News Digest — 7/13/22

Biden On His Way To Israel: US President Takes Off From Washington

US President Joe Biden departed from Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday night (12th), as he makes his way to Israel.

Biden is expected to land in Israel at 3:30 p.m. and begin his first diplomatic visit to the region since taking office.

At 3:45 pm the President will be received at an official reception at Ben Gurion Airport with the participation of President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

At 4:15 pm, Biden will tour the Defense Ministry’s multi-tiered air defense system accompanied by Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.  The Defense Minister will also provide Biden with an overview of bilateral security operations.  At 5:35, Biden will pay a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Museum.

Biden will remain in Israel until Friday, when he will depart for Saudi Arabia for the second leg of his Middle East trip.

During the days of Biden’s visit, more than 16,000 police officers, Border Police officers and volunteers will be deployed to maintain public order and direct traffic.



Biden, Lapid To Sign ‘Jerusalem Declaration’

US President Joe Biden will sign a “Jerusalem Declaration” on Thursday (14th), alongside Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in which the two leaders will pledge never to allow Iran to attain a nuclear weapon.

According to a senior diplomat, cited by Hebrew-language media, “the US President and his administration are ardent supporters of Israel.  This visit will be a unique expression of the intense and strong relations between Israel and the United States.  It is an extraordinary statement of support for the Jewish state.”

The Jerusalem Declaration “is a historic statement that has not been seen for two decades,” the source said.

“It is a confirmation of the unbreakable ties between the two countries and the United States’ ongoing commitment to Israel’s security.”

Meanwhile, the US appears determined to finalize a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite the failure of the recent talks in Qatar.



Israel Grants More Palestinian Permits

Israel said Tuesday (12th) it would increase the number of work permits issued to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and allow thousands more Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to gain legal status ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to the region this week.

Israel portrays such moves as confidence-building measures aimed at reducing tensions.

The latest measures were approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who met with Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah last week to discuss coordination ahead of Biden’s visit.  The Palestinian Authority has limited rule over parts of the West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters.

Israel will allow an additional 5,500 Palestinians from the West Bank to be added to the Palestinian population registry – so they can get ID cards to work in Israel.

Also, Israel will grant another 1,500 permits for Palestinian laborers in Gaza to work inside the country, bringing the total number to 15,500 – the highest since the Islamic militant terror group Hamas seized power in Gaza from Abbas forces 15 years ago.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza since then.  Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas, which is opposed to Israel’s very existence, from arming itself.



Erdan: Security Council Must Condemn Hezbollah Drones Launched At Israel’s Offshore Rig

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan  this week called on the UN Security Council to condemn the Hezbollah drones launched at its Karish offshore natural gas field, warning such action could trigger wider escalation.

“These UAVs were launched by Hezbollah from Lebanese territory to the Karish gas field, a critical civilian energy facility, in a deliberate attempt to threaten Israel and gather intelligence.  This is a dangerous, hostile act, and serves as yet another provocation by Hezbollah that must be strongly condemned by the international community,” Erdan asserted in a letter to the Brazilian Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho, who currently chairs the UN Security Council.

The letter explained that the drones were sent to Lebanon by Tehran, which “demonstrates yet again the dangerous involvement and influence of Iran in Lebanon, and exposes Iran’s malign intentions in the region.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah also made explicit threats against Israel, saying that the terrorist group “has the capacity to prevent Israel from extracting natural gas from the Karish field, thus clearly spelling out its hostile intentions.”  The incident earlier this month “serves as evidence for the imminence and severity of these threats,” Erdan explained.

Hezbollah’s actions are a blatant violation of Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1701, calling for a full cessation of hostilities between the Iranian proxy and Israel.

“Numerous public statements made by the international community in response, including by Lebanese officials, referred to Hezbollah’s actions as unacceptable and dangerous,” Erdan noted, adding that “the Karish gas reservoir is an essential component to Israel’s ability to export natural gas.”    

The Israeli navy affords the country’s offshore gas rigs defense measures.  Last month as a new natural gas processing rig was embedded in Karish prompting threats from Hezbollah, Navy vessels, including submarines, were deployed to the area to protect it.

Kan 11 News noted at the time that the naval version of the Iron Dome missile defense system was also slated to be deployed in the area.



White House: Iran Set To Deliver Armed Drones To Russia

The White House this week said it believes Russia is turning to Iran to provide it with “hundreds” of unmanned aerial vehicles, including weapons-capable drones, for use in the ongoing war in Ukraine.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said it was unclear whether Iran had already provided any of the unmanned systems to Russia, but the US has “information” that indicates Iran is preparing to train Russian forces to use them as soon as this month.

“Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline,” he told reporters Monday (11th).

Sullivan said it was proof that Russia’s overwhelming bombardments in Ukraine, which have led it to consolidate gains in the country’s east in recent weeks, was “coming at a cost of the sustainment of its own weapons.”

Sullivan also noted that Iran has provided similar unmanned aerial vehicles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels to attack Saudi Arabia before a ceasefire was reached earlier this year.

Military analyst Samuel Bennett of the CNA think tank said that Iran has “a proven track record of flying its drones for hundreds of miles and hitting its targets,” including penetrating American-supplied air defenses and striking Saudi oil refineries.  He said the Iranian drones could be very effective at striking Ukrainian power stations, refineries and other critical infrastructure.



US Seeks Extradition Of Palestinian Terrorist Residing In Jordan

The US on Monday said it is still seeking the extradition of a Palestinian woman in Jordan convicted of aiding a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 2001.  

The family of an Israeli-American girl killed in the attack has asked for a meeting with President Joe Biden while he is in Israel this week.  They want him to press Jordan, a close American ally, to send Ahlam Tamimi to the US for trial.

“We ask that you address this as only the leader of the United States can,” Frimet and Arnold Roth, the parents of Malki Roth, who was 15 when she was killed in the attack, wrote in a letter.

The Roths have been waging a campaign for the extradition of Tamimi since she was released by Israel in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Hamas militant group  and sent to her native Jordan, where she lives freely and has been a familiar face in the media.

“The US government continues to seek her extradition and the government of Jordan’s assistance in bringing her to justice for her role in the heinous attack,” the National Security Council said Monday (11th).

On August 9, 2001, a Palestinian bomber walked into a Jerusalem pizzeria and blew himself up, killing 15 people.  Two American citizens, including Malki Roth, were among the dead.

Tamimi who chose the target and guided the bomber there, was arrested weeks later and sentenced by Israel to 16 life sentences.  Since her release, she has boasted that she was pleased with the high death toll in the attack.  

The United States has charged Tamimi with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against Americans.  Her name was added to the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists.

The US and Jordan signed an extradition treaty in 1995.  But in 2017, Jordan’s high court blocked Tamimi’s extradition, reportedly claiming the treaty was never ratified.

Jordan is one of the United States closest partners in the Arab world, seen as a force of moderation and stability in the volatile Middle East.