Today we’re diving into: a thwarted terror attack on Israel’s Northern border; first Hamas rocket attack in almost a month; disturbing report detailing lack of bomb shelter protection; largest protest aimed at Netanyahu to date; restraining order issued against Netanyahu’s son; Tel Aviv’s climate change plan; the probability of annexation; Israel’s coronavirus numbers and stimulus payouts; U.S. “Squad” members face primary challengers; Seth Rogen’s non-apology; U.S. aid package to Israel; and Japanese donors keep museum alive.
ISRAEL’S NEIGHBORS, NEAR & NOT SO FAR
Israel strikes targets in Syria after thwarting terror attack in Golan Heights, as new report says millions of Israelis without bomb shelter protection
Israel strikes Syria in response to attempted terror attack: In response to an attempted terrorist attack which was thwarted along the Syrian-Israeli border Sunday night, the Israel Defense Forces carried out air strikes against targets belonging to the Syrian military. On Sunday, IDF soldiers spotted a terrorist cell attempting to place explosive devices near the border and the IDF opened fire and struck them. The IDF does not know whether the cell was acting on behalf of Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah. Though Israel does not normally acknowledge strikes in Syria, the IDF said in a statement, “The IDF sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all operations carried out in its territory and will continue to act with determination against all attacks on the sovereignty of the State of Israel.” Syria’s SANA news agency said the IDF strikes in Syria led to “material damage only.”
Israeli Air Force strikes back after Iron Dome intercepts Gaza rocket: In the southern Israeli town of Sderot, a drive-in movie night was interrupted by rocket fire by Hamas from Gaza. The rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, but several vehicles were nevertheless damaged by shrapnel. Blaring sirens across southern Israel sent thousands to bomb shelters, which are present in most homes in the area. It was the first time rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in almost a month. In response to the attack, Israeli Air Force bombed Hamas military sites in Gaza, such as a cement factory that is used to build terror tunnels into Israel and other underground facilities.
New report says millions without adequate protection: According to a new report issued by Israel’s state comptroller, approximately 2.6 million Israelis—nearly 30% of the population—do not have access to functioning bomb shelters near their homes. This includes over 250,000 people who live near the borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Additionally, according to State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, a fifth of public bomb shelters would not offer proper protection in the event of an attack. More positively, the report noted that over the past 5 years the government invested more in early warning systems, which have improved the home front’s preparedness.
Netanyahu condemns demonstrators day after largest protest yet, as court issues restraining order on his son
Saturday’s protest saw 10,000 people: Over 10,000 people attended the anti-corruption demonstration outside of the Prime Minister’s official residence on Saturday evening, marking the largest protest to be held since the start of the demonstrations. The “Black Flag” protests calling for the resignation of Netanyahu have spread from several dozen protesters to mass rallies, and have combined forces with demonstrations against the government’s coronavirus crisis response. Other rallies were held throughout the country on Saturday, including in Tel Aviv and outside Netanyahu’s home in the coastal town of Caesarea. During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu slammed the media for “inflaming” the protests and misrepresenting incidents of violence.
Court issues restraining order on Prime Minister’s son: The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court issued a restraining order against Yair Netanyahu, prohibiting him from tweeting or publishing commentary about leaders of the demonstrations against his father for the next six months. The restraining order is in response to Yair posting home addresses and cell phone numbers of protest leaders, charging his thousands of followers to troll them and protest at their homes. According to Israeli law, protest leaders are considered private citizens and the younger Netanyahu violated their privacy. According to the attorneys for the protest leaders, Netanyahu’s tweets have even led to death threats.
Tel Aviv- Jaffa to discuss first climate change plan drafted by Israeli municipality: Tel Aviv is planning the first climate change plan of any city in Israel, which aims to be completed by 2030. A report drafted by the municipality contains recommendations and steps the city can take to cope with anticipated scenarios such as a growing number of extreme heat waves caused by global warming. The report calls for “urban forests,” residential centers with indoor air conditioning to accommodate people during extreme heat waves, and to implement drainage systems in the event of severe flooding. Tel Aviv has already experienced some severe flooding; in January, two were killed by such extreme weather.
Netanyahu says annexation still on the table: In a Likud party meeting on Monday, PM Netanyahu said that “annexation has not been taken off the agenda.” According to a source in The Times of Israel, The Trump administration is still considering allowing Israel to apply sovereignty over portions of Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, albeit with a “package” to the Palestinians to entice their approval. Both Avi Berkowitz, the U.S.’s envoy to the Middle East, and Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President (and presidential son-in-law), have had meetings in recent weeks to discuss any number of potential possibilities with regard to annexation.
Palestinian officials say annexation not likely after September: Senior Palestinian Authority officials have said that the Israeli government is not likely to proceed with annexation plans should they not come to fruition by the end of September. Should Prime Minister Netanyahu renounce the annexation plans, the PA is willing to resume economic and security cooperation, the official said.
