Israel’s Neighbors: Sudan’s reported agreement to normalize; Saudi poll on peace with Israel; historic Lebanon-Israel border talks; and Germany’s Holocaust survivor aid payment
Inside Israel: Approval of Abraham Accords; Haaretz attack; single use plastic restrictions; and approval of new settler homes
Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles: AG’s rejection to move forward in two cases; and AG’s leaked phone call
Inside the U.S.: Trump’s refusal to condemn QAnon; antisemitic Soros conspiracies; bill to address Hezbollah’s money laundering; and joint U.S.-Israel F-35 exercise
Celebrate & Remember: Alzheimer’s research breakthrough; and remembering two Jewish giants: Rebbe Nachman of Breslov and David Ben-Gurion
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Sudan has reportedly decided to move forward with normalizing ties with Israel, after the U.S. issued a 24-hour ultimatum
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sudan’s Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum in Sudan, August 25, 2020
Sudan reportedly agrees to normalize relations with Israel: After a heated debate, Sudan has reportedly decided to move forward with normalizing ties with Israel, sources close to the Sudanese leadership told i24NEWS. The United States reportedly offered Sudan a 24-hour ultimatum which included an offer to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism, work to increase aid to Sudan, commitment to facilitate private investment in Sudan, and forgiveness of billions of dollars of Sudanese debt to the U.S., among other benefits. No official statement has been made yet. On Thursday, Sudanese activists, including artists and journalists, engaged in a Zoom call with Israelis. During this Zoom call that violated local Sudanese laws, the activists expressed the Sudanese public’s support for ties with Israel. Safa al-Fahal, a Sudanese journalist said: “After 30 years during which we were cut off from the world, we now need peaceful relations with the entire world — especially Israel.”
Poll says overwhelming majority of Saudis want peace with Israel: A new poll conducted by Zogby Research Services concluded that an overwhelming majority (nearly 80%) of Saudis are in favor of normalization with Israel. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud stressed that the bulk of Middle East peace efforts should be directed towards bringing Israel and Palestine into negotiations, quelling speculation that Saudi Arabia would be quick to join in normalization deals. He stated, “In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.” Still, American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a meeting with the Saudi FM, encouraged him to consider normalization with Israel, and thanked Saudi Arabia for its facilitation of the Abraham Accords with Bahrain and the UAE.
Historic talks between Lebanon and Israel about maritime borders commence: Although formally still at war, Israel and Lebanon had their first border negotiations in thirty years on Wednesday. These talks, mediated by the United States, focused on maritime borders in order to “solve a technical, economic dispute that for 10 years has delayed the development of offshore natural resources.” While Israel has been able to pump gas from offshore reserves, this border dispute has prohibited Lebanon from finding its own natural reserves. These talks do not symbolize normalization or peacemaking between the two states, a fact heavily emphasized by both parties, as they did not speak to each other directly at the meeting. Hours before the meeting, Hezbollah and Amal, the two main Shi’ite parties of Lebanon, criticized the Lebanese team for negotiations, calling for a negotiation team formed only of military officials, without civilians or political figures. U.S. officials say that separate talks will be held in the future in order to resolve their contested land border.
Germany to pay $662 million in coronavirus aid to Holocaust survivors: The New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) has reported that the German government plans to pay $662 million in coronavirus aid to around 240,000 survivors around the world, primarily in Israel, North America, and Europe. These funds will be targeted towards those survivors who are not currently receiving pensions from the German government and are facing hardships caused by the pandemic. These survivors will receive two payments of 1,200 Euros over the next two years. The Claims Conference distributed an additional $4.3 million dollars in aid to agencies providing care for survivors this spring. Since its first agreement with West Germany in 1952, though they “negotiate knowing that no amount of money will give them back their youth, their health or those family members who were so cruelly murdered by the Nazis,” the Claims Conference has distributed more than $70 billion dollars to over 800,000 Holocaust survivors. Germany has also pledged to include Israel in future European Union deals for a COVID-19 vaccine due to the two states’ “special relationship” as a response to the Holocaust.
