Today we’re diving into: the U.A.E. – Israel peace deal first steps; countries likely to follow the U.A.E.’s lead; global responses to the peace deal; Yemeni Jews’ uncertain future; Israel’s ongoing unresolved budget crisis; polling data for new elections; coronavirus holiday lockdown; stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City; Democratic Socialist chapter on Israel boycott; UN Iran arms embargo extension failure; Facebook’s algorithm pushing Holocaust denial; and a joint German-Israeli Air Force drill. Thank you to Rabbi Sherre Hirsch and American Jewish University’s B’Yachad Together for hosting a conversation about A Wider Frame!
U.A.E. PEACE DEAL
Expanding peace initiatives is top priority for Israel, as U.A.E. deal paves the way
First steps as peace partners: The Foreign Ministers from the United Arab Emirates and Israel had their first official phone call as peace partners on Sunday, after direct phone lines were opened and Israeli websites in the U.A.E. unblocked. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has invited the Emirati Crown Prince to Jerusalem to welcome his “brave leadership.” There are even reports that Israeli pop star Omer Adam will be performing in the U.A.E. soon. Adam reportedly sent a letter to Emirati leaders months ago thanking them for supporting the Jewish community in the Gulf country, after which the Emirati royal family invited him to play. Israel’s Minister for Science and Technology announced that cooperation on business fronts, including on commercial, space, and hi-tech, will happen immediately.
Sovereignty takes backseat: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave an unprecedented interview to the Abu Dhabi based Sky News Arabia. Netanyahu said in light of President Trump’s request to suspend plans to annex parts of the West Bank (otherwise known as Judea and Samaria), Israel’s top priority will be expanding its circle of peace. Presidential son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner announced that the U.S. is not prepared to accept the Israeli application of sovereignty over parts of the West Bank anytime soon and confirmed “Israel has agreed with us they will not move forward without our consent.”
Oman next in line for peace? Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi announced on Monday that Israel and Oman are holding a dialogue aimed at establishing official diplomatic ties. Besides Oman, there are rumors and suggestions from American, Israeli, and Arab officials that there are more peace deals to come. Such possible agreements between Israel and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Morocco are being floated as other possibilities. Normalization with Oman or Bahrain, however, seem to be the most likely to occur in the near-term with both Arab states celebrating the Israeli-Emirati agreement. Yossi Cohen, the head of the Mossad, spoke with the Prime Minister of Bahrain despite the countries’ lack of formal ties—a strong indication that an agreement of normalization is in the works or about to drop.
Global responses to the peace agreement: Most of the West, with the odd exception of Luxembourg’s foreign minister, has praised the pact of normalization. Antonio Guterres, the UN’s head, announced his support, as did India. Even Mauritania, a member of the Arab League, praised the “wisdom and good judgment” of the United Arab Emirates leadership. Not all were happy, though. Of all countries, Turkey and Iran expressed the greatest anger at the deal, with Turkey threatening to withdraw its ambassador or suspend its ties with the U.A.E. This, despite Turkey also having diplomatic relations with Israel. Iran not only expressed outrage at the Emirates, but also threatened violence against the regime. The U.A.E. responded by calling Iranian threats “unacceptable,” and its response was later backed up by the council of Gulf states.
The most extreme reactions came from the terrorist organizations working to destroy Israel: Hezbollah and Hamas. While Hezbollah called the deal “a betrayal of Islam and Arabism,” Hamas continues to send balloon bombs into southern Israel, sparking fires all across the desert, including outside of an Israeli kindergarten. Two rockets from Gaza headed toward the Israeli city of Sderot were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome on Sunday, and Israel responded with airstrikes on Hamas military targets. Additionally, Palestinians set fire to the likeness of the Emirati leader atop the Temple Mount in Israel (on which the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located).
