News Digest — 6/1/23

Hungary To Be The First EU State With Embassy In Jerusalem

Hungary will be the first EU member state to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced during a visit to Budapest Wednesday (5/30).

“Hungary supports us in the international arena,” Cohen said, speaking at a Chabad synagogue.  “More good news….is that in a number of weeks, Hungary will be the first EU state to announce that it is moving its embassy to Jerusalem.”

“This is great news for Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years,” he added.

Hungarian Ambassador to Israel, Levente Benko said: “Hungary has been operating a trade office in Jerusalem since 2019 and there has been no decision on further steps so far.”

Paraguay’s newly elected president also said he plans to move his country’s embassy back to Jerusalem when he enters office in August.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called president-elect Santiago Pena to congratulate him on his victory and praised his plan to move the embassy.

Asuncion moved its embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 and returned it to Tel Aviv four months later.  In response, Israel closed its embassy in Paraguay.

The US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, in 2018.  There are currently three other embassies in the capital as well: Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo.  Ten countries have diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, and several countries promised to move their embassies since 2018, most of which are in Africa, namely Malawi, Togo and Uganda

During Cohen’s visit to Budapest, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto agreed to petition the International Court of Justice against the Palestinian Authority’s “pay to slay” practice of paying terrorists who kill and attack Israelis.

“Hungary has stood with Israel for years,” Cohen said.  “Strengthening the pro-Israel front, together with additional Central European states, is an important diplomatic and economic interest of Israel.”

Cohen stopped in Hungary as part of his trip to four countries in Central Europe: Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.  He met those countries’ foreign ministers, as well as Czechia’s this week.



Isaac Herzog: Israel And Azerbaijan Are Both Targets Of Iran

BAKU – Israel and Azerbaijan both face hostility from Iran, President Isaac Herzog noted, wrapping up his visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on Wednesday (5/31).

Azerbaijan is “aware of Iranian hostility towards it, going back to the establishment of the state,” Herzog said, pointing to an Iranian-backed shooting attack on an Azerbaijani parliamentarian this year. 

Herzog spoke of the Iranian threat publicly, in his remarks to the press after his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev a day earlier, but Aliyev did not.

“Just a visit by an Israeli leader here makes a statement” to Iran, a source in Herzog’s entourage said.   That being said, “no country wants to be made out to be the secret weapon against Iran. “

The reverse dynamic was on display with regard to Israeli weapons sales to Azerbaijan; Aliyev mentioned it, but Herzog did not.  Aliyev was even photographed with Israeli Harop drones last year, during a time of heightened tensions with Iran.

The source in Herzog’s delegation said that Israeli arms did not come up in the meeting between the presidents, as that is the Defense Ministry’s department.

The Israeli president insisted in a briefing to journalists that the relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan is “not just Iran and defense, it’s also about trade, tourism and energy.”

“We offered them to be partners in gas reservoirs in Israel,” Herzog said.  “They have a gas pipeline from here to Italy under the Adriatic Sea.  Because of the Russian-Ukraine war, their strategic value rose as a provider of oil and gas.

Azerbaijan is the largest provider of fuel to Israel and makes up over a third of oil imports into Israel.

Baku also seeks to compete with Georgia for Israeli tourism, and Aliyev wants to increase the number of flights between Israel and Azerbaijan each week, Herzog said.

Herzog also met with leaders of Azerbaijan’s diverse Jewish community, which includes Mountain Jews who arrived in the area thousands of years ago, as well as Ashkenazi Jews who moved to the area to take part in the burgeoning oil business in the 18th century, and Jews who moved from neighboring Georgia.

“I never met a community with such a fascinating story,” Herzog said.

The president also discussed the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020, in which, as Herzog described it, “Azerbaijan got back 30% of its land, which was recognized by the international community as part of Azerbaijan.”

He pointed to the efforts of Aliyev’s wife Mehriban Aliyeva, who is also Vice President of Azerbaijan, in economic development in the Nagorno-Karabakh region where the war took place.

The source in Herzog’s delegation said that the president has great respect for the Armenian Christian community in Israel and meets with its leader, “but Israel-Azerbaijan relations are strategic, and Israel has its own considerations to think about also.”

The source also said that a date has yet to be set for Herzog’s expected visit to Washington where he will speak before Congress, and added that it may be postponed until next year.



