News Digest — 8/25/2021

Bennett: Israel Will Not Negotiate With ‘Fractured & Rudderless’ Palestinians

Just ahead of his departure for Washington on Tuesday (24th) for his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to the New York Times and stressed that the Bennett-Lapid government would neither annex nor form a Palestinian state.

Peace talks would not happen partly because the Palestinian leadership is “fractured and rudderless,” he told the Times.

“I’m the prime minister of all Israelis, and what I’m doing now is finding the middle ground – how we can focus on what we agree on,” Bennett said.

“Israel will continue the standard policy of natural growth,” Bennett said, adding that his government would expand construction in Judea and Samaria, but declined to discuss American pressure to reopen a consulate in east Jerusalem to provide services to the Palestinian population.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Bennett said.  “It’s not the capital of other nations.”

As far as the escalating security situation on Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip, Bennett declared he was prepared to continue fighting Hamas, even if coalition partner Ra’am opposed it.

“I will do what is necessary to secure my people,” Bennett said.  “I will not ever involve political considerations in defense and security-related decisions.” 

Bennett also said it would be a mistake for the US to rejoin the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran and that he planned to present Biden with a “new strategy” on Tehran that would include an axis of opposition revolving around the “reasonable” Arab nations that refuse to cooperate with Iran’s policies.



First US Army Iron Dome Battery Completes Live-Fire Test

The first US Army Iron Dome Battery has completed a live-fire test at New Mexico’s White Sands test range according to a statement from the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The US acquired the missile defense technology from Israel with the Israel Missile Defense Organization and Iron Dome developers Rafael, IAI Elta and mPrest supporting the test.

The live-fire test marked the first time that US soldiers intercepted live targets employing the Iron Dome system, according to the statement.

The US & Israel signed an agreement in 2019 for the procurement of two Iron Dome batteries.  The first battery was delivered in September 2020 and the second delivery was completed in early 2021.

“The US Army Iron Dome System is designed to defend supported forces against a range of threats including cruise missiles, unmanned aircraft systems, rockets, artillery and mortar threats,” the statement said.

Israel defense technology company Rafael Advanced Systems is the main contractor, with Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, developing the radar. The command and control system was developed by mPrest Systems.

Delivering Iron Dome to the US Army “once again demonstrates the close relations between the Israel Ministry of Defense and the US Department of Defense, the effectiveness of the system against various threats, and the excellent technological capabilities of Israeli industries,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at the time of the second delivery.

“I am confident that the system will assist the US Army in protecting American troops from ballistic and airborne threats as well as from developing threats in the areas where US troops are deployed on various missions,” he added.



Iran To Hold Naval War Drills With Russia, China In Latest Sign Of Growing Ties

Iran, Russia and China will hold a second set of joint maritime drills in the coming months in the Persian Gulf, the Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported Monday (23rd).

Russian ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan told the agency that the purpose of the drills will be to “practice actions to ensure the safety of international shipping and the fight against sea pirates.” 

Dzhagaryan added that he expects the three-way exercise to become an annual event.

The growing closeness between the top three Western adversaries comes at a point when American strength in the region seems to be waning.  The most recent signals to that effect are the American intelligence failure to predict the Taliban’s lightning sweep to take over Afghanistan this month, combined with the ongoing chaotic US withdrawal from the country.

Last week, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told both his Chinese and Russian counterparts that his country was ready to work together with them in “establishing security and peace in Afghanistan.”

This will be the second time these navies practice together in the area.  In December 2019 they conducted a four-day military exercise in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman.  Then, too, among the objectives announced by an Iranian rear admiral was “improving the security of international maritime trade and countering maritime terrorism.”

This was followed by land troops from Iran and China joining a large multinational military exercise, held in Russia last September that focused on battlefield tactics, control and command.

Iran then held a separate three-day “Maritime Security Belt 2021” drill with Russia this past February in the Indian Ocean, with the participation of the Indian navy.

The Gulf of Oman is the only entrance into the Persian Gulf, connecting to it through the Strait of Hormuz.  It is the primary route for oil and liquid natural gas shipments from the Arab oil-producing countries to the rest of the world, and the security of its waters is of prime international concern.