Israel’s parliament officially approves the Abraham Accords in a vote, 80-13
The Tel Aviv Municipality building lit up with the United Arab Emirates flag
Knesset approves normalization treaty with UAE & first flight over Israel’s skies: A Thursday vote in the Knesset for approval of the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates passed with an overwhelming majority. All 13 of the votes against the deal came from members of the Joint List, the political alliance of the main Arab-majority political parties in Israel. Netanyahu addressed the Knesset to praise the Abraham Accords, calling it a “warm peace, between peoples.” Opposition leader, Yair Lapid, congratulated Netanyahu, calling it an “excellent agreement.” For the first time ever this week, an Emirati passenger jet crossed Israel’s skies en route to Abu Dhabi following both the UAE-Israel peace deal and the recent Israel-Jordan agreement allowing airlines to cross territories. In an audio clip released by the Transportation Ministry, an Israeli air traffic controller is heard telling the Etihad Airways pilot: “Captain, we are thrilled and honored to welcome you to overfly Israel. This is a historic moment we have all been waiting for. We hope it will inspire the whole region and mark the beginning of a new era, inshallah (in Arabic: God willing).” The pilot responded: “Inshallah, thank you, the honor is ours.”
Electrical systems at Haaretz sabotaged in attack: On Wednesday, an anonymous man entered the main offices of Haaretz in Tel Aviv and sabotaged the left-wing newspaper’s main electrical panel. He then waited until investigative reporter Gidi Weitz arrived and verbally accosted him, saying “What do you want from Bibi [Netanyahu]?” The attack caused water leaks that led to a disruption on the Haaretz and TheMarker websites for over three hours. The leaders of the Crime Minister protest movement say that this attack resulted from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s incitement: “he put a target on the media, on the left, and protestors as enemies of the state.”
Knesset looks to tighten restrictions on single-use plastic: At a conference of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Environmental Protection Knesset Chair Miki Haimovich announced that the requests of two local authorities in the Upper Galilee and Eilat to pass local bylaws that will prohibit the use of single-use plastic in open spaces “will be approved soon.” This follows the proposal of an amendment to the Plastic Bag Law on Tuesday, that looks to expand the fee requirement for plastic bags to all stores in Israel. The National Marine Waste Monitoring Report for 2019, released on Wednesday, found that almost three-quarters of the trash found in the Mediterranean and Red Seas was plastic waste.
Israel approves new settler homes: On Thursday, the Israeli government approved and advanced the construction of over three thousand settler homes in the West Bank, on top of Wednesday’s approvals of another two thousand homes, marking the first Israeli expansion in the West Bank since Israel shelved annexation plans earlier this year. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said, “Settlement construction is illegal under international law and is one of the major obstacles to peace. This significant number and location of advancements is of great concern to all those who remain committed to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.” Shlomo Ne’eman, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said in a statement on Wednesday: “The mission of developing the communities in Judea and Samaria continues to be one of the key issues for the State of Israel and the entire nation in this era, and we are grateful for the right to be at the forefront here in Gush Etzion.”
NETANYAHU’S LEGAL TROUBLES
Despite protesters demands,Israel’s Attorney General will not investigate Netanyahu in the stock sale or submarine cases
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 14, 2020
Attorney General declines to investigate Netanyahu over two cases: Despite new evidence leaked to the media this week, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said he will not (1) reopen the submarine affair case in order to investigate Netanyahu’s possible involvement; nor (2) order a formal investigation into Prime Minister Netanyahu over a stock dealings case. Hundreds of protestors demonstrated throughout the country and in front of Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, with makeshift submarines on their vehicles, calling for Netanyahu to be investigated.
