News Digest — 9/20/19

A U.S.-Israeli Defense Pact: How To Ensure That Its Advantages Outweigh Its Disadvantages – Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kupperwasser

→ The idea of a defense pact between Israel and the U.S. has already been considered several times and rejected.  Both sides are cautious about making commitments that would limit their freedom of action and require them to act militarily in contexts that are not viewed as vital by their respective populations.

→ Israel has reserved the right of nonintervention in conflicts that do not directly affect Israel, preserving its independent decision-making when it comes to using its power, and, above all, upholding the principle that Israel should be able to defend itself by itself.

→ To date, Israel’s expectations of the U.S. in the security domain have gone unfulfilled in a number of cases.  According to unwritten understandings, Israel is to deal with threats within its own immediate environment while relying on U.S. assistance in intelligence, equipment, and resources, and the U.S. is supposed to prevent, with Israeli help, the emergence of strategic threats to Israel and to the U.S. from the second and third tier.

→ At several critical junctures the U.S. has decided to prefer other interests over Israel’s security needs, allowed the threats to its security to intensify, and forced it to stretch its capabilities to the limit, with Israel devoting huge budgets to its defense.

→ Nevertheless, a U.S.-Israeli defense pact could help promote the common goal of deterring Iran and curbing its activity by making it clear that aggression against Israel is tantamount to aggression against the U.S. and would prompt harsh American countermeasures.

→ Such a pact must preserve both sides’ independence of decision-making in case of disagreement about a joint action; reinforce the principle that Israel must continue to be capable of defending itself by itself, to the extent possible; and it must not put new limits on Israel’s ability to develop ties with other important states such as China and Russia.

The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division and director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is director of the project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center.



Rockets Fired At Israel From Gaza Fall Short, Wounding 7 Palestinians

Seven Palestinians were reportedly wounded Wednesday (18th) when a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip, aimed at Israel, exploded near a house inside the coastal enclave

Palestinian eyewitnesses said two of the three rockets struck outside a home in the southern city of Rafah, and a third fell near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said seven people were wounded, but didn’t elaborate on their condition.

Also Wednesday evening (18th), the army said a mortar shell was fired at Israel from Gaza but appeared to have landed inside the enclave.

The attack did not trigger rocket sirens in any Israeli community but did set off alarms in the Eshkol region of southern Israel.

The attack came amid ongoing tensions between Israel and terror groups in the Strip following multiple rocket attacks last week.

Rockets have been fired at Israeli cities and communities multiple times this month – with most intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system or landing in open areas – drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.  On September 10, two rockets were launched at Ashdod and Ashkelon which disrupted a Netanyahu campaign rally, as many ran for shelter.



Armenia Announces It Will Open Embassy In Israel

Armenia announced on Thursday (19th) that it intends to open an embassy in Tel Aviv, a move expected to bring the once cool ties between Israel and Armenia to a different level.

“Israel is an important player in the Middle East,” Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan was quoted as saying in a cabinet meeting.  “The opening of the embassy will contribute to the deepening of bilateral relations and protection of Armenia’s interests in the region.”  According to the cabinet decision, the move will also strengthen the Armenian Apostolic Church’s presence in the country. The new embassy is expected to open by the beginning of next year.

Mnatsakanyan said that Armenia would welcome a reciprocal move by Israel, and that “this is on the agenda of our dialogue.”  Israel gave no indication however, that it was considering opening an embassy in Yerevan.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz praised Armenia’s decision, saying that it is a “significant step in the development of bilateral relations” between the two states.

Armenia will be the 90th country to open an embassy in Israel, which “attests to the constant increase in the strength of Israel’s position in the world,” according to Katz.

Armenia Deputy Foreign Minister Grigor Hovhannisyan explained why Yerevan was not considering placing its embassy in Jerusalem.

“For a small country like Armenia, it is difficult to make major departures from a more traditional stance without provoking major reactions,” he said.  “For the time being there will be no change in the Armenian approach about where the would-be embassy should be, so we will not focus on that at this time.” 



Putin: Russians Consider Israel A Russian-Speaking Country

Russia considers Israel a Russian-speaking nation, President Vladimir Putin said.

Putin made the statement, his strongest public expression of kinship with the Jewish state to date, during a speech Tuesday (17th) in Moscow at an event organized by the United Israel Appeal, a Zionist organization responsible for collecting funds.

“Citizens of Russia and Israel are connected by ties of family, kinship and friendship.  This is a real network, a common family, I say without exaggeration. Israel has almost 2 million Russian-speaking citizens.  We consider Israel a Russian-speaking state,” he said.

Putin also said he would travel to Israel in January at the invitation of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to attend events dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  “Of course I will definitely take advantage of this invitation,” Putin said.

Trade between Russia and Israel rose by 9% in 2018 over the previous year, he added.

Russia maintains strong ties with some Russian-speaking countries, offering them beneficial trading terms and political support.  It also has demonstrated a high level of intervention, sometimes hostile, in Russian-speaking countries.

Under Putin, Russia has deepened its alliance with Iran, despite calls by that country to destroy Israel and alleged attempts to develop nuclear and other arms in the context of Iran’s conflict with Israel.  Russia also supports Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, and is one of the few major powers in the world with official relations with Hamas officials. 



Hasidic Man Beaten And Robbed In Brooklyn

A Hasidic man was assaulted and robbed in Brooklyn in an incident captured on video and posted on social media.

Authorities said the Tuesday evening (17th) attack in the heavily Jewish Williamsburg neighborhood is not being considered a hate-crime because no anti-Semitic slurs were made, CBS New York reported.  New York Police are calling the incident, which was captured on a surveillance camera, an attack and robbery.

Four men cornered the man, with long sidelocks and wearing a long black coat, then punched and kicked him.  The victim, 24, surrendered his cellphone to his attackers.

Brooklyn of late has seen a string of attacks on visibly Jewish people.

Former New York assemblyman Dov Hikind in a statement called on the police department to increase patrols in Jewish areas such as Williamsburg “until this wave of violent anti-Semitism subsides.”  Hikind is organizing a rally at City Hall Park on Sunday (22nd) to call for an end to attacks against Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League announced in a statement that it is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible.

“The video footage of this violent encounter is incredibly disturbing, and we are glad that the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is assisting in the investigation of this horrific crime,” said Evan Bernstein, the ADL’s New York-New Jersey regional director.  “This incident comes at a time when visibly observant Jewish individuals are unable to walk the streets of Brooklyn without feeling fearful that they may be assaulted because of their religion or faith.”