News Digest — 8/8/23

Netanyahu: ‘We’re About To See History With Saudi Arabia, Bet On It’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confident that Israel and Saudi Arabia will sign a peace agreement and that the ties between the two countries will continue to develop even without a formal agreement.

In an interview published Monday (7th) with Bloomberg News, Netanyahu said that “Saudi Arabia is one of the exceptional things that tells you why I’m very optimistic about Israel.”

“I think we are about to witness a pivot of history, maybe, I can’t guarantee it will happen.  First, there’s an economic corridor of energy, transport, and communications that naturally goes through our geography from Asia through the Arabian Peninsula to Europe.  We are going to realize that,” the prime minister said.

“My sense is we’re going to realize that, whether we have formal peace or not,” he stated, adding that he’d tell investors in the Jewish state to “bet on it.”

When asked what concessions Israel would be willing to make for such an agreement with Saudi Arabia, he said, “I’m not willing to give anything that will endanger Israel’s security,” adding that he considered the Palestinian issue a “checkbox” rather than a serious issue in the context of negotiations with Saudi Arabia.

“Is that what is being said in corridors, is that what is being said in discreet negotiations – the answer is a lot less than you think,” he said.

Netanyahu stated that if the Palestinians are given their own state, “it won’t be their own state, it will be an Iranian-controlled state.”



In Nightmare Scenario, IDF Tries To Predict What Flare-Up With Hezbollah Could Look Like

The likelihood of another Israel-Lebanon war is as high as ever, given the increased number of incidents on the northern border in recent months, not to mention the continued internal crisis in Israel over judicial reform, and the desperate and lingering conditions inside Lebanon.

Only this time, officials estimate that the conflict will not be limited to one area alone, with the possibility of flare-ups in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as more distant threats possible by Iran and its proxies in the region.

In order to understand Israel’s restrained response to recent provocations by Hezbollah – one needs to familiarize oneself with the security forces’ scenario for a potential war with Lebanon and its effect on civilian life.

Besides the obvious damage to homes and thousands of casualties, there is also concern about the ability of the state to function, namely in terms of electricity, communication, energy, food supply chain, and the mass absence from work of civilians in case of war.

According to the scenario, Israel will need to deal with an unprecedented number of rockets launched into its territory daily – with 6,000 missiles in the first days of the war and between 1,500-2,000 onward.

The numbers are astronomical, especially compared to the 204 rockets launched into Israel on average daily during the IDF’s Operation Shield and Arrow in the spring.

The potential rocket salvo and the campaign led by Hezbollah will lead to the death of approximately 500 civilians (this does not include soldiers) and the injury of thousands.

Yet despite these alarming numbers, what worries security officials more is the precision capability that Israel’s enemies are developing.  Sources point out that one of the most important lessons for Israel from the ongoing war in Ukraine is the effectiveness of the Iranian drones.

The scenario does not rule out either the possibility of Hezbollah – as well as Iran or its other proxies – hitting vital Israeli infrastructure, such as power plants, to paralyze the country and leave it without electricity for hours if not days.

Security officials say the challenge – and the plan – is to increase security in these strategic locations, among other things, by equipping them with missile defense systems.

An equally significant challenge, the scenario says, will be the domestic arena, with the possibility of the security forces needing to deal with several internal disturbances at the same time.

The IDF has already established 16 reserve battalions in charge of freeing routes for the movement of troops and dealing with disruptions within the country.

In terms of transportation, entry to ports in Israel might be sealed off, as well as foreign flights discontinued and roads blocked.

Another concern is the possible no-show to work by members of minorities whose labor is essential, such as truck drivers.  Such a development would disrupt the supply chain in Israel, with the potential to cause great damage.

The security echelon also does not rule out the possibility of thousands of fire outbreaks, dozens of hazardous material incidents, and several waves of cyber attacks.

As the scenario only deals with civilian life, it does not go into details about Hezbollah’s plans to “conquer the Galilee” and in practice, invade Israel and occupy its northern territories.

Given the above-mentioned scenarios, one can perhaps understand the IDF’s reluctance to be dragged into a war with Hezbollah and instead opt for moderate reactions to its provocations.



Palestinian Leader Lauded By Western Press Provided Money And Explosives To Suicide Bomber – Stephen M. Flatow

A glowing feature article about PA official Hussein al-Sheikh by Adam Rasgon of the New Yorker and Aaron Boxerman of the New York Times appeared in Foreign Policy on July 31.  Yet it failed to mention al-Sheikh’s involvement in a Palestinian suicide bombing attack on King George Street in the heart of Jerusalem on March 21, 2002.  Five people were murdered, and more than 100 were injured.  The explosion hurled U.S. citizen Alan Bauer 20 feet into the air.  Two screws placed inside the bomb ripped through his left arm.  His son, Jonathan, 7, suffered severe shrapnel wounds and underwent numerous operations to remove nails and screws from his head, including one that was lodged in his brain.  He was left with permanent injuries.