Deadly Blast At Palestinian Terror Group Base In Lebanon

Five members of a Palestinian terror group in Lebanon were killed in a mysterious blast blamed on Israel on Wednesday morning (5/31), Arabic-language media reported.  Israeli officials denied any involvement and a Lebanese security source said the explosion was accidental.

According to a report by Al Jazeera and other networks, the blast occurred at a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), near the town of  Kyousaya in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, near the border with Syria.

PFLP-GC accused Israel of carrying out a strike at the base.  Images posted to social media showed a crater, a damaged building, and a damaged car, apparently as a result of the explosion.

Israeli officials, however, said that the Israeli Defense Forces did not carry out any strike in the area.

A Lebanese security source who spoke to AFP said the blast was accidental.  “An old rocket exploded in an arms depot on the base and five fighters were killed,” the source said.

PFLP-GC spokesman Amwar Raja said Israel had carried out “overnight raids” at the Qusaya base.

“Five fighters were killed” and 10 wounded, he told AFP, adding that “for now we do not have more detailed information on the operation.”

In past cases when Israel reportedly carried out strikes in the Bekaa Valley, it appeared to have acted in order to stop the transfer of advanced arms from Iran to the Hezbollah terror group, via Syria.

The alleged strike comes amid heightened tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, with both sides issuing threats.



Terror Victim, Father Of Two Laid To Rest

Hundreds of people gathered at a cemetery in the settlement of Shaked in the northern West Bank Wednesday afternoon (5/31) for the funeral of Meir Tamari, 32, who was killed on Tuesday (5/30) in a shooting attack near the Hermesh settlement, where he lived.  He leaves behind a wife Tal and two young children ages 1 and 3.

Tal Tamari eulogized her husband through tears: “Today we were going to celebrate your birthday; it was to have been a fun day with the children….instead we are eulogizing you.  Now I’m alone with the children.  I only hope I can instill your values in them… I promise they will know they had the most amazing father in the world.”

Many family members and friends eulogized and paid tribute to Tamari.  

The head of the Samaria Council, Yossi Dagan, said in a eulogy: “Meir our beloved brother, we do not understand, we stand in an upheaval and in frustration like no other.  You were lost in the heavy battle for the Land of Israel and the State of Israel.  You lived in immense happiness with Tal, a devoted father to your sweet children.  You were happy and flourished here in the Holy Land.  You loved the Land of Israel with all your soul, a pioneer and a true idealist.  You were a quiet person, always kind and welcoming, and a friend who helped everyone.  It is unbelievable.”

Tamari was murdered in a shooting attack near the entrance to Hermesh.  Terrorists overtook Tamari’s car and shot him – he was pronounced dead at Hillel Yaffe Hospital – the day before his birthday.  The Israel Defense Forces launched a manhunt for the terrorists, who escaped.

Ethanan Cohen, Tamari’s brother-in-law said earlier Wednesday (5/31) that “we are in pain.  Meir was a man who was all about giving.  He would think of anyone in need.  He wanted the whole family to move to Hermesh – that was his dream.  We asked him: ‘Isn’t it dangerous?’  He said, ‘No it’s not dangerous. This is the Land of Israel.  We shouldn’t be afraid to drive on the roads across Israel.’“  



Israeli Sbarro Bombing Victim Dies After 22 Years In Coma

Chana Nachenberg died on Wednesday (5/31), almost 22 years after a Palestinian suicide bomber bombed the Sbarro pizza place, putting her in a vegetative state.

New York-born Nachenberg, nee Finer, was 31-years-old when the bombing took place.  Her two-year-old daughter Sarah was one of the few to survive the attack unscathed.

Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri bombed the Sbarro pizza place on the bustling corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road in Jerusalem on August 9, 2001, killing 15 people, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and wounding 130.

The bomb that he carried to the restaurant included nails meant to cause extra injury.

Al-Masri’s accomplice was Ahlam Tamimi, who chose the location for the attack.  Tamimi was convicted and given 16 life sentences but was released in the prisoner swap for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Tamimi is one of the FBI’s “most wanted terrorists,” and her poster says she “should be considered armed and dangerous.”  The FBI poster asks for tips, offering a reward of up to $5 million.

However, her location is known.  She lives in Jordan, where she hosts a talk show on a Hamas-affiliated television channel.  Jordan has refused to extradite her.