Today we’re diving into: Israel’s looming fourth election over budget impasse; gang rape of teen in Eilat; virus death numbers spike after miscommunication; minister’s plan to bring Ethiopian immigrants to Israel; U.A.E. peace deal’s F-35 controversy; Saudi Arabia’s response to normalization; Hamas’ barrage of rockets and balloons; UN’s conviction of Hezbollah member in killing of PM; U.S.’ “snapback” of Iran sanctions; FBI’s antisemitic tweet; Trump’s message on embassy move to evangelicals; Biden’s disavowal of Sarsour; and CA ethnic studies requirement. Thank you to Rabbi Aaron Meyer at Temple Emanuel South Hills for hosting a conversation about A Wider Frame!
New elections might be triggered at the beginning of next week, as parties blame each other for break down
Deadline nearing for a fourth election in two years: The government’s fight over budget negotiations has come down to the wire. If there is no decision by Monday night at midnight, new elections will be called for November. Some say that it’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal to avoid relinquishing power to Alternate PM Benny Gantz as their coalition deal dictates must occur in 2021. Gantz, as per the coalition agreement, is pushing for a two-year budget, what he says is necessary for the stability of Israel. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is steadfast in his demand for a one-year budget. The parties have not been able to agree on the parameters for a bill to delay the passing of the budget.
One senior Likud official said: “This government is not functioning. Continuing in the current situation is even worse than elections.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he told Netanyahu, Gantz, and other party leaders, “it is inconceivable for the issue of the approval of the budget to lead us to a fourth election.” Netanyahu is expected to consult with his family over the weekend to make a final decision.
Israel investigates gang rape of teen: An Israeli 16-year-old said she was gang raped during a visit to the resort city Eilat. As police officers have begun arresting suspects, one of two men in custody said that as many as 30 men joined in the attack. A special investigation team is collecting cell phone data and surveillance to locate other potential suspects. Netanyahu has called the incident “a crime against humanity” and for those responsible to be “brought to justice.” Gantz also condemned the attack and tweeted to the victim, “…it’s important that I say: My heart is with you, you are not alone.”
Virus death toll leaps with previously uncounted deaths: The Israeli Health Ministry said that it miscounted coronavirus deaths, adding at least 53 people to the growing toll. The error was caused by a computer malfunction that created miscommunications between the Ministry and the nursing homes where 53 deaths occurred. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said he is taking the issue “very seriously” and is launching an investigation. A predictive report sadly estimates that 800 Israelis will have died from coronavirus by the end of August. Still, Israel’s mortality rate from the disease continues to be one of the lowest in the world, and some European countries—Greece, Croatia, and Bulgaria—will allow Israeli travel to resume next week.
Although other countries, like Russia, have rushed to produce a coronavirus vaccine, Israel says it will not chart the same path. Instead, Israel is emphasizing the quality of the vaccine it intends to produce, rather than the speed at which it is able to start producing it. The second phase of testing will likely be complete by December, at which time it will move to the third and final phase.
Minister proposes bringing 4,500 Falash Mura to Israel: Pnina Tamano-Shata, Israel’s Minister of Aliyah and Integration and the country’s first Ethiopian-born minister, is proposing bringing 4,500 Falash Mura—Ethiopian Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity—to Israel this year. Committee Chair and Knesset Member David Bitan tentatively approved of the proposal but suggested bringing the immigrants by the end of next year. These individuals all have first-degree relatives in Israel, thereby making them eligible for Aliyah under the laws of family reunification. During the hearings, one Blue and White Knesset member said: “Bringing these people to Israel is the vision of the State of Israel. Ethiopian Jews have prayed for thousands of years to come to Israel. If we do not bring them to Israel now, they will die there.” The proposal will ultimately have to be approved by the Interior Minister, who has yet to comment.
