News Digest — 8/30/19

As Tensions Spike In North, IDF Cancels Leave For Combat Brigades

The army’s Northern Command said Thursday (29th) it had canceled all leave for combat brigades on Israel’s northern border, just hours after the military’s commander in the north warned Israel would offer a “harsh” response to a Hezbollah attack.

Israeli troops on the Lebanese and Syrian borders have been on high alert this week over fears of a reprisal attack from Hezbollah following an alleged Israeli strike on the terror group in Beirut on Sunday (25th) and confirmed airstrikes on an Iranian position in Syria that killed two Hezbollah members on Saturday night (24th).

The Israel Defense Forces believes Hezbollah intends to attack IDF soldiers or a military installation on the border, and not civilians.

The freeze on soldiers’ leave in the north will be in effect until further notice, the army said.

Earlier Thursday (29th), Northern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, who ordered the move, met with mayors of northern communities in a bid to calm litters over the escalating tensions.

Several mayors asked him if they should open municipal bomb shelters in anticipation of possible conflict with Lebanon.  Baram replied that such a step was not yet necessary.

He then seemed to threaten Hezbollah with war.

“You should be preparing not for Hezbollah’s response against the IDF, but for their response to our response” to such an attack, he quipped.

He vowed that “If an IDF soldier is so much as scratched, our response will be harsh.”

Baram’s comments followed similar messages delivered by Israeli officials this week, both against Hezbollah and against Lebanon, which Jerusalem sees as complicit in the terrorist militia’s activities.



Israel Says Iran Boosting Effort To Set Up Hezbollah Precision-Missile Plants In Lebanon

Israel accused Iran on Thursday (29th) of stepping up efforts to provide its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon with precision-guided missile production facilities, a veiled warning to Beirut that Israeli counterstrikes could escalate.

Israel and Hezbollah, which last fought a war in 2006, are on high alert after Israeli drones were allegedly used at the weekend to attack what a security official in the region described as a target related to the militia’s precision-guided missile project.

Hezbollah has said it will retaliate for the rare strike in Beirut.  The heavily-armed Shiite movement has denied harboring such missile facilities.

Without claiming responsibility for the drone attack, the Israeli military went public with what it said were details about an extensive Iranian-sponsored project to provide Hezbollah with the means to produce precision-guided missiles.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathon Conricus said Iran had in recent months increased the pace of the project such that it was “faster in terms of buildings, facilities, locations, conversion, and manufacturing facilities, and it means more people and operatives are involved in doing so.”

“It is time for them [the Lebanese Government] to understand their responsibility and understand the fact that what they are letting Hezbollah and Iran do on Lebanese soil is their responsibility,” Conricus said.

“They are the ones who are complicit in endangering Lebanon and Lebanese civilians which Hezbollah and Iran are using as human shields.”



‘I Love Israel, People Have Everything They Need Here’

With the start of the school year set to begin on Sunday, September 1, over 2,000 children and teens from 37 countries who made aliyah (immigration to Israel) this summer will enter the Israeli school system for the first time.  Among them are 31 Jewish children who made their way to Israel with their families in complete secrecy, in covert Jewish Agency operations, from countries with hostile relations with Israel.

According to data from the Jewish Agency, around 1,450 of the young new olim (immigrants) who will start their first school year in Israel are children and teens aged 6 to 17 that will join elementary, middle and high schools.  More than 550 are children aged 3 and up who will go to preschools and kindergartens all over the country.

The countries with the greatest number of new olim children are Russia (around 880), the United States (around 400), France (around 270), and Ukraine (around 150).  The new pupils also come from Armenia, China, Thailand, Cyprus, India, Panama, and countries whose identity must remain confidential.

As the new school year approaches, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog met with some of the children and families in Jerusalem, who came to Israel in secrecy, from countries with hostile relations with Israel.  He gave them school supplies and advice about making new friends and being successful in their studies.

“You all immigrated in the last few months from countries that are very complex, and we are very happy that you are in Israel,” Herzog said in the meeting.  “We all want to wish you a most-successful school year. May you feel safe here, in your country, in the holy land, in the State of Israel. You are continuing a legacy of generations and we are very proud of you.”

