News Digest — 6/22/22

Initial Vote To Dissolve Knesset Set For Wednesday

The legislative process to formally dissolve the Knesset kicked into high gear on Tuesday (21st).

Coalition MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid) and New Hope faction leader MK Sharren Haskel met with the Knesset Speaker’s Committee on Tuesday morning (21st) in order to ensure that the proposal to dissolve the Knesset would be inserted into Wednesday’s (22nd) plenum schedule.

The Likud bill for the Knesset’s dissolution brought forward by MK Shlomo Karhi is scheduled to reach the plenum floor on Wednesday (22nd) as well, but the coalition will add its own bill so as not to establish the Likud’s taking sole credit for the Knesset’s fall.

Private bills need to wait 45 days between their placement on the plenum’s agenda and the initial vote unless decided otherwise by the Knesset committee.  The committee convened on Tuesday afternoon (21st) shortly after a bill was put onto Wednesday’s (22nd) agenda that unanimously approved the exemption of the 45-day wait.

The coalition hopes to approve the initial vote in Wednesday’s (22nd) Knesset plenum.  According to procedure, the bill will then return to the Knesset Committee, which is headed by renegade Yamna MK Nir Orbach.  Since Orbach quit the coalition, he may attempt to stall the vote in order to give the opposition a chance to form an alternative government without going to elections.

The coalition is also debating whether to attempt to “clean the table” and pass all of its current bills that are ready for second and third readings.  This will both ensure that efforts to push the bills this far will not be wasted and give the coalition factions a number of achievements that they can then use for their upcoming campaigns.

However, the slew of votes will take up precious plenum floor time and allow the opposition to use it to attack the coalition.



In First, Israel Publicly Backs Moroccan Sovereignty In Western Sahara

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked expressed Israel’s first-ever public support of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara on Tuesday (21st) while on a trip to the kingdom for a series of meetings with officials.

Shaked, who arrived in Morocco on Monday (20th), met with Moroccan counterpart Abdelouafi Laftit and Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to discuss, among other things, a program to bring workers from the kingdom to Israel, with an emphasis on the construction and nursing sectors.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry stressed that the meeting reflected the two countries’ commitment to renewing official ties.  Although Morocco has a diplomatic office in Israel, it has not yet opened an official embassy.  Israel’s official recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is expected to bring about progress in the matter.

Israel and Morocco normalized ties in December 2020 as part of the US-led Abraham Accords.  In return the Trump administration recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a region that since 1975 has pitted the kingdom against the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria.



Hamas To End 10-Year Feud With Syria, Restore Relations

The Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas has agreed to reestablish ties with the Assad regime in Syria, after a decade-old dispute over the Syrian civil war, Reuters reported Tuesday (21st).

The report, which cited two sources within Hamas, did not specify a reason for the move or its timing.  One said that representatives from Hamas and the Syrian government have already held a number of “high-profile meetings to achieve that goal.”

Syrian officials did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Relations between the Syrian government and Hamas have been strained since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, after regime forces cracked down on Sunni rebels and protesters.

The split worsened in early 2012, prompting Hamas to openly defy Assad, and endorse the Sunni rebels.

In February of that year, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh gave his backing to anti-Assad forces.

“I salute all the nations of the Arab Spring and I salute the heroic people of Syria who are striving for freedom, democracy and reform,” Haniyeh said during a visit to Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque.

Later that month, leaders of Hamas’ Syrian branch- including exiled then-chairman of Hamas Khaled Meshaal – abandoned their offices in Damascus, relocating to Egypt and Qatar.  In November of 2012, Syrian forces raided Hamas’ former Damascus headquarters.

The tensions between Hamas and the Assad regime also led to a rift between the terror group and Tehran, which continued to back the Syrian leader.

While Iran and Hamas eventually reconciled, the Gaza-based terror organization did not reestablish ties with the Syrian government.

Ten years after Hamas leaders left Damascus, however, the two sides appear poised for a rapprochement.



Lebanon Softens Demands In Israel Maritime Border Negotiations

Lebanon is dropping its more extreme position in indirect negotiations with Israel regarding the maritime borders between the two countries, Globes reported Sunday (19th).

While the decade-long talks had focused on what is known as Line 23, a triangle of 860 square kilometers of water, Beirut had suddenly claimed last December that the border should be set further south, at Line 29.  The boundaries claimed by Lebanon would span an additional 1,460 sq. kilometers of water, including Israel’s Karish offshore gas.