U.A.E. PEACE DEAL
The U.A.E.-Israel peace plan had a slightly bumpy week, with Netanyahu in a firestorm over U.A.E. warplanes
U.A.E. could get advanced fighter jet pursuant to side agreement: An Israeli report of a possible “secret clause” in the Israel-U.A.E. peace deal to allow the U.A.E. to buy billions of dollars’ worth of advanced military machinery from the U.S., including F-35 stealth fighter jets, has caused confusion, frustration, and anger among U.S. and Israelis officials alike. The U.A.E. Foreign Affairs Minister. Anwar Gargash, said that the first request to purchase the advanced fighter jets was six years ago, and that it’s unconnected with the peace deal but now that the peace deal is in place, the country expects “closer security cooperation” among the U.A.E., the U.S., and Israel. The New York Times reported that the Emirati military was given a classified briefing by Trump administration officials on the F-35 in recent weeks.
Netanyahu denies consent: Prime Minister Netanyahu has denied reports that he gave authorization for the Trump administration to sell the F-35s to the Emiratis, expressed opposition to the deal, and said he will object to any future sale. Netanyahu did confirm the U.S. has been in talks about arms deals with the U.A.E. and other Arab countries prior to the peace deal announcement. The planes are the most advanced fighter aircraft Israel has and selling them to the U.A.E. would therefore hinder Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge,’ something to which America has bound itself. U.S. law requires the administration to consult with Israel before selling arms to any Arab country and it also requires the administration to report to Congress on the matter.
Gantz responds in anger: Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz told reporters at a press conference that allowing the U.A.E. to get their hands on F-35s is “not good for Israel” and that Israel needs to make sure “our security interests are being upheld.” Gantz sent a letter to Netanyahu chastising him and the head of the National Security Council for circumventing Gantz’s authority by not requesting his permission to discuss the normalization deal, but instead discussed the possibility of the U.A.E. acquiring the fighter jets with the Air Force Chief, Amikam Norkin.
Saudi Arabia responds to peace deal: Perhaps the Emirates’ biggest ally, Saudi Arabia, carefully worded its response to the Israel-U.A.E. peace deal, saying that the Saudis will not normalize relations with Israel without an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. This reflects long-standing Saudi policy, but there had been hope that, as with the U.A.E., the shift would cause a ripple effect. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia did warily accept the U.A.E. plan, a remarkable step for a country that, in 2002, codified the uniform anti-normalization policy against Israel. Saudi Arabia also reportedly warned the Palestinian Authority against an “overreaction” to the deal.
Sudan walks back normalization sentiments: In an announcement that was immediately praised and reciprocated by Israeli officials like Prime Minister Netanyahu, Sudan said that it has peace talks underway with Israel. Yet, the statement was quickly thereafter walked back by Sudan and the official who made the statement was fired.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
IDF strikes back after barrage of Hamas rockets and incendiary balloons fired into Israel
Israel responds to huge uptick in Hamas rockets and balloons: Tensions have been rising on the border region between Israel and Gaza in recent days amid ongoing Hamas rocket launches and arson balloon attacks, which have sparked dozens of wildfires. At least twelve rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza between Thursday evening and Friday morning after at least 42 fires were sparked by balloon borne incendiary devices earlier in the day. Rocket fragments hit a residence in the Israeli town of Sderot. Israel responded with airstrikes on Hamas linked targets, including a concrete factory used to make underground tunnels.
UN convicts Hezbollah member in killing of Lebanese Prime Minister: On Tuesday, a United Nations-backed tribunal convicted a Hezbollah terrorist in a 2005 suicide bomb attack which killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. The convicted terrorist, Salim Ayyash, was found guilty of co-conspiring to murder Hariri with Hezbollah’s second in command, Mustafa Badreddine, whose case was dropped following his death in Syria in 2016. Though the court said that Hezbollah had motives to kill Hariri, it lacked direct evidence to implicate them in the crime. Hezbollah denied any involvement.
Lebanese- British journalist Oz Katerji commented that, “Hezbollah’s most senior operatives do not act independently from the organization’s leadership. This tribunal and verdict, as flawed and toothless and disappointing as they have been for many Lebanese, has at the very least hammered the nail into the coffin of Hezbollah’s charade of plausible deniability.” Both Israel and Saudi Arabia responded to the conviction that Hezbollah must be held accountable for this killing.
