Weekly roundup of world briefs
August 5, 2022
Gantz says Israel could ‘seriously harm and delay’ Iran’s nuclear program
(JNS) — Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Israel has the capability to cause major damage to Iran’s nuclear program.
He also said that plans to revive the 2015 nuclear deal would only delay Iran’s program.
“Iran is a global problem,” he said during a Channel 13 conference in Jerusalem. “It is not just Israel’s private problem.”
“We are able to seriously harm and delay the nuclear [program],” he added. “We are very unsatisfied with the agreement, which would be a bad agreement because it would be a temporary delay.”
Israel’s defense minister also noted that he discussed with U.S. President Joe Biden the option of Israel attacking Tehran. Biden had said publically during his visit mid-month that the military option was still on the table as a last resort.
Israeli delegation heads to Moscow to ease ties as Jewish Agency crisis heats up
(JNS) — Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid ordered a delegation to fly to Moscow to meet with Russian officials after a heated week of conflicting relations.
Russia-Israel tensions have recently intensified as Moscow appears primed to force the “dissolution” of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s operations in the country.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, former head of the Political-Military Affairs Bureau at Israel’s Ministry of Defense Ministry, told JNS that Jerusalem should be cautious and avoid issuing harsh statements against Russia that could inflame the situation.
After Lapid criticized Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in late February and the brutal use of soldiers against civilians in the country, observers have said Russia created the Jewish Agency crisis in response.
Sources told Ynet that Israel and Russia were working to de-escalate tensions. Also on Monday, Lapid instructed that measures be prepared if the agency is forced to close.
El Al reintroduces six Boeing 777 jets as summer tourism heats up
(JNS) — Israel’s flagship commercial airline El Al announced on Sunday that it would reintroduce six Boeing 777-200ER into its fleet in order to meet rising travel demand during the summer tourism season.
“The return of the planes will make it possible to expand the flight schedule in the peak season and even allow additional destinations,” the airline said in a statement.
The planes will fly to Bangkok, Phuket, Athens and Dubai, according to Reuters.
The carrier had stopped using the jets at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when all El Al flights between March and September of that year were canceled, according to the report.
As skies throughout the globe gradually reopened, El Al relied heavily on its 15 Boeing Dreamliner 787 planes for long-haul flights between Israel and North America as well as to destinations in Asia, according to Reuters.
The report cited data from Ben-Gurