Today we’re diving into: the annexation delay; Fatah and Hamas unity; attorney general blocks Bibi’s legal fund gift; IDF reduces mandatory service for men; “Day of Rage” against Israel in the U.S.; a fire at the Iranian nuclear facility; and the anniversary of Operation Entebbe.
Annexation misses target date: Although Netanyahu’s target date for announcing annexation was July 1, the date has come and gone with no action. This is, in part, due to immense pushback by governments and organizations around the world. Additionally, most of the Israeli government and the military has been left out of the planning, which has caused mounting concerns internally.
Backup a little… Even the U.S., which is allowing Israeli annexation of approximately up to 30% of the West Bank, is urging temperance. The remaining 70% of the West Bank is proposed to become a future Palestinian state under the Trump peace plan. Israel can only move forward on annexation with the backing and approval of the White House.
U.S. expected to OK the move: The Trump administration is expected to give Israel the go-ahead with annexation, but the scope and timeline has yet to be determined. Reports suggest Israel is considering a much smaller area than the 30% allowable under the peace plan. According to the Jerusalem Post, Washington and Jerusalem are now set on going through with potential annexation next week.
U.S. suggesting Israeli concessions for Palestinians: With so much international condemnation, the U.S. is reportedly suggesting that Israel offer concessions to the Palestinians in the event of annexation. Such proposals include allowing unlimited Palestinian construction in areas of the West Bank formerly under strict Israeli regulations.
Benny Gantz suggests indefinite delay: Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz suggested that annexation take place only after the coronavirus crisis is contained and the country’s economic conditions rebound.
Fatah and Hamas join forces and pledge unity: The West Bank’s controlling Fatah Party, and Hamas, the terrorist organization which runs the Gaza Strip, gave a joint press conference, in which the parties vowed to work together to achieve an independent Palestinian state and to foil any annexation plans. This is the first joint press conference of its kind; Fatah and Hamas are far from being friendly.
Backup a little… The two rival Palestinian ruling parties have been at each other’s throats since Hamas violently took over the Gaza Strip from Fatah in 2007. In recent months, the Palestinian people have been calling for unity between the two groups in order to better fight the possibility of annexation. In the press conference, officials from each party threatened to use all forms of resistance against Israel. Hamas also fired dozens of rockets into the Mediterranean Sea as a warning against annexation.
Arab-Israeli politician joined the press conference: Fatah and Hamas were joined by a leading Member of the Knesset Ayman Odeh, who is the head of Israel’s major Arab political party, the Joint List. Israel’s chief political party, Likud, responded with outrage by saying, “A new low for Ayman Odeh, who attended a conference today with Hamas members who called for the murder of Jews. There is no limit to the shame.” Likud Knesset Member Shlomo Karai filed an ethics complaint against Odeh.
Israel’s Joint List Party, which calls itself the representative of the “Palestinian minority in Israel,” wrote to the E.U. encouraging it to “suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement” should Israel move forward with annexation and to recognize the “State of Palestine” on the land borders prior to the Six Day War.
European nations continue to weigh in individually: The Dutch parliament passed a resolution with a vote of 87 to 63 “to identify options of measures possibly to be taken should Israel proceed with annexation of Palestinian territory,” including sanctioning Israel.
Boris Johnson’s warning: The Prime Minister of Britain, right-wing Boris Johnson, who claims to be a close friend and defender of Israel, wrote an op-ed in an Israeli publication expressing his “sadness” over potential annexation and fear that “annexation would put in jeopardy the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world.”
Vatican expresses opposition: In a “highly unusual move,” the Vatican has summoned both U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to express the nation’s objection to potential annexation. The Vatican has made clear that it strongly favors a two-state solution and is concerned that annexation would negatively impact such an agreement. The Vatican has recognized a State of Palestine since 2013.
AOC letter demanding halt of military aid to Israel: Bernie Sanders has signed on to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that U.S. military aid to Israel be halted following annexation. Among the other few signatories are noteworthy Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, Ayana Pressley, and Nydia Velázquez.
Several leading Republican lawmakers remain silent: All eyes are on a key constituency on Capitol Hill who have yet to weigh in on the plans: Senate Republicans. Neither the top Senator, Mitch McConnell, nor the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lindsay Graham, have spoken one way or the other on the topic. Also, notably quiet has been Mitt Romney, Senator from Utah and former Republican nominee for President.
1,000 new coronavirus cases per day in Israel: Israel is now seeing over 1,000 new positive cases per day, somewhat of a doomsday scenario for the country. Swaths of cities are under closure orders.
Event industry fights restrictions: The coronavirus cabinet is discussing capping all events at a 50-person threshold, which venue owners are fighting, claiming the new measures will decimate their industries.
Shin Bet tracking reinstated: The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has reinstated a program to track civilian cellphones to locate coronavirus infections and hotspots. The reinstatement of the program was over the objection of the security service, which called for a civilian entity to handle the coronavirus tracking.
El Al suspends operations: El Al, the world’s only Israel-based airline, has canceled all flights, effective immediately. As a result of the financial burdens spurred by the pandemic, the airline’s pilot union announced it would suspend all pilot activity. The company announced that it is in the advanced stages of concluding an agreement to receive aid from the government, but still needed the agreement of the workers and unions in order to receive the aid.
