Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman
In a major announcement less than a week before Israel’s general elections on Sept. 17, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex all settlements if re-elected, starting immediately with the Jordan Valley.
“One place that can have sovereignty immediately applied to it after the elections is the Jordan Valley. The next government will apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday at a news conference in Ramat Gan.
“We haven’t had such an opportunity since the Six Day War, and I doubt we’ll have another opportunity in the next 50 years,” he said. “Give me the power to guarantee Israel’s security. Give me the power to determine Israel’s borders.”
The Israeli leader, who suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-awaited peace plan would be revealed immediately after the election, said that there is an “unprecedented opportunity to apply sovereignty to our settlements in the West Bank.”
As such, Netanyahu said that if he was given a new mandate to form a governing coalition, he would work to apply Israeli sovereignty to all Jewish settlements in coordination with the United States.
“I want from you a clear mandate to apply Israeli sovereignty to all the settlements,” he said. “This is a democracy. I won’t do anything without a clear mandate. So I’m asking for a mandate, to do this thing that enjoys a broad consensus, to define at long last Israel’s permanent borders, promising that Judea and Samaria don’t turn into Gaza.”
Israel gained control over the Jordan Valley during the 1967 Six-Day War. Many Israeli leaders have long supported a plan to retain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace agreement, viewing the region as strategically important to protect the Jewish state’s eastern flank. The Jordan Valley lies in Area C of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords, where Israel retains full civilian and military control.
Netanyahu’s chief rival, Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz, has also vowed not to uproot any Israeli settlements in the region, saying that it was vital for Israel’s security.
Reacting to Netanyahu’s announcement, Blue and White said “residents of the Jordan Valley are not actors in Netanyahu’s propaganda film. Blue and White stated that the Jordan Valley is part of the State of Israel forever. Netanyahu is the one who drafted a plan to waive the Jordan Valley in 2014.”
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, Israelis are in support of plans to extend sovereignty over the Jordan Valley with U.S. support, with 48 percent of Jewish Israelis favoring the plan and 28 percent opposing the plan. Only 11 percent of Arab Israelis support extending sovereignty, while 56 percent opposed it.
Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said that Israel has the legal right to extend sovereignty over these territories.
“The Prime Minister’s announcement is fully in line with Israel’s international legal rights. Because these territories were part of the British Mandate, Israel has as much legal right to them as to Tel Aviv. Israeli is simply changing the method under which it exercises its jurisdiction over these territories, to make it more governable and equitable,” he said.
Furthermore, Kontorovich said that this move should not be seen as annexation because it currently does not belong to a foreign country.
The proposed move cannot be described as “annexation,” he explained, because under international law, annexation means the taking of the territory of a foreign country. Judea and Samaria did not belong to Jordan or any other country when Israel retook control of it in 1967.”
“Israel waited for more than 50 years to regularize the status of these territories, giving the Palestinians opportunity after opportunity to make a peace deal that would have given them a sovereign state,” said Kontorovich.
“The Palestinians refused time after time, rejecting initiatives under presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump. Israel has now decided that the people in these areas cannot be held in limbo forever; Israelis should not pay the price for Palestinian intransigence.” (JNS)
The Israeli Air Force attacked several targets in Gaza overnight, the IDF confirmed early on Wednesday.
Targets included a site used to manufacture weapons, a compound of the naval forces and a terror tunnel.
Two rockets were shot from Gaza on Tuesday night. Rocket sirens went off in Ashdod and Ashkelon at about 9 p.m. The Iron Dome intercepted one rocket while another fell in an open field near Ashkelon.
Later on Tuesday night, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benjamin Netanyahu met with military and security leaders at the Kirya compound in Tel Aviv, where the Ministry of Defense is headquartered.
“The attack was carried out in response to rocket fire launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory earlier this night,” the IDF wrote on Twitter.
