News Digest — 7/29/21

Erdan To UN: ‘Extremist Narratives’ Will ‘Keep Region Stuck In The Past’

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan warned against “adopting the narratives of the extremists in the Middle East” during a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session on Wednesday (28th), saying that doing so would “keep the region stuck in the past.”

Erdan, who also serves as ambassador to the US, contrasted recent milestones in Israel’s warming ties with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco with parties trying to “keep the Middle East stuck in a dark age of conflict.”

“Israel and more and more moderate Arab states are working to move beyond the past of hate, instability and fundamentalism, towards a future of dialogue, tolerance and peace,” he told the debate.  “Unfortunately terrorist groups like Hamas, and radical regimes like Iran, oppose this vision of a brighter future.”

He also highlighted recent steps taken by Iran to increase the production of enriched uranium, and its foiled plot to kidnap Iranian American journalist Masih Alinejad.

“When this Council fails to take strong action against the world’s worst human rights violators like Iran and Syria, and instead, singles out the world’s only Jewish state, it is no wonder that companies like Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever allow themselves to single out Israel for boycott,” Erdan remarked.

He also lambasted the Council’s focus on the issue of Jerusalem, calling it “dangerous.”

“It could be understood, if you accept Hamas’ narrative that Israeli actions in Jerusalem justified its latest terror attacks on Israel, but today’s discussion only serves to increase Hamas’ influence in Jerusalem and the Palestinian arena.”   

“While Israel will always remain committed to coexistence and religious freedom for all people and faiths in the holy city, and while we continue to maintain the status quo, despite false claims to the contrary, we will never accept the delegitimization of our legal, historical and national rights to Jerusalem, by the Security Council or any other international body,” Erdan continued.

Wednesday’s session on the Middle East was also addressed by Lynn Hastings, the UN’s deputy special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, who urged efforts to improve conditions in Gaza and said that the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal situation was “a source of significant concern.”

“I underscore that all perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice,” she said, citing a series of recent violent incidents in the West Bank.  “I also call  on Israeli security forces to ensure the protection of Palestinians, in line with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law,” Hastings added.



Gantz Meets With Jewish Community In France

On Wednesday (28th), Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz held a meeting with members of the French Jewish community during his trip to Paris.

Members of the community spoke to the Minister about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks against them.  Minister Gantz listened to their experiences with anti-Semitism and emphasized that “an attack on any Jew in the world is an attack on us as a nation.”  He further emphasized that the State of Israel is committed to assisting Jewish communities around the world.

Gantz expressed his appreciation for the great support that Israel receives from the French Jewish community, and shared that, during his time as the IDF’s Chief of Staff, he met many young French men and women who volunteered to serve in the IDF as lone soldiers.

He described this as an expression of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the French Jewish community.



US Bill Demands Reform Of UNRWA In Return For Funding

A new law was proposed Tuesday (27th) by Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate that would ban funding the UNRWA organization for Palestinian refugees and their descendants unless a string of reforms is carried out.

Senator James Risch (R-ID) and Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) gave several reasons for introducing their UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act.

“When UNRWA was created, its specific purpose was to provide relief for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli Conflict,” said Sen. Jim Risch.  “More than 70 years later, the organization has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a US designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), and its schools have been used to promote anti-Semitism and store Hamas weapons.”

“It is unacceptable that US taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to cease US contributions to UNRWA unless the administration can certify without a doubt that the agency has no affiliation with US designated FTOs and does not support anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

“The American people deserve better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on holding both the administration and UNRWA accountable until meaningful reforms are made, concluded Risch.”

Israel has long held that the UN agency should be disbanded, in the belief that it only helps to perpetuate the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Palestinians are the only group in the world that are allowed to call descendants of those who fled war “refugees,” thus swelling their numbers from several hundred thousand in 1948 to several million today.  A State Department report from 2018 stated that by now there are only some 20,000 ‘real’ refugees left from 1948.

“I am proud to partner with Senator Jim Risch to put an end to the Biden Administration’s reckless decision to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to UNRWA,” Chip Roy added, “which has failed to meet previous commitments to stop its hostility towards Israel.  If we truly desire peace, we must chart a new course that phases out UNRWA.”



