News Digest — 6/24/19

Netanyahu To Bolton: No Peace Plan Without Israeli Control of The Jordan Valley

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (23rd) pledged that Israel will listen “fairly and openly” to the U.S. peace proposals, and was sorry that the Palestinians are not willing to do even that.

Netanyahu’s comments came as he toured the Jordan Valley with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton two days before the opening of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop the U.S. administration is organizing in Bahrain to gain backing for the economic component of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

“In general, I would say that we will hear the American proposition, hear it fairly, and with openness, and I cannot understand how the Palestinians, before they even heard the plan, rejected it outright,” Netanyahu said.  “That is not the way to proceed.”

The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the workshop and decried as a “sell out” the plan which would see up to $50 billion in investments over the next decade in the region, with some $28 billion of that earmarked tfor the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Despite pressure from the PA, government representatives from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will take part in the conference, along with representatives from the US, Europe, Africa, Asia and various international organizations.  A number of Israeli business people are also scheduled to take part.

Netanyahu took Bolton via helicopter to various points in the Jordan Valley where he stressed the region’s strategic importance to Israel.  

“The Jordan Valley offers Israel the minimal strategic depth and height for the defense of our country, and our presence here also guarantees stability and security for the entire region,” Netanyahu said to Bolton.

“For those who say that for peace to be established Israel has to leave the Jordan Valley, I say that it will not bring peace.  It will bring war and terror – and we’ve been there. We don’t want to be there again. So under any peace agreement our position will be that Israel’s presence should continue here for Israel’s security and for the security of all,” Netanyahu said.  “We believe that peace is coupled and dependent on security – our presence here guarantees security, and therefore guarantees peace.”

Bolton said that without security “there is no peace, no long-lasting peace.  And I think it is too bad that more Americans can’t come to locations like this, see the geography, understand its significance, and how it affects Israel’s critical security position, and explains why Israel has taken the view that it has.”



Despite Official Boycott, Palestinian Business Delegation To Attend Bahrain Meet

Approximately 10 Palestinians from the business world will attend the U.S.-led economic workshop in Bahrain later this week, according to an Israeli-American businessman who said he will participate in the conference as an adviser to the delegation.

Many Palestinians have rejected the summit, which Ramallah sees as an attempt to buy off Palestinian political aspirations.  But Charles Tawil said several businesspeople from across the West Bank who work in small-and-medium-sized enterprises will attend.

Tawil told the Times of Israel on Sunday (23rd) that he would not name most of those participating because of “security concerns,” but said that they all hold ties to Hebron-area businessman Ashraf Jabari.

Jabari, a former member of the Palestinian Authority security forces who maintains ties with settlers in the West Bank and to U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, is one of two Palestinian businessmen to publicly state that he will attend the conference.  He is often derided as outside the mainstream of Palestinian society.

Tawil confirmed that Mohammed Massed, another Palestinian businessman, will slo attend the conference.



Hezbollah Is Now Giving Orders To Syria’s Army – And Using It To Spy On Israel – Avi Issacharoff

Earlier this month the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-backed watchdog group, reported that Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah positions on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.  There was no Israeli comment on the claim.

The report said one of the targets was a post on Tel al-Harra, a mountain that is considered a strategic point that overlooks the Golan Heights, while the other was in Quneitra, near the UN-monitored border crossing with Israel, where Arab media reports a Syrian air-defense position and Hezbollah intelligence center are located.

The Iran-backed Lebanese terror group had been trying to set up a front on the Syrian Golan for years, but had previously been unable to gain a sufficient foothold in the area.  However, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s conquest of the border-area last summer provided the regime-allied organization with an opportunity to once again attempt to establish the necessary infrastructure with which it could threaten Israel near the border.

The alleged Israeli strikes near the border were rare occurrences.  In the past Israel has targeted villages and towns along the Golan Heights frontier after identifying Iranian and Hezbollah attempts to establish cells and infrastructure in the area.

But the incident also highlighted a reality once unthinkable in Syria: With Hezbollah one of the chief powers setting the tone in the country after years of civil war, Syrian army forces are now in some cases taking orders from the organization – and helping it spy on Israel.

Hezbollah’s presence in Syrian territory opposite the Israeli border is a natural continuation of the group’s expanding activity in the Middle East (in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, among others), and the civil war that has been raging in Syria for approximately eight years.

Its increased clout is particularly noticeable in the region of southern Syria, called Hauran.  In the same area that gave rise to the protests against Assad in March 2011 in the city of Daara, a situation has now formed in which Syrian soldiers receive “recommendations” – which are in effect orders – from Hezbollah commanders.

A segment of the Syrian army that controls the southern part of the country works closely with many consultants from Hezbollah, which uses it for purposes such as intelligence-gathering, and is helping the Lebanon-based group prepare for an expected future war with Israel (as well as assisting it in dealing with local opposition).

To put it in the simplest terms, these Syrian troops are now serving Hezbollah’s Shiite army in Lebanon.  Bashar’s deceased father, Hafez Assad, would be rolling in his grave: During his time, the elder Assad waged war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and killed hundreds of its members.

How did the tables turn?  The civil war was, without a doubt, the key event, with the Syrian army now dependent on assistance from Hezbollah and Iran in order to survive.



Iran: Revolutionary Guards Hold Dinner To celebrate Shooting Down U.S. Drone

A group of 30 Revolutionary Guards officials celebrated the downing of the U.S. drone at a prayer and dinner event held this week in honor of the military achievement.

According to a New York Times report, the group met in a villa in the northeastern section of Tehran and sat down around a dining table where chicken and rice dishes were served.

“A special greeting to the commander who ordered the attack against the American drone and the fighters who carried it out,” said one of the clerics at the meeting, to which all replied: ‘Amen.’  The cleric said the Guards had wondered if they could hit such a high target in the sky.

Last Wednesday night (19th), Iranian forces shot down an unmanned American aircraft which the U.S. claims was flying over international waters.

Iran also fired a missile at another American drone aircraft earlier this month, but failed to bring it down.



Jewish Graves Vandalized In South Africa

The Jewish community in Strand, South Africa, filed a police complaint recently after four gravestones in the local Jewish cemetery were vandalized.  Last week, two other Jewish cemeteries in the same district of Western Cape were also the target of vandalism. Police fear it may be the work of an active neo-Nazi cell.

Only last December, the Jewish community of Cape Town was shocked when the Jewish cemetery in Wellington, 45 minutes away from Cape Town, was desecrated.  The Jewish community announced that 39 Jewish headstones were desecrated there, by unknown individuals. Stuart Diamond, the head of the Jewish community in Cape Town said at the time, “Our community is shocked by this attack.  According to the Constitution, South Africa belongs to everyone who lives in it, and each must be respected and accepted.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog called on all countries to take strong action to combat the troubling and rising phenomenon.

“I appeal to governments around the world and to law enforcement authorities to not take it lightly, and to take a firm hand against any manifestation of anti-Semitism,” he said.

Deputy Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, Yaakov Hagoel, responded on Sunday (23rd) to the anti-Semitic events, saying, “These incidents , unfortunately spread like wildfire and have become a global trend, and these are very serious incidents that must be stopped immediately before they kill Jews.”

“The South African police must stop these attackers and it is the South African government’s responsibility to act accordingly against such incidents.  If this is indeed the actions of a neo-Nazi cell, we must put an end to it, the sooner the better,” Hagoel said.