The submarine case, or Case 3000: Several of Netanyahu’s close associates are suspected of receiving bribes with respect to a multibillion-shekel state purchase of German naval vessels. The case also involves two submarines sold to Egypt by Germany; the sale was allegedly approved by Netanyahu, without consulting the Defense Ministry. Despite an affidavit leak on Monday, in which testimony from former director-general of the Defense Ministry reportedly ties Netanyahu to Case 3000, Mandelblit said he would not reappraise Netanyahu’s role in the affair. The statute of limitations in the case expires next month. Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz floated the idea on Thursday to establish a Defense Ministry to further investigate the submarine affair.
The stock dealings case refers to allegations that Netanyahu illegally profited from selling his shares in a company to his cousin. Netanyahu bought the shares for $400,000 in 2007 and sold them for $4.3 million in 2010. Mandelblit said it was unclear if Netanyahu was aware of such benefits but wrote that it “raises the possibility that Netanyahu bought the rights…for a price drastically lower than its true value, and thus received much more significant benefits. However, given the passage of time, there is a difficulty in collecting a comprehensive evidentiary basis that will allow findings about the existence and scope of benefits.”
Attorney General’s phone call leaked, Netanyahu’s allies call for AG’s resignation: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s closest ally, coalition whip Miki Zohar, called for the resignation of Attorney General Mandelblit on Wednesday, following a leaked phone call aired on Israel’s Channel 12. Mandelblit is heard complaining about then-state attorney Shai Nitzan for not dismissing a criminal case against him. Supporters of Netanyahu, including Zohar, have identified this call as evidence of an unsubstantiated theory that Mandelblit brought corruption charges against Netanyahu because Mandelblit was blackmailed by the state attorney, prosecutors, and police. In the leaked audio, Mandelblit is heard saying about the state attorney, Nitzan: “his hands around my neck.” Zohar warned that if Mandelblit does not resign, more damaging recordings will be leaked to the press. Netanyahu’s supporters and Likud members are using this incident to demand Mandelblit step down.
INSIDE THE U.S.
President Trump again refuses to condemn right-wing antisemitic conspiracy group QAnon
Trump refused to condemn antisemitic QAnon at town hall: At a town hall event on Thursday, President Trump refused to condemn QAnon, a far-right group that propagates a conspiracy theory with antisemitic elements, falsely alleging that a secret cabal of sex traffickers and pedophiles is waging a war against Trump from inside the government. QAnon has been identified by the FBI as a terrorist threat. When NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie asked Trump if he would disavow QAnon, Trump’s response was that he “knows nothing about it.” After Guthrie told him what QAnon is, he responded: “You told me. But what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that.” Trump went on approvingly, “I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it…I’ll tell you what I do know about: I know about antifa and I know about the radical left.”
Soros antisemitic claims from U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice’s wife: Holocaust survivor George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who is a major Democratic donor, has been the target of antisemitic far-right conspiracy theories for years. He is used as a strawman for the Jewish people and the theories about him employ antisemitic myths that rich and powerful Jews control and manipulate global events. Recently, many conservative political figures publicly propagated antisemitic conspiracy theories about Soros. This week, Senator Marsha Blackburn, (R-Tenn.), tweeted an edited photo of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse holding a sign with George Soros’ face and the words “dark money” written on top of it, as well as the text ” George Soros is funding radical left activists.” On Wednesday, Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, posted a meme on Facebook that shows images of George Soros’ children posing with prominent Democrats and reads “Who is really running the Democrat Party? … The Soros Family.” The theory that Soros controls the Democrat Party with his money and looks to undermine the U.S. government is based in age-old antisemitic tropes of Jews controlling the world.
House bill to address worldwide money laundering by Hezbollah: “The Hezbollah Money Laundering Prevention Act of 2020” bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to counter worldwide money laundering by terror group Hezbollah. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who introduced the bill, said, “This bill represents the toughest sanctions on Hezbollah ever proposed by Congress. By cutting off banks in areas under the terror group’s control from the international financial system, this bill will go a long way towards drying up the Iranian terror proxy’s resources to conduct murderous attacks against the U.S. and our allies.” If enacted, the bill would curb Hezbollah’s ability to launder money by freezing Hezbollah-friendly banks in areas where Hezbollah has an active and well-funded presence.
