News Digest — 7/23/19

Israel Is The One Stabilizing Element In The Middle East

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interviewed by Boaz Bismuth and Amnon Lord: 

→Asked about how he views the period since he first became prime minister in 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We discovered that we can leverage the basic characteristics of this people into exceptional strength in economics, defense and security, and diplomacy.  We’ve proved that it is possible to turn Israel from a small country in a corner of the Middle East into a central world power.”

→“It’s obvious that the lack of stability here in the Middle East is the result of the struggle between the Dark Ages and modernism – between the tyranny of radical Islam and the forces of freedom.  That’s the most important battle – that is what is destabilizing everything.”

→“Standing up to the fundamentalist Islam that wants to take over first the Middle East and then the entire world is important.  If there’s one element that is stabilizing the Middle East and fighting radical Islam here, it’s Israel.”

→“I told Russian President Vladimir Putin that I would have to take action in Syria, that I wasn’t willing to allow Iran to bring its army to our borders.  Iran announces its intentions of annihilating us. ‘What would you do?’ I asked him. I told him I was sure he would do the same as me.”

→“The 2015 nuclear deal…wasn’t conditional on any change in Iran’s behavior.  The argument was that if Iran received millions as a result of the sanctions being lifted, it would become a modern state.  Today, we can judge…Right now, their policy is to quietly pursue nuclear weapons while also conquering the Middle East with the money that the eased sanctions sent flooding into Iran’s coffers,”

→“You need to increase power, not maintain it.  My outlook is built on bolstering our strengths.  Without strength, we won’t survive. The weak don’t survive.  A strong people forge alliances. So from the first moment, the main question about Israel’s existence  was whether we would be able to develop all the strengths to not only confront our enemies but also be accepted by the rest of the world.  The simple fact is that what makes the world accept you is, first and foremost, your strength.”



As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Deploying For War With Israel – Jesse Rosenfeld

Hezbollah’s forces, battle-hardened in the Syrian civil war, have begun redeploying toward the Israeli border, not only in Lebanon, but in Syria opposite the Golan Heights.  

“The U.S. sanctions now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front,” says Commander Samir, a Hezbollah officer in charge of 800 fighters on Lebanon’s border with Israel.  Samir underscores the importance of Hezbollah’s positions in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan, giving it the ability to open a second front there against Israel, and boasts about drone capabilities and new anti-aircraft and anti-naval weapons acquired in Syria.  He said that while the pre-war Assad regime placed limits on Hezbollah activity in the Golan, “now there are no red lines.” He noted that the sanctions have forced a large reduction in Iran’s financial support for Hezbollah. Salaries from Hezbollah fighters have been halved, according to three fighters.

Assir, a Hezbollah fighter in Syria, said that like the many fighters coming back to Lebanon, he is not being demobilized but rather deployed south to the Israeli border.  “People who finish their mission in Syria go to the south,” he says. “There are some units in Syria but a lot go back to Lebanon or to the Golan. Thousands have come back here,” he said 



Hamas Meets Iran’s Supreme Leader During Warm Visit In Tehran

Iran state TV said a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that is visiting Iran has met with the country’s supreme leader.

The TV report on Monday (22nd) said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held talks with Hamas’ deputy chief Saleh Al-Arouri, who is heading the delegation.  The Hamas delegates also met with Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Khamenei.

“Hamas is Iran’s first line of defense,” said Al-Arouri following the meeting.

The supreme leader issued a statement at the end of the meeting, calling the U.S. peace proposal – dubbed “the deal of the century” – a “dangerous plot” intended to destroy Palestinians with money.

“This is the main point that one should resist, and not allow them to eliminate the Palestinian identity using money… Several years ago, Palestinians were fighting using stones, now they have precision rockets,” Khamenei said. 

The Iranian official news agency IRNA said Al-Arouri’s visit to Tehran follows a visit by senior Iranian parliamentary official Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to Lebanon last week.

Iran backs both Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

Earlier on Sunday (21st), Hamas rulers in Gaza condemned Israel’s demolition of “illegal” Palestinian construction on the outskirts of Jerusalem approved by the Supreme Court.

The terror group called for intensifying “resistance” to “the Zionist settlement project” in an official statement.

“Crimes of the occupation in the Holy City are a result of total American support,” said Hazen Qassem, a spokesman for the militant group.



Saudi Blogger Attacked, Spat Upon in Jerusalem For accepting Israeli Invite

A well-known Saudi blogger was attacked in Jerusalem on Monday (22nd) by Arab protesters angry at his participation in an event hosted by the Israeli government.

Mohammed Saud, famous for his command of Hebrew, was spat upon, had plastic chairs hurled at him and was verbally attacked during a visit to the Temple Mount, holy to both Jews and Muslims.

The Foreign Ministry is this week hosting bloggers and journalists from Arab countries with whom Israel does not have diplomatic relations, such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Saud, who is part of the delegation, was also branded a “Zionist” and called “garbage.”  He was told to “pray in the synagogue, not in Al-Aqsa Mosque.”  

At one point, one protester tried to physically attack Saud, but he was stopped by others who told him, “Don’t touch him, we are still in Al-Aqsa.”

On Monday, (22nd) the delegation members were in Jerusalem where they visited the Western Wall. 

 During their stay, they are also expected to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and the Knesset, as well as meet with officials from the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.



 In Former Soviet Union, Jewish Kids Flock To Summer Camps 

Summer camps are considered by many a pillar of the American Jewish experience.  But on the other side of the world, in the Former Soviet Union (FSU), Jewish camps are also fast-becoming an important element to foster the Jewish identity of children and teenagers.

According to a report by the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States (FJC), in summer 2019 their Gan Israel branch has run over 80 community camps in seven countries.  The Commonwealth of Independent States is a network that gathers several post-Soviet republics.

FJC’s youth movement EnerJew has organized four additional programs for teenagers.

“Ever since the beginning of FJC’s activities in the FSU, summer camps have proven to be one of the most unique and important ways to connect children and their families back to their Jewish roots, nation and tradition,” Daniel Gordon, FJC outreach programs coordinator, said.

“As the years went by, our network managed, despite the continuing struggle, to remain attractive and welcoming.  So many children look forward to the summer knowing that our camps are not a ‘babysitter’ – they are the place to become stronger, more connected and proud of their heritage like nowhere else,” he added.

One of the achievements that the report highlighted was the fact that while 20 years ago most of the camps’ staff arrived from abroad, today 95% of them come from the community.

“We are very lucky in that we get to see the fruits of our labor in them and we hope Gan Israel camps will continue leading local Jewish children on their path home,” commented Rabbi Yakov Sominsky from Veliky, Novgorod, a city in Western Russia.

According to the estimates of the 2017 World Jewish Population by the Hebrew University demographer Sergio Dalla Pergola, FSU is home to 242,000 people who identify as Jewish, and 814,000 people who meet the criteria to immigrate to Israel according to the Israeli Law of Return, which requires a Jewish grandparent.