News Digest — 7/19/19

Netanyahu: We Won’t Hold Back From Striking Those Who Fire From Populated Areas

It is time that the world understands the gravity of the threat posed by Iran and its proxy Hezbollah and acts against them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday (18th), after Argentina designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization and ordered its assets frozen.

Speaking at a memorial for the fallen of the Second Lebanon War, the prime minister warned Hezbollah and Lebanon that there will be no “immunity for anyone who fires missiles at Israel, even if they hide in densely populated areas.”

Israel believes that tens of thousands of Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon are hidden either in, near, or under homes in southern Lebanon.

“We will do everything possible to prevent harm to innocent people, but we will not grant immunity to rocket launchers and those who deploy them – not in Lebanon, nor in Gaza or anywhere,” he said.

Netanyahu said that his government motto is, “if someone rises up to kill you, keep them from getting armed.”

The Lebanese government, he said, “is not objecting to the military entrenchment of Hezbollah on its territory.  It will also bear the responsibility for any attack.”

Netanyahu warned that Israel will deploy “great force” if it must embark on another war in order to ensure victory.  “Even if we have to stand alone against Iran and its entities, we will,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity coincided with a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Argentina marked the 25th anniversary of the deadly bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.  Argentina blames Iran and Hezbollah for the attack.

Argentina also blames Hezbollah for an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that killed 29 people.



Arab Newspapers Turn Spotlight On Israeli Opinion Piece

News outlets in the Arab world have historically tended to ignore the Israeli media, but that appears to be changing as the process of rapprochement and steps toward normalization with the Gulf states have opened the door for Arab countries to more openly examine the Israeli viewpoint.

Such was the case this week when an op-ed published by Israel Hayom was covered by at least three prominent Arab newspapers.

The op-ed by Middle East researcher Dr. Nirit Ofir, titled “Israel and the Gulf: Cautious Optimism,” was translated from Hebrew into Arabic by the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya, and Bahrain-based Al-Ayam.

In her piece, Ofir argues that despite the limited success of the US-sponsored economic summit in Bahrain, the process of normalization between Israel and the Gulf states is ongoing and directly linked to developments in those countries in the wake of the Arab spring.

Ofir writes that “plenty of senior Gulf officials see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an outstanding diplomat even if he is controversial, while the Palestinians are losing status, mostly because of the split in the PLO and the fact that the vast sums of money Gulf states have sent the Palestinian people are being wasted on illicit gifts for PA officials and terrorism.”



Greenblatt: Israel Is The Victim In The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In an interview with Judy Woodruff for “PBS News-Hour,” U.S.  Special Representative for International negotiations Jason Greenblatt said Israel wasn’t to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the Jewish state is “trying its best…under very, very trying circumstances.”

Uploaded to the PBS website on Wednesday (17th) and broadcast on American television, the interview focused on the U.S. role in mediating its version of peace negotiations, the economic component of which was unveiled at the June “Peace to Prosperity” conference in Bahrain.

Asked what responsibilities Israelis bear for the conflict, Greenblatt responded, “I think that Israel is actually more the victim than the party that is responsible.”

“From the moment of its formation, they were attacked multiple times.  They continue to be attacked with terrorism. So – I’m not sure I understand the premise of the question,” said Greenblatt.  “I think that they are trying their best to succeed…under very, very trying circumstances.”

Asked to list Israeli “mistakes” and “places where they have overstepped their authority,” Greenblatt responded that “nobody’s perfect, right?  But, I can’t think of a single instance.”

Greenblatt took umbrage at the interviewer’s use of the term “settlements” to describe Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, saying that “calling it ‘occupied territory’ does not help resolve the conflict” and maintaining that the issue “needs to be resolved in the context of direct negotiations between the parties.”

“I don’t even like the word ‘settlements.’  I think it’s a pejorative term,” he said. “I use the term ‘neighborhoods or cities.’ “

He also said negotiations were not limited to a “two-state solution.”



Israel To Plant Trees Near Gaza Border Homes To Thwart Anti-Tank Missile Attacks

Israel’s defense establishment plans to plant trees around homes in Gaza border communities to obscure potential targets for anti-tank missiles fired by terror groups, Channel 13 News reported Tuesday (16th).

