News Digest — 6/28/21

Erdan Tells Bennett He Is Ending Term As Ambassador To US, But Staying On At UN

Israeli Ambassador to the UN and US, Gilad Erdan asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to end his term as envoy to Washington, saying he will not continue after November although he would stay on as Permanent Representative  of Israel to the United Nations.

“I’ve spoken to PM Bennett and asked him to accept my resignation as Israel’s Ambassador to the US, pending the appointment of a new one on his behalf.  It was a true honor to represent Israel to our closest ally,” Erdan, a former Likud party lawmaker who held several ministerial positions before taking on the ambassadorship, announced on Twitter Sunday (27th).

“During my tenure, I worked to establish ties with the current US administration, as well as to strengthen bipartisan support.  Those ties were proven during the Gaza operation when the US halted anti-Israel initiatives in the UNSC and approved additional funding for the Iron Dome,” he tweeted.

“I believe it is up to the current government to appoint an ambassador that will represent it politically with the administration.  However, I will continue to defend Israel at the UN and fight for justice in the international arena,” he said.

Before being appointed ambassador, Erdan served as Minister of Public Security and Minister of Strategic Affairs.  He presented his credentials to the UN in August 2020 and became Ambassador to the US in January 2021.



Hungary Takes EU Lead In Announcing Boycott Of Upcoming Durban Conference

Hungary has become the first EU country to announce it will not attend this year’s UN event marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, which features anti-semitic messages.

“The Hungarian government declared a zero-tolerance policy against anti-Semitism and is fully committed to guaranteeing the safety of the Jewish people that we also consistently represent in the international fora,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote in a letter to Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

“In this spirit, Hungary does not support the Durban process and voted against the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 31, 2020 deciding on the convening of a high-level meeting on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,” he wrote.

The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, is also known as Durban I, after the South African city in which it was held.  It was a hotbed of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages and was where the accusation of apartheid against Israel was popularized.

An early draft of the resolution adopted at the Governmental Conference at Durban equated Zionism with racism, leading the US and Israel to withdraw from the conference.

The NGO Forum at Durban approved a resolution calling Israel a “racist apartheid state” and accused it of genocide.  Anti-Semitic materials, including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, were distributed at the event.

Durban-conference secretary-general Mary Robinson refused to accept the document over the language, saying that “there was horrible anti-Semitism present.”

The US did not participate in the Durban II and III follow-up conferences in 2009 and 2011, respectively, because the original conference “became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive,” President Barack Obama said in 2009.

Israel, Canada, Italy, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland also boycotted the conference in 2011, for Durban III.  The number of boycotting countries eventually rose to 14.  

Last week, the UK said it was joining the US, Canada and Australia in boycotting Durban IV this September, “following historic concerns regarding anti-Semitism.”

France is also expected to pull out, a diplomatic source said last month, but it has not yet issued an official statement.  Germany has yet to decide on the matter.

Earlier this month, Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said he plans to hold an alternative event to the Durban conference that will deal with combating racism, including anti-Semitism.



Iran Has Drones With Ranges Of Over 4,000 Miles, Guards Commander Claims

Iran has drones with a range of 4,375 miles, Iranian state media cited the top commander of the Revolutionary Guards as saying on Sunday (27th), a development which may be seen by Washington as a threat to regional stability.

Tehran’s assertion comes as Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive a 2015 nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump exited three years ago and reimposed sanctions.

Western military analysts say Iran sometimes exaggerates its capabilities, but drones are a key element in Tehran’s border surveillance, especially the Gulf waters around the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil supply flows.

Iran and regional forces it backs have increasingly relied on drones in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq in recent years.

“We have unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) with long ranges of 4,375 miles.  They can fly, return home, and make landings wherever they are supposed to,” the Guards commander-in-chief Hossein Salami was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

US President Joe Biden is seeking to revive and eventually broaden the nuclear pact to put greater limits on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, as well as constrain its activities.

Tehran has ruled out negotiations over its ballistic missiles and their role in the Middle East, where Shiite-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia have been involved in a proxy war.



Israel Sends IDF Rescue Team To Florida Disaster Site

Israel sent an elite IDF engineering team to Florida to help in recovery efforts following the collapse of a 12-story condo in Surfside, Florida on Thursday morning (24th).

The delegation will assist in rescue efforts by mapping out the disaster site, identifying victims and survivors and supporting local rescue forces, the military said in a statement.

The delegation is being led by Col. (res.) Golan Vach, commander of the National Rescue Unit in the IDF Home Front Command and includes Foreign Ministry representative Guy Giladi, Israel’s former deputy Consul General in Miami. The death count rose to nine on Sunday evening (27th) as more bodies were pulled from the rubble.  There are close to 160 people missing following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South.

What led to the disaster is still unknown.  A 2018 engineering report found “major structural  damage” to a concrete slab supporting the building’s  ground-floor pool deck, AP reported on Sunday (27th).  The report warned that “failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Saturday evening (26th), conveying condolences on behalf of the Israeli public.

“Israel stands by the US at this difficult time,” said Bennett adding that “everyone is praying for the well-being of the wounded.”  The premier added that he had instructed all Israeli government agencies to render whatever assistance may be requested.



What’s Disproportional Is The Criticism Of Israel – Dr. Alex Safian

While the fighting between Israel and Hamas has stopped for now, critics continue to condemn Israel for allegedly using “disproportionate force” and for ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Jerusalem.  Yet when the city was unified by Israel in 1967 it was 26% Arab.  Now, after 54 years of “ethnic cleansing,” Jerusalem is 38% Arab.  The dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem involves Palestinians who are tenants on land even Jordan agreed was Jewish-owned.

As for disproportionate force, is Israel guilty because far more Gazans than Israelis have died?  In World War II, far more Japanese and Germans died than Americans.  Does that mean Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany were in the right, and the US was in the wrong?

Moreover, in May, 680 Palestinian missiles misfired and came down in Gaza, killing Palestinian civilians whose deaths were blamed on Israel.  It is the lies about Israel that are disproportionate.

The writer is the associate director and research director of CAMERA.