News Digest — 7/14/22

US President Visits Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial

US President Joe Biden, who arrived in Israel on Wednesday afternoon (13th), visited the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in the early evening hours.  The visit was one of the few ironclad commitments on the president’s itinerary during his two-day visit to Israel and was slated as the first presidential stop following a special inspection of Israeli air defense systems, which Biden was granted soon after his arrival.

At Yad Vashem, Biden alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, who traveled to Israel with him, participated in a memorial ceremony.  President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau accompanied them during the ceremony and the visit to the Hall of Remembrance.

At the beginning of the memorial ceremony, the Angkor Children’s Choir sang “Walk to Caesarea” written by Hannah Szenes,  The President rekindled the Eternal Flame and laid a wreath on a slab under which the ashes of Holocaust victims from Nazi death camps are buried.  Cantor Shmuel Berlad recited El Maleh Rachamim, the Jewish prayer for the souls of the departed.

While in the Hall of Remembrance, Biden conversed with two Holocaust survivors: Rena Quint and Giselle Cycowicz.  He concluded the event by signing the Yad Vashem guestbook.



Iranian President: ‘Biden’s Visit Will Not Bring Security To Israel’

US President Joe Biden’s Middle East tour will not bring security to Israel, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said on Wednesday (13th).

“If the visits of American officials to the countries of the region are aimed at strengthening the position of the Zionist regime and normalizing its relations with certain states, these efforts will not bring security to Israel,” Raisi declared, according to a statement from the Iranian presidency.

Biden landed in Israel on Wednesday afternoon (13th) as part of his first official Middle East trip since he took office.

He will also pay a visit to Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia.

For Israel, Biden’s Middle East trip is seen as a way to help contain Iran’s security threat and normalize ties with Saudi Arabia, Israel’s then foreign minister, now prime minister, Yair Lapid, said in June.

“We are trying to put Iran under siege both security-wise and policy-wise, because Iran is a threat to the entire region, not just Israel,” he said.

“And of course, all countries who are under the same threat have to find ways, or at least to think together, what they are going to do about it,” Lapid said, referring to last year’s attacks on Saudi Arabia by Iranian missiles. 



Terrorists Rewarded With Salary Boosts Before Biden Meeting In Ramallah

Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas will ask US President Joe Biden to disregard the Taylor Force Act and restore cash aid to the PA during their meeting set for Friday (15th), Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported.

The PA has a longstanding policy of paying generous stipends to Palestinians convicted of terror offenses and their families, which the Israeli government and watchdog groups have noted actively encourages and rewards deadly attacks on Israelis and Jews.

Taylor Force, an American military veteran, was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist during a trip to Tel Aviv in 2016.  Then-president Donald Trump spearheaded the effort to implement a law in his name that cut off funding to the PA until terrorists no longer receive a salary from the PA.

According to PMW, despite the freeze on some financial aid from the US, the PA has recently boosted payments to imprisoned terrorists, with the entity paying higher amounts to those who have been imprisoned for decades.

For example, the Mashahreh brothers – members of the Hamas terror group who helped plan and execute a bus bombing that killed 19 people – have been incarcerated since 2002.

Because they have now spent 20 years in Israeli prison, the PA has essentially given them a raise based on seniority, boosting their monthly payments to $2,572 each.

While it’s unclear exactly how much money the PA spends each year on financial rewards for imprisoned terrorists, the amount is likely in the millions of dollars.

Biden recently announced that he had restored some $500 million in funding to the PA, though it’s unclear how he bypassed the Taylor Force Act.



Saudi Magazine Praises Arab Israelis Who Serve In IDF

Last weekend’s edition of the Saudi magazine Al Majalla, published from London, ran a cover story unusual in the Arab world – a positive feature about Arab Israelis who serve in the IDF.

The article describes how a battalion of combat troops assembles early one morning in the Negev Desert.

“And yet, these are not regular soldiers, but Arabs who chose to volunteer to fight and even sacrifice their lives to defend the State of Israel,” the piece tells readers.

“These young people, who include women, are proud to be part of the Israeli Army.  One of the young men, A-Raqib Imad, says proudly, ‘It’s a great honor to hold a weapon in one hand and a Quran in the other to defend my homeland, Israel,” the article continues.

