Today we’re diving into: Lebanese government’s resignation; Hezbollah’s denial and warning to citizens; Israel’s crowdfunding campaign for Lebanese; Israel’s budget emergency continues as coalition falls apart; Likud’s election push and polling numbers; French immigration over antisemitism; spate of Gaza balloon attacks; Gulf Arab nations take stand against Iran; UAE reunites Yemenite Jewish family; U.S. candidates on aid to Israel; problematic German ambassador pick; legislation to promote Israeli-Arab normalization; antisemitism in Major League Baseball; and Hedy Lamarr’s ingenuity.
Lebanese government quits amid outrage, as Hezbollah denies wrongdoing and warns against blaming them
Lebanon’s Prime Minister resigns amid public outrage: Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced that he and his entire cabinet were resigning almost a week after explosions rocked the country’s capital. Diab and the cabinet were widely deemed to be a puppet controlled by Hezbollah and Iran. In a speech announcing his resignation, Diab blamed the explosion on endemic corruption and said, “Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years and their desire for real change.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who admitted to having knowledge of the explosive material stockpile prior to the explosion, asked Diab’s government to stay on as caretaker until a new cabinet is formed. Diab’s announcement came after a weekend of anti-government demonstrations in central Beirut, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse tens of thousands of rock-throwing protestors near the parliament.
Nasrallah denies any wrongdoing despite terror group’s relationship to port: In his first speech since the explosion, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah denied his terror group had ever stored explosives at the Beirut port. Nasrallah also warned the Lebanese people not to start any battles with Hezbollah over the incident, as it will provoke “civil war.” The U.S. and Israel have been warning the international community for years that Hezbollah has strong interests at the Beirut port and has stored ammunition there. Outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Dannon said in a virtual interview, “Last year when I spoke to the Security Council, I said very clearly that the port of Beirut became the port of Hezbollah.”
A growing number of the Lebanese people are outwardly showing their outrage with Hezbollah. Protestors even hanged an effigy of Nasrallah during the weekend protests. Unsurprisingly, Nasrallah rejected the need for an outside investigation into the explosion—he said any investigation should be conducted internally by the military.
Labyrinth of tunnels and more containers of chemicals discovered at port area: There have been videos and images circulating online which show the presence of “tunnels” near the blast site in Beirut. The tunnels are thought to be used for weapons and human trafficking by Hezbollah. The Lebanese army denied the presence of the tunnels, despite the images and video footage of them. Additionally, chemical experts are working to secure at least 20 potentially dangerous chemical containers at the Beirut port, after finding one that was leaking.
Israeli NGO launches crowdfunding campaign: NGO Israeli Flying Aid (IFA) launched a crowdfunding campaign to help those directly affected by the explosion. IFA’s goal is to raise NIS 1 million to supply the Lebanese people with food, clothing, and medical equipment. Gal Lusky, CEO of IFA, said that IAF often offers aid to countries with which Israel has no official diplomatic relations.
IDF scales back presence on Lebanese border: Following a “situational assessment,” the Israel Defense Forces has scaled back its reinforcements on the Lebanese border. The reinforcement troops were ordered on the border region after Hezbollah threatened revenge for the death of one of its fighters from an airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel. The move to scale back the troops indicates that the IDF believes there is a reduced chance of a retaliatory attack by Hezbollah, but the IDF troops remaining in the border region were ordered to remain on high alert.
Government attempts to avoid fourth election over budget impasse have been largely unsuccessful
Netanyahu brushes off proposed bill to delay the budget deadline: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz are still at odds over whether to pass a two-year budget, as agreed upon in the coalition agreement, or to pass a budget for only the remainder of this year, which is Netanyahu’s preferred choice. Netanyahu and Gantz appeared to come to an agreement to push back the budget deadline of August 25th which, when crossed, would automatically trigger the next election. On Monday, though, the two sides were at odds again.
