May 18, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Gets New Government (Ynet News)
    After three consecutive elections, the Knesset approved a new government on Sunday by a vote of 73 to 46.
    Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to serve as prime minister until October 2021, when Benny Gantz, the new defense minister, will take over.

Chinese Ambassador to Israel Found Dead at Home - David M. Halbfinger (New York Times)
    China's ambassador to Israel, Du Wei, 57, who took up his post in February, was found dead at his home on Sunday morning in Herzliya by an embassy worker.
    The Israeli police found no reason to suspect foul play, and the Chinese government attributed his death to health problems.
    See also China's Ambassador to Israel Passes Away (Xinhua-China)

No Major Destruction in Attack on Jewish Shrine in Iran - Maryam Sinaiee (Radio Farda)
    Iran's IRNA news agency on Saturday confirmed that there had been an attempt to break into the tomb of Esther and Mordechai, a holy Jewish site in Hamedan.
    The report said the Jewish shrine had not sustained damage.

Report: Airstrikes in Syria Kill Iran-Backed Fighters (AP-Washington Post)
    Planes attacked Iran-backed fighters at a base near the border town of Boukamal in eastern Syria, killing seven Iraqi militiamen, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday.

Saudi Writer: It Is in our Strategic Interest to Maintain Real Relations with Israel (MEMRI-TV)
    Saudi writer Abdulhameed Al-Ghobain told BBC Arabic TV on May 10, 2020:
    "Today, the [Saudi] public is informed. There is a deluge [of opinions] against the Palestinian cause. It is no longer just public support for normalization and building ties with Israel. [Our] public has turned against the Palestinians in general."
    "People say out in the open that they do not care about the Palestinian cause and about the Arabs in general, and that we must steer our relations in keeping with our interests."
    "It is in our strategic interest, and in keeping with our future economic interests, to maintain real relations with Israel. Israel is an advanced country and we can benefit from it."