U.S. and Israeli air forces team up for joint F-35 exercise: On Monday, U.S. and Israeli air force pilots joined together for a joint F-35 stealth jet training exercise. The exercise is the latest indication that the United States sees expanding Israel’s offensive air capabilities as a primary means to check Iran’s malign influence in the region. In the joint exercise, American and Israeli forces provided aerial refueling support, air traffic control, and simulated adversary forces. This was the third joint training exercise, with a goal of providing “invaluable opportunities for both [U.S. Air Forces Central] and [their] Israeli partners to improve readiness and strengthen relationships.” In Wednesday’s release, Lt. Col. Stephen Redmond called the joint exercise an “immeasurable experience.”
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion
Today we celebrate a top Israeli scientist and her team of Weizmann Institute scientists who introduced a groundbreaking method of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. After 22 years of research into neurodegenerative illnesses, Professor Michal Schwartz is piloting a new clinical trial using the immune system to repair brain deterioration. Her team won a $1 million grant from the Alzheimer’s Association in order to advance their clinical trial, set to begin next year. Rather than focusing on the brain’s formation of plaques, dead cells, inflammation and other toxins, this trial differs from other proposed treatments in its assertion that brain health is directly correlated to the strength of the immune system, something that scientists have long believed are unrelated. If her team can revive the relationship between the brain and the immune system in patients, Professor Schwartz says, “we can modify or change the course of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Today in 1810, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov passed away. Rebbe Nachman was a religious thinker and the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism. Rebbe Nachman revitalized Hasidic Judaism by founding the Breslov Hasidic movement that combined the teachings of the Torah with the mystic and spiritual teachings of Kabbalah. A cornerstone of Rebbe Nachman’s religious philosophy was the idea that one must be close to God and pray as though one is talking to a close friend. He encouraged his followers to engage in Hitbodedut or Solitude, whereby they set aside an hour to sit alone in a room or a field to converse with God in private. One of his most famous pieces of writing was Tales of Rabbi Nachman, a book of fairy tales in Hebrew and Yiddish, infused with themes and imagery from Kabbalah. Rebbe Nachman’s most famous quote is “it is a great Mitzvah to be happy always” (Likutey Moharan II, 24). Rebbe Nachman’s teachings attracted thousands of followers who made pilgrimage annually to his home in Uman, Ukraine to hear his formal sermons. Over two centuries after his passing, Rebbe Nachman’s followers still worship his teachings, pay pilgrimage to his grave in Ukraine, and refuse to appoint his successor.
Today in 1886, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion was born. Born “David Yosef Gruen” in Plonsk, Poland on October 16, 1886, he was educated in a Hebrew school established by his father, an ardent Zionist. By his mid-teens, Ben-Gurion led a Zionist youth group, “Ezra,” whose members spoke only Hebrew among themselves. At the age of 18, he became a teacher in a Warsaw Jewish school and joined the Socialist-Zionist group “Poalei Zion” (Workers of Zion). Arriving in the Land of Israel in 1906, he became involved in the creation of the first agricultural workers’ commune (which evolved into the Kvutzah and finally the Kibbutz), and helped establish the Jewish self-defense group, “Hashomer” (The Watchman). In 1910, he Hebraicized his name to Ben-Gurion after a Jewish leader of the revolt against the Romans in the 1st century. As a dedicated Zionist, Ben-Gurion spent his life trying to shape the future of the State of Israel and provide a home for the Jewish people. As premier, he oversaw the establishment of the state’s institutions and presided over various national projects aimed at the rapid development of the country and its population. To describe him as one of the earliest Zionist leaders, founding father of Israel, and its first Prime Minister would not even begin to do justice to this gigantic figure.