Lebanese President doesn’t rule out peace with Israel: In a shocking turn of events after decades of armed conflict, Lebanese President Michael Aoun expressed willingness to consider peace talks with Israel. Responding to a question on whether Lebanon would consider peace Aoun said, “That depends. We have problems with Israel, and we have to resolve them first.” This comes after Israel formally offered aid to the Lebanese people after the blast in Beirut, even lighting up the Tel Aviv municipal building with the Lebanese flag. As long as the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah maintains its power in Lebanese politics, peace is not likely with Israel.
Yemen’s remaining Jews reportedly headed to U.A.E.: Yemen’s 100 or so remaining Jews are apparently set to immigrate to Abu Dhabi following the announcement of the peace agreement between the U.A.E. and Israel, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. The report, which is yet to be confirmed by an official source, reported that the U.S. government was behind the request to transfer the last of Yemen’s Jews. Reports from an Egyptian tabloid in July, which were later denied by Yemeni and international sources, claimed the Houthi militant group in Yemen was rounding up Yemeni Jews to pressure them to leave.
Despite the fact that Jews in Yemen consistently face systematic human rights violations at the hands of Houthis, the remaining Yemeni Jews have rejected previous proposals to immigrate to the U.S. or Israel. Yemen is the home of one of the world’s most ancient Jewish populations, with some claiming that Jews originally settled there over three thousand years ago. The majority of Yemen’s 530,000 Jews emigrated to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s after facing violent pogroms.
Many asking if last minute attempts to avoid another election only delaying the inevitable
To avoid fourth election, negotiations over budget continue: The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has begun the process of advancing a bill meant to postpone Israel’s budget deadline, in order to avoid a fourth election in less than two years. The bill must pass three readings before it becomes law. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud party has not yet committed to supporting the bill in its second and third readings. Likud’s support of the bill will depend on ongoing negotiations with the Blue and White party, Likud’s government coalition partner. The two parties are arguing over how key political appointments will be made.
The bill to delay the budget passage requires a supermajority vote because it involves changing a Basic, or constitutional, Law. If it does not pass before the budget deadline on August 25th, November elections will be automatically called. One Israeli Knesset Member said this bill “would just be another respirator for a government on death’s door,” signaling that many believe elections will be called one way or another. Gantz and Netanyahu have clashed on most matters, big and small.
What is the budget dispute? Alternative Prime Minister Benny Gantz wants a two-year budget for the country, as agreed upon in the coalition agreement between himself and Netanyahu. Netanyahu is pushing for a shorter budget—one that only covers the remainder of this year. It is likely that this is so that Netanyahu will not have to honor the power sharing deal laid out in the coalition agreement, wherein Gantz would automatically take over as Prime Minister in 2021. The coalition agreement left an exit option for Netanyahu—namely, that new elections will be called if the coalition parties cannot agree upon a budget. Netanyahu is also worried about his upcoming corruption trial which will begin in January.
Labor party polling below electoral threshold and Likud rising: Should new Israel elections be called for this year, the Labor party’s head, Amir Peretz, says he would run as part of the Blue and White party. New polling shows Labor, the party of past Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin, not even making it into the Knesset with a single seat. Historically, Labor was the most powerful Israeli party, controlling the Knesset for much of Israel’s early years. It has entirely collapsed in the last 20 years or so, and this could be its death knell. Currently, the party controls a mere three out of 120 Knesset member seats. Since the announcement of the U.A.E. peace deal, Netanyahu’s Likud party has been polling more favorably than it had been in the past few weeks, as the Israeli public overwhelmingly supports the peace initiative. According to an Israeli poll, if the election were to be held now, Likud would receive the highest number of seats followed by the right-wing Yamina party, headed by Naftali Bennett.
