News Digest — 9/6/22

IDF Retains 17 Palestinians In Series Of Raids Following Sunday’s Terrorist Attacks

The IDF on Monday (5th) expanded its months-long Operation Breakwater to crack down on terrorists in Judea and Samaria in the wake of two terror attacks on Sunday (4th).  The IDF said that in multiple raids on Palestinian towns in the Jenin area and in other locations in Samaria, 17 terrorists were arrested.

During the raids troops faced rock-throwing attacks and came under attack by provocateurs with Molotov cocktails, which forced the IDF soldiers to fire at the attackers.

The raids were conducted shortly after an improvised explosive device was thrown from a passing vehicle on an Israeli outpost in the Binyamin region in the West Bank overnight Sunday (5th).  Four Israeli soldiers were wounded.

The four troops were treated for minor wounds at the scene, though one was transferred to a Tel Aviv area hospital to remove shrapnel.  The military has launched a massive manhunt for the suspects who managed to flee the scene after the attack.  The incident near the village of Nabi Saleh comes amid a wave of violence in the West Bank.  Earlier on Sunday (4th), seven people were wounded in a shooting attack on a bus carrying new IDF recruits in the Jordan Valley.  Two suspects were arrested.  They were identified as Muhammed and Walid Turkman from the Jenin area.  A third suspect, who is believed to be their relative, escaped, but the IDF continued the massive manhunt  in the Jordan Valley area all through Sunday night (4th) and into Monday morning (5th).  The Shin Bet security agency is questioning the detained attackers.



The IDF’s New Chief Of Staff: Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi

After a months-long decision process, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has decided to choose current IDF deputy chief of staff Major General Herzi Halevi as his recommended candidate to be the IDF’s 23rd chief of staff.

During the coming week, Gantz will submit his recommendation to the senior position appointment advisory commission, led by retired Supreme Court judge Menachem Mazuz.  After the committee’s confirmation, the recommendation will be submitted for government approval.

Defense Minister Gantz notified Prime Minister Yair Lapid and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi of his decision.  Gantz chose Halevi after an organized process, during which the Defense Minister consulted with many senior officials, including the current and former prime ministers, former defense ministers, and chiefs of staff, including the current one.

Gantz has a long-running acquaintance with both of the final candidates.  The Defense Minister decided that based on his experience, Halevi is the most appropriate general for the task.  Gantz spoke to the Major General and notified him of his decision.

The Defense Minister also spoke with the runner-up Major General Eyal Zamir and told him that he sees him as an excellent candidate for the position of chief of staff

Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke about Gantz’s decision on Sunday (4th): “Major General Herzi Halevi is a worthy and natural choice.  Herzi is an outstanding and talented officer with considerable experience.  I am certain that he will lead the IDF to many significant achievements.  This was a choice between two good and worthy candidates.  I wish Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir success in the future.  I have no doubt that he will continue to contribute his experience and talents to the security of the State of Israel.”

Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kochavi, also spoke with the two candidates.  The Chief of the General Staff welcomed the selection of the highly qualified and experienced officer.  LTG Kochavi  congratulated MG Herzi Halevi on his appointment to the position and wished him success.  The Chief of the General Staff also thanked MG Eyal Zamir for his noteworthy and accomplished service and wished him success moving forward.



New UK Prime Minister Truss Is A True Friend Of Israel, Lapid Says

The United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss is a friend of Israel, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said after her victory was announced on Monday (5th).

“I congratulate my new friend, a true friend of Israel, Liz Truss, who was elected prime minister of Great Britain,” Lapid said.

The UK and Israel are united by a shared “commitment to freedom and a joint vision for a better future,” the prime minister said.  “I expect to continue working together for our countries and for our security.”  

Lapid and Truss have built a good working relationship since they overlapped as their countries’ foreign ministers, signing a strategic plan involving cybersecurity and other technological cooperation, as well as trade and defense.

While the UK’s policy is to support negotiations with Iran toward a nuclear deal, sources close to Lapid have said that Truss, as foreign secretary, has shown an understanding of the threat that Tehran poses to the Jewish state and is closer to Israel’s view on Iran’s prevarications in the talks.

As international trade secretary, Truss prioritized a free-trade deal with Israel, as the UK was working on many such agreements post-Brexit.

Lord Stuart Polak, honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel, said earlier this year that Truss was “outstanding at the Foreign Office.”