“The IDF will continue to oppose attempts to harm Israeli civilians and considers the terror organization responsible for what is happening inside and outside of the Gaza Strip,” it added. (Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushed to safety Tuesday night as rocket alert sirens blared in the southern city of Ashdod as he was giving an election campaign speech.
Sirens also sounded in Ashkelon and other communities close to the Gaza border shortly after 9pm sending the residents running to their bomb shelters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is rushed off stage in Ashdod
The prime minister was rushed off stage by his security detail as the sirens sounded a little after 9pm.
Netanyahu told the audience to remain calm as his guards led him away.
“We have a code red warning, leave quietly,” Netanyahu told his supporters and asked the security guards, “Where should they go?”
Culture Minister Miri Regev was present at the event and moved to another area of the hall.
After the siren, Netanyahu returned to finish speech and tweeted: “Great support in Ashdod. You must vote to stop a leftwing-Arab government.”
Israel goes to the polls for the second time this year next Tuesday, for elections triggered by Netanyahu after he failed to form a government following the April vote.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, a former ally turned vehement political opponent of Netanyahu, was also in Ashdod at the time of the rocket fire.
In a post on his Facebook page, Liberman wrote after the rocket alert that, “today’s event proves that Netanyahu’s policy, which means surrendering to terrorism, is bankrupt. There must be a change of direction and the first phase will be at the ballot box on September 17.”
The Israeli military said some of the rockets fired by the Gaza militants were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
Shortly after the attacks, Ashkelon Municipality said it has ordered all public bomb shelters in the city to be opened.
There were no reports of injuries or damage. One woman in her 40s was treated for shock.
In recent days there have been rocket sirens both from the Gaza Strip and also in the north. The defense establishment has been preparing for further rocket attacks.
In an unusual move, Likud deleted its video of the conference in Ashdod that showed Netanyahu being evacuated during the siren.
With just a week to go until Election Day, the prime minister’s camp almost immediately saw the potential for damage caused by the footage of Netanyahu being rushed from the stage to the protected area, and treated it as an emergency event.
The video that was being broadcast live on Netanyahu’s Facebook page was deleted a few minutes later and a host of videos were posted showing support for Netanyahu, who insisted on returning to the stage to continue his speech even though some thought it was dangerous both for him and for the rest of those present.
During the incident, attendees of the event remained in the auditorium and did not head for protected spaces. Most of the ministers who were present also there remained in auditorium.
Netanyahu’s campaign team saw reactions to the incident from his political rivals. They refused to allow photographers access to the event and issued videos and pictures themselves.
His political opponents on the right and left attacked Netanyahu, claiming the rocket fire on Ashdod and Ashkelon was a humiliation.
Unnamed sources said the incident was a huge setback for the prime minister’s campaign, as images of Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister, being escorted from the scene by security guards could be extremely detrimental. (Ynet News)
Israeli security forces thwarted an attempt to smuggle materials to produce military uniforms into the Gaza Strip, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said in a statement on Monday.
Large quantities of olive-green fabric, a product that can be used both for civilian and military purposes, were discovered at the Kerem Shalom crossing.
The cloth rolls were hidden among other goods that were entering the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.
Kerem Shalom is the point of entry and exit for equipment and goods from Israel to the Strip.
The crossing is managed by the Land Crossings Authority in the Ministry of Defense and the Coordination and Liaison Administration.
According to COGAT’s website, every day an average of 800 trucks enter Gaza carrying medical equipment, food, fuel, building materials, agricultural inputs, textile products and more. (Jerusalem Post)
A 2,600-year-old bulla, or seal, bearing the Hebrew words “Adenyahu Asher Al Habayit” which translate to “Adenyahu by Appointment of the House” was uncovered three weeks ago. It was found by a volunteer sifting through dirt excavated from 2013 under Robinson’s Arch near the Western Wall.
Adenyahu was a son of King David. There are two other mentions of the name, one of a Levite in the times of King Jehoshaphat and another in the days of Nehemiah, a 5th-century figure who led the Jews back to Judea from Babylon.