The Iranian coastline runs along the northern edge of both Gulfs and the mullahcracy considers the strategic waterway its backyard and a target for dominance.  Its naval vessels have intermittently played dangerous games with American warships in the Persian Gulf.  The Islamic Republic has also been blamed for several recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, including one last month on an Israeli-linked vessel in which a UAV strike left two sailors, one Romanian and one British, dead.



Iranian Ayatollah: Jews Greatest Problem Of Islam & Humanity

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in the country’s Southern Khorasan Province called the Jews ‘humanity’s greatest problem’ in a public address earlier this year.

“Consider the most difficult problem for Islam and Humanity as a whole.  This is corroborated by documents.  The most difficult problem has been the Jews. … They are more evil than Satan,” said Ayatollah Alireza Ebadi.

In a public address aired on Iran’s Khorasan Jonoobi TV on May 7, Ebadi said that the Jews’ ultimate goal was to pillage the entire world.

“They [the Jews] have taken control of the world in a technical way.  They give particular attention to military warfare, propaganda warfare, and psychological warfare.  They spread doubt and wage cultural warfare.  This is how they can achieve their main goal of pillaging the world,” he said.

Ebadi went on to claim “the Zionists” control France and appoint the US President.  



Kibbutz Harvests Previously Extinct Dates Eaten In Judea 2,000 Years Ago

Researchers recently harvested the second crop of dates on palm trees from 2,000 year-old seeds retrieved from archaeological excavations in the region, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Kibbutz Ketura said Monday (23rd).

After one of the trees bore fruit for the first time last September, this year’s harvest has increased.  Some of the dates, which were a staple of the ancient Judeans’ diet, will be available for visitors to buy and taste.

The special fruits resemble modern dates and have a very sweet taste, similar to honey, according to people who tasted them.

The ancient palm grove at Ketura has a few trees, the most senior, which researchers have named Methuselah – for the oldest man who ever lived, according to the Bible.  It was planted in 2005 from a seed found in Masada in the 1960s, during excavations led by legendary Israeli archeologist Yigal Yadin.

Over the following years, the researchers decided to replicate the experiment, planting another 32 seeds from various excavations.  About six of them eventually germinated, mostly from Masada or Qumran, another iconic site where the world renowned  Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed.

While Methuselah was found to be a male tree, some of the palms turned out to be female, allowing for pollination.

“It’s very exciting to taste the dates and see such a large and significant amount of fruit as we had no guarantee we would get a fruit-bearing female tree,” said Dr. Elaine Solowey, director of the Arava Institute’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture, who leads the project together with Dr. Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center of Hadassah-University Medical Center.

“It looks like a miracle on several levels,” she said.  “Seeds from archaeological digs sprouted successfully, and against all odds, female trees sprouted among them.  We are excited to revive an ancient variety of dates.”



Jewish Man Beaten In Cologne, Germany

An 18-year-old Jewish man wearing a kippah in Cologne, Germany, was beaten by a group of 10 attackers in a public square and taken to the hospital with a broken nose and cheekbone.

Police arrested two suspects in what they are calling an ‘anti-Semitic hate crime.’  The attack was captured on police surveillance video on Friday (20th).

The suspects, ages 18 and 19, were released on Saturday (21st) on their own recognizance.

Frankfurt Rabbi Avichai Apel, speaking for the board of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany (ORD), told the Jewish weekly newspaper Juedische Allgemeine  that the age of the suspects was particularly worrying.

“Young people in schools, educational institutions or other public institutions must be taught more about Jewish life,” he said.

Germany’s commissioner on anti-Semitism, Felix Klein told the German Press Agency, or dpa, on Monday (23rd) that he was “appalled by this horrific and cowardly attack.”  He praised the police for their quick action; as, in the past, few perpetrators of hate crimes have been caught.

“In our city, everyone must be able to live without fear, no matter what religion you belong to, what worldview you have and no matter how you live,” Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker told German media on Sunday (22nd).