March 30, 2023
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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Sees Recent Tensions with U.S. as a "Tempest in a Teapot" - Hadas Gold (Twitter)
    A senior Israeli official told reporters on Wednesday that recent tensions between Israel and the U.S. over Israel's judicial legislation were "a tempest in a teapot. This is a two on a scale of ten."
    The official added, "A democracy should let other democracies figure things out."

Israel Launches Ofek 13 Reconnaissance Satellite (Jerusalem Post)
    Ofek 13, a new advanced Israeli spy satellite, was successfully launched into space using a Shavit 2 satellite launcher, the Defense Ministry confirmed Tuesday.
    Avi Berger, head of the Defense Ministry Space Directorate, said, "Ofek 13 is a radar-based observation satellite with the most advanced capabilities of its kind in the world, all of which are the result of Israeli development."

Russia Supplies Iran with Cyber Weapons as Military Cooperation Grows - Dov Lieber (Wall Street Journal)
    Russia is helping Iran gain advanced digital-surveillance capabilities, adding another layer to a burgeoning military alliance that the U.S. sees as a threat.
    Tehran has also requested dozens of Russian attack helicopters and jet fighters and aid with its long-range missile program.

Twitter Corrects Rep. Rashida Tlaib Who Shared False Story about Israel - Ari Blaff (National Review)
    Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) shared a tweet alleging that Palestinians celebrating the first night of Ramadan in Jerusalem were attacked by Israeli security forces.
    Twitter appended commentary notes clarifying that the incident did not actually occur as Tlaib described it.
    "This was not an attack by Israeli police. A brawl broke out among young Palestinians at Damascus Gate & Israeli police separated them to restore peace," Twitter noted.

FIFA Strips Indonesia of Under-20 World Cup amid Israel Row (AFP)
    FIFA, soccer's world governing body, announced on Wednesday it had removed Indonesia as hosts of this year's under-20 World Cup amid political turmoil over Israel's participation.
    Indonesia and Israel do not have formal diplomatic relations, and support for the Palestinian cause in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation runs high, fueling local opposition to hosting the Israeli team.
    See also Players, Fans Dismayed after Indonesia Loses U-20 Hosting Rights (Reuters)
    Indonesia's soccer federation (PSSI) said losing hosting rights would harm its chance of taking part in other FIFA tournaments, and the economic losses would amount to millions of dollars.
    As hosts, Indonesia had automatically qualified for the tournament but FIFA's decision means its players will no longer get to play.
    "We have buried the dreams of our own children," said the Indonesian team's assistant coach Nova Arianto.

Scotland's New Leader Has Met with Hamas, Bashes Israel (JNS)
    Humza Yousaf, 37, was elected this week as Scotland's first minister, the head of the country's government.
    His in-laws live in Gaza and he has a history of meeting with Hamas. He has also called for an arms embargo against Israel.

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UAE Ambassador Organizes Iftar in Israel for First Time (Khaleej Times-Dubai)
    UAE Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja hosted Iftar (the fast-breaking evening meal during Ramadan) for the first time in Israel and shared photos of the night on Twitter.
    He said, "Thank you to the many leading members of Israeli society from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze sectors for joining me this evening."

Palestinian Mother Instructs Her Son on How to Become a Martyr (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Palestinian terrorists shot at Israeli forces who were guarding Jews visiting Joseph's Tomb in Nablus on Feb. 8, 2023. The forces returned fire, wounding Muntasir Al-Shawa, 16, who died of his wounds on Feb. 20.
    His mother told official PA TV on Feb. 21: "The day before his injury, he told me: 'I want to go to the Balata refugee camp [near Joseph's Tomb], and I'll come back to you as a Martyr.'"
    "I laughed at him and told him: 'Do you think being a Martyr is something trivial? Go bathe, pray, bow down to Allah, and then there might be a chance that Allah will agree to accept you [as a Martyr].' The following night he came back to me as a Martyr. Praise Allah."

Israeli Perimeter Detection Tech Spreading around the World - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Israeli company GM Afcon's electronic sensor system is appearing around sensitive borders, airports, ports, database servers, industrial sites, power plants and strategic military bases in Israel and internationally.
    The V-Alert sensor provides a pinpoint alarm when moved by an intruder, giving human operators intrusion warnings that are extremely precise and timely, while false alarms are reduced to a minimum.

