News Digest — 9/19/19

Airstrike On Iran-Backed Militia Near Iraq-Syria Border Said To Kill At Least 5

Unknown aircraft attacked posts of Iranian-backed fighters in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border early Thursday morning (19th), killing at least five people, according to Arabic media reports.

Sky News Arabia, citing Iraqi security officials, said the strikes targeted a base belonging to the Popular Mobilization Unit, an umbrella group of largely Iran-backed militias, killing five and wounding nine.

It was the second strike on positions controlled by Shiite militias in the Bukamal region of Syria in as many days, and the third in a month.  Some Syrian and Iraqi outlets said Israel was suspected of being behind the strikes.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 10 pro-Iranian fighters were killed in an airstrike Tuesday (17th) by unmanned aerial vehicles, which reportedly targeted a training camp and ammunition storehouse.

The Observatory and activist collective Deir Ezzor, 24, said the strikes occurred near a newly constructed but not yet operational Syrian border crossing with Iraq.  The opening of the crossing, planned by Iraq and Syria, had been postponed several times in recent weeks.

On September 9, aircraft targeted an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in the Bukamal region, killing at least 18 fighters and destroying at least eight storehouses.  A Syrian security official said at the time that Israel jets were behind the attack.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network has reported that the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group also maintains a presence in the Bukamal region.

The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) has blamed both Israel and the US for the string of blasts and drone sightings at its bases.  Israeli officials have not commented publicly on these allegations.



Netanyahu: ‘Unity Government – Order Of The Day’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in the State memorial ceremony on Thursday morning (19th) for President Shimon Peres on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, addressing the complicated political situation.

In his speech, Netanyahu mentioned Peres’ decision to go to a unity government with Yitzhak Shamir in the 1980s after no clear decision was reached between the blocs and noted that no clear decision was made in this week’s elections.

“There’s no reason for us to go for further elections.  I’m against it. A broad unity government is the order of the day,” Netanyahu said, calling on Opposition Chairman Benny Gantz to meet with him as soon as possible.

President Reuven Rivlin congratulated Prime Minister Netanyahu in his memorial address for calling for unity.

“I hear the voices calling for establishment of a broad and stable unity government and I congratulate you, Mr. Prime Minister, on joining this morning to this call,” Rivlin said.

The president added, ”This is an important call.  The responsibility is that of the elected officials, especially the heads of the major parties.



Netanyahu Cancels UN General Assembly Appearance Over Election Results

There will be no speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly that opens next week, as Tuesday’s (17th) inconclusive election results has forced him to cancel plans to fly to New York, address the world body, and meet US President Donald Trump.

Instead, Netanyahu will be in the thick of coalition negotiations.  This will be the first time in nine years that he will not address the UN.  Foreign Minister Israel Katz will do so instead.

According to the UN schedule, Netanyahu was listed as the 12th speaker on September 26, the third and final day of speeches by world leaders.  He was scheduled to come to the podium three slots after Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But the country’s political calendar has intervened.  On Wednesday (25th), the day before the planned speech, President Reuven Rivlin will receive the official election results, and then he must pick one of the candidates to form a government.  Netanyahu obviously does not want to be out of the country at that time.

In addition to giving his speech at the UN—something he clearly relishes—Netanyahu was also planning to meet Trump on the sidelines of the UN meeting.  Trump will speak to the body on Tuesday (24th) and tweeted on Saturday (14th) that he would be meeting Netanyahu to discuss an Israel-US defense pact.

Netanyahu has spoken as prime minister at the UN General Assembly on 10 different occasions.  First in 1998, and then every year since he became prime minister for a second time in 2009, with the exception of 2010.

Although, Netanyahu has made the UN speech a fixture on his calendar during this decade, it has not always been the case that Israel’s prime minister addresses the world body.

In the first decade of this century, the body was addressed by an Israeli prime minister only three times: Ehud Barak in 2000, Ariel Sharon in 2005 and Netanyahu in 2009. 

Shimon Peres addressed the event three times—once as president in 2008 and twice as deputy prime minister and foreign minister—and Silvan Shalom and Tzipi Livni addressed the forum twice each in their roles as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.



Israeli Elections Do Not Determine The Future Of The Peace Process – Jonathan S. Tobin

With all the apocalyptic rhetoric over the Israeli election, many still fail to understand the broad consensus among Israelis on security issues and the peace process.  That consensus holds that the Palestinians have no real interest in peace and that in the absence of a peace partner, the kind of territorial concessions some demand that Israel make, wouldn’t be so much as unwise as insane. That’s why all the talk about Israel’s latest election deciding the future of the peace process is wrong.

As Arafat did in 2000 and 2001, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said “no” to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 offer of an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, as well as a share of Jerusalem.  Abbas to this day refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Palestinian peace with Israel is impossible until a vast change in their culture produces a leadership that would be serious about peace.  Should such a leadership ever emerge, they will, no doubt, find willing Israeli partners. But that’s something for the future. For now, Israelis understand that the Palestinians have already decided against peace – no matter who is Israel’s prime minister.



Police: Palestinian Woman Tries To Stab Guards At Checkpoint, Is Shot Dead

A security guard shot dead a Palestinian woman after she pulled out a knife at the Qalandiya checkpoint in the central West Bank Wednesday morning (18th), police said.

The woman, reportedly in her 50s, entered a car lane on foot, which aroused suspicion of the guards at the Jerusalem-area checkpoint.

“Security personnel who saw that she was approaching them performed the proper arrest procedures and called for her to stop.  When she did not respond and pulled out a knife, she was shot,” police said in a statement.

The woman was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, where she was pronounced dead, the medical center said.

In some cases in recent years, Israeli officials say, Palestinians appeared to carry out attacks or attempted attacks in order to be shot by Israeli security forces, as a form of “suicide by cop.”

This has been especially true with attacks at checkpoints, which are heavily guarded and are specifically designed to limit the possibility of stabbings.

In January, a Palestinian teenage girl was shot dead as she tried to stab an Israeli security officer at the A’Zaim checkpoint, near Bethlehem.

According to police, the assailant tried to attack one of the guards at the crossing and was shot dead by other security personnel at the scene.



Anti-Israel Harassment On US College Campuses Spikes 70%

A recent report from the AMCHA Initiative found a disturbing spike in anti-Israel harassment on American college campuses.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting and combating anti-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America.

The study found that from 2017 to 2018, acts of classic anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students decreased by 42%, while incidents of Israel-related harassment increased by 70%.

Anti-Israel hostility has manifested itself in accusations that Jewish and pro-Israel students support racism and genocide, and the labeling of Jewish and pro-Israel students as white supremacists.

From 2017 to 2018, accusations of white supremacy doubled.  The promotion of terrorism against Israel surged to 67% The promotion of calls to eliminate Israel more than doubled.  Expressions acknowledging opposition to Zionism increased more than threefold.

Expressions acknowledging that the ‘true goal’ of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) movement is to eliminate Israel, increased from one case in 2017 to 32 in 2018.

Specifically in regards to BDS activity on college campuses, the report found that BDS activity on campuses more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, while the promotion of academic BDS grew by more than 100%.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s director, placed the onus on faculty members to do something about the BDS and anti-Israel incitement.

“Academic BDS is more dangerous than people realize,” the AMCHA director said.

Its promotion on campus, particularly by faculty who give it academic legitimacy, is inciting an alarming increase in harassment against Israel’s presumed supporters, first and foremost Jewish students.  Administrators must take the necessary steps now to stop these unacceptable acts of intolerance,” she said.