News Digest — 7/27/21

Israel, Cypriot Officials Vow To Boost Bilateral Relations

The foreign ministers of Israel and Cyprus both expressed concerns about Turkey’s “provocative” moves on the eastern Mediterranean island during a bilateral meeting Monday (26th) in Jerusalem.

“We share deep concern over the provocative moves that Turkey is leading in Cyprus,” Israeli Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.

During the talks with Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, the two leaders discussed how to move forward on dealing with Turkey and also discussed bilateral relations as well as cooperation in the fields of emergency-response and firefighting, water, trade and energy.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday (23rd) condemned plans by Turkey and Turkish-Cypriot  leaders to partially reopen the abandoned resort of Varosha and called for an immediate reversal of the decision.

The announcement triggered an angry reaction from the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government and Western allies, including the United States, which called Turkey’s decision “unacceptable.”

Christodoulides also met Monday (26th) during his Israel trip with Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and was received by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.



CUNY Resolution Condemning ‘Israel’s Massacre Of Palestinians’ Sparks Waves Of Union Resignations

Some 50 City University of New York (CUNY) professors have resigned from their union after it passed a resolution that “condemns the massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli state” and Israel’s “expansionism and violent incursions into occupied territories,” the New York Post reported on Monday (26th).

The resolution, which called CUNY to adopt BDS policies and said that the union “cannot be silent about the continued subjection of Palestinians to the state-supported displacement, occupation, and use of lethal force by Israel,” immediately sparked backlash among CUNY faculty.

Likening the plight of the Palestinians to the condition of Blacks in apartheid-era South Africa, the resolution did not mention the 4,000 rockets launched recently by Gaza-based terror groups into Israeli communities.

While the resolution was proposed in June, it only passed in recent days, sparking a wave of resignations from the union.

“With the…resolution, you have chosen to support a terrorist organization, Hamas, whose goal (“From the River to the Sea”) is to destroy the State of Israel and kill all my relatives who are there,” wrote Prof. Yedidyah Langsam, chairman of Brooklyn College’s Computer and Information Science Department in his resignation letter to the union president.

“By endorsing this resolution you have made many Jewish faculty members and students uncomfortable in being associated with Brooklyn College and CUNY to the point of fearing for our safety.  Have you and your colleagues forgotten the exponential increase in anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in the New York City area,” Langsam added.

“Our union has evolved…in ways that make it unrecognizable” read a statement from a group encouraging professors to leave the union.  “They now spend money and time on activities that have nothing to do with our careers.  Instead they focus on foreign politics even when much of the membership has no interest in these activities.”

“We have therefore decided to no longer fund this union with our wages.  We can no longer remain members of this union.”

The union’s president, James Davis, said he understood the concerns of some of the faculty but reframed the resistance to the resolution as part of a right-wing anti-union conspiracy.

“Many members are absolutely sincere in their distress, but we also know that a pressure campaign has been launched by people who…have been waiting eagerly, since the 2018 anti-union Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court decision, for an opportunity to peel members away,” Davis told the Post.



Israel Warns US: ‘Something Needs To Happen About Iran’

Israel warned the United States that Iran is on the verge of passing the nuclear threshold, meaning it will have the capacity to have operational nuclear weapons.

The warning was conveyed by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other senior officials to high-level American officials in a number of conversations, Israel’s Kan News reported Monday (26th).

“Something needs to happen regarding the negotiations with Iran,” a senior diplomat said speaking to Kan.  “This ‘limbo’ cannot continue at a time when Iran is advancing rapidly to the point where it is a threshold state.”

Iran and the US have been engaged in indirect negotiations since April, with President Joe Biden seeking to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement that Iran signed with the world powers in 2015.  In 2018, then president Donald Trump withdrew the US from that agreement.

Tehran recently suspended those talks in Vienna pending the swearing in of a new government  headed by hardliner Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi was a member of the country’s “death commission” in 1988.  Known as the “Hangman of Tehran,” he is said to have been involved in the secret execution of thousands of political prisoners at that time.

In direct defiance of the JCPOA, Iran has significantly ramped up its enrichment of uranium over the last year.  Last month, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, confirmed the increased uranium enrichment.

The confirmation follows an Iranian threat in May to ignore the restrictions under the agreement and enrich at a rate of 20 percent.

In a recent visit to Israel, former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen, who headed the IAEA’s inspection department for the last 10 years, said that he believes that Iran will have enough enriched uranium to build nuclear weapons in six to eight months.

Heinonen explained that his calculation was based on Iran’s increased enrichment capacity compared to its capabilities when it signed the JCPOA in 2015 and the progress Iran has made in the development of nuclear explosive devices.