Cisco to Buy Israel's Lightspin for $200 Million - Assaf Gilead (Globes)
    U.S. digital communications giant Cisco Systems has announced it is acquiring Israeli cloud security startup Lightspin for an estimated $200 million.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel to Delay Judicial Overhaul
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a delay in his judicial overhaul plan on Monday, saying he wanted to give time to seek a compromise over the contentious package with his political opponents. (AP-Politico)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu: "A Time-Out for Dialogue"
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday: "We are in the midst of a crisis that is endangering the basic unity between us. This crisis requires all of us to act responsibly....When there is a chance to prevent civil war through dialogue, I - as Prime Minister - will take a time-out for dialogue. I will give a genuine chance for genuine dialogue. We insist on the need to enact the necessary changes in the judicial system and we will give a chance to achieving broad consensus. This is an incomparably worthy goal."
        "I am unwilling to cut the nation in two. We are not facing enemies but our brothers....We all have a common fate and we all have a common mission, which is to ensure the eternity of Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Negotiation Teams Start Judicial Reform Dialogue at President's Residence - Itamar Eichner
    President Isaac Herzog met on Tuesday with working teams from the major parties at his Jerusalem residence for a dialogue on the details of potential judicial reform. (Ynet News)
        See also below Observations: Israel Is Proving It Is Still the Only Democracy in the Middle East - Jake Wallis Simons (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S.: "You Don't Always Agree with Everything Your Friend Does"
    U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Wednesday: Prime Minister Netanyahu "talked about searching for compromise. He talked about working towards building consensus here with respect to these potential judicial reforms. He talked about how unshakable he knows the relationship is between the United States and Israel. And he talked about his great respect for President Biden."
        "The great thing about friends...[is] you don't always agree with everything your friend does or says - and the great thing about a deep friendship is you can be that candid with one another....Israel is a democracy and a sovereign state, of course, and sovereign states make sovereign decisions."  (White House)
  • In Arab World, Israel's Internal Conflict Dominates the News - Nidal Al-Mughrabi
    Arab broadcasters carried rolling coverage of Israeli protests on Monday, drawing attention to the internal fight over government plans to overhaul the judiciary. Al Jazeera carried a stream of news from Israel, while al-Manar, run by Iran-backed Hizbullah, led its evening newscast with the story.
        "As an Arab citizen I think that this is the beginning of the end of Israel, God willing," said Qusai al-Qaisi, a citizen of Jordan, whose government signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. "I don't want to say that I'm happy but I'm really happy that this is happening there." Mohammad Abdullatif in Syria said, "What's happening is definitely, for any Arab, good news."
        Gaza political analyst Talal Okal said, "We hope it doesn't settle any time soon, and we hope it escalates and gets worse." Egyptian pensioner Hakem Sherif echoed criticism of Israeli policies, but also expressed respect for Israeli democracy. "Citizens have a space to express their opinions, they don't randomly arrest or carry out violent dispersal of protests."  (Reuters)
        See also What Are the Palestinians Saying about the Judicial Reform Controversy in Israel? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
  • Greece Arrests Two Men Planning Attack on Jewish Restaurant
    Greek police said on Tuesday they had arrested two Pakistani nationals planning an attack against the Chabad House restaurant in Athens, after they received orders from another Pakistani national in Iran. (Reuters-AFP)
        See also Israel Is Working Relentlessly to Thwart Iranian Attacks around the World
    Following the attempt by Iran to perpetrate terrorism against Israeli and Jewish targets that was successfully thwarted by Greek security forces, the Prime Minister's Office said Tuesday: "After the start of the investigation of the suspects in Greece, the Mossad rendered intelligence assistance in unraveling the infrastructure, its work methods and the link to Iran."
        "The investigation revealed that the infrastructure that operated in Greece is part of an extensive Iranian network run from Iran and spanning many countries. The Mossad, together with its partners in the community, is working relentlessly to thwart intended Iranian attacks around the world."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Terrorist Who Attacked Two Women over UK Department Store's "Israel Ties" Found Guilty - Daniel Ben-David
    Munawar Hussain, 59, who stabbed a Marks & Spencer store manager in the neck before launching himself at a customer on December 2, 2020, in Burnley, Lancashire, has been found guilty of attempted murder and wounding with intent at Manchester crown court. Hussain said he carried out the attack because he believed the retailer funded Israel's "persecution" of Palestinians. He told the court, "Allah will not be upset with me or angry with me and he will be happy with me."
        Hussain previously told police he would have carried out more attacks had his knife not got stuck in the second victim's handbag strap. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel's Alliance with the U.S. Is Unshakable
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy on Wednesday: "Israel and the United States have had their occasional differences, but I want to assure you that the alliance between the world's greatest democracy and a strong, proud and independent democracy - Israel - in the heart of the Middle East is unshakable. Nothing can change that."
        "You may have noted Israel is undergoing, in its robust democracy, a very intensive public debate. And the debate is how do we ensure a proper democracy. Democracy means the will of the people as expressed by a majority, and it also means protection of civil rights, individual rights. It's the balance between the two. I want to assure you that Israel was, is and it will always remain a proud, strong and vibrant democracy."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel to Join U.S. Visa Waiver Program in September
    Israel will join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in September 2023, which will allow Israelis to travel to the U.S. visa-free, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday. "The legislative requirements for obtaining a U.S. visa exemption have been successfully completed. In the coming months, we will fulfill the additional requirements," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Azerbaijan Opens Embassy in Israel - Tovah Lazaroff
    Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, the first Shia Muslim country to open an embassy in Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen noted that "Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of the Iranian threats."
        Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan's independence in 1991. Israel established diplomatic ties in 1992 and opened an embassy there in 1993. Azerbaijani Ambassador Jeyhun Bayramov noted that 114 Israeli companies operated in his country, which provides Israel with 30% of its oil. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gulf and African Delegates Arrive in Israel to Discuss Ties - Itamar Eichner
    Representatives of think tanks, applied-diplomacy institutes, and journalists from countries in the Gulf and Africa arrived in Israel this week for a conference in Jerusalem tackling the war on terror and radicalization, water, and food security, initiated by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
        Among the guests were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Djibouti, Tunisia, and Mauritania - that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel. Others came from the UAE, Bahrain, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somaliland, South Africa, South Sudan, and Uganda.
        Dan Diker, president of the Jerusalem Center, said: "This is an unprecedented, historic meeting of representatives of countries that, in the current climate, were not supposed to come to Israel and discuss strengthening Israel's ties with Africa and bolstering the Abraham Accords. They agreed to come to Jerusalem to talk about the concept of national security in the broad sense of the term, which includes not only the war on terror and radicalization but also desalination, food security, and the war on hunger."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    Palestinian Arabs

