News Digest — 7/20/23

Palestinian Islamic Jihad Members Attack Worshipers At Joseph’s Tomb

Palestinian gunmen attacked Jewish worshipers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus late Wednesday night (19th) according to a Thursday morning (20th) Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) statement.

The IDF acted to protect the worshipers and several Palestinian gunmen were wounded in the exchange of fire.

The IDF reported that, in addition to shooting, Palestinian terrorists threw explosives, burned tires and threw rocks at Israeli security forces at Joseph’s Tomb.

One Palestinian terrorist was killed in the clashes, according to Reuters, citing the Palestinian Health MInistry.

The Nablus Battalion of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad group, said its members were “fighting the occupation forces and settlers who had stormed the area of Joseph’s Tomb” according to Reuters.

Also on Wednesday night (19th), the IDF arrested a total of five wanted persons throughout the West Bank and confiscated a variety of weapons, weapons components, and ammunition.



In A First, Moroccan King Invites Netanyahu For Visit

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the North African country, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Wednesday evening (19th).

“The invitation was issued in a warm personal letter in which the king thanked the State of Israel for its willingness to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty in Western Sahara,” the prime minister stated.

A visit by Netanyahu would “open up new possibilities for strengthening relations between our countries,” wrote the Moroccan king, according to the PMO.

Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita will coordinate a date for Netanyahu’s first-ever visit to the kingdom.

Wednesday’s (19th) invitation came after Israel officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region earlier in the week.

The king received a missive from Netanyahu on Monday (17th) in which the prime minister pledged to share his updated position “with the United Nations, to regional and international organizations of which Israel is a member and to all countries with which Israel maintains diplomatic relations.”

Netanyahu also informed the king that his government is mulling opening a consulate in the coastal city of Dakla as part of the move, according to news reports.

“I welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement on the recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara,” said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, adding that the step would “strengthen the relations between the two countries.”

In response, Morocco announced that it would elevate its Tel Aviv mission to an embassy.  A senior Moroccan government official told the Spanish EFE news agency that Rabat is “in the process” of establishing an official embassy in Israel following recognition of the disputed region, i24NEWS reported on Tuesday (18th).

Israel’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty came nearly three years after the countries partially renewed diplomatic relations as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.  Rabat agreed to join the normalization pact in return for the Trump administration recognizing Moroccan rule over the territory.



Israeli President Addresses US Congress: ‘We Pray For The Fulfillment Of Isaiah’s Prophecy’

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday (19th) addressed a joint session of Congress. Following a meeting the previous day with his US counterpart at the White House.

“At this moment in my people’s history, gathering on Capitol Hill to celebrate 75 years of Israeli independence with our greatest partner and friend, the United States of America, my soul is overflowing with pride and joy.  The people of Israel are grateful to no end for the ancient promise fulfilled and for the friendship we have formed,” said Herzog.

“When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the land which the Almighty promised to Abraham, to which Moses led the Israelites, the land of the Bible, of milk and honey, evolved into an exquisite land of democracy.  Against all odds, the Jewish people returned home and built a national home, which became a beautiful Israeli democracy, a mosaic of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians, secular, traditional and Orthodox, of all denominations and all possible views and lifestyles.  A land which welcomed the ingathering of exiles from one hundred different countries,” continued Herzog.

“A land which became the Startup Nation – a bustling hub of innovation and creativity, social action and intellectual discovery, spiritual awakening and business ventures, scientific ingenuity and lifesaving medical breakthroughs.  We built a nation-state which has faced relentless war, terror and delegitimization since its birth.  A country fighting to defend itself from enemy and foe, yet whose citizens continue to greet each other with the word ‘peace.’ shalom.”

Herzog then shifted attention to Iran, calling the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program “perhaps the greatest challenge Israel and the United States face at this time.

“Let there be no doubt: Iran does not strive to attain nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Iran is building nuclear capabilities that pose a threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond.  Every country or region controlled or infiltrated by Iran has experienced utter havoc.  We have seen this in Yemen, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.  In fact, we have seen it in Iran itself where the regime has lost its people and is suppressing them brutally. ….”

“Iran is the only nation on the planet publicly calling, plotting and developing means to annihilate another nation, a member of the family of nations, the State of Israel. … Allowing Iran to become a nuclear threshold state–whether by omission or by diplomatic commission–is unacceptable,” the Israeli leader said.

On the issue of peace, Herzog thanked the United States for its longstanding diplomatic efforts in the region.

“The peace which the United States brokered between Israel and its neighbors has revolutionized the Middle East.  The historic peace treaties with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan have demonstrated the many blessings of opting out of the cycle of war,” he said.