Moshe Feder, 68, was killed in May when a Kornet anti-tank guided missile slammed into his car as he was driving along Route 34, close to the border with Gaza.  The Hamas terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israel Defense Forces  later said it had failed to recognize the risks posed to Israeli drivers on the road, north of the Gaza Strip.

According to the TV channel, senior defense officials, including the commander of the Southern Brigade, toured communities close to the Gaza perimeter and mapped which homes were at risk from anti-tank missiles and would benefit from the tree-planting program.

The work will be carried out in tandem with other defense measures in the region, including the underground barrier on the Gaza border, proposed by the military following the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. 

While Hamas and other terror groups have long had Kornet missiles in their arsenals, the weapons high price tag means they are typically used against high profile military targets.

They were repeatedly used against Israeli tanks throughout the 2014 war.

Last November, a Kornet missile was fired at a bus full of IDF soldiers, east of the Gaza border, wounding one soldier seriously.

In April 2011, Hamas fired a Kornet missile at a school bus in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, killing a 16-year-old student on board.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, and is the de facto ruler of the territory.



U.S. Wants Israel’s Suicide Drone

This week news broke that the U.S. Defense Department wants to spend close to $7 million on an Israeli drone capable of reaching altitudes of 1,500 feet and attacking a variety of targets

A report by the Jerusalem Post, based on information from Inside Defense described the potential acquisition of the “suicide drone.”

The craft’s official name is the Hero-120 and it is manufactured by Israeli company UVision.

UVision describes the drone as “ideal for anti-tank missions, or other strategic objectives,” referring to the Hero-120 as “the largest of the short-range systems” and noting its “3.5 kg warhead” and extended flight time of 60 minutes”

According to reports cited by the Post, UVision previously sold Hero “loitering munitions” to the IDF and several NATO countries.



‘There Is No Food, Only Anti-Semitism,’ As Venezuelans Make Aliyah

Two families who fled from Venezuela landed at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday (17th) amidst hundreds of olim from other countries.  They received help to leave from the Jewish Agency.

Venezuela, a once-wealthy country has descended into crisis over the past few years, with the current situation being total anarchy and economic destitution.  The Jewish community which included 25,000 members in the 1990s is down to about 4,000 members, with most Jews immigrating to the U.S., Mexico, Panama or other countries.  About 12% immigrated to Israel, according to Jewish Agency chairman Yitzchak Herzog.

“We had to leave Venezuela,” Avraham Ben Dayan, who immigrated to Israel with his wife and three children told Ynet on Wednesday (17th).  “For three or four years now, the economic situation has not been normal.  The most basic things are missing such as diapers and toilet paper, and its is a very dangerous place.”

Although Avraham had wanted to immigrate to Israel for a long time, his wife was reluctant, however, that changed following a power outage in Caracas six months ago.  “It lasted two days. They didn’t update residents about anything. Those were very frightening days – there was nothing to buy. It wasn’t possible to leave the house at all.  There was real anarchy – people robbed the stores, and if you wanted to buy something, it cost a lot of money.”

“There are about 4,000 Jews living today in Venezuela, a country where the situation for the Jew is not simple,” said Herzog.  “The political crisis in Venezuela is well known, and the tension is enormous. There is a lot of anti-Semitism and the tension is liable to explode any minute.  There are many threats and hatred toward the Jews.”

Herzog said that the hostility toward Jews in Venezuela is due to its partnership with Iran, which he calls “one of the most complex geopolitical developments in Latin America.”

Deborah Silbara, who also immigrated from Venezuela Wednesday (17th) said that the anti-Semitism she experienced was one of the reasons she decided to leave.  “The former president (Hugo Chavez) spoke about the Jews with curses – it was difficult.”

“Many Jews are leaving Venezuela for all types of places around the world.  There are many Jews coming to Israel for the opportunities and a better life.  Besides, I think this is our place, our country. The State of Israel grants us many possibilities to grow.  For my daughter, this is a good opportunity to develop and study in a regular country. It’s a decision I’m very happy about.  I was not afraid to do it. I have family here and this is our country,” said Silbara.