“This is the first time this kind of archaeological discovery has been made in Jerusalem. The biblical title ‘Asher Al Habayit’ was the highest ranking ministerial position beneath the king during reigns of the kings of Judea and Israel. It is undoubtedly of great significance,” Israeli archaeologist Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
Doron Spielman, vice-president of the City of David Foundation, which operates the archaeological site, said “This tiny bulla has immense meaning to billions of people worldwide.”
“The personal signet of a senior official to a biblical king from the First Temple Period. This is another link in the long chain of Jewish history in Jerusalem that is being uncovered and preserved at the City of David on a daily basis.” he said.
The discovery follows another in March of a bulla and a 2,600-year-old stamp bearing Hebrew names uncovered in the City of David.
They were found in a large public building destroyed in the sixth century B.C.E – likely during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.
The seal impression, dated to the First Temple period, featured the words: “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” (LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech).
The name Nathan-Melech appears once in the Bible, in the second book of Kings 23:11, where he is described as an official in the court of King Josiah, who took part in the religious reform that the king was implementing.
The title “Servant of the King” (Eved HaMelech) appears often in the Bible to describe a high-ranking official close to the king. The seal impression was the first archaeological evidence of the Biblical name Nathan-Melech.
Bullae are small pieces of clay impressed by personal seals, used in ancient times to sign letters. Made of ceramic-like material, they survive the ages, unlike the parchment letters they embossed. (WIN)
by Ben Sales JTA
Benjamin Netanyahu just said that if he is re-elected next week, he’ll immediately annex a big part of the West Bank: the Jordan Valley.
That’s kind of a big deal. On the other hand, it’s not really — yet.
That specific eastern swath of the West Bank runs alongside the (yep, you guessed it) Jordan River. It would be the first time in decades that Israel annexed any territory in the West Bank, and it assuredly would have serious implications for the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations. Netanyahu also said he’d move to annex more territory — after the Trump administration unveils its long-awaited peace plan sometime following Israel’s elections next week.
“Today I’m announcing my intention, with the establishment of the next government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said. “This is our essential safety belt in the east. This is the eastern defensive wall.”
Here’s what that means and why it matters.
What is the Jordan Valley?
Solid first question. The Jordan Valley is an area in the West Bank, which is a territory Israel captured during the Six-Day War in 1967 and since has controlled. The West Bank got its name because it’s the western bank of the Jordan River. So the Jordan Valley is the strip of territory in the West Bank that runs alongside the Jordan River.
The borders of the territory aren’t precisely defined, but the area to which Netanyahu was referring is pretty extensive, stretching at its widest about 10 miles into the West Bank.
Who controls the Jordan Valley now?
The West Bank as a whole is under varying degrees of Israeli control. Some of it is governed by Palestinian institutions (with minimal Israeli military presence) and the rest is run entirely by Israel. The Jordan Valley is in the part that is fully controlled by Israel, with the exception of the Palestinian city of Jericho.
The Jordan Valley is also home to dozens of Israeli settlements.
So the Jordan Valley is part of Israel?
No. Like the rest of the West Bank, Israel has controlled it for more than 50 years but has never officially annexed it. Israelis who live there are Israeli citizens. Palestinians there do not have citizenship and do not have the right to vote for Israeli officials, though they do vote in Palestinian local elections. Israel also largely controls the Palestinians’ freedom of movement.
The Palestinians, the international community and the Israeli left (and an Israeli Supreme Court ruling) say the West Bank is unjustly occupied by Israel. The Israeli right and its supporters say Israel rightfully won the territory in a defensive war. Some Israelis — especially religious Jewish ones — view the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as Israel’s heartland, the setting of many of the Bible’s events.
With annexation, Netanyahu would officially be making the Jordan Valley part of Israel, having the same status in Israel’s eyes as Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Most of the international community hasn’t recognized Israel’s previous annexations, and likely wouldn’t recognize this one, either.