Attorney General blocks Bibi’s legal fund gift: A controversy erupted between Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt, and the Prime Minister this week when the AG moved to block a NIS 10 million “gift” Netanyahu was offered for his legal expenses in his corruption trial.
Gift from trial witness: The legal fund was offered to Netanyahu by Spencer Partrich, an American millionaire who is also a witness in one of the cases. The charges against Netanyahu include accepting lavish gifts from wealthy Americans. Netanyahu was enraged by Mandelbilt’s decision and called the AG’s actions a “coup plot,” which he insinuated was part of a larger effort to oust him from power.
Benny Gantz came to Mandelbilt’s defense, saying that he gives his “full backing to the attorney general’s decision along with the entire law enforcement system in Israel.”
IDF reduces mandatory service for men as a cost saving measure: The Israeli Defense Forces has further reduced its mandatory military service for Jewish men down to 2.5 years. Until 2016, the requirement had been for men to serve 3 years. Unlike men, women are required to serve 2 years of service. Israel’s immediate past defense minister Naftali Bennett, criticized the decision, saying it is “a grave mistake that will harm [military] strength… and, above all, the IDF’s fitness in the coming war.”
INSIDE THE U.S.
Supreme Court to hear cases of Jews suing Germany & Hungary over Nazi art: The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving the descendants of a group of Jewish art dealers from Germany, whose ancestors were forced to sell a collection of art to the Nazi government in 1935. This case will decide whether the dispute belongs in the U.S. courts.
Germany takes the low road: A lawyer for Germany requested the Supreme Court weigh in after a lower court allowed the case to go forward. Nicholas M. O’Donnell, who represents the heirs of the art dealers, said that “Germany seeks to eliminate recourse for Nazi-looted art and the Court will have the chance to answer this question of critical importance for Holocaust victims.”
The Nazis systematically looted hundreds of thousands of pieces of art and cultural artifacts between 1933 and 1945. For decades, there has been mostly futile negotiations and court cases concerning the return of the looted property. Despite the efforts of American and other governments, thousands of pieces of art have never been recovered by their rightful owners.
“Day of Rage” against Israel: Activists across the world participated in a “day of rage” against Israel and any potential annexation. In the U.S., demonstrators chanted antisemitic slogans, such as “Israel murders children.” The demonstrations aimed to link the Palestinian cause to the Black Lives Matters marches that have swept the country.
Targeting of Jewish organizations: In Boston and San Diego, demonstrators targeted Jewish organizations, like the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, and student Hillels. Most of the demonstrations, which were organized by Al-Awda, Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, had only between 10 and 30 participants.
Chants to eliminate Israel: Dexter Van Zile, a CAMERA analyst blasted, “College students and mostly middle-class white activists with Palestinian flags were shouting for the violent elimination of the world’s only Jewish state. Think about that: they’re chanting eliminationist rhetoric outside the offices of mainstream American-Jewish organizations – a fact which shows that this wasn’t simply about Israel, but about Jews as Jews.”
Maine synagogue vandalized: A synagogue in Bangor, Maine was vandalized with swastikas. The synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, used black spray paint to cover the swastikas before Friday morning services. The congregation was founded in 1888 and is the oldest synagogue in the city.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Fire at Iranian nuclear facility: An apparent fire caused by an explosion hit an Iranian nuclear facility. Although Iran dismissed the fire as “an incident,” the state-run media suggested Israel and the U.S. may have been responsible. Iran later said there would be consequences if the explosion was discovered to have been a result of “the Zionist regime.” A researcher in California called the explosion “very, very suspicious.” The facility houses major nuclear equipment, new centrifuges that purify uranium, that the U.S. has decried as a cause for concern. One foreign intelligence official told the New York Times that the explosion was created by a “device planted inside the facility.”
Russia, Turkey and Iran slam Syria policy of Israel & U.S.: Russia, Turkey, and Iran met to discuss military coordination in Syria and their mutual opposition to U.S. and Israeli involvement in Syria. Turkey aims to clear out Kurds along its extensive borders with Syria, and Russia and Iran want to see their ally, Bashar al-Assad, returned to full power. The three countries called Israel’s role in the Syrian conflict “destabilizing,” without mentioning any one Israeli action. Amid increased reports of IDF strikes on Iranian bases in Syria, Israel’s policy is to push Iran out of Syria.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Credit: IDF Archive
Today we celebrate a Muslim Montrealer, Naveed Hussain, who is heading a petition to rename a Montreal metro station, which currently honors a vicious antisemite. Hussein seeks to replace the name of Lionel Groulx, a priest who advocated to rid the city of Jews, with Oscar Peterson, a Black jazz artist who grew up in the neighborhood. One city councilman, Pierre L’Heureux, advocated for keeping the name as is: “He was antisemitic, but that wasn’t unusual at that time… he is important in Quebec because he strengthened the Quebec national identity.”
Today in 1976, Operation Entebbe took place, which was a successful counter-terrorist hostage rescue mission carried out by the IDF in Uganda. A week earlier, an Air France Airbus carrying 248 passengers going from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The hijackers’ objective was to free 40 Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel and in four other countries. The hijackers separated the Israelis and the non-Israeli Jews from the larger group and released the others. In the end, 102 hostages were rescued and 3 were killed. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one commander, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. Yonatan, known as Yoni, was the brother of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.