After the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military arm of the Fatah movement, openly claimed responsibility for the bombing, the US State Department finally put the group on its official list of terrorist organizations.

The family of a young couple, Gadi and Tzipi Shemesh, who were killed in the bombing, filed a suit against the PA.  In 2018, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the PA was responsible for the bombing, citing testimony provided by Israeli Intelligence officials.  According to the court’s ruling, one of those named by the officials was “senior Fatah official Hussein al-Sheikh, who met the suicide bomber and two other operatives and gave them money and two hand grenades to carry out the bombing.” According to American and Israeli law, this makes al-Sheikh equally guilty of multiple murders.



Palestinian Compliance With The Oslo Accords: A Legal Overview-Amb. Alan Baker

• The exchange of letters between Israel’s Prime Minister Rabin and the PLO’s Chairman Arafat, dated September 9, 1993, contains mutual declarations of recognition, reciprocal commitments to negotiate peace, and Palestinian declarations that “all outstanding issues relating to the permanent status will be resolved through negotiations” and “the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.”

• The Oslo Accords constitute the sole valid source of legal authority for the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.  They are the only authoritative legal source for the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.  They were countersigned and witnessed by the US, Russia, the EU, Egypt, and Norway, and subsequently endorsed by the UN in several resolutions.

• Since the Oslo Accords remain the only valid, agreed, legal source of authority for the division of control, powers, and responsibilities between the Palestinians and Israel over various parts of the territories, pending the outcome of negotiations on their permanent status, Palestinian attempts in the UN General Assembly or through international judicial bodies to achieve some international acknowledgment that Israel is an “occupying power” are legally flawed and substantively wrong.

• Indeed, Palestinian actions in the international community violate the very integrity of the Accords.

• The continued advocating of terror, financing terrorists, and incitement to violence are incompatible with the Oslo Accords and specifically with Palestinian commitments to prevent terror and punish violators.  

The writer who heads the Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center, served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s MInistry of Foreign Affairs and participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.  This article is part of the Center’s new “Oslo at Thirty” compendium.



Israeli Tourist Beaten In Berlin

A young Israeli tourist who was beaten up in Berlin on Saturday night (5th) in what police are investigating as an anti-semitic attack has spoken of his “nightmare” ordeal.

“When they started beating me, I was like, ‘when will this nightmare end?’” the tourist, whose name was given in local media outlets as “Jonathan,” told the new site BZ.

The 19-year-old told police that he had been walking along Hedemannstrasse in the German capital’s Kreuzberg neighborhood with an 18-year-old female friend, whose name was Avia, at 10:15 Saturday night (5th) when a car carrying four men pulled up beside them.

Three of the men got out of the car after reportedly having heard Jonathan speaking in Hebrew on his cellphone and confronted the pair.

One of the men spoke to Jonathan in German.  “I told them that I didn’t understand,” Jonathan said.  “Suddenly I felt a punch and then I fell.  Then the three of them started beating me.”

As Avia wept and called for help,the men continued beating Jonathan.  “When they were done with me, they drove away in their car listening to loud Arabic music: they really celebrated,” he said.  “I was beaten up by Arabs because I’m Jewish.”

Jonathan was later taken to the hospital with a concussion and injuries to his arms and face.

Despite the attack, the couple said they were determined to continue with their vacation in Germany.  

State security officials are investigating the assault as a hate crime, Police in Berlin announced on Sunday night (6th).

Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, condemned the attack in the German capital.  “This is unacceptable!” he tweeted.  “Israelis and Jews should not feel unsafe walking the streets of Berlin or any other German city.  The German authorities must take every measure to stop these attacks and incitement against Israel and Jews before it is too late.”

RIAS, a state-funded anti-Semitism watchdog, reported 848 anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin during 2022, out of nearly 2,500 nationally.  A total of 21 incidents involved physical attacks with one case of “extreme violence.”

Despite the steady year-on-year rise in anti-semitic outrages in Germany, many officials believe the true number of incidents is much higher because many victims are unwilling to submit reports with the authorities.

“Only 20 percent of the anti-semitic crimes are reported, so the real number should be five times what we have – 25 incidents per day,” Felix Klein – the top federal official in Germany combating anti-Semitism – told the Algemeiner in a recent interview.