Israel’s renewed coronavirus outbreakleads to new measures: Despite okaying the current easing of restrictions in much of Israeli society, Israel’s coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu will recommend the institution of new coronavirus restrictions this fall due to a potential for increased coronavirus spread. Almost 95,000 people have tested positive so far in Israel and 692 people have died from the virus. Another 400 patients are in critical condition. The restrictions are likely not to be implemented until the Jewish High Holidays (mid-September) in order to alleviate some of the economy’s stress, though Gamzu is expected to recommend a full national lockdown at that time. Limitations on gatherings in houses of worship will be included in the restrictions and may recommend that Israelis celebrate the holidays only with their nuclear families.
Israeli policeman stabbed in Jerusalem’s Old City: A 19-year-old Israeli police officer was wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday night. The assailant, whose identity was not immediately clear, was shot dead by another officer at the scene. The officer is being treated in a hospital and apparently in moderate condition.
INSIDE THE U.S.
NY Democratic Socialist chapter asks candidates for ‘no travel to Israel’ pledge
DSA NY chapter asks candidates to pledge Israel boycott: The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is asking New York City Council candidates who are applying for the DSA endorsement to pledge not to visit Israel and support a boycott of Israel, if elected. Israel is the only country addressed in the foreign policy section of the questionnaire. NY State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “This is repugnant and should be withdrawn.” Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, said: “It would be ok for me to travel to Iran, the country of my birth, which hangs men for being gay and may stone women for adultery, but not to Israel.” Congresswoman Grace Meng of NY said: “With anti-Semitism on the rise, this question is irresponsible and divisive. Visiting Israel is not a political choice. For many NYers it’s where their families live or where they visit religious sites that are holy for people of many faiths.”
Iran arms embargo extension rejected at UN: The United Nations Security Council rejected a U.S. effort to extend the arms embargo against Iran, which has been in place since 2007. Only America and the Dominican Republic voted to extend the embargo, in what Iran called a humiliating defeat for U.S. interests. The embargo will be lifted on October 18th, at which point the ban on selling weapons to Iran is set to be progressively eased. Iran has already been moving to boost uranium enrichment, in violation of the nuclear deal. Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran told reporters, “Letting the arms embargo expire was a big deficiency of the Iran nuclear deal. It was an irresponsible concession. We are doing our best to fix the mistake.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: the “Security Council failed to hold Iran accountable today. It enabled the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell deadly weapons and ignored the demands of countries in the Middle East. America will continue to work to correct this mistake.” The Trump administration is pursuing another option to unilaterally trigger a clause of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement that would cause all preexisting sanctions at the time of the deal’s signing to be re-imposed or “snapback.” The U.S. may not have the legal authority to call for the snapback, though, because the U.S. withdrew from the agreement and is no longer a party to it. Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling for another round of negotiations with Iran hosted by Russia.
New study says Facebook actively pushing Holocaust denial: A new study by a London-based think tank has found that Facebook’s own recommendation algorithm is “actively promoting” antisemitic Holocaust denial content. Just typing in the word “Holocaust” will result in suggestions for denial pages, which also recommend links to publishers who sell denial material. A recent internal Facebook report which was leaked to the Wall Street Journal found that 64% of extremist group joins are due to recommendation tools. Though researchers of the new study said, “it is likely that this research merely scratches the surface of a larger and more pervasive problem,” the study found at least 36 public Facebook hate groups with over 366,000 followers.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate a joint German-Israeli Air Force exercise of great strategic importance, which will be happening over the next two weeks. 75 years after the end of the Nazi Holocaust, Israeli fighter jets landed in Germany for the first time in a show of the two countries’ strong ties and so that Germany can learn from Israel’s highly trained fighter pilots. The joint maneuver will fly over and commemorate both the Dachau concentration camp and the site of the Munich massacre in which 11 Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. This exercise comes as troubling reports have exposed rising far-right antisemitism in the German military. German pilots have traveled to Israel before for joint maneuvers, but this is the first time Israelis are taking part in these exercises over German soil.
Today in 1978, Jewish American actor, comedian, writer, producer and musician David A.J. “Andy” Samberg was born! Happy Birthday, Andy!