PMO: PA Official ‘Racist’ For Encouraging Olympians To Boycott Israel

Refusing to compete against Israelis due to their nationality, as Palestinian Olympic Committee chairman Jibril Rajoub encouraged Olympic athletes to do, is racist, Prime Minister’s Office spokesman for Arab Media Ofir Gendelman said on Wednesday (28th).

“The Olympic Games celebrate friendship and respect,” Gendelman wrote on Twitter.  “Not only is refusing to compete against someone because of his nationality un-Olympic, it’s also racist.”

Rajoub “glorified terrorism,” encouraging soccer tournaments and teams to be named after Palestinian terrorists, and compared Israelis to “Satan and Nazis,” FIFA’s chief of investigations said.

“Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine was rightly expelled from the Tokyo Olympics for refusing to compete against an Israeli,” said Gendelman.

“However, Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, who is known for his radical anti-peace positions, met and commended Nourine for his hateful and unacceptable behavior,” he added.  “This, too, must be condemned by all those who hold Olympic values dear.”

Earlier this week, Rajoub posted photos of himself with Nourine on social media, writing that he appreciates Nourine’s “courageous stance refusing normalization” after he forfeited rather than face off against Israel’s Tohar Butbul.

The International Judo Federation suspended Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, and they lost their accreditation.

“There is no place for meetings with whoever is connected to this official terrorism, not in sport or outside of it.  I hope that this message goes out to all the Arabs who are normalizing…and even those who, unfortunately, sign agreements with branches of Israeli sports, in light of the oppression and the difficulties that Palestinian players face,” Rajoub said in an interview with an Algerian radio station that he posted on his Facebook page.

Rajoub is also the head of the Palestinian Football Association and campaigned to have FIFA, the international soccer association boycott Israel.

In 2018, FIFA fined Rajoub $20,000 and banned him from the association for inciting hatred and violence against Argentina, which had agreed to play a friendly match in Israel.  Argentina canceled the game following the threats.



Government Agrees On Increased Defense Budget For 2022

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have agreed on a defense budget to be passed as part of the state budget for 2022: $17.8 billion.

The ministers agreed that the defense budget increase would enable the IDF to equip and strengthen itself in light of current threats, with an emphasis on acquisitions from defense firms based in the Israeli periphery.

The understandings also included an allocation of $230 million for the homefront; promotion of reforms in the treatment and recognition of wounded IDF veterans; and full funding for a scholarship program for veterans of IDF service and national service.

A decision was also taken to decide on the length of compulsory IDF service, based on a balanced framework that the Defense Ministry has laid out.

An official message reported that “the prime minister, finance minister, and defense minister welcome the agreement and call on all ministers and ministries to reach understandings as soon as possible so the state budget can be approved in an orderly manner in the cabinet and Knesset.”

Meanwhile, reports Tuesday (27th) said that Lieberman wanted the defense establishment to invest more resources into the IDF’s ground forces, particularly long-range, precise ground missiles, and thinks that the defense apparatus spends liberally on the Israeli Air Force at the expense of the military’s ground forces.



Israeli High School Students Win Six Medals At International Math Olympiad

Israeli high school students won six medals at the 62nd International Math Olympiad (IMO) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Israel’s national team finished in seventh place, its best ranking to date, among all countries involved in the two-day competition this month and also took home three gold medals for the first time.

Yahel Manor from the Leo Baeck School in Haifa, Yair Shoham from the Ben Gurion High School in Ness Ziona and Almog Wald from Ahad Ha’am High School in Petach Tikvah won gold medals.  Omri Zemer from Ironi Alef High School in Modi’in and Shahar Friedman from De Shalit High School in Rehovot won silver, while Dror Fried from Ironi Dalet High School in Tel Aviv won bronze.

The IMO has been held since 1959, with Israel competing for the first time in 1979 – finishing in the top 10.

The competition consists of six questions related to four categories: algebra, geometry, combinatorics and number theory.  Participants receive three questions a day and are given four-and-a -half hours to answer them.

The student team that participated in the Math Olympiad was trained at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, led by the academic director Professor Avraham Lisenbod; head coach Lev Radzilovsky; head of the delegation Dan Carmon, and a team of coaches, including Daniel Kenner, Sasha Tolsnikov and Guy Kapom.