  • The Lions' Den Terrorist Group Has Raised Its Head Again - Yoni Ben Menachem
    The Lions' Den terrorist group operating in Nablus and its neighboring villages has rehabilitated itself in recent months as new members have joined its ranks. It continues its terrorist attacks against IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians and poses a security challenge to the Palestinian Authority and Israel. So far, Lions' Den has carried out about 100 shooting attacks in which Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed and wounded. It also planned attacks inside pre-1967 Israel that the Israel Security Agency thwarted, and it is still planning attacks in Israel's major cities.
        To date, Israeli security forces have killed more than 20 members, but the group has about a hundred members. About 20 members have surrendered to the PA, handing over their weapons. They will be employed by the PA's security forces and receive a monthly salary. The PA security forces have failed to act against the group, under orders of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as long as it did not endanger his rule. While most of the group's members belong to Fatah, it receives funds from Hamas, which also supports it through its media and social networks.
        The Lions' Den group continues to grow stronger and Israel's confrontation with the terrorist militia is inevitable. There seems to be no escape from a significant Israeli military operation in Nablus and entry into its old city (casbah), with arrests or killing of the terrorists and the dismantling of its terrorist infrastructure. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affair)
  • Palestinian Teachers' Strike Grows, Reflecting Deep Crisis - Isabel Debre
    Palestinian public schools in the West Bank have been closed since Feb. 5 due to a teachers' strike. Teachers' demands for a pay raise have escalated into a protest movement. Teachers are also calling for a democratically elected union.
        In response, the Palestinian Authority has threatened mass firings and even arrests, drawing fresh attention to what critics describe as its crackdown on civil society groups and freedom of expression. A lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Education on March 13 lists the names of 151 outspoken teachers who would be dismissed if they continued their strike and detained if they put up further resistance. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Former PA Minister: It Is Embarrassing that for 17 Years Our Leaders Cannot Manage to Hold Democratic Elections
    Writing in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam on March 22, 2023, Ashraf Al-'Ajrami, a member of Fatah and former minister of prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority, wrote, "It is embarrassing indeed, 17 years after the last general election in Palestine, that our leaders cannot manage to hold democratic elections - considering that they [elections] are still the most appropriate way to achieve national unity, to revive our institutions, and to revive our democracy. [This] includes separation of powers, transparency, oversight, accountability, and the elimination of the corruption that has begun to take over every aspect of Palestinian life in the West Bank and Gaza....[We] have no legislature and no judiciary."  (MEMRI)

