News Digest — 6/20/19
Two Israeli Security Cabinet Meetings Called As Fears Grow of Iran-Inspired Attack
Israel fears that simmering tensions between the US and Iran will boil over into its neighborhood, reports say, pointing to the unusual circumstance of the Security Cabinet meeting twice this week – evidence of the government’s growing concern.
Israel’s Security Cabinet met for the second time on Wednesday (19th). Although its members were tight-lipped about the meeting, it is generally assumed that Iran and recent events in the Gulf region were the topics of discussion.
“In recent weeks, the estimation is that Tehran will try to increase tensions against the US – or will initiate an attack on Israel,” according to Israeli media. On Thursday (20th), Iran said it shot down a US Navy drone, and strong evidence shows that Iran is to blame for sabotaging a number of oil tankers recently, in a bid to spike oil prices.
The scenario Israel fears is that Iran will order its proxies – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip – to attack Israel as a means of pressuring the US.
On Wednesday (19th), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a message that may have been meant for Iran, said, “I hear our neighbors from the north, south and east are threatening our destruction. I say to our enemies: The IDF has very great destructive power, Don’t test us.”
On Tuesday (18th), President Reuvin Rivlin also hinted at Israel’s concerns regarding Iran when he said at a Tel Aviv event,”We caution Hezbollah not to subordinate Lebanon to Iran’s agenda, and we caution Lebanon not to be used as a launching pad for attacks against Israel.”
“We are not happy to go to war, but the army is fully prepared to respond to any threat or scenario. The State of Israel will not stand by idly. We will do everything necessary to ensure that Israeli citizens can continue to sleep quietly,” Rivlin said.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Chief: Downing US Drone Sends ‘Clear Message’
The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday (20th) that the shooting down of a US drone had sent “a clear message to America.”
In comments carried live on Iranian state TV, Gen. Hossein Salami also said that Iran does “not have any intention for war with any country – but we are ready for war.”
An anonymous US official confirmed earlier Thursday (20th) that an American drone was shot down amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over the collapsing nuclear deal.
However, contrary to Iran’s claim, the official told the Reuters news agency that the aircraft was shot down in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz – not in Iran’s airspace – by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, citing the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Fatah Calls For Violence During Bahrain Conference
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ ruling Fatah party has called for violence against Israelis during the US-led economic conference in Bahrain next week and called the conference a “Holocaust against the Palestinian people,” Palestinian Media Watch reported.
Fatah posted an image of a masked Arab throwing a rock at Israelis, with text urging Arabs to “escalate confrontations with them” on its official Facebook page.
The text continued, “The program of activities against the Bahrain Conference and the Deal of the Century is to be held on these days: Sunday, 23rd, Monday, 24th, and Tuesday 25th, 2019.
In addition, Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Majed Al Fatiani said that Fatah’s council “is committed to leading the struggle to stop the great plot that is being woven against our people.”
“The Palestinian people are not helpless to stop the plot. The cover given the occupation from here and there will push our Palestinian people to protect their rights by all means available, in order to defeat the occupation and the settlements,“ Al-Fatiani added.
Meanwhile, Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, and PLO Central Committee member Omar Shehadeh participated in a meeting entitled The Holocaust of the Century in Bahrain… Its Signs, Consequences, and Ways to Deal With It.
Report: US To Sell Israel Aerial Refueling Planes
The United States will reportedly sell Israel aerial refueling planes, marking the first time it has agreed to do so.
According to a Channel 12 news report Tuesday (18th), Israel is looking to purchase eight Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aircraft, which the US Air Force first received earlier this year.
The planes would replace the Israeli Air Force’s current fleet of aging refueling planes, which include KC-130 Hercules and converted Boeing 707s.
The report said Israel would buy the planes using the $3.8 billion in US defense aid it receives annually with the total cost of the aircraft topping $1billion.
The IAF is expected to begin receiving the planes in another two years, the network reported.
“Just like for the US Air Force, the KC-46 will give the Israeli Air Force the ability to reach out and do whatever they need to do at any time, be it humanitarian or combat operations,” a US Air Force Lt. Colonel told Channel 12.
According to a report from the Globes business daily in August, Boeing would not grant Israel Aerospace Industries permission to convert used 767s into tanker planes, which would be significantly cheaper than purchasing new KC-46s.
Woman Suffers Serious Head Injury From Attack Outside Paris Synagogue
A 79-year-old French woman was taken to the hospital, where she was in a stable non-life threatening condition on Wednesday (19th) after being struck in the head by a metal object thrown at her as she exited a synagogue in Paris.
As of press time, it was not known who hurled the object – a steel petanque ball – or from where it came.
The incident took place in the French capital’s 11th arrondissement (district), the site of two brutal anti-Semitic murders of French Jewish women, Sarah Salimi and Mireille Knoll, since 2017.
The French Jewish communal organization CRIF strongly condemned the attack and said it would be monitoring the investigation with “seriousness and concern.”
Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF) President Sacha Ghozian stated, “Even if for the time being there is no confirmation of an anti-semitic motive, attacks on Jews, especially elderly women of Jewish faith, in this popular district of eastern Paris, brings back painful memories. That is why we are asking investigators to quickly shed light on the assault, determine its causes and act accordingly.”
UK Jewish Group Slams New Zealand Government For Map Erasing Israel
A leading UK Jewish organization expressed shock on Wednesday (19th) that a map on an official New Zealand government website erased the State of Israel.
A map appeared on the website of Immigration New Zealand, which labeled Israel, “Palestine” and called East Jerusalem its “designated capital.”
The site, intended for possible Palestinian immigrants to New Zealand, also stated “2017 marks 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and 10 years of its blockade on the Gaza Strip.”
Palestinians, it said, were suffering a “protracted crisis … emanating from recurrent violations of international law.”
The area designated “Palestine” includes the Gaza Strip, but strangely not the West Bank.
Board of Deputies of British Jews Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb commented on the scandal, saying, “I am deeply concerned by the fact that Immigration New Zealand, an official government website, released a fact sheet with a map of the Middle East, which showed ‘Palestine’ instead of Israel.”
“The Immigration Ministry needs to apologize for the offending image and confirm that it does not reflect the Government’s policy,” she added.