Gantz gave Netanyahu a 24-hour deadline to pass the budget delay bill, which Netanyahu appeared to brush off. Netanyahu did not directly address the timeline for passing the deadline delay bill at a Likud party meeting, instead doubling down on passing a one-year budget, citing the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Why is Netanyahu insisting on a one-year budget? Netanyahu insists that the budget only cover the rest of 2020 due to uncertainty caused by the virus, but analysts think his motive lies elsewhere. The coalition agreement requires Netanyahu to hand over the premiership to Gantz if the government falls, unless the government is brought down by a failure to pass a budget. Some suggest that Netanyahu intentionally provoked the budget crisis in order to avoid honoring the coalition agreement, which stipulates that Netanyahu must hand over the Prime Minister position to Gantz in 2021. Additionally, if Gantz were to agree to the one-year budget, this would allow Netanyahu to break up the government before Gantz automatically assumes the transfer of power.
New proposal to prevent Netanyahu from forming new government if elections called: The opposition in Israel’s government has proposed a bill which would bar a member of parliament under indictment from putting together a government. This, in essence, would block Netanyahu from assembling a coalition after a potential election due to Netanyahu’s indictment. Gantz and his Blue and White party are split on whether to back the bill, which will come up Wednesday for a vote. Blue and White reportedly does not want any vote to backfire by emboldening Netanyahu’s base, as the bill has a low chance of passing. Additionally, the Likud party said that if Blue and White supported the bill, it would immediately lead to elections. Gantz said his final decision would be made Wednesday morning.
Some Likud members reportedly urged Netanyahu to call for new elections: While Netanyahu’s Likud party struggles to navigate the coalition tension, some members have urged Netanyahu to go to new elections, while others have cautioned against it. The ultra-Orthodox parties, crucial supporters of the right-wing coalition, have vehemently opposed new elections, saying they so strongly disagree with the move that they would not support Netanyahu come the next round. The election polls, meanwhile, show a rise in support for the far-right parties which are drawing away support from a sagging Likud. The left does not have a fighting chance, with the Labor party not even making it into the government in some polls.
New French immigrants to Israel cite antisemitism for move: 140 French immigrants to Israel are citing antisemitism in Europe as their reason for fleeing to the Jewish State. One of the immigrants, a Parisian woman named Barbara Simha Bohadana, said: “I was fired because I was Jewish. A pharmacy manager, who I worked for as a pharmacist, did not even try to hide the reason for my dismissal. He just told me that a wig or any other sign of my Jewishness was not acceptable, and that if I did not have them removed, I should just get up and leave. So I got up and left.” Almost half of the new immigrants were children under the age of 18, and many will be moving to the coastal city of Netanya, Israel’s “French capital,” or Jerusalem.
Water authority turns off lights to help wildlife: Israel’s national water authority will begin to turn off the lights at most of its facilities during the night. Not only will it save the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars (an estimated $175,000 annually), but it will drastically cut light pollution that impairs the migration and ecosystems of nearby nocturnal creatures. Other entities in Israel, like the transportation authority and a national fuel company, are also looking at ways to reduce their light pollution to help save wildlife and wasted money.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Tensions rise on Gaza border as more than a dozen fires break out on Monday from balloon attacks
Israel closes Gaza crossing after spike in balloon attacks: Israel has closed its commercial crossing into Gaza following the wave of balloon bombs Hamas sent into Israel in recent days which caused over a dozen brush fires. Hamas says the balloon bombs are a message meant to intimidate Israel into restarting negotiations over whether to allow Qatari funding of the terrorist group. Of the crossing closing, the Israeli government said: “The decision was made following security deliberations and in light of repeated terror attacks committed by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip against Israeli citizens, which is a violation of the Israeli sovereignty.” The only goods allowed through to Gaza will be food and other humanitarian aid.
6 Gulf Arab nations take a stand against Iran: All six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), nations that are typically not in agreement with one another, have said with one voice that the UN should extend its arms embargo on Iran. This comes as the UN is set to decide on the embargo in the coming two months. The GCC said, “it is inappropriate to lift the restrictions on conventional weapons’ movement to and from Iran until it abandons its destabilizing activities in the region and ceases to provide weapons to terrorist and sectarian organizations.”