The article also says that mainstream media outlets err in their portrayal of the Israeli military out of the mistaken perception that it only represents Jewish Israelis, and notes that the IDF represents all Israelis – Jews, Muslims and Druze.

One of the interviewees is Maj. Ala, an Arab woman who currently serves as deputy IDF spokesperson in Arabic.  The article notes that she was promoted to major in 2021, becoming the first Arab Muslim woman to hold that rank in the history of the IDF.

Al-Majalla also spoke to Alaa Hassan Kaabia, an Arab Israeli who spent two decades in the army and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“The IDF is the only institution in which there is no discrimination and there is total equality and integration.  It’s not true that people enlist merely for economic reasons.  Most of the Arab Israelis who joined the army did so for one reason – they want to be part of the country.”

“They want to integrate into civilian society and get better employment opportunities.  Most companies prefer candidates who completed military service,” Kaabia, who now serves as deputy spokesman for Arabic media at the Foreign Ministry, said.

The article did mention Arab Israeli opposition to members of the community enlisting in the IDF, but also said most families of Arab Israelis serving in the IDF accept their decision and express pride in their serving.



Israel And Greek Air Forces Hold Dogfighting And Refueling Drill Over Israel

Israeli and Greek military aircraft held a joint aerial exercise over Israel’s skies on Tuesday (12th), simulating refueling and mid-air dogfights, the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday morning (13th).

During the drill, Israeli planes refueled Hellenic Air Force fighter jets, the IDF said.

The forces conducted “advanced air-to-air combat and drilled other scenarios, according to the IDF.

In images published by the IDF, Hellenic Air Force F-16 jets were seen flying in formation over the Dead Sea in southern Israel.

The IDF said the exercise “constitutes a platform for shared learning and enhances the relationship between the two air forces, and symbolizes an important milestone in reinforcing strategic and international cooperation between the State of Israel and Greece.”

“The exercise also contributes in advancing the militaries’ different combat capabilities and their competency in possible combat scenarios, and enables a challenge for the aircrews and technical teams,” the IDF added.

Last month, the chief of the Greek military, General Konstantinos Floros, concluded his first official visit to Israel.

Floros held meetings with his Israeli counterpart Lt. Gen Aviv Kochavi, along with Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman, the military official in charge of Iran affairs, a senior intelligence officer, and other officials.

“The meetings discussed a number of topics, including shared challenges in the Mediterranean Region,” the IDF said at the time.



Northern Israel Experiences Light Tremor

Northern Israel was shaken by a mild earthquake on Wednesday (13th), the latest of a series of tremors in the country in recent months.

The earthquake occurred at 11:43 am at a 3.12 magnitude, five and a half miles northwest of the town of Hatzor HaGlilit.

Israel has experienced several similar earthquakes in recent months, as did several other areas on the Mediterranean Sea, and experts warn that this appears to be a prelude to a powerful and destructive event.

Israel experiences minor earthquakes from time to time.  It is situated on the East African Rift, which runs through the Jordan Valley, on the border with Jordan, an area prone to earthquakes.

The last major earthquake to hit the region occurred in 1927 – a 6.2-magnitude tremor that killed 500 people and injured another 700.

Experts on the issue say that Israel experiences a devastating earthquake about every 100 years and have warned that such a disastrous occurrence is just a question of time.

Wednesday’s (13th) earthquake occurred near the city of Tzfat, which was devastated in an 1837 earthquake that caused a landslide that killed thousands of residents and destroyed most of the city.

Shuki Ohana, the mayor of the city of Tzfat in the north, warned in January that the earthquakes are “another reminder of the great danger knocking on our door.  Everyone is talking about security challenges and the home front issue in a third Lebanon War, but the north has a bigger challenge that could leave more destruction and devastation than a war – a powerful earthquake.”

“Unfortunately, building reinforcement projects have so far focused on areas far from the Syrian-African rift, but the great danger is in the Galilee region both in terms of proximity to the Syrian-African rift and in terms of the mountainous nature of the area and proliferation of old buildings.”