News Digest — 7/18/23

In Phone Call, Biden Invites Netanyahu to Meet, But Where?

US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening (17th) for the first time in four months and extended an invitation to the Israeli leader to meet in the US, without specifying where or when, according to a readout by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister accepted the invitation and agreed to work on coordinating a suitable date, the readout said.

Israel’s former ambassador to the US, Michael Oren told World Israel News that the gesture did not constitute a formal state invitation to the White House, and instead the meeting would probably take place on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in September.

“The likely scenario is that it will happen in the quarters of the UN,” Oren said.

The conversation took place a day before Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s departure for Washington for an official state visit.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the call was described as “warm and lengthy,” focusing on strengthening the alliance between the two nations, addressing threats from Iran, expanding regional peace with the Abraham Accords, and continuing efforts for calm and stability in Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu’s office said Biden was updated on the reasonableness bill, which is expected to be passed next week.  The Israeli prime minister also communicated his intention to cultivate broad public consensus for the remaining elements of the judicial reform, the statement said.

Last week in an interview with CNN, Biden sidestepped the question about inviting Netanyahu to the White House, mentioning that Herzog would be visiting.  “Netanyahu is still trying to sort out issues with his coalition,” Biden said.



Israel Appoints First Military Attache To Morocco

The Israel Defense Forces On Monday (17th) appointed a first military attache to Morocco, as security ties between Israel and the North African nation continue to grow following a normalization agreement in 2020.

Col. Sharon Itach, from the Home Front Command, was selected for the role by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi among a series of senior appointments in the military.

Itach, who is of Moroccan origin, currently heads the Home Front Command’s Haifa district.  Previously he led the 489th Kedem search and rescue battalion.

Israel and Morocco  established low-level  diplomatic relations during the 1990s, following Israel’s interim peace accords with the Palestinians, but those ties were suspended after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

A breakthrough took place 20 years later when the Trump administration agreed to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region in exchange for Rabat agreeing to normalize relations with Israel.  Morocco was the third country to join what was dubbed the Abraham Accords, following the leads of the UAE and Bahrain.

Despite opposition from some sectors of the Moroccan public, ties have since continued to develop.

In November 2021, then-defense minister Benny Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab state.

The agreement formalized the defense ties between the two countries, allowing for smoother cooperation between their defense establishments and making it easier for Israel to sell arms to the North African kingdom.

With the signing of the MOU, the two countries’ defense ministries and militaries could more easily speak with one another and share intelligence, whereas before, such communication was only possible through their respective intelligence services.

In July 2022, then-IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi held a first official visit to Morocco.  

In February, the chief of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, also visited the African nation.

In June, the IDF sent a delegation of troops to participate in a major American-led drill held in Morocco, a first for the Israeli army.



Palestinian Authority Arrests 5 Islamic Jihad Terrorists In Jenin

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group said Monday (17th) that Palestinian security forces detained five more of its members in Jenin overnight, underlining rifts between groups in the West Bank, two weeks after Israel launched its largest raid there in years.

Israel – which says its raid targeted terrorists – has pressed the Palestinian Authority to take tougher action against Iran-backed Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and also has fighters in the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the reported arrests, or from the security forces of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which exercises limited governance in parts of the West Bank.

The city of Jenin and the huge adjoining “refugee” camp have been at the heart of an escalation of violence across the West Bank that has triggered mounting alarm from Washington to the Arab world.

Militant groups have accused the Palestinian Authority of weakness and failing to do enough to stand up to Israel.

Angry crowds confronted senior PA officials after Israel’s two-day raid, and in one standoff forced Authority members to leave a funeral for those killed in the incursion.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said on Monday (17th) the arrests overnight brought the total number of its members arrested by the PA since the raid to 10.

He added that his group was trying to secure their release by talking to “rational” people in the Fatah, the movement led by Chairman Mahmoud Abbas which dominates the Palestinian Authority.