Iran’s nuclear weapons program was uncovered in 2018 when Israel smuggled a warehouse full of documents out of Tehran.



King Abdullah: Jordan Has Been Attacked By Iranian-Made Drones

Iranian-made drones and missiles have attacked Jordan in increasing numbers, King Abdullah told CNN on Sunday (25th), as he described the dangers the Hashemite Kingdom and the region faces from the Islamic Republic.

“Unfortunately Jordan has been attacked by drones that we have to deal with that are of Iranian signature,” Abdullah told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.  He clarified that the drone attacks had taken place over the past year and had increased.

Abdullah listed a number of issues related to Iran, including the nuclear program, ballistic missile development, cyberattacks, and skirmishes along Jordan’s borders.

“Iran’s ballistic technology has improved dramatically.  We’ve seen that, unfortunately, against American bases in Iraq.  We’ve seen Saudi Arabia being the recipient of missiles out of Yemen, and Israel from Syria and Lebanon,” the king said.

“What misses Israel sometimes lands in Jordan…Add to that increased cyberattacks on many of our countries, and firefights on our borders,” Abdullah stated as he highlighted the dangers to his kingdom.

Israel, over the last years, has shot down a number of Iranian-made drones along its northern fronts and its border with Jordan, including during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Israel has hit Iranian targets in Syria from the air and Damascus has often launched missiles against Israeli aircraft carrying out attacks that have landed in Jordan.

The Jordanian king pointed to efforts by the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to engage with Iran in order to lower tensions.

“Let’s hope those talks get us to a better position where we can calm the region because we have so many challenges,” Abdullah added.

The king spoke with CNN during his trip to the US last week in which he visited the White House and met with US President Joe Biden.



Palestinians Threaten To Resume Gaza-Israel Border Protests – Khaled Abu Toameh

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have threatened to resume weekly protests near the Gaza-Israel border if there is no progress in talks to improve the economic situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The threat was relayed to Israel through Egypt, Qatar and other mediators, according to Palestinian sources who said the groups were “running out of patience” because of a lack of progress in efforts to ease restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip.

The 2018-2019 Gaza border protests, dubbed by Palestinian organizers as the “Great March of Return,” were a series of weekly demonstrations during which Palestinians clashed with soldiers.

At that time, demonstrators demanded that the descendants of Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their former villages and cities in Israel.  They also protested against the restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian groups have decided “to step up pressure along the borders of the Gaza Strip” after a period of relative calm during Eid al-Adha, the Hezbollah affiliated newspaper Al-Akhbar reported.

The planned escalation aims to push forward the ongoing discussions on issues related to the economic situation in the Gaza Strip, the report said.

Over the past few days, incendiary balloons have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel as part of the move to escalate tensions along the border, and Palestinian terror groups are heading in the coming days toward a gradual escalation with Israel, which will begin with launching more balloons carrying explosive devices, Palestinians told Al-Akhbar.

The factions are eyeing the possibility of “activating new pressure tools, including the resumption of the Great March of Return,” they said.

“The change of Israeli governments does not concern us,” said senior Hamas official Hussam Badran, adding that “whenever we feel that there is some kind of hesitation and obstruction of negotiations to lift the siege on Gaza, we will resort to various tools to pressure the occupation.”

“Regarding efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip, experience has shown that some countries do not follow through on their commitments to help the Palestinians,” Badran said.

“Hamas will not allow any country to use its donation to rebuild the Gaza Strip to put pressure on the Palestinian resistance groups,” Badran added.



Palestinian Who Saved Jewish Family Granted Permanent Residency

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, this week, granted permanent residency to A., a Palestinian man who saved the lives of three members of the Ettinger family who were shot at by terrorists on a highway in Judea and Samaria in 2016.

The father of the family, Mark, lost his life in the attack, but wife Chava, son Pedaya and daughter Tehila survived thanks to the first aid provided by A. and his wife, who also alerted law enforcement.

At the time, news of the Palestinian who helped save the lives of Jews traveled fast to Ramallah, and A.’s family began to receive death threats,  In an effort to protect his loved ones, A. fled to Israel, leaving his parents, wife and newborn son behind.  For three years he lived without a roof over his head, scraping for food and living under bridges.

Sometime after, A.’s wife joined him in Israel and in November 2019, due to public pressure, the Interior Ministry provided the couple with a temporary residence visa.

After granting the two permanent residency, Shaked said: “He who saves one life, it’s as if he saved the entire world.  A. saved the lives of the Ettinger family in a deadly attack, for which he has been persecuted relentlessly.  We will never turn our backs on a friend.  That is why I approved his permanent residency in Israel.”