News Digest — 6/2/20

No Time Like A Pandemic To Make Aliyah, Say North American Jews

May 2020 saw an all-time high in the number of new files of American and Canadian Jews requesting to make aliyah through the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization since it was founded in 2002, according to numbers obtained by Israel Hayom.

The figures indicate that the number of aliyah files opened in May doubled, with most applicants seeking to move to Israel in the next few months.  Over 800 households applied online in May to make aliyah, compared to 424 in May 2019.

“Coronavirus has caused a lot of US Jews to rethink their paths and work to carry out something they’ve been planning for some time,” Nefesh B’Nefesh said.

The May-wave of new aliyah requests comes after the 50% jump in new files the organization saw in April, which was also a record.

Nefesh B’Nefesh also reported a change in the profiles of the potential new immigrants with more families and fewer single people and retirees applying.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said, “We have an unusual opportunity to make a 2,000-year-old dream come true.”

The organization is making preparations to bring several thousand new North American immigrants to Israel this summer.



Report: Airstrikes In Syria Kills 5 Iran-backed Combatants

An airstrike in eastern Syria on Sunday (5/31) killed five Iranian-backed fighters, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

According to French news agency AFP, the strikes targeted three military vehicles belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary fighters near the Iraqi border.  The observatory attributed the strikes to the Israeli Air Force, saying that Israel “was likely responsible” for the attacks near the border town of Albu Kamal.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said it does not comment on reports in the foreign media.

Iranian-backed militants and their allies command a significant presence in eastern Syria south of the Euphrates Valley.

Earlier this month, airstrikes on a base controlled by Iran-backed forces near Albu Kamal killed seven fighters, according to the Observatory.

The monitor said that military reinforcements for Iranian militias and their allies had arrived in the area days before.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it will not allow Tehran to entrench itself militarily in Syria, its neighbor to the north. 

In 2018, the IDF admitted to hundreds of airstrikes as part of its “campaign between the wars,” an ongoing military and intelligence effort to disrupt the force-build-up of the Iranian Shiite axis throughout the Middle East.



Israel, Saudi Arabia In Secret Talks To Curb Turkish Presence On Temple Mount – Daniel Siryoti

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been reportedly engaged in secret talks since last December through American mediation, over including Saudi representatives in the Islamic Waqf Council at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  According to one senior Saudi diplomat, up until a few months ago, the Jordanians – who hold special and exclusive status in managing the Waqf – adamantly objected to any change in the Waqf Council.  Amman, however, has since changed its position amid intensive Turkish interference in east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

The Jordanians decided, in contravention of the Oslo Accords, to include Palestinian representatives in the Waqf Council.  But the Palestinian officials who joined the Waqf opened the door for the Turkish government to establish a presence by funneling tens of millions of dollars – under direct order from Turkish President Erdogan – through Islamist-Turkish non-profit organizations.

Consequently, the Jordanians have told Israel that they are now prepared to soften their position on incorporating Saudi representatives to the Waqf, on condition that Jordan retains its exclusive status on the Mount and that Saudi Arabia applies diplomatic pressure to expel the Turkish Islamist organizations operating under Palestinian auspices.



Iran Cyberattack Sought To Raise Chlorine Levels In Israel’s Water Supply, Report Says

A report by British newspaper The Financial Times on Sunday (5/31) revealed that Iran attempted to raise chlorine levels in Israeli water during a cyberattack on the Jewish state’s water supply system.

In April, workers at a municipal water supply station in central Israel received a warning from their computer system that pumps were malfunctioning, turning off and on when they weren’t commanded to do so.

Investigators discovered that an Iranian-written code, after passing through servers around the world in an attempt to hide its origins, breached the water supply’s security and penetrated the system’s software.  The code was attempting to raise the chlorine levels in water flowing to Israeli homes.

If the attack had succeeded, elevated chlorine levels in the residential water supply could have led to thousands of sickened Israelis.

A Western official speaking to The Financial Times said the attack “was more sophisticated than the Israelis initially thought.  It was close to successful, and it’s not fully clear why it didn’t succeed.”

Iranian officials denied responsibility for the attack.  Alireza Miryousefi, head spokesman of Iran’s delegation to the UN, said in a public statement that Iran’s cyber activities “are purely defensive and protective.”

“If the bad guys had succeeded in their plot we would now be facing, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, very large damage to the civilian population in Israel and a lack of water, in fact worse than that,” said Yigal Unna, head of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate, during a speech at the CybertechLive Asia conference.

In retaliation for the attempted water supply attack, then Defense Minister Naftali Bennett allegedly ordered an Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port, which led to a fiasco of traffic jams, ships not being able to enter port and disruption of trade and financial exchanges. 

The port, located in the southern city of Bandar Abbas, is one of the country’s most important commercial centers, responsible for almost 50% of Iran’s foreign trade.



Sovereignty Over The Jordan Valley Is Key To Israel’s Security – Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi (Ret.)

→ In order to thrive, and not just survive, Israel must have a minimally defensible eastern border, located in the Jordan Valley, and it must retain control of the eastern mountain ridge.

→ Yitzhak Rabin, architect of the Oslo Accords, included full Israeli security control over Jewish cities in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank, and full freedom of maneuverability for Israelis along the main roads of the area, within those parameters.

→ The Trump peace plan with its endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, accurately reflects the Rabin parameters.  It also calls for a two-state solution and a demilitarized Palestinian state, with Israeli security control over the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

→ The US peace plan was coordinated with Sunni states and Israel.  That coordination is the result of the Sunni view that an alliance with Israel is an existential imperative in their fight against Iran – something that is of far greater significance to them than the Palestinian-Arab cause.

→ Jordan, despite its rhetoric, is unlikely to cancel its peace treaty with Israel.  It is Israel and the United States that stabilize Jordan, not the other way around.  There is no Jordanian interest in having a Palestinian military presence on its western border.

→ The Palestinian public in Judea and Samaria, for its part, has demonstrated that it is primarily interested in its economic well-being.  The Palestinian-Arab street has shown little appetite to return to the days of the Second Intifada.

(The writer has more than 30 years of military and national defense experience in the Israel Defense Forces, the Ministry of Defense and Israeli Military Industries)



Saudi Writer: “The Interest Of The Arab Homeland Lies With Israel”

On May 21, Saudi writer Khalid Turki Aal Turki wrote on an Arabic website Elaph.Com: “Israel is a peace-loving country by any yardstick.  From the day of its establishment until today, we have never heard, read or seen Israel working to spread any ideology or belief to other countries, or to support militias, as Iran and Turkey are doing.”

“Israel dispatches doctors to treat the sick in impoverished African countries and elsewhere without recompense.  It also treats many Palestinians, even some who tried to commit terror attacks to murder innocent Israelis!…In fact, it has become the preferred location of medical treatment for many, to the point that senior Palestinian officials do not find a better place than Israel for receiving good medical treatment and care.”

“I believe that, by any logic in view of reality, the interest of the Arab homeland lies with Israel.”