“As foreign secretary Truss moved the dial in terms of understanding Israel’s relationship with the UK,” Polak said.   

During her election campaign, Truss wrote in a letter to Conservative Friends of Israel that she would consider moving the British Embassy to Jerusalem.

“I understand the importance and sensitivity of the location of the British Embassy in Israel,” she wrote.  “I’ve had many conversations with my good friend…Lapid on this topic.  Acknowledging that, I will review a move to ensure we are operating on the strongest footing within Israel.”

Truss also supported the UK’s move to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization.



Germany Asks Forgiveness 50 Years After Olympic Munich Massacre

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday (5th) asked for forgiveness at a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympics attacks on Israeli athletes and team members at the airfield near Munich where a failed rescue attempt took place.

Steinmeier said Germany should shoulder its share of responsibilities for the failures to protect the athletes and for taking decades to compensate the victims’ families.

“We can not make right what happened,” Steinmeier said in his speech.  “I am ashamed .  As head of state of this country and in the name of the Federal Republic of Germany I ask for forgiveness for insufficient protection of the athletes, for insufficient resolution of this matter.” 

Members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage on September 5, 1972 at the athletes’ village by Palestinians from the Black September group.

11 Israelis, a German policeman, as well as 5 Palestinian gunmen died after a stand-off at the OLympic village and the nearby Fuerstenfeldbruck airfield, as rescue efforts erupted into gunfire.

The games continued despite the attacks and the IOC for almost half a century ignored calls from the victims’ families for an official act of remembrance at an Olympic Games ceremony. 

The IOC eventually held a moment of silence and a reference to the Munich Games’ victims last year at the Tokyo Summer Olympics opening ceremony – the first time in almost half a century.

Steinmeier said both German forces and state authorities had failed in their roles much to the suffering of relatives.

“You have the right to finally get answers to the questions that have tortured you,” he said, with Israeli victims’ relatives present at the ceremony.  “Also an answer to the question of why you were left alone with your pain for so long.”

As flags across all state buildings in the Bavarian capital flew at half-mast, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Steinmeier laid a wreath at the site.

The ceremony was attended by International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach and other officials.

The ceremony to mark the attack was welcomed by relatives of the victims and Israel’s government but Monday (5th) had been put at risk by families threatening to boycott it over Germany’s compensation offer.

The German government and the Israeli families agreed on Friday (2nd) on a compensation offer totaling 28 million euros, with the federal government contributing 22.5 million euros, while 5 million euros will come from the state of Bavaria and 500,000 euros will come from Munich.



Over Four Million Travelers Hitting Ben Gurion Airport Over Next Two Months

After two years of a world slowdown in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Israel Airports Authority has announced that over four million Israelis and foreigners are expected to crowd into Ben Gurion International Airport in September and October, Channel 13 reported Sunday (4th).

Back on July 10, media outlets celebrated that the millionth tourist of 2022 had entered Ben Gurion Airport, some four months after travel restrictions were gradually lifted.

Then in August alone, due to traditional summer vacation time – coupled with a two-year, pent-up desire to trek, voyage and get away – the number of people both entering and leaving Israel jumped to 2.2 million.

Israel’s three airlines – El AL, Israir and Arkia – took first, third and fourth place respectively in conveying those passengers to and from the country, with Turkish Airlines and Wizz Air rounding out the top five carriers.  All together, they took off and landed with more than a million people among them to enjoy Israel as well as such countries as the US, Turkey, Greece, Italy and the UK – the top destinations scheduled for September.

Now, the High Holiday season is approaching, with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, kicking off three weeks of religious festivities on September 25.

More than 80,000 people are booked to fly either to or from Israel on New Year’s eve alone, with this number being matched 10 days later following the Yom Kippur fast, and again four days later, on the eve of the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holiday.

Although this is welcome news for the local economy, 2022 is unlikely to be a record-breaking year for Israeli tourism, as the high so far was in 2019, when some 4.8 million tourist entries were recorded.  Still, it is good news for almost 10% of the Israeli workforce, which as of 2018 was either directly or indirectly employed in Israel’s tourist industry, according to OECD statistics.

According to the Tourism Ministry, 29% of travelers to Israel come to visit family and friends, a quarter arrive to sight-see, and 19% come to experience the religious holidays in the Holy land.  A whopping 44% are return visitors.