News Digest — 6/28/23
Netanyahu To Visit China Amid Tensions With US
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to visit China next month in a move that is seen as undermining Jerusalem’s relationship with Washington, the Times of Israel reported, citing sources close to the matter. The visit aims, among other things, to demonstrate to the US that Netanyahu has other diplomatic avenues to pursue, amid increased distance between the two allies.
President Joe Biden is continuing to keep Netanyahu at arm’s length, after his March admission that Netanyahu would not be invited to the White House in the near term.
While in China, Netanyahu will meet with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders. Advanced contacts have been held in recent days between the two leaders’ offices to arrange the visit, although no specific dates have been given, and neither Jerusalem nor Beijing has officially announced plans for the visit, the report said.
A diplomatic source commented, “Netanyahu is not going to stand and wait for an invitation that is not forthcoming to visit the White House. He is also working in parallel channels. China has stepped up its involvement in the Middle East of late, and the prime minister needs to be there in order to represent Israel’s interests.”
The visit to China is also significant in light of Beijing’s growing influence in the Middle East. In March, China brokered the resumption of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and it is anticipated that Netanyahu will seek to advance relations with Saudi Arabia with China’s help, a move that may not be well received in Washington which has been pushing for normalization between Riyadh and Jerusalem.
China has also increased its dealings with the Palestinian Authority. During an official visit to Beijing last week by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, China presented a new plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu’s trip was described by senior sources as “framework-breaking,” the Times of Israel reported, given the long-standing influence of the US in the Middle East and Israel’s position as America’s key ally in the region. Netanyahu’s visit to Beijing could signal a shift in this relationship and a significant boost for China’s influence in the Middle East.
President Isaac Herzog is set to visit the White House in three weeks.
UN Ambassador: Palestinians Are taught To Hate; Educated To Murder
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Gilad Erdan on Tuesday (27th) spoke at a meeting of the UN Security Council, urging the Council’s members to condemn the indiscriminate violence against Israeli civilians.
Erdan began, “last Tuesday (20th) Elisha Anteman, a seventeen-year-old who had just finished high school, was nearing the end of his shift at a restaurant near the town of Eli. This was Elisha’s very last shift. You see he had been working there for nine months, he had saved up some money and made plans to spend this summer hiking.”
“Last Tuesday (20th) was in fact Elisha’s last shift, but tragically, Elisha will not be taking a trip this summer. He will not be hiking. He will not be spending time with his high school sweetheart Maayan, with whom he discussed building a life together. He will no longer pick up any of his eight younger siblings from school, who he loved like the caring older brother that he was.”
“Elisha will be doing none of these things, because Elisha, along with three other innocent Israeli civilians were murdered by Palestinian terrorists whose only goal was to slaughter Jews.”
“This is the heartbreaking reality that Israelis face every single day.”
Erdan emphasized that, “From the start of 2023, there have been 1,337 rockets and mortars fired at Israel. There were eight stabbing attacks and an additional eight attempted stabbings. Eight ramming attacks were carried out, 68 explosive devices were detonated, and 157 terrorist shootings were perpetrated. These numbers are already higher than the one-sided UN reports that this Council receives, but I’m not finished. Since January 1st, 223 firebombs were hurled at Israelis, and – listen to this – 1,728 rock throwing attacks were committed against Israelis. Mothers driving their children to school, the elderly on their way to Doctor’s appointments – as long as a car has an Israeli license plate. It is a potential target of Palestinian terror. But you don’t get these numbers.”
“From the start of the year, Israelis have been the victims of over 3,500 attacks, and sadly each day that number grows.”
Erdan also stressed that,”Terror, violence, the murdered Jews – all of this has been normalized in Palestinian society … Palestinians are taught to hate. They are educated to murder. They are told that martyrdom and jihad is the only way.”
PA Faces Pressure From Israel, U.S. To Rein In Terror Groups
The Palestinian Authority is facing increased pressure from Israel, the U.S. and other parties to take tough measures against armed groups and gunmen in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian official in Ramallah said on Tuesday (27th).
The PA, on the other hand, is also facing pressure and threats from many Palestinians to end the security coordination between the Palestinian security forces and the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, the official told The Jerusalem Post.
The PA, in addition, has come under attack for failing to order its security forces to engage IDF soldiers and settlers.
In the past few days, two senior Palestinian security officers, Muhanad Marzouk and Faleh Arar, were the targets of shooting attacks. No one was hurt.
