News Digest — 6/24/22

PA Ordered To Pay $37.5 Million To Families Of Israeli Terror Victims

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday (22nd) ordered the Palestinian Authority to pay $37.5 million in compensation to 32 Israeli families that lost members to terror attacks during the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

According to reports in the Israeli media, Tuesday’s (22nd) ruling comes after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in April that the Ramallah practice of paying security prisoners and their families constituted “approval” of terrorist attacks against Israelis, meaning that the PA can be legally sued for compensation.

Attorneys from the Shurat HaDin NGO who represented the families thanked the court for the ruling, which they said provided justice for the families of the victims, but added that they intend to appeal the ruling to seek greater compensation, the report stated.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner who is the founder of Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, tweeted Wednesday (23rd): “Another huge victory of ours over terror.”

The ruling, she said, “forms a precedent, and it is the highest that a court has ruled in a lawsuit ruling against the Palestinian Authority.”

The Palestinian Authority routinely spends hundreds of millions of dollars on payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks against Israel.  The PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy is a widely condemned practice that takes a huge cut of Ramallah’s budget – funded by donor countries in the West and the Arab world – every year.

“Pay-for slay” has earned the PA scathing international criticism, but Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to keep up terrorists’ payments, even if it bankrupts the PA.



Israeli Firefighters Help Battle Blazes In Cyprus

Israel on Thursday (23rd) dispatched two water-dropping aircraft to help battle a large wildfire that has scorched at least 10,000 acres of forest in the foothills of the Pentadaktylos mountain range in the breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus.

The two Israeli aircraft joined another two planes and a helicopter that the Cyprus government sent to fight the blaze, following a request from breakaway Turkish Cypriot authorities, made through the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, on the island nation.

Aircraft from Turkey, the UN and two British military bases on the island are also helping in firefighting efforts.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece.  Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and Turkish Cypriots reject the internationally recognized Cypriot government’s authority over the island’s northern third.

Cyprus government deputy spokeswoman Niovi Parissinou told state-run Cyprus News Agency that government authorities are “always ready and willing” to answer the call for assistance.  Despite the island’s complex politics, this kind of “fire diplomacy” illustrates a willingness for the rival sides to work together on dealing with natural disasters.

Cyprus Forestry Department Chief Charalambos Alexandrou told CNA that the two Israeli aircraft touched down at Larnaca airport in the south before starting airdrops over the fire-affected areas in the north.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersis Tatar flew over the affected area to inspect the damage Thursday (23rd).  He said that the blazes should hopefully be brought under complete control with help from Greek Cypriot and Israeli aircraft.

The blaze threatened three villages.  The fire apparently started when a car outside a village home went up in flames.



New Olim From Ethiopia Arrive In Israel

A special flight brought a group of 160 Ethiopian Jewish olim (new immigrants) to Israel on Tuesday (22nd) as part of Operation Tzur Yisrael (Rock of Israel).

Tuesday’s flight was the third since the airlift resumed in November.  Operation Tzur Yisrael aims to bring some 3,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel this year.

The second phase of the operation occurred earlier this month when two flights arrived at Ben Gurion Airport bringing 341 olim from Ethiopia.  Phase one was launched in December 2021 and brought 2,000 Ethiopian Jews amid civil war in Ethiopia and other challenges.

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem sponsored the flights, and together with Tuesday’s (22nd) arrival, the ICEJ has supported the aliyah of 2,750 Jews from Ethiopia who have immigrated to Israel since 2015.

“The Christian Embassy is privileged to help with the historic ingathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel in our day, and we are especially committed to standing in support of the Ethiopian Aliyah,” said ICEJ President Dr. Jurgen Buhler.

The Jews of Ethiopia “are the remnant of an ancient community who have waited long and suffered much for the hope of one day reuniting with the Jewish mainstream here in the land of their forefathers.  May they be blessed as they embrace family and loved ones awaiting their arrival in Israel,” he said.

Many of the Ethiopian arrivals have been living for some 20 years in difficult conditions in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, waiting for their chance to immigrate to Israel.

Over 95,000 Ethiopian Jews have immigrated to Israel since the mid-1980s when approximately 8,000 immigrants arrived during Operation Moses through Sudan.  In 1991, 14,000 immigrants arrived as part of Operation Solomon.  In the summer of 2013, The Jewish Agency launched Operation Dove’s Wings which brought 7,000 immigrants from Ethiopia.