UAE reunites Jewish Yemenite family: The United Arab Emirates helped reunite a Jewish Yemenite family that had been separated for the past 15 years by unknown circumstances. The country facilitated travel by some members of the family from London and Yemen to meet in the UAE The Jewish Council of the Emirates said: “The Jewish residents of the UAE have witnessed first-hand the sustained and courageous practice of tolerance and fraternity followed by the Rulers of the UAE over many years.” The UAE has had a Jewish community for the past ten years and is making efforts to appear tolerant and welcoming.
INSIDE THE U.S.
All candidates for powerful chair seat say American assistance to Israel should be limited if Israel moves forward with annexation
Democrats seeking House Foreign Affairs job would restrict aid to Israel: The three top contenders to replace the outgoing Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Representative Eliot Engel, all say aid to Israel should be conditioned should Israel move forward with potential plans to annex parts of the West Bank. California’s Brad Sherman, Texas’ Joaquín Castro, and New York’s Gregory Meeks all told the Times of Israel that they oppose U.S. dollars going towards supporting annexation. The policy position is perhaps most surprising coming from Sherman, an Israel hawk and a close ally of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Meeks went farther than the other two, saying that aid should be leveraged to avoid annexation, not just penalize it after the fact: “the United States must be explicit in our opposition by applying pressure against Netanyahu should he annex territory, including leveraging U.S. aid.”
Jewish groups protest Germany ambassador pick: Multiple prominent American Jewish organizations are calling on the President to withdraw from consideration the man picked to be the U.S.’s next ambassador to Germany—Douglas Macgregor. According to files uncovered by CNN, Macgregor, a Fox News contributor, said in 2018 about the Holocaust: “There’s sort of a sick mentality that says that generations after generations must atone sins of what happened in 13 years of German history and ignore the other 1,500 years of Germany.” Macgregor also insinuated that certain American groups, implicitly Jews, control American foreign policy towards Israel.
Senators introduce legislation to promote Arab—Israeli relations: Democrat Senator Cory Booker and Republican Senator Rob Portman unveiled a bipartisan bill last week that would require the State Department to publish an annual report about the mistreatment of Arab citizens who violate their countries anti-normalization laws regarding Israel. Many Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait have laws punishing their citizens for cooperating with Israeli businesses and individuals and this bill is meant to promote normalized relations between Israel and Arab countries. The bill orders the US secretary of state to break down instances of prosecution or persecution of Arabs who meet or do business with Israelis.
Former MLB player says antisemitism rampant in league: Former Major League Baseball player Cody Decker said that the baseball league is rife with antisemitism. Decker detailed a number of instances in which he was called anti-Jewish slurs, harassed for being Jewish, and questioned by his coaches. This comes as the Oakland Athletics’ bench coach made what looked to be a Nazi salute during a recent game. Decker previously played for the San Diego Padres and Israel’s national team.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate Israel’s environmental assistance! The Israeli Kibbutz which pioneered the use of drip irrigation received an $85 million grant from India to produce the systems for 35,000 Indian farmers. The project includes setting up systems in 66 distinct Indian towns in the state of Karnataka. The systems will be installed over the course of two years, and the Kibbutz, Netafim, will provide technical support and training for the following five years.
Today in 1942, Hollywood Jewish actress Hedy Lamarr received a patent with composer George Antheil for a “frequency hopping, spread-spectrum communication system” designed to make radio-guided torpedoes harder to detect or jam. The patent for this frequency hopping technology became a precursor for wireless phones, wi-fi, GPS and Bluetooth among other cutting-edge technologies. Lamarr and Antheil donated their patent to the U.S. Navy and never realized any money from it. Lamarr was born in Austria and emigrated to the U.S. in the lead up to World War II. She was on the same ship to the U.S. as MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, which inspired her path into acting.