News Digest — 7/16/20

Netanyahu: A Check To Every Israeli

In a press conference Wednesday evening (15th) at his office in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a handout of NIS 6 billion to help Israelis cope with the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each citizen 18 years of age or over will receive NIS 750.  Couples will get NIS 2,000.  Families with two children will receive NIS 2,500 and those with three or more will get NIS 3,000.

Netanyahu promised that Israelis will see the money in their bank accounts within 48 hours, saying he wants to “quickly get it to all households.”

The handout is part of the economic plan, presented by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz last Thursday (9th) which includes expanding the number of people eligible for unemployment benefits, grants for seniors, aid to self-employed workers and businesses, and certain tax breaks.

Israel’s economy was thriving before the pandemic.  As of Wednesday (15th) the unemployment rate surged to 21 percent, up from 3.9 percent in February.

“I hear your distress.  You’re not alone,” Netanyahu said.

“We must get the economy running again.  People are sitting at home, they aren’t consuming,” Netanyahu said in response to claims that not everyone who receives the funds needs the assistance.  He explained that the handouts will help heal the economy by encouraging spending.

“The grant is the right thing to do, and it’s right that it be universal.  It will give families money to spend on a shrinking economy and businesses that need it,” MK Tamar Zandberg of the Mertz party commented.



EU, Denmark, PA Announce Intention To Continue Violating International Law And Treaties in Area C

The European Union’s External Action Service (EEAS) this week announced the launch of an agreement, the fifth of its kind, for construction and infrastructure projects to benefit Palestinians in Area C – bringing the official total of allocations for these projects to Euros 15.2 million.

Although the press statement lists the projects involved as seemingly humanitarian aid, this recent announcement tears away the mask that usually covers the political agenda just below the surface.  By funding construction and infrastructure projects that neither apply for, nor receive permits from the Israeli Civil Administration – as required by international law and stipulated in the Oslo Accords, to which the EU is a signatory – these “humanitarian” projects are nothing more than illegal land-grabs that target strategic areas of Judea and Samaria.

“The absurdity of this latest announcement would be laughable if it weren’t so insidious,” said Regavim Director Meir Deutsch.  “Claiming, on the one hand, that it condemns unilateral steps (“The European Union’s position on Area C is clear: we will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by both sides”), in the very same breath the statement outlines a host of projects that will create facts on the ground and lay the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state in Area C (‘The EU and EU member-states support developmental interventions in Area C initiated and promoted by the Palestinian Ministry of Local Government’).  In other words – we will not recognize any changes unless they are changes we make…”

Oddly, the EU and its member-states don’t find the housing, education, employment, water infrastructure or electricity grid in Areas A and B, the areas of Judea and Samaria under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, worthy of similar investment.



Seven Ships Catch Fire At Port Near Iranian Nuclear Reactor

At least seven ships caught fire at the Iranian port at Bushehr, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday (15th), in what appeared to be the latest in a series of unexplained incidents around Iranian nuclear and industrial installations since late June.

No casualties have been reported, the agency said.

According to the Iranian Mehr agency on Wednesday (15th) the fire started near the northern installations of the city’s port.  Pictures from the incident showed a big pillar of smoke billowing from the area.

The agency said that “many firefighting crews were in the area to stop the blaze from spreading.”  Social media users expressed concern that the residents of Bushehr would be threatened if the fire continued to expand.

The city houses Iran’s nuclear reactor, which has been ostensibly for “peaceful purposes” only.

There have been several explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial facilities since late June, including in Natanz, where its main uranium enrichment center was badly damaged in what The New York Times described as a deliberate effort by the US and Israel.

Natanz is the centerpiece of Iran’s enrichment program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.  Western Intelligence agencies and international inspectors believe Iran had a coordinated, clandestine nuclear arms programs at least until 2003.  Tehran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons.

Iran’s top security body said on July 3 that the cause of the Natanz fire had been determined but would be announced at a later time.  Some Iranian officials have said it may have been cyber sabotage and one of them warned that Tehran would retaliate against any country carrying out such attacks.

In an article in early July, state news agency IRNA addressed what it called the possibility of sabotage by enemies such as Israel and the United States, although it stopped short of accusing either directly.

Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on July 5 that Israel was not “necessarily behind every mysterious incident in Iran.



Lebanon Looks To China As US, Arabs Refuse To Help In Crisis

Facing a worsening economic crisis and with little chance of Western or oil-rich Arab countries providing assistance without substantial reforms, Lebanon’s cash-strapped government is looking east, hoping to secure investments from China that could bring relief.

But help from Beijing risks alienating the United States, which has suggested such a move could come at the cost of Lebanese-US ties.

A tiny nation of 5 million on a strategic Mediterranean crossroads between Asia and Europe, Lebanon has long-been a site where rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia have played out.  Now, it’s becoming a focus of escalating tensions between China and the West. 

In recent months, the Lebanese pound has lost around 80% of its value against the dollar, prices have soared uncontrollably, and much of the middle class has plunged into poverty.

Left with few choices, Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government – supported by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies – is seeking help from China, an approach that the terrorist organization strongly supports.

Beijing has offered to build power stations, a tunnel that cuts through the mountains to shorten the trip between Beirut and the eastern Bekaa Valley, and a railway along Lebanon’s coast, according to Lebanese officials.

The US, which has historic relations with Lebanon and is a strong backer of its army, said such a move could come at the expense of Beirut’s relations with Washington.

Hezbollah accuses the US of imposing an informal “financial siege” on Lebanon to put pressure on Hezbollah, which Washington and its Gulf allies considers a terrorist organization.    

“Trying to blame Lebanon’s economic crisis on US sanctions is misguided and false,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in response to the accusations.

During a visit to Lebanon last week, Gen. Kenneth Mckenzie, head of the US Central Command, was asked about Lebanon and other regional countries looking to China for resources and financing.

“You get what you pay for.  That’s all I have to say,” Mckenzie said.



4 Jewish Teens Robbed At Baltimore Mall Say They Were Targeted For Their Religion

Four Jewish teens who were robbed while leaving a Baltimore mall said a knife-wielding, mask-wearing attacker targeted them for their religious observance.

The teens said their shopping bags, cell phones and wallets were taken outside the Towson Town Center, the Baltimore Sun reported, citing the Baltimore County police.

Each teen told investigators separately that they felt targeted for their religious belief, the report said.

The assailant told the teens that they were “dirty Jews” and stole their kippahs, police told the paper.

Surveillance cameras filmed the incident.



‘Death To Jews’ And Swastikas Drawn On Gravestones In Southern France

About 20 gravestones in a cemetery in southern France were vandalized with swastikas and the words “Death to Jews” and “Death to the French.”  The discovery was found in the Gruissan municipal cemetery in the Aude region on Sunday (12th).

The gravestones apparently were chosen at random and were not broken or toppled, France 3 television reported.

Since the vandalism, the cemetery has been closed to the public.  There are no suspects identified at present.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, in a statement, condemned the desecration of the monuments.  The statement noted that the town of Gruissan is “usually rather calm and peaceful, and this aggression surprises and scandalizes us.”