However, Palestinian areas like Jericho or the village of Duma, which was the site of a Jewish extremist terror attack in 2015, would not be annexed. Those cities, now surrounded by Israel, would maintain their current status.
Why is Netanyahu focusing on the Jordan Valley?
Israelis have been fiercely debating the status of the West Bank for decades. But to Jewish Israelis, the Jordan Valley is less controversial than the rest of the territory.
Successive Israeli governments have viewed control of the Jordan Valley as a strategic asset for Israel. It completes the country’s eastern border with Jordan and allows Israeli forces to encircle the West Bank’s Palestinian population. It essentially creates a buffer between Israel and the Arab states farther to its east, including Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that if he is re-elected, he will make the Jordan Valley a sovereign part of Israel
The valley is also pretty sparsely populated. West Bank Palestinians are concentrated elsewhere, and Israel’s largest settlements are farther to the west.
Maintaining control of the Jordan Valley is also not a new idea. Even Yitzhak Rabin, the left-wing Israeli prime minister who launched the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the 1990s, said in 1995 that “The security border, for the defense of the State of Israel, will be in the Jordan Valley — broadly defined.”
Would this hurt the chances for peace?
Chances for peace are already pretty slim. But this could make them a little slimmer.
The Palestinians and Israelis haven’t been in any kind of serious negotiations for more than five years. Palestinian leaders won’t talk to the Trump administration because they view it as overly pro-Israel. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he will not evacuate any settlement and opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state. So for supporters of a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord with two states existing side by side, things already aren’t looking good.
This move would further entrench Israel’s presence in the West Bank and make a future evacuation of the territory — what many see as a part of an eventual two-state solution — even more unlikely. The Palestinians have insisted on governing the Jordan Valley as part of a future peace deal.
Netanyahu also promised, in his speech and earlier, to annex even more Israeli settlements down the line. The more Israel annexes, the less possible a contiguous Palestinian state would be.
How are people reacting?
For opponents of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, this is good news. Yishai Fleischer, the spokesman for the Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, tweeted (in all caps) that Netanyahu’s speech was “A HUGE MOVE FORWARD!”
Many Palestinians and many across the international community had a different reaction. A United Nations spokesman called Netanyahu’s pledge “devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations, regional peace and the very essence of a two-state solution.”
“If the annexation is carried out, it will have succeeded in burying any prospect of peace for the next 100 years,” tweeted Saeb Erekat, a longtime Palestinian negotiator. “The Israelis, the international community must stop this madness. Annexation is a war crime.”
Israelis as a whole are split. Nearly half of Israeli Jews and 11 percent of Israeli Arabs favor annexing the Jordan Valley if Trump supports it, according to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute. Twenty-eight percent of Jewish Israelis and a majority of Arab Israelis oppose the idea.
Bottom line: Is this going to happen?
At this point, it’s impossible to say. Before carrying out this pledge, Netanyahu has to win in next week’s election and assemble a coalition that supports annexation. The race is neck-and-neck right now.
Even if Netanyahu wins the most votes, it’s unclear that he’ll be able to form a right-wing government (he could not following April’s election). He may be forced to share power with his centrist rivals, a party called Blue and White. Blue and White said Tuesday in a statement that “the Jordan Valley is a part of Israel forever,” but has stopped short of endorsing unilateral annexation without some kind of peace accord.
The Trump administration has said it will release its plan for Mideast peace after the election. Netanyahu has said he would pursue annexation in full coordination with the U.S., so before the plan is released, all bets are off.
by Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah Jerusalem Institute for Contemporary Affairs
· Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, has managed to penetrate and inject Hizbullah into the Lebanese nation-state because of its inherent weakness and sectarian paralysis.
· He has exploited Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon as well as the Second Lebanese War to present Hizbullah as the alternative shield to the Lebanese national army that has been relegated to military parades and domestic police duties.