A fourteen-year-old girl who immigrated to Israel last month from Venezuela – which in the past year has experienced political upheaval that threatens the Jewish community there – spoke about her arrival in Israel, saying: “It’s not good now in Venezuela but it’s a beautiful country.  I love Israel and people have everything they need here.” She will be starting school in Ashdod, and said that going to a new school is “difficult,” but feels good to be doing so in Israel. 

 “I have a lot of friends in the Beit Canada Absorption Center.  I have friends from Venezuela, Brazil and lots of countries. It’s good to be here,” she stated.



I Embrace My Arab-Israeli Identity – Ali Adi

Television host Yaron London’s comments about Arab culture earlier this week [the TV veteran referred to Arabs as “wild men” and called Arab culture “a failure”] spoke to a truth with which we are all familiar.  It’s not just me saying it – Arabs say it all the time, all over the world. If you ask any one of them during a casual conversation, even the biggest hater of Israel will tell you honestly that they prefer a conflict with Jews to a conflict with other Arabs, which would naturally result in brutal, unchecked bloodshed.  The Arab citizens of Israel will admit that they prefer the Israeli government to an Arab one, even if from their comfortable positions at Israeli universities they prefer to call it the “occupation.”

I’m not thrilled to agree with London – if only I could tear down his remarks.  If only I could feel pride in and a connection to Arab culture without any hesitation.  My “Arabness,” the language, the music, and the traditions, are an inseparable part of my identity, and I would like to be proud of and feel connected to them.

But I, and I’m saying this carefully, feel shame.  The Arab world, starting with its governments that are tainted by corruption and tribal alliances, including the man in the street, who exists, based on ignorance and violence, does not attempt to keep any of this secret.

Anyone with eyes in his head can point out these flaws, which should be addressed by fundamental reforms in thinking.  You don’t need to be an intellectual or a seasoned TV personality to understand that.

So I embrace my Israeli identity: I am an Israeli Arab because it’s important to me to distinguish myself from the wider Arab culture.  It’s important to me to turn my back on what is happening in Syria and what happened in Lebanon and the story of Egypt’s tragic fall. Because when I’m Israeli – I can feel proud sometimes.

Recently, I saw archived material about the First Lebanon War.  Despite the fact that stories about an invasion and a war don’t exactly warm the heart, I am filled with pride to hear and see Lebanese residents, including Palestinian refugees who have lived in Lebanon since 1948, express faith in Israeli soldiers and ask them for protection from other actors in the civil war.  The truth, which the entire Arab world already acknowledges, that the Israeli army is more humane and considerate than Arab armies, fills me with pride. I am Israeli and these are my values. Valuing human life, liberty, dignity, and people’s ability to support themselves are values that I would want to see expressed in my name, from Israel to the rest of the Middle East, and beyond.

I will leave the question of why the Arab world looks and acts like it does to the Arab citizens of Israel to answer.  We have an opportunity to build shared values with the Jews, ones that will make us stand out from the putrid swamp of the rest of the Arab world.  We owe that to ourselves, not to anyone else – and should do so proudly, standing straight, with our heads held high.



Palestinian Private Sector Flourishing In West Bank – Dan Zaken

Is there really an economic crisis in the West Bank?  There is no small harm to the public sector where salaries have been cut.  But most infrastructure projects are financed by foreign countries or organizations and the money is still coming in.  Moreover, the Palestinian Authority has recently received bonuses, grants and loans from various countries, the largest being $300 million from Qatar.

Exports from the West Bank to Israel have grown.  The shopping malls of Jenin, Tulkarem and Kalkilya are packed every weekend with tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs, while Arabs from eastern Jerusalem shop in Ramallah and Bethlehem.  In addition, 130,000 Palestinian workers are employed in Israel. Their average salary is two and a half times more than the average salary in the PA, and their numbers are rising constantly.  New facilities at border checkpoints have shortened lines and waiting times at the crossings from hours to minutes.

The growth in construction in Jewish communities in the West Bank, after years in which new building was frozen, has also ironically provided more work for Palestinians.  Bethlehem is filled with thousands of tourists, and recently two shopping malls were opened there with stores focused on the tourism market.