S and P: Israeli Economy to "Absorb" Coronavirus Shock - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's economy should "absorb the shock" of the coronavirus pandemic due to its strong macroeconomic fundamentals, S&P Global Ratings researchers forecast as they affirmed Israel's AA- credit rating.
    While the economy is expected to contract by 5.5% this year, it is projected to recover by more than 6% in 2021.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • The International Criminal Court's Illegitimate Prosecutions
    Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo issued the following statement on Friday: "The International Criminal Court is a political body, not a judicial institution. This unfortunate reality has been confirmed yet again by the ICC Prosecutor's attempt to assert jurisdiction over Israel, which, like the United States, is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the Court."
        "We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state, and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC."
        "The ICC does not have jurisdiction to proceed with this investigation....A court that attempts to exercise its power outside its jurisdiction is a political tool that makes a mockery of the law and due process. The United States reiterates its longstanding objection to any illegitimate ICC investigations. If the ICC continues down its current course, we will exact consequences."  (U.S. State Department)
  • EU Shows Little Appetite to Sanction Israel - Jonathan Stearns
    EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell urged Israel's new government to refrain from declaring sovereignty on land that the Palestinians claim for a state, while signaling little EU readiness to back up the call with a sanctions threat. Any EU sanctions against Israel would require the unanimous support of the bloc's member countries, which are divided on the issue. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • New Israeli Foreign Minister Ashkenazi: U.S. Peace Plan Gives Israel Opportunity to Shape Its Borders - Lahav Harkov
    The U.S. peace plan gives Israel "a historic opportunity to shape Israel's future and its borders for the coming decades," new Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Monday. "The plan will be promoted responsibly and in coordination with the U.S., while maintaining the peace treaties and strategic interests of the State of Israel."
        Ashkenazi, a former IDF chief of staff, added, "The diplomatic battle to stop the Iranian threat was and still is our main mission." He sees the Foreign Ministry as an "inseparable part of the State of Israel's national security, and its people as fighters without uniforms."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Thwarts Palestinian Attack near Jerusalem
    "IDF troops spotted three Palestinians hurling explosives and lighting firebombs, preparing to attack an IDF post" on Friday night near Abu Dis outside of Jerusalem, the Israel Defense Forces said. "Our troops responded with fire and thwarted the attack."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 272
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 272 (up from 266 on Friday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Monday morning. 57 people are in serious condition (compared with 60 on Friday), of which 47 are on ventilators (compared with 50 on Friday). 3,335 people are currently ill with the virus (compared with 3,736 on Friday) and 13,014 people have recovered (compared with 12,587 on Friday). (Times of Israel)
        See also Israeli Doctors Explain How They Brought Down New Coronavirus Cases to Low Double-Digits - Ido Efrati (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Is Convicted of Murder for Arson Attack on Palestinian Family - Shlomi Diaz
    Amiram Ben-Uliel, 25, was convicted of murder on Monday by the Lod District Court in a 2015 arson attack which killed three members of the Dawabshe family and badly burned a fourth in the West Bank village of Duma. The incident shocked the nation, earning condemnations from across the Israeli political spectrum. At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the perpetrators would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Chinese Challenge to the U.S.-Israel Relationship - Douglas J. Feith
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in Jerusalem that further Israeli economic linkage with China will hurt relations with the U.S. Pushback against hostile Chinese actions has intensified in the Trump period and gained bipartisan support.
        In 2005, Israel terminated all of its defense trade with China. But even without military sales, China has grown to become Israel's second-largest trading partner, after the U.S. In Israel, Chinese firms have been responsible for expanding the port in Ashdod and constructing the Tel Aviv light-rail system and the tunnels under Haifa's Mt. Carmel. A Chinese company has a contract to operate a new container terminal at Haifa port beginning in 2021.
        With ample enemies in their immediate vicinity, Israelis haven't historically looked at China as a national-security problem. But the world is changing. Israel should understand how U.S. national-security officials perceive China - and how its entanglements with China will affect one of its prime strategic assets: its U.S. alliance. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, 2001-05. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Board of Deputies of British Jews Should Not Comment on Extending Israeli Sovereignty to Parts of the West Bank - Baroness Ruth Deech
    I support the decision that the Board of Deputies should make no statement on the proposed territorial annexation by Israel. My experience in and out of Parliament with people who hate Israel and also with anti-Semites is that they are very willing to associate all Jews in the UK with the actions of Israel. If Israel carries out an action of which they disapprove, they call on UK Jews to dissociate themselves from it. In their view, all Jews are considered "guilty" or responsible for Israel's unpopular actions.
        Those who urge the Board to make a statement against annexation are playing into the hands of people who hate Israel and who hate Jews. Calling for a statement or, worse still, making one, gives credence to the notion that all Jews are responsible for Israel's unpopular actions and that all Jews can instruct the Israel government to change its policy.
        By making no statement, the Board will make it clear that while Jews in the diaspora generally support Israel, they are not responsible for her actions, they are not citizens with a vote, they do not have the right or the power to change her policies, and that anti-Semitism is, as it always has been, hatred of Jews, not a reaction to the existence or the policies of Israel. We should not get involved in Israeli politics as if we were Israeli citizens. The writer is a peer in the House of Lords. (Jewish News-UK)

  • Even as the coronavirus pandemic rages globally and is hitting several European countries fast and hard, Europe still has time to engage in one of its favorite pastimes: criticizing and opposing Israel.
  • The EU and some of its member states are trying to outrace each other on warning Israel's new government against declaring sovereignty in parts of the West Bank. But while they are quick to criticize Israel, they are passive about the real threats to stability in the region.
  • Last week, Mohsen Rezaei of Iran's Expediency Council threatened to "raze Israeli cities to the ground" even in the event there is a U.S. response to Iranian attacks against American forces in Iraq. These threats - to destroy Israeli cities filled with civilians and wipe out "the Zionist entity" and the "Zionist cancer" - are made on a regular basis by leading Iranian officials. The response in Europe to such genocidal rhetoric is essentially a collective yawn.
  • If Europe wanted to be helpful it would have been pushing the Palestinians from the time of the 1993 Oslo accords to resolve their conflict with Israel by going to the negotiating table and making reasonable and reciprocal compromises with the Jewish state.
  • Opportunities for the Palestinians to make a deal have been presented numerous times over many years, but they have always walked away, because making peace would require their taking less than the zero-sum result they have been promising their people.
  • The decades-long absence of goodwill on the Palestinian side, and the continued presence of Hamas in Gaza, means Israel must have a security presence in the Jordan Valley. For the same reasons, demilitarization of whatever Palestinian entity that may result from a negotiation is now a given. And a right of return for Palestinians and their descendants who fled Israel when it was created in 1948 will not happen.
  • Europe seems incapable - or worse, unwilling - to persuade the Palestinians to do what they've refused to do until now, which is to finally level with their people about what is do-able and what is fantasy.

    The writer is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.

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