· But its six-year involvement in the Syrian civil war at the direction of its Iranian patrons to quell a Sunni-led rebellion cost Hizbullah more than 2,000 fatalities, and untold injuries, and irreparable damage to its image as the “Resistance Movement” against Israel.
· In the Golan Heights, Arab sources indicate that Hizbullah has positioned intelligence units along the border with Israel, in some places deployed less than 200 meters from UN peacekeepers.
· Recently, Nasrallah’s rhetoric changed radically when he suddenly heralded that any Israeli attack on Syria, Gaza, or Lebanon would automatically provoke Hizbullah’s response against Israeli targets.
· Both Israel and Hizbullah are interested at this time to contain the events, but any skirmish can suddenly turn into a major military confrontation, with Israel focused on destroying the existential threat created by the precision missile program.
For 26 years, the State of Israel has been tolerating Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hizbullah, the Iranian terrorist organization founded in Lebanon in 1982. Still, the man remains an enigma in the eyes of many in Israel. Nasrallah is the Shiite leader who has transformed the historically persecuted Shi’ite community in Lebanon into a power that dictates the political and military agenda of the Land of the Cedars.
Nasrallah’s defenders see him as a man of his word who stands behind his policy declarations, “a rare Arab politician” who has proven that he means what he says, and a man of deep understanding of Israel.
The truth is quite different: Nasrallah, who has declared himself and his terrorist organization to be Lebanon’s “Resistance Movement,” has managed to penetrate and inject Hizbullah into the Lebanese nation-state because of its inherent weakness and sectarian paralysis. He has exploited Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 as well as the Second Lebanese War in 2006 to present Hizbullah as the alternative shield to the Lebanese national army that has been relegated to military parades and domestic police duties.
Hizbullah Is Iran’s Tool
Hizbullah enjoys this prestigious position in Lebanon because of its “success” in the campaigns against Israel. But Hizbullah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war at the direction of his Iranian patrons raised the wrath of his political opponents in Lebanon the very moment they saw that Hizbullah’s military force, supposedly amassed to fight Israel, was, in fact, directed to quell a Sunni-led rebellion against Bashar Assad’s regime –Tehran’s ally and proxy . The six-year involvement cost Hizbullah not only more than 2,000 fatalities and untold casualties but irreparably stained its image as the “Resistance Movement” against Israel.
Having paid a painful price for its military involvement, Hizbullah is concentrating on rebuilding its units after withdrawing a significant part of its fighting forces from Syria. Lebanon’s economic crisis together with sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran and Hizbullah have resulted in a severe cut of Iranian financial aid and revived the rival political forces in Lebanon – some Maronite Christian and some Sunni Muslim – against Hizbullah’s intervention and paralyzing of the Lebanese body politic.
The battles in Syria have lost their intensity; however, Hizbullah is still engaged in the campaign for Idlib in northwestern Syria. Hizbullah, as Iran’s proxy, has units and advisers deployed in Damascus, Deir el-Zor, Yemen, and Iraq. Relating to Israel, Hizbullah has succeeded in infiltrating the Golan Heights facing Israeli lines. Arab sources indicate that Hizbullah has even succeeded in positioning intelligence units along the border with Israel, in some places deployed less than 200 meters from UNDOF peacekeepers’ positions in the Golan. Where Hizbullah forces are located, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are never far away. The IRGC’s al-Quds commander Qasem Soleimani visited Damascus and then met Nasrallah in Beirut on September 3, 2019, according to press reports.
Since August 2006, the State of Israel has opted not to target Hizbullah in Lebanon and concentrated on intelligence gathering and following closely Iran’s massive efforts to rearm and update Hizbullah’s arsenal. Hundreds of attacks were carried out with great success and generally without great fanfare by the Israeli Air force in Syria. According to unconfirmed sources in Iraq, the attacks against missile depots, supply warehouses, and convoys coming from Iran by land, sea, and air damaged Hizbullah forces. The Israeli campaign extended to targeting the Iranian-Hizbullah process of missile upgrades, but did not prevent the build-up of a huge array of more than 120,000 rockets and missiles of various types.