“Three Years ago, the Abraham Accords realigned our imaginations and our region.  Israel eagerly welcomed the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Kingdom of Morocco into an exclusive, warm peace between our peoples. …  Israel’s hand is extended and our heart is open, to any partner in peace–near or far.”

“My  deep yearning is for Israel to one day make peace with our Palestinian neighbors. Over the years, Israel has taken bold steps towards peace and made far-reaching proposals to our Palestinian neighbors, but it should be clear that one cannot talk about peace while condoning or legitimizing terror, implicitly or explicitly. True peace cannot be anchored in violence.”

“Palestinian terror against Israel or Israelis undermines any possibility for a future of peace between our peoples.  Israelis are targeted while waiting for buses, while out walking, and while spending time with their families.  At the same time, successful terror attacks are celebrated, terrorists are glorified and their families are rewarded for every Israeli they attack or kill.  This is a disgrace.  Terror is not a bump in the road – it is hatred and bloodshed.  Israel cannot and will not tolerate terror, and we know that in this, we are joined by the United States of America,”added Herzog.

“We pray for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’ ”

With respect to the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform initiative, Herzog expressed “great confidence in Israeli democracy.”

“Although we are working through painful issues, just like you, I know our democracy is strong and resilient.  Israel has democracy in its DNA,” he said.

He proceeded to stress the importance of the Jewish state’s relationship with America.

“We are proud to be the United States’ closest partner and friend.  You have provided us means to keep our qualitative military edge, and to enable us to defend ourselves, by ourselves.  This reflects your ongoing commitment to Israel’s security.  We are also tremendously proud that ours is a two-way alliance, in which Israel has been making critical contributions to the national security and interests of the United States in numerous ways.  Thank you dear members of Congress, for your support of Israel throughout history and at this critical moment in time,” concluded Herzog.

Isaac Herzog is scheduled to visit New York City before returning to Israel after Shabbat.



Israel, U.S. Sign Milestone Agreement Bringing VISA Waiver Program Closer Than Ever

Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog and US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday (19th) which brings Israel closer to joining the US VISA Waiver Program by allowing any US citizen to enter Israel.

“I was privileged today to represent the government of Israel in signing a U.S.-Israel memorandum of understanding on the extension of reciprocal privileges in the visa waiver program.  This is a significant milestone towards Israel joining the program.  Thank you to everybody on both sides who worked so diligently towards this goal, especially my colleague and friend Ambassador Tom Nides and DHS Under Secretary Rob Silvers, for their significant contributions,” Ambassador Herzog said.

Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi praised the agreement saying: “This procedure will allow any American citizen to enter Israel and subsequently, with the acceptance of Israel as a member of the program, will allow any Israeli to enter the USA without the need for a visa.  The full application of the procedure will apply to any American regardless of who he is, including Americans with dual citizenship, Americans living in Judea and Samaria and Americans living in the Gaza Strip.”

“The implementation of the procedure strengthens the indisputable ties between two countries and contributes directly to Israel’s security.”

“This is a very important milestone, bringing us closer to fully complying with the conditions of the US government regarding candidacy for the exemption program.  This achievement is the result of the dedicated and energetic professional work of many elements in the Israeli and American public system, led by US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides who worked hand in hand throughout long months for its successful completion,” Hanegbi said.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responded: “DHS welcomes these steps by Israel toward meeting the Visa Waiver Program requirements.  The United States will engage with the government of Israel on its implementation of its new travel policies.  For entry into the Visa Waiver Program, all of the program’s mandatory requirements must be satisfied.  The Department is working closely with the Government of Israel in its efforts to meet those requirements, in furtherance of our shared goal that Israel join the Visa Waiver Program.” 



Hamas Begins Paying Late Salaries In Gaza – Ministry

Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip have begun distributing June salaries to around 50,000 public sector workers who had not been paid for almost three weeks, the local finance ministry said on Wednesday (19th).

A delay in a monthly payroll grant from Qatar, a crucial aid donor to the impoverished Gaza enclave, a drop in tax revenue, and a jump in spending were to blame for the crisis, according to the Hamas-run ministry of finance.

Salama Marouf, chairman of the Hamas government media office, said the reception of nearly half of the Qatari $5-million monthly payroll grant and a loan from a Gaza local bank facilitated payment of wages on Wednesday (19th), adding that the financial crisis persists.

Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents live in poverty, and the economy is dependent on foreign aid.  Qatar has paid hundreds of millions of dollars since 2014 for construction projects.  It currently pays $30 million per month in stipends for families, fuel for electricity, and to help pay public sector wages.

The payroll costs Hamas $34.5 million per month.

Gaza has been under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade since 2007 when Hamas, which opposes peace with Israel, took control of the coastal enclave.  Public sector employees have not received full salaries since 2013.