  • Antisemitism

  • American Catholics Have Favorable Views of Jews - Gina Christian
    A new study of "American Catholic Attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" by the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations (IJCR) at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia was unveiled on March 22, 2023. Of the 1,241 U.S. Catholics surveyed, 54.2% had "good" or "very good" overall opinions of Jews. Another 41.5% described themselves as either "neutral" or uncertain, and 4.3% said they had "poor" or "very poor" opinions. Catholics supported Israel (34.8%) over the Palestinians (13.4%).
        36% said Jews "enjoy a special relationship with God, " while 42% said God's covenant with the Jews remains intact. The Second Vatican Council in 1965 issued the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, the Catholic Church's first formal denunciation of "hatred, persecutions, displays of antisemitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." That language marked a seismic shift from centuries of teaching contempt toward the Jewish community by numerous Catholic and Christian theologians. (OSV News)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel's Weizmann Institute Scientists Build Groundbreaking Telescope - Gid'on Lev
    Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science set up a new telescope this week that is the strongest of its kind in the world - at a cost of only $2 million. The new observatory, built near Kibbutz Neot Smadar, is composed of 32 telescopes, with a planned expansion later this year to 48 telescopes, at which point it will have the largest field of vision in the world, with a sky-scanning capability three times greater than that of any other observatory. The telescopes scan the entire sky once an hour, and are capable of noticing stars whose light intensity is 1,000,000 times smaller than what the human eye is capable of seeing.
        The new telescope will have a field of vision of 350 square degrees. The $10 billion James Webb telescope has a tiny field of vision - about one-thousandth of one square degree. David Polishook, director of the new observatory, explained, "Our system is like a reconnaissance soldier who is searching for targets. Once he spots them, large telescopes will be able to better observe them."  (Ha'aretz)
  • 80 Years Ago, Pageants at Madison Square Garden Sought to Halt Nazi Genocide Against European Jews - Frederic J. Frommer
    On March 9, 1943, a pair of sold-out pageants at Madison Square Garden sought to pressure the U.S. and its allies to halt the Nazi genocide against European Jews. The "We Will Never Die" pageant was repeated in several cities, including Washington, D.C., where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, 200 members of Congress, and seven Supreme Court justices attended. The cast of hundreds included 20 rabbis rescued from European ghettos and actors portraying Jewish soldiers fighting for the American military. The backdrop was an enormous display of the Ten Commandments, each tablet 40 feet high.
        The New York Times reported on the "dramatic mass memorial to the 2,000,000 Jews killed in Europe" by that date. "The memorial was staged to stir the Allied nations to stop the slaughter of a people by the Germans."
        The final scene depicts the end of the war, as a narrator predicts: "There will be no Jews left in Europe....The four million left to kill are being killed, according to plan....No voice is heard to cry halt to the slaughter, no government speaks to bid the murder of human millions end." The pageant ended with participants singing the Jewish prayer for the dead, the kaddish.  (Forward)

  • You may have read that the situation in Israel is dire. People are talking of the end of democracy. Take a step back, however. These political convulsions are not the end of the world.
  • The two groups of protesters - Netanyahu supporters have also taken to the streets - both fly seas of Israeli flags. They both sing the national anthem. Both are demanding more democracy, not less. And the demonstrations have been non-violent. It could be argued that protests in France have been less peaceful.
  • Yes, there is reason to be concerned about the polarization these events are fostering. But what people are arguing about is the arcane matter of balancing the relationship between the executive, legislature and judiciary.
  • The Israeli government has placed its reforms on hold. So much for dictatorship. And it is entering a period of negotiation. So much for the end of democracy.
  • The most striking thing about all of this is the passion with which Israelis are concerned about their democracy and their country.

    The writer is editor of the Jewish Chronicle-UK.
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