To date, more than 2,000 new immigrants have arrived in the ongoing Operation Tzur Yisrael, with that total expected to grow to 5,000 following the flights that are planned during the coming months.

Along with their offspring, the Ethiopian community in Israel today numbers over 140,000 members.

The remnant of Jews still left in Ethiopia was previously prevented from coming because they are considered Falash Mura, Jews forced to convert to Christianity several generations ago.  However, they continued to practice Judaism and have relatives in Israel, so the Israeli government approved the resumption of their Aliyah back in 2015 on humanitarian grounds.



The Abraham Accords And The Changing Shape Of The Middle East – Dennis Ross

As the lead U.S. negotiator on the Oslo and Israeli-Arab processes, I set up a number of discreet meetings between Israeli officials and Gulf state counterparts in the 1990s.  Most of the bilateral meetings involved security cooperation and were built on intelligence contacts that Israel’s Mossad had established.  Security was the basis of these talks.

In 2007, Condoleezza Rice decided to launch an ambitious initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presented the initiative to the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, fully expecting them to embrace and endorse her effort.  To her surprise, the Saudi, Emirati, Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Omani leaders showed little interest in her initiative and instead made it clear that, in her words, they had three priorities: Iran, Iran and Iran.”  Israel shared the same priority and the reality of a strong converging strategic threat perception, fostered deeper security cooperation.

The fundamental point is that Arab leaders increasingly came to view cooperation with Israel was in their best interest.  As Arab officials told me, “Israel, unlike the U.S., isn’t going anywhere” and “Israel actually acts and doesn’t talk about it.”

Moreover, among the Gulf states, frustration with the Palestinians, especially their leadership, has become commonplace.  In my trips to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, prominent officials assert their unwillingness to deny their country what is in its best interests for the sake of the Palestinians.

The writer, who served in senior national security positions in four U.S. administrations, is the Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.



Iranian Protests Continue And Are Shaking The Unity Of The Conservative Camp In Iran – Lt.-Col Michael Segall

In the year since the electoral triumph of President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran has been awash with protests by teachers, factory workers, pensioners, bazaar merchants, drivers, and professional unions.  The average monthly income of a senior government official or a veteran high school teacher, which stood several months ago at $250, has now fallen to less than $170.

The Iranian regime is performing an economic “emergency operation.” removing subsidies for basic commodities.  This has led to price rises for all essential and nonessential services.  Tens of millions of middle-class families are now under the poverty line.  Since June 16, protests have been held in at least 40 cities.

Based on several unconfirmed reports, in the recent demonstrations, security and law enforcement officers apparently defied their commanders’ orders and did not crack down very hard on demonstrators.  Their families, too, are suffering from the economic woes, and the regime has stopped granting them special economic privileges.

With no improvement in sight, President Raisi finds himself under fire including from among his own conservative camp, which currently dominates all the governmental institutions and the regime’s power centers.  While at the same time, the opposition to the regime is basically weak, divided, and disorganized.

The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center.



IsraAID To Help Relief Efforts Following Devastating Afghanistan Earthquake

IsraAID has launched a humanitarian response to the earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan on Monday (21st) which killed at least 1,000 people, injured more than 1,600 and damaged thousands of homes.  Numbers are expected to rise as search-and-rescue operations continue.

The Israeli aid organization will work with local partners to assess the needs of the affected population and distribute essential medical and relief supplies.

With large numbers of wounded and the health system already strained, there are growing concerns that a lack of basic shelter and sanitation could lead to a secondary health crisis.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake severely impacted Pakitka and Khost provinces, and was felt in the capital city of Kabul.  People in Pakistan and India reportedly also felt the shaking.  In the most severely affected area – The Gavan District in Paktika Province – some 70% of the housing has been affected with up to 1,800 homes reportedly damaged or destroyed.

CEO of IsraAID Yotam Polizer said the organization was “committed to responding to humanitarian crises worldwide, wherever they occur, and building lasting relationships with the communities there.”

“Through the evacuation of vulnerable Afghan nationals last year and our ongoing work in Albania with Afghan refugees, we have gotten to know amazing Afghan people and communities.  In the face of this devastating earthquake, we reaffirm our long-term commitment to helping them rebuild their lives,” he said.