CORONAVIRUS IN ISRAEL
Israel’s cabinet weighs full lockdown in August, as decision to allow thousands of students in the country sparks criticism
Israel debates measures aimed at curbing the spread: Israel’s government is attempting to come to a consensus regarding what new measures, if any, should be implemented to curb the spread of the renewed outbreak of coronavirus. Active cases stand at 26,005 and 546 people have died since the pandemic began. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the daily count of infected Israelis is stabilizing, but added, “the numbers are still high and worrisome.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a full lockdown could be imposed as early as mid-August but hopes that it will not be necessary.
Latest stimulus money distributed: The government has started to distribute the latest approved stimulus package to Israelis, beginning with money for families with children under 18. The government will continue to transfer payments to one million Israelis daily until everyone has received their stipends. A group of Israeli businessmen announced the launch of a fund for Israelis to donate their government payments if they do not need it, so the funds can be redistributed to those in need.
Economy may need 5 years to recover: According to the Finance Ministry, it may take 4-5 years for the economy to recover from the virus outbreak. More than one million Israelis have been out of work or furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. Best-case scenario projections say that 10% of Israelis will still be out of work by the end of the year and worst-case projections say 15% will be out of work.
17,000 foreign students approved to enter Israel in coming months: New coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu approved the entry of 17,000 university and yeshiva students into the country in coming months. The students are mostly American. Gamzu said that students will be required to quarantine in capsules of up to six people for 14 days after arrival and may face deportation if they do not comply. Among the dissenters of this decision is Avigdor Liberman, the right-wing leader in the Knesset who wrote to Gamzu, “While couples are not allowed to get married in events with more than 20 participants, it makes no sense to allow 16,000 students to enter the country.” Liberman is known for his combative relationship with the ultra-Orthodox.
INSIDE THE U.S.
Two “Squad” congresswomen endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, face primary challengers in the next week
“Squad” congresswomen face primary challengers: Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, both of whom support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, are facing elections in the next week and are being tested by challengers who accuse them of chasing the national spotlight at the expense of their districts. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has endorsed and donated money to the re-election of Omar and has also endorsed Tlaib. Omar’s challenger, Antone Melton- Meaux, received support from Jewish Colorado Governor Jared Polis. Both Tlaib and Omar have been accused of peddling an anti-Israel and antisemitic agenda.
Disturbing antisemitic and anti-Israel history: Omar has made comments widely condemned as antisemitic, even by her own party, for which she has apologized. Both congresswomen have faced criticism for associating with antisemitic activists and groups who have even praised terrorist attacks against Jews. In response to Omar’s antisemitic accusation of Jewish dual-loyalty, the House passed a resolution condemning antisemitism. When Tlaib was first elected, she displayed a map in her congressional office with a note posted over Israel that read “Palestine” and was recently seen wearing a T-shirt of the State of Israel replaced with a Palestinian state and displaying a newly released book by Linda Sarsour, who was removed from the leadership of the Women’s March for her antisemitic rhetoric.
Seth Rogen denies apologizing to Jewish Agency Chair for Israel comments: Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog announced on Facebook he had a private conversation with Seth Rogen, who apologized for recent remarks he made about Israel on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. An Israeli reporter posted a screenshot showing an exchange with Rogen, who said his mom forced him to take the call with Herzog, and Rogen denied apologizing in a Haartez interview published today. Instead he said: “I think [Herzog] is misrepresenting our conversation.”
U.S. House passes missile defense budget for Israel: The House of Representatives approved a $500 million aid package to Israel that will help with the funding of crucial national security infrastructure like the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems. The funds are allocated in accordance with the Obama Administration’s 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel, which provides Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade. In addition to the missile defense systems, there are millions of dollars for anti-tunnel technology, coronavirus cooperation, and energy and water programs.
CELEBRATE & REMEMBER
Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara was responsible for saving hundreds of lives during WWII
Today we celebrate a Japanese community which crowdsourced funding to keep a Lithuania museum dedicated to the life of a Japanese Holocaust hero operating. Residents of the island of Honshu raised over $30,000 to help the memorial to Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese man who helped thousands of Jews escape Europe during the Second World War. Because of the coronavirus epidemic, the head of the museum said: “Tickets sales are our main income resource. Japanese used to make up 85 percent of the visitors. Now, the visitors from Japan are gone, so is our income.” When Sugihara was stationed in Kaunas, Lithuania he issued temporary visas to 6,000 Jewish refugees, mostly from Poland, to travel to Japan. This was done without the approval of the Japanese government and he was fired from his post. The memorial was erected in 1999 and honors Sugihara and the Jews he helped to escape.
Today in 1933, Der Stürmer, a weekly antisemitic German tabloid created by Julius Streicher, began the publication of a blacklist of German young women seen in the company of Jewish men. These stories, which became a staple of Der Stürmer, painted Jewish men as sex offenders and gave details about sexual intercourse, names and fabricated crimes. Though not an official publication of the Nazi Party, Der Stürmer was a central element of the Nazi propaganda machine. Streicher, who also published antisemitic children’s books, was a member of the Nazi Party. At the end of World War II, Streicher was convicted of crimes against humanity in the Nuremberg trials and was executed.