Notably, Hizbullah did not respond or retaliate to any of those attacks against targets in Syria since it was clear that Israel was dictating its terms on the ground. Even targeted attacks attributed to Israel against Hizbullah military commanders resulted in limited military responses by Hizbullah.
A sort of equation was created over the years: Israel would target and hit outside of Lebanon, and Israel would continue to overfly the Lebanese airspace for its own purposes. Meanwhile, Hizbullah was quasi-immune from attacks in Lebanon and enjoyed freedom of maneuver that brought it to misinterpret Israel’s policy towards Hizbullah as proof of weakness and lack of resolve. De facto, Hizbullah and Israel had agreed on a whole series of unwritten understandings, which determined Israel’s activities and limitations in Lebanon. In this regard, the “Dahiyeh” (Hizbullah’s headquarters in southern Beirut), considered to be the “Holy of the Holies” of the Shiite organization, was definitely off-limits to the IDF’s actions.
Hizbullah’s Immunity and Impunity
Under the cover of this equation between Israel and Hizbullah, the terrorist organization was emboldened day after day. Hizbullah leaders and spokesmen began talking of plans to invade and occupy parts of Israel’s Galilee. Hizbullah began digging attack tunnels to reach the very heart of Israeli urban and rural communities in the north while preparing labyrinths and elaborate bunkers in south Lebanon adjacent to Israel in an area forbidden to the Shiite organization according to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 (August 2006).
Recently, the intensity of the Israeli attacks in Syria and the destruction of high-value targets on its soil brought a transformation in Nasrallah’s attitude. His rhetoric changed radically when he suddenly heralded a new formula according to which a new axis had been established between the different forces on Israel’s fronts. Thus, any Israeli attack on Syria, Gaza, or Lebanon would automatically provoke Hizbullah’s response against Israeli targets.
Ignoring Nasrallah’s rhetoric, Israel continued to dictate events, and while continuing to declare that its goal was to prevent the consolidation of Iran and its proxies in Syria and near the Israeli border in the Golan, Israel designated and targeted the Iranian-Hizbullah effort to upgrade the missiles in Hizbullah’s possession into precision weaponry. Since September 2018, Israel has been publicly warning of the precision missile upgrade efforts in various international fora (including the UN General Assembly) and cautioning the Lebanese Government that it would pay a heavy price if the threat were ignored.
On August 30, 2019, Nasrallah claimed that Israel had carried out a night attack with two drones in the Dahiyeh neighborhood, targeting undefined targets (according to the London Times, the target was a sophisticated mixing machine used for the production of solid fuel for missiles). He promised to retaliate. Nasrallah declared that from now on, he would target at his discretion any drone or aircraft penetrating the Lebanese airspace.
Moreover, by attacking an Israeli military vehicle with anti-tank missiles (and missing) in the Avivim area (on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon), the Hizbullah leader declared his resolve to establish new rules of engagement according to which Israel will be prohibited to overfly the Lebanese airspace and act in Lebanon under any circumstance. Nasrallah further warned that Hizbullah’s retaliation will be no longer be limited to the Shab’aa farms area (an area contested between Israel and Syria, not Lebanon, according to the UN) but will encompass the whole border area between Israel and Lebanon as well as Israel’s interior.
Nasrallah has thrown down the gauntlet toward Israel only to see Israel returning it to the sender by making clear again and again that it would not allow Hizbullah’s program to develop into a precision missile project. Judging from the reactions of the body politic in Lebanon against Hizbullah and Nasrallah (and Iran) intending to drag Lebanon into a superfluous and costly war that would bring havoc on Lebanon, as well as the mockery of the Arab press which presented the Hizbullah action in Avivim as a fiasco, it seems likely that Hizbullah would blink first. Both Israel and Hizbullah are interested at this time to contain the events, but any skirmish can suddenly turn into a major military confrontation, with Israel focused on destroying the existential threat created by the precision missile program.