News Digest — 8/17/20

Netanyahu: ‘In The Middle East, The Strong Survive And Make Peace’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described his doctrine of “peace for peace” and “peace from strength” as bringing about formal relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in remarks made Sunday (16th).

“Under this doctrine, Israel does not have to withdraw from any territory and the two states get the fruits of full, open peace,” Netanyahu said in a video posted online.  “This peace was not achieved because Israel weakened itself by withdrawing to 1967 lines.  It was achieved because Israel strengthened itself by cultivating a free-market economy, by cultivating military and technological strength, and by combining the two to attain unprecedented international influence.”

Netanyahu directly tied Israel’s strength to its willingness to stand up to Iranian aggression, even when he “stood alone against the whole world and the Iran nuclear deal,” encouraging Arab leaders to get closer to Israel.

“In the Middle East, the strong survive, and peace is made with the strong,” he said.

Netanyahu said his doctrine is the opposite of those who believed that no Arab state would make peace with Israel before the conflict with the Palestinians ended, including evacuating settlements, dividing Jerusalem and withdrawing to the pre-’67 lines.  “The Palestinians held Israel and the Arab world hostage to the most extreme demands,” he said, “which put Israel in existential danger.”

But now that idea is finished and replaced with “peace for peace, peace from strength,” the prime minister argued.  He quoted his own 2013 speech to the UN General Assembly to show that he had long-thought this would be possible.

Netanyahu repeated that sovereignty is still on the agenda, and he plans to hold any future negotiations based on US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which would have Israel retain 30% of the West Bank.

“Meanwhile, we are making history, and we are changing history,” Netanyahu claimed.  “It is good for the United States and it is good for Israel…. This is peace of the strong and I think peace of the hopeful for the future.”



UAE Rejects Iran ‘Threats’ After Israel Deal

The UAE on Sunday (16th) summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in Abu Dhabi to protest “threats” by the Islamic Republic’s president over the Emirati decision to normalize ties with Israel, state media reported.

The foreign ministry “summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires and handed him a strong note of protest against the threats contained in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s speech regarding the UAE’s sovereign decisions,” the official WAM news agency reported.

That came a day after Rouhani said the UAE’s decision to normalize ties was a “big mistake” and warned “against opening the path of Israel to the region.”

Without expanding on what that would mean, he said it “would be another story and would be dealt with in another way,” Iran’s Mehr news agency reported.

UAE said on Sunday (16th) that such rhetoric “was unacceptable and inflammatory and had serious implications for security and stability in the Gulf region.”

The United Arab Emirates had already downgraded its relations with Tehran in January 2016 amid fierce rivalry between close Emirati ally Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic.

The decision to normalize ties with the Jewish state sparked a wave of criticism in Iran.

An ultraconservative Iranian newspaper said on Saturday (15th) that the move made the UAE a “legitimate target” for pro-Tehran forces.

The Kayhan daily echoed Palestinians and supporters across the region, calling the agreement a “betrayal” of the Palestinian Authority.

Iran’s government has also strongly condemned the agreement, calling it “strategic stupidity” and saying it would “strengthen the resistance-axis in the region because of it.”



Israel’s Defense Minister: No Peace In Southern Israel, No Peace In Gaza

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced Sunday (16th) that “Israel has completely closed the fishing zone in Gaza”

“The decision was made following the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, with the exception of the entry of essential humanitarian equipment into the Gaza Strip,” said COGAT in a statement.

“The closure comes in light of repeated terrorist acts by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip against Israeli citizens which violates Israeli sovereignty.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz held a security assessment meeting with IDF Chief of Staff General Aviv Kochavi on Sunday morning (16th), after a rocket launched from Gaza overnight Saturday (15th) landed in the Israeli town of Sderot.

The meeting came after weeks of escalation with Gaza, including incendiary balloons that have caused hundreds of brush fires in southern Israeli communities.  Israel has responded with air strikes on Hamas targets.