Israel Fought Terrorists In Jenin, Not Palestinians – Amb. Tzipi Hotovely

• Innocent Israeli civilians have been the target of countless terror attacks, many orchestrated from Jenin.  In the last year alone, 50 terrorist attacks have been orchestrated from there.  The militant armed groups seek to destroy the State of Israel and fundamentally oppose Western values.  Since September 2022, at least 19 terrorists are known to have fled to Jenin after committing attacks.

• If the Palestinian leadership undertook to counter threats originating from Jenin, then Israel would have no interest in operating there.  But in the current reality, Israel has no option but to act.

• Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad delegations recently visited Tehran and met the Supreme leader, who said the “growing power” of Palestinian groups was “the key to bringing the Zionist enemy to its knees.”

• The ungoverned spaces that exist inside the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), due to years of neglect and a leadership that preferred to invest in terrorism instead of investing in education for peace, has fostered a new and dangerous environment that has allowed terrorists to thrive.

• Israel has no quarrel with the Palestinian people.  Unfortunately, as long as the Palestinian leadership chooses to invest in terror, incitement and incentives to carry out attacks against Jews, we will not be able to move forward and will have to continue to protect our citizens.

• Only when the Palestinian leadership acknowledges that Israel is an integral part of the Middle East will there be a genuine chance for peace.  

The writer is Israel’s Ambassador to Britain.



Anti-Israeli Content Removed From Saudi Textbooks – Itamar Eichner

References to Jews as monkeys and pigs who worship the devil, and descriptions of them as traitors by nature and sworn enemies of Islam, have been removed from Saudi textbooks, IMPACT-se in London has reported.  Also removed were conspiracies that Israel planned to expand its borders from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates in Iraq.

Context was added against Hezbollah and the Iranian-backed Houthis and against the Muslim Brotherhood movement, as well as more tolerant content that promotes peace.

IMPACT-se  Vice President Eric Agassi noted, “The changes that [Crown Prince] Bin Salman is making are extremely brave, unprecedented and are a sign of things to come.

Saudi…textbooks are distributed to Muslim communities around the world and are studied by tens of millions of students,”



7 Sets Of Twins Born In 24 Hours At One Israeli Hospital

The maternity department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center is the busiest in Israel, handling more than 22,000 births every year at its main and satellite hospitals in Jerusalem.

Yet even here, the arrival of seven pairs of twins – that’s 14 babies, all doing well – in a single 24-hour period between July 12 and 13 was a noteworthy event.

A hospital spokesman told Israel21c that this represents a new record for the medical center.  “In recent recorded memory, the previous high was five [sets of twins in one day],” he said.

The birth mothers included Jewish and Arab women from Jerusalem and beyond.

One of the mom’s, Ma’ayan Luzon Peretz, said she’d come “from afar” to deliver her “sweet babies” because she had a previous positive experience giving birth at Shaare Zedek.

She arrived for the big occasion in style, with the nails of one hand polished blue and the nails of the other pink, in honor of the son and daughter she was soon to deliver with her husband at her side.

Shaare Zedek has six maternity wards in all.

In June 2022, Israel21c reported that identical twins Yael Yishai and Avital Segel gave birth to baby boys on the same day at Shaare Zedek.

The medical center recently opened a boutique maternity hotel where new mothers can spend a few pampering days with their new baby after being discharged from the hospital.

Throughout Israel, 178,000 babies were born in 2022 according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). 



Jewish Cemetery Vandalized In Poland, Tombstones Defaced

Over a dozen 19th-and early 20th-century tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in the Polish city of Katowice were vandalized recently.

Additionally, two headstones belonging to Jews who passed away after the Second World War were also damaged.  Some of the defaced tombstones suffered irreversible harm.  The culprits fled from the cemetery, which underwent restoration in the past two years, using a ladder found on the premises.

A complaint was filed with the local police, and security cameras captured the vandals’ actions.  Authorities hope to apprehend them soon.

In recent years, there has been an ongoing effort by Polish authorities and organizations to preserve Jewish burial grounds across the country.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews initiated a project to renovate a Jewish cemetery destroyed in World War II in the small town of Opatow.

The location for years was one of the most important Jewish cemeteries in Poland.  It was the burial place of many prominent figures in the Jewish community, including Hassidic Rabbi Meir Halevi.