News Digest — 6/27/23

5,700 Housing Units Approved In Judea And Samaria

The Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council on Monday (26th) approved the construction of approximately 5,700 units throughout Judea and Samaria.

Final approvals were given for 818 units, including 359 in Elkana, 381 in Revava, 29 in Givat Ze’ev, 42 in Carmel, and seven in Hermesh.

First stage approvals were granted for 4,915 units including: 1,363 in Eli, 98 in Ariel, 714 in Givat Ze’ev, 340 in Ma’ale Adumim, 312 in Beitar Illit, 310 in Adura, 264 in Etz Efraim, 152 in Maale Amos, and 76 in Asfar (Metzad).

Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman and Yesha Council Spokesman, Shlomo Ne’eman, welcomed the approvals and said: “On behalf of all the residents of Judea and Samaria, I thank the Israeli government for continuing the development of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.  Especially during these difficult days, this is the most appropriate Zionist answer to all those who seek to destroy us.”

“The Yesha Council will continue to work with the ministers and the planning authorities in order to continue construction in Judea and Samaria,” he said.

With Monday’s (26th) approvals, 13,056 housing units have been approved so far this year, setting a record for units approved in a single year.  The previous record was 12,159 units approved in 2020 during the last year of the Trump Administration.  In 2022, just 4,427 approvals were made.



Two Rockets Fired At Israel For First Time In 18 Years

Two rockets were launched on Monday morning (26th) at Israel from the Jenin area but exploded in Palestinian territory without hitting any Israelis or Israeli locations, which marks the first time a rocket was fired at Israel from the West Bank in 18 years. 

One fell 16 feet from the launch staging area and the other fell 263 feet from the launch staging area. Although a review  of the wreckage found the body of the rockets were full, no explosive materials were found in the wreckage.This suggests that either the rockets were a publicity stunt or a test run that was not meant to actually explode on Israelis.  It is unknown if those who launched the rockets might have concealed more rockets as well as explosive materials.  

Broadly speaking, the rockets were found to be of primitive design.  

According to the IDF, the rockets did not pose a threat to Israeli communities in the area, though it was unclear if this was because it lacked the range to strike them or because the rockets had other issues.

Israeli security forces arrived at the scene and conducted searches in the area, but did not report any arrests.

The IDF said that the incident is under review, but did not give much specific information about who carried it out or how similar future incidents would be prevented.

This incident comes after a recent warning by Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar that Palestinian terrorists were making renewed efforts to acquire rockets in the West Bank and fire them at Israel.

If such terror groups succeeded it could represent a whole new front for rocket defense, since presently Israel’s rocket defense is deployed to defend against rockets from Lebanon and Gaza.

The new situation occurs after last week’s drastic escalation in terror from the Palestinian side, use of force by the IDF and revenge attacks by Jewish West Bank residents.



Iran, Qatar Express Support For Putin As Fears Grow For Russian Jews – Ben Cohen

The leaders of Iran and Qatar expressed full support for Vladimir Putin during separate phone calls with the Russian president on Monday (26th), following a weekend of unprecedented instability in his regime.

During his conversation with Putin, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi confirmed his “full support” for his Russian ally, according to an official readout of the call from the Kremlin.  Qatar’s ruler, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, also confirmed his backing for Putin just four days after his foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, lauded the Gulf emirate’s “long-standing friendly ties” with Russia during an in-person meeting with Putin in Moscow.

The solidarity calls represent a minor boost for Putin, whose 23-year rule was sorely shaken on Saturday (24th) by an abortive mutiny led by the Wagner Group, a private mercenary organization led by Putin’s one time ally Yevgeny Prigozhin .

The Putin regime’s instability has stoked fears that Russia’s remaining Jews could be scapegoated for its failures, with two Jewish clerics who are each described as Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi warning in separate media interviews that the community could be targeted with violence.

In an interview on Monday (26th) with Ukraine’s Telegraf news outlet, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman admitted that he was “frankly afraid” that Russian Jews could be confronted with “pogroms” if the country’s dire internal situation persists.

Azman said he had “turned to the Jews of Russia” several times during the course of the war in Ukraine.

