has seen a 600% increase in applications for a gun license following the wave of terror the state faced, which killed 21 civilians in multiple acts of terror, according to data revealed at a discussion of the Firearms Licensing Committee of the Public Security Ministry on Tuesday (5/31).

Committee Chairman MK Merav Ben-Ari said that a separate discussion will be held to add onto the existing criteria for acquiring a gun license in Israel, in which both the Justice Ministry and the Public Security Ministry will participate.

Despite the concerning increase in a desire to carry a weapon, Ben-Ari insisted that the committee “wants to help the public who meet the criteria to possess personal weapons.”

Likud MK Nir Barkat, who attended the discussion insisted that more requests must be approved in 2022.

“Everyone who serves in the reserves should be allowed to receive weapons in civilian life as well,” he said.  We need 200,000 fighters to help the police protect their neighborhoods and families in the next state of emergency when attacked on several fronts.  With the current system we will not reach these numbers because it cannot provide an answer.”

Indeed, Barkat is proposing a bill which would allow former combat soldiers in the IDF to go through a fast-track process to acquiring weapons as civilians.

Meanwhile, during the committee meeting, Firearms Division head Israel Avishar revealed that at the moment, 151,015 private firearms are currently in the possession of 141,646 authorized civilians.

While prior to the terror wave, Israel saw 600 requests for a private firearms license on average per month, according to division member Chen Cohen, following the wave of terror, Israel saw an average of 600 requests per day.

These make up almost 93% of all the applications submitted so far in 2022.  This, in contrast to 20,000 applications submitted in 2021 altogether, half of which were granted.

Cohen explained that oftentimes, after a state of extreme distress throughout the country, there is a rise in requests for firearms.



Why Is The Jewish Star Of David On Police Uniforms In Trinidad And Tobago?

Why do police officers in Trinidad and Tobago have the Jewish Star of David on their uniforms?

This is exactly what Israeli Ambassador Itai Bardov asked a month ago when he visited the small Caribbean island nations for the first time to present his credentials.

“I was very surprised to see the Star of David not only emblazoned on the officers’ uniforms, but on their patrol cars,” Bardov told Israel Hayom.  “When I asked my hosts to explain it, they didn’t know the answer but promised to find out.”

After a short inquiry, one possible explanation for the use of the emblem dates back to the British Empire, when both Trinidad and Tobago, along with Israel, were under its umbrella.  

“I was told the British crown sent soldiers from the two islands to Israel during the British Mandate, and one of the soldiers apparently fell in love with the Zionist movement and its symbols.  Eventually after he returned home, he became the chief of police of Trinidad and Tobago and decided the Jewish Star would be their symbol,” Bardov said.

Bardov, who serves as Israel’s ambassador to Panama, also represents Israel as a non-resident ambassador to Suriname, Guyana, Barbados, and, as stated, Trinidad and Tobago.



Hamas Taxing Goods Coming From The Palestinian Authority

The Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip has decided to impose a new tax on goods coming from the Palestinian Authority (PA), an illegal move in the eyes of Ramallah and a political statement by Hamas that sees itself as a separate entity.

The new tax, at 16 percent and already known as the “Hamas Tax,” was imposed on a variety of goods coming from the PA, including mineral water, chips and soft drinks.  It is intended to be a response to taxes levied by the PA on goods coming from the Gaza Strip.

The decision to impose the tax also follows the PA granting an exemption from the increase in import taxes to importers living in the PA, but not to importers living in the Gaza Strip.

A source in the Gaza Strip told the media that the government’s step is meant to cause the Ramallah government to stop collecting taxes on products coming from Gaza and to include Gaza in the wheat and flour tax exemption, as was done in the PA.

In Ramallah and Gaza, it is believed that “this is a political step that is based on deepening the split between the PA and Gaza, but more than that, it is a statement by Hamas that it sees itself as an independent state in every respect and separate even from the Palestinian Authority.”

A Gaza trader who imports juice, who has so far paid $400 for the levy on each truck, in any weight and quantity, will now pay an additional 16% of the value of the goods, or a total of $2,000 arbitrarily, when the daily wage per capita in the Strip measures about $8.

This is not the time for such a tariff war.

In 2013, Hamas imposed levies on goods coming from the Judea and Samaria territories and provoked harsh criticism from within the Gaza Strip.



Israeli Desalination Project Set To Give Arizona Century Of Water

Visiting Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey advanced a major desalination project for his state in meetings with top Israeli officials on Tuesday (5/31), which he believes will secure water for Arizona for the next 100 years.

In Israel on a five-day trade mission on his third visit as governor, Ducey met with President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.  They discussed how Arizona can learn from Israel and cooperate with the Jewish state in making the Arizona desert bloom.

Ducy toured an extensive desalination plant, and wrote on social media that such innovations are part of the solution to secure his state’s water future.  He said desalination had made Israel the world’s water superpower and a role model for Arizona.

“My time is limited, but we have been working on this for a long time,” said Ducey, who cannot run again for reelection due to term limits.  “Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states.  People are flocking to the desert, where we have excellent water management, but we need a great new project to leave the state better than it was when we started.”

Ducey visited the holy sites in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day, and made a historic visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

In Meetings with with Israeli officials, Ducey discussed advancing the $677 million in annual trade between Arizona and Israel in hi-tech and cybersecurity.  The Arizona governor brought along a delegation from the Arizona Commerce Authority.

One major subject for Ducey throughout the trip was border security.  He toured Israel’s security fences and learned about their surveillance and technology that he wants to apply to Arizona’s southern border with Mexico.  He said that during past visits he talked with security experts about what is being done in Israel that can apply to the US.

“We do have a wall, a physical barrier, but there are gaps that have invited human smuggling, drug cartels and crime that we would like to eliminate,” said Ducey, who is head of the Republican Governors Association.

“The wall that began under the Trump administration was stopped when Biden took office, and a price is being paid for that.”

Arizona has a full-time trade and investment office in Israel led by Tel-Aviv-based American Israeli entrepreneur David Yaari.  The office helps advance Arizona’s growing technological scene and includes many Israeli companies.

Governor Ducey also led a US Memorial Day Ceremony at the Jewish National Fund’s 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza outside Jerusalem, the only monument outside of America that bears all the names of the victims of the World Trade Center attack.