Israel has firmly rejected this demand.  It warned both Lebanon and “all relevant third parties” against any unauthorized drilling activity in the area, saying they would be held legally liable if they participated in any “non-consensual economic activity in Israeli maritime areas.”

Gas development companies have indeed stayed away from the entire dispute, and any potential energy sources that could help Israel’s northern neighbor with its severe electricity crisis have remained untapped.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has now gone back to offering Line 23 as the border, but with an additional 300 square kilometers that would include the entirety of a potential gas field called Kana.  Line 23 cuts across Kana, but Jerusalem may be willing to compromise on the issue, considering Lebanon’s desperate energy needs and the gas Israel is already getting from its offshore fields.

It would be a face-saving measure for Aoun to say that he had “exchanged” the Karish field of full rights to Kana.  

Globes added that Aoun made the proposal verbally to U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein, instead of in writing, so that the terror organization Hezbollah – which is part of the Lebanese government and is taking a hard line in the dispute – would not get wind of it ahead of time.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that the recent arrival of Greek company Energean’s floating rig to start extracting gas from the Karish field off of Israel’s coast, was an attack on Lebanese sovereignty and would not go unanswered

“All possibilities are open for the resistance,” he said.  “We don’t want war, but do not fear it.  Israel must cease its activities in the Karish field and send the ship back quickly and immediately.”

Another Hezbollah figure, Nabil Kauk, threatened that “missiles of resistance can harm Israel’s strategic installations,” in an oblique reference to the offshore fields.

The IDF responded that its forces could protect Israel’s vital infrastructure and warned Lebanon against “testing us”.



‘Most U.S. Envoys Fail To Understand Israel’s Needs,’ Former Ambassador Says

“Israel has never had a home” in the U.S.’ State Department, and American envoys sent to the Jewish state fail to understand the Jewish state’s complexities and needs, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told the far-right Breitbart news website in a recent interview.

“The State Department has historically not been hospitable to the state of Israel or its supporters,” Friedman blasted, saying that most diplomats sent to Israel reflect the State Department’s traditional Arabist mindset.

Friedman, who served as Washington’s ambassador to Jerusalem from May 2017 until January 2021 under the Trump administration, further said that as the Israel portfolio falls under the purview of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which handles foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa region, the Jewish State “finds itself in a bureau in a state department with other countries that historically have been anti-Israel.”

He explained that many diplomats who serve in Syria or North African countries are later posted in Israel but being “Arabists” they “don’t really take the time to understand or appreciate” the fact that the environment in Israel is different from what they are used to.

In his memoir, Sledgehammer: How Breaking With The Past Brought Peace to the Middle East,  Friedman says that the State Department instructed him to “tone down his Jewishness” 

Friedman told Breitbart that the State Department remains stuck in its culture of being antagonistic toward Israel.

He said that after revealing he wanted to visit the Western Wall, a State Department official told him, “Don’t be so Jewish.  You represent the United States of America.  Tone down your Judaism in your work.”

Friedman recalled his response, saying, “Do you think I am under any disillusion as to who I represent?  I’m not a politically correct person but, I have to ask you, why do the laws of political correctness not apply to Jews?”



Iran’s IRGC Head Predicts Defeat Of Israel, U.S. Amid Israeli Elections

The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the quasi-military mafia that runs Iran, claimed that the U.S. is seeking to leave the Middle East and that Israel is in danger of collapse.

IRGC Commander Hossein Salami’s message was timed to coincide with the news of Israel’s apparent elections that will stir up the Israeli public for several months, but his speech repeated the usual Iranian mantra.

Iran is often frustrated that it has little to show for its claims of “resistance” to Israel that it messages throughout the region, so it suffices to remain on message.  The more Israel, the West and the U.S. succeed, the more Iran claims they are weak and leaving the region.

Tasnim and Fars News, Iran’s pro-IRGC, pro-government media, reported the comments at the top of their websites on Tuesday (21st).

“Our enemies are worn, beaten and defeated,” Salami claimed.  He also said that Iran doesn’t let anyone infiltrate “our state.”  This is in contrast to foreign media reports that claim Iran is continually being infiltrated and its IRGC officials are being assassinated.  Salami claimed that if that were true, “Tehran would take revenge.”

Salami claimed that he is strengthening the Guard Corps and that he is not afraid of the “powerful formation of the enemy’s front”

Commander Hossein Salami made the comments while in Shahrekord in central Iran, west of Isfahan, on Tuesday (21st).