“I didn’t have a platform for this – I just tried to tell them through social networks to “get out of there before it is too late,” he said.  “Many left, many stayed.  They are used to living there – it is difficult to leave home.”

In a separate interview with Ukraine’s NV Radio, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich– who also curries  the title ‘Chief Rabbi’ noted that “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine about 16,000 Jews from Ukraine have left for Israel, while around 65,000 have done the same from Russia.  It seems to me that it is now most dangerous for Jews in Russia, far more so than in Ukraine.  And what will happen if Russia now loses the war?  Whom will they blame?  It seems to me it would be very easy to say that the Jews were responsible.”

According to the Jewish Agency’s assessment in January 2022, 145,000 Jews were living in Russia.



Breaking the Terror Wave – Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser

Interviewed by Amanda Borshel-Dan 

• Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kupperwasser, a former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence who specializes in the security dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, says, “I’m totally against this idea of lone wolves,” to describe the current flare-up of Palestinian armed violence.  “These are not lone wolves.  These are wolves that are bred by the incitement …. Once you prepare them mentally to be a wolf, eventually they are going to carry out a terror attack.”

•  “What brought the Second Intifada to an end was the understanding of the Palestinian leadership that they had to do something about it because they were paying a heavy price.  Palestinian interests were paying a price.  And that’s not the case today.”

• “The Palestinian Authority is either totally uninvolved in what’s happening and just watching from afar, or encouraging the terror attacks by paying salaries to the terrorists and joining in with their incitement …. One of the reasons why they don’t do anything to stop it is that the vast majority of the Palestinian population doesn’t feel that they pay any price for what’s going on.”

• “Much of the economic flourishing of the Palestinian economy is based on the presence of Israeli Arabs who have commercial activity in Palestinian cities …. We should suspend this for a while.  And this by itself is going to send a message to the Palestinians that there is a price for this terror wave.”

• “The Americans…are very proud that they give more and more money to the Palestinian Authority, even though they cannot give it directly.  So they give it indirectly.  They found all kinds of ways to bypass the Taylor Force Act that prevents them from giving money to the Palestinian Authority.  So they give it to all kinds of organizations that the Palestinian Authority is supposed to support., And by that, they ease the economic pressure on the Palestinian Authority and allow it to keep paying salaries to terrorists.  This is totally ridiculous.”

• “Iran is motivated by a missionary ideology.  They want to turn everybody into a Shiite Muslim …. If we allow a group of messianic people like that to have nuclear weapons, this is going to be extremely dangerous, and everybody should be aware of that and should take the necessary steps in order to prevent that from happening.  I’m happy that the Americans are saying that we should not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.  But I look at what they’re doing and I say to myself that there’s some sort of contradiction here between what they are saying and what they’re doing, and that keeps me awake at night.”



The Danger of Violent Escalation In The West Bank – Ehud Yaari

There has been a sharp and troubling increase in Palestinian terrorist attacks in recent months.  Since January, 28 Israelis have lost their lives.  Authorities have recorded 149 “critical” terrorist attacks – 120 using firearms, and the rest involving explosives, stabbings, or car ramming.  In addition, Israeli security services have foiled another 375 planned attacks during this period (300 involving firearms) and arrested more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Much of this escalation has been concentrated in the northern West Bank, mainly Jenin, gradually spilling over to Nablus.  Palestinian terrorist elements have improved the explosive charges they use against the Israeli military, and in many cases have mobilized dozens or even hundreds of gunmen to engage in battle.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – with generous funding and advice from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and close cooperation with Hezbollah – are investing heavily in efforts to establish West Bank workshops for assembling rockets of the types manufactured in Gaza.  Even short-range rockets would constitute a direct threat to Israel’s densely populated central region.

Hamas and other groups seek to flood the West Bank with weapons and funds, enabling local groups to arm themselves and select targets.  Weapons are reaching the West Bank via Jordan, from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Libya.

The Israel Security Agency apparently leans toward a restricted operation to disarm Jenin.  Local groups in Jenin are already preparing for a potential Israeli incursion by setting up ambushes, dispersing explosive charges, and establishing sniper positions.

The writer, a fellow with the Washington Institute, is a veteran commentator for Israeli television.