The PA believes that gunmen belonging to the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were behind the attempted assassinations.
The official denied claims that the PA has lost control of the northern West Bank, specifically Nablus and Jenin, where several armed groups have popped up over the past 18 months.
“Our security forces are in control of the situation,” the official argued. “If anyone has lost control of the situation it’s Israel. We’ve seen how the Israeli army and police are incapable of controlling the extremist settlers in the West Bank.”
“The Americans and other parties are fully aware of the efforts our security forces are making to enforce law and order in the areas under our control in the West Bank,” the official said. “In the past five months, we arrested several gunmen and confiscated 13 rifles.”
But Palestinian sources pointed out that many of those arrested by the PA security forces are political activists, not members of armed groups. “The Palestinian Authority arrests political activists and opponents, then tells the Israelis and Amaricans that it is combating terrorism,” the sources noted.
In the past week, PA security forces arrested a number of university students from An-Najah University in Nablus and Bir Zeit UNiversity, north of Ramallah. Among those arrested were Abdel Majid Hassan, chairman of the newly-elected student council at Bir Zeit University, as well as the former chairman of the council, Omar Kiswani.
On Monday (26th), Hassan and Kiswani were transferred to the PA’s notorious Jericho Prison. The two are affiliated with the Hamas Islamic Bloc, which recently won the student council elections at the two universities.
Shin Bet: Iran Helped Create Palestinian Lions’ Den Terror Group
The Palestinian Lions’ Den terror group has been heavily influenced by Iran, Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar said on Tuesday (27th), adding that they represent a new kind of organization, functioning as much on social media as in the physical world.
Speaking at the Tel Aviv Cyber Week Conference, he said: “Behind the group is the long arm of Iran. Iran influences and targets young people online who are likely to move toward terror, incites them, sends them funds and provides them with weapons.”
“The Lions’ Den, which was attacked by our forces in the Kasbah, was born on smartphones, and not in a Mosque,” said the Shin Bet chief.
Bar also noted ISIS’ influence behind a terror attack carried out in Beersheba in 2022.
The Shin Bet Chief’s point was not that these terrorists were necessarily part of Iran or ISIS’ direct chain of command. Rather, it was that Iran and ISIS are sophisticated enough to cause terror around the world, even if their proxies may not fully understand who is directing them.
Further, Bar talked about the profound role of artificial intelligence in preventing terror going forward.
He said that the maximum positive impact for preventing terror would come about through improved cooperation within the different arms of the defense establishment.
Lastly, he said that the Shin Bet has the capacity to watch terror operations being planned in real time using its mix of cyber and AI surveillance capabilities.
Israel Seizes Millions In Iran Quds Force, Hezbollah Crypto Assets
Israel’s defense establishment just days ago seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force and Hezbollah, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced Tuesday night (27th).
The defense minister said that this was the largest seizure of cryptocurrency from those groups to date.
The IRGC Quds Force is Iran’s elite intelligence agency for terror, spying and fomenting unrest overseas, and Hezbollah in Lebanon is one of its main proxies.
Cryptocurrency has been a boon to terror groups and other illegal organizations as it allows them to avoid stricter banking regulations and tracking mechanisms.
The defense minister confirmed that the funds were specifically designated to be used for terror purposes.
He said that the Defense Ministry’s division for economic warfare against terror worked closely with the Mossad, IDF Intelligence, the police and other authorities (the Justice Ministry has a special division for combating terror financing) has worked on utilizing new technological tools to track terror financiers new techniques for trying to conceal their movement of funds.
Gallant said Israel would continue its constant fight against Iran and other terror financing entities.
ILAN Founder Describes ‘4,000-Year-Old Family Album’ In Ben Gurion Airport
Isaac Assa, the president and founder of ILAN (Israel Latin American Network), spoke to Israel National News about the massive mural unveiled at Ben Gurion Airport this week, which depicts 4,000 years of Jewish history.
“This was a dream,” Assa said, “to have a mural, a picture that describes the four-thousand-year history of the Jewish people from Abraham, our father, to today.”
He called the mural “a 4,000-year family album of our history,” adding that “nothing like this has ever been created.”
“It’s important for people from all over the world that come to Israel to understand that our connection to this land is for more than 3,000 years, not 75 years,” Assa said, explaining why the airport was chosen as the mural’s location.”