“For every balloon or rocket that lands in Israel and violates our sovereignty, one signature is written – Hamas,” Gantz told Channel 20 News.

“By launching the rockets and balloons, Hamas leaders…are undermining Gaza residents’ ability to live in dignity and security.”

“The IDF will respond strongly to any violation of sovereignty.  Complete calm must be restored in the south.  If there is no peace in Sderot, there will be no peace in Gaza either.”

Overnight Saturday (15th), a red alert sounded in the southern communities of Sderot and Ivim after a rocket was launched from Gaza.  The rocket landed in the yard of a house in Sderot.

A 58-year-old man was injured by shrapnel and treated at the scene by MDA paramedics.  Two others were treated for shock.  Security forces arrived at the home and destroyed the remainder of the rocket.  The house was significantly damaged.  

In response to the attack, the IAF carried out airstrikes on a Hamas rocket storage facility.

On Saturday night (16th) clashes broke out along the Gaza-Israel border fence as 200 Palestinians hurled explosives, grenades and flaming tires at IDF troops.

When the IDF opened fire, the crowd dispersed.



IAF, German Air Force Holding Joint Drill In Germany For First Time        

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Monday (17th) began a joint drill with the German Air Force in Germany for the first time, according to a statement by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

The overseas drill will be the only international drill to be carried out by the IAF this year outside of Israeli borders in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and will take place over a two-week period.

The participation in the drill in Germany marks the first time that Israeli troops have been allowed to leave the country since the pandemic broke out earlier this year.  All international drills were canceled in March except for a small number of  air force drills which took place solely in the air with no ground participation.

The decision to carry out the drill at this time stems from the necessity of maintaining the IAF’s capabilities through regular training and practicing in unfamiliar conditions and terrain, according to the statement.  The drill is also meant to strengthen the close cooperation between the IAF and foreign air forces.

As part of the drill, IAF pilots will also take part in the Multinational Air Group days (MAGDAYS), which is organized four times a year with the participation of different air forces from NATO allied nations in northern Europe.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit statement noted that as part of the drill, the IAF will participate in a flyover of the Dachau Concentration Camp, in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and over the Bavarian city of Furstenfeldbruck near Munich, in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were killed by Palestinian terrorists in 1972.

IDF troops will also take part in an official memorial ceremony in Dachau attended by the German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Tuesday (18th).

“The drill has a great strategic importance,” read a statement referring to the German-Israeli joint exercise, describing the arrival of IAF aircraft to Germany as “a historic event.”



Florida State University President Says Anti-Semitism Has No Home On Campus

Six weeks after thousands of Florida State University students petitioned for their student body president to be removed over social media posts, described as anti-Semitic, the school’s president has announced several changes aimed at making Florida State more hospitable for Jewish students.

In an open letter to the campus community, John Thrasher said he wanted “to reaffirm that anti-Semitism and religious discrimination have no home at Florida State University” and outlined what he said were “significant developments on campus to combat anti-Semitism.”

“A task force will review Jewish student life on campus, students will be surveyed about anti-Semitism on campus and staff will be trained annually  on issues including anti-Semitism, religious discrimination and ways to foster a more inclusive campus for Jewish students and employees,” he wrote.

Plus, the school has reestablished a Jewish Student Union and is creating an alumni network “to provide enhanced support and educational resources for all our students,” Thrasher wrote, while the university calendar will be revised to include “all significant religious holidays.”

Thrasher’s letter comes about six weeks after more than 8,000 FSU students signed an online petition to remove the student senate president over social media posts described as anti-Semitic, and less than a month after the student senate passed a resolution that would help combat anti-Semitism on campus, which also recognized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

“I want to reaffirm that this is a top priority.  My university leadership team and I will continue to work determinedly to combat anti-Semitism and unlawful behavior,” Thrasher wrote in the letter.  “While freedom of speech is of paramount importance on a college campus, so is creating a climate of acceptance and appreciation for the value and richness of the many cultures and ideas that make Florida State University such an excellent academic experience.”