INSIDE THE U.S.
U.S. moves to trigger Iran sanctions “snapback” after failed UN vote
U.S. triggers “snapback” to restore UN sanctions on Iran: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the United Nations Security Council Thursday that the U.S. is triggering a “snapback” procedure after the administration’s attempt at extending the expiring UN weapons sanctions on Iran failed last week. The snapback mechanism allows the U.S. to unilaterally reinstate all of the sanctions that were terminated at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal should Iran violate the agreement. Since its signing, there have been several documented violations of the agreement by Iran. France, Germany, and Britain, which are all still parties to the deal, questioned the authority of the U.S. to demand a snapback since it is no longer a participant of the agreement. Pompeo commented that, “The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles and other kinds of conventional weapons.” Israel applauded the U.S.’ decision.
FBI tweets link to antisemitic text, shared thousands of times: The FBI tweeted out an entire copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion—an infamous, antisemitic screed that spread across the world in the 20th century—without any qualifying words. The text purports to be written by real Jews hatching a plan for world domination and it served to rationalize antisemitism and genocide by Hitler across Europe and North Africa. The FBI later expressed regret and said the account automatically sends out links to records that have been made public via the Freedom of Information Act. As some entity apparently FOIA’d the FBI papers related to its time when it ‘investigated’ the Elders of Zion, the entire book was put on the Twitter account. Before the tweet was taken down, the document was shared over 10,000 times.
President Trump claims embassy move was for evangelicals: In a campaign rally in Wisconsin, President Trump claimed he moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for his political gain with white evangelicals. Previously, American presidents shied away from admitting that specific foreign policy moves were in hopes of a domestic political advantage. Apparently lamenting his lack of support or praise from the American Jewish community, Trump said: “We moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. That is for the Evangelicals. You know it is amazing with that. The Evangelicals are more excited about that than Jewish people. It is incredible.”
Joe Biden distances himself from Linda Sarsour: After Linda Sarsour appeared at the Democratic National Convention, the Biden campaign was quick to note that “she has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever” and Biden is “a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism.” Sarsour is one of three former organizers of the Women’s March who stepped down after the Democratic National Committee dropped its support over accusations of Sarsour’s and another founder, Tamika Mallory’s, antisemitism. Both Sarsour, who has equated Zionism with white nationalism, and Mallory refused to condemn Nation of Islam founder Louis Farrakhan who has for years made antisemitic and homophobic remarks.
CA ethnic study law passes despite Jewish pushback: California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law to require California State University students to complete a course in ethnic studies to graduate which excludes Jews and antisemitism. Over 90 education, civil rights, and religious groups have called on Newsom to veto bill AB-1460, noting the distinction between the broad field of ethnic studies and the narrow field of “Critical Ethnic Studies” referenced within it. The critics noted anti-Zionist advocacy, including the promotion of BDS, is an intrinsic part of critical ethnic studies and that the critical ethnic studies faculty actively promote BDS, which has been linked to the harassment of Jewish students.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Today we celebrate eleven Israel-founded NY companies helping to find solutions to coronavirus challenges. The New York-Israel business alliance (NYIBA) has drawn up a list of “covid disrupters,” which include firms that directly impact healthcare and also help fight the fallout of coronavirus with unique technologies. NYIBA president said, “In a matter of months, we’ve dramatically modified our behaviors in order to cope with the impact that COVID-19 is having on our lives. The rapid change has precipitated a technological transformation and created unanticipated opportunities for these companies to solve some of the thorniest challenges imposed by the pandemic and beyond.”
Today in 1906, Isadore “Friz” Freleng was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Jewish- American Frelang was an animator, cartoonist, director, producer and composer known for his work at Warner Bros. Cartoons, where he created several of the studio’s biggest cartoon stars, including Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam and Speedy Gonzales. While still in high school, Freleng began his career in animation at United Film Ad Service in Kansas City, where he worked with Walt Disney, U.B. Iwerks and other local cartoonists. When Walt Disney moved to Hollywood to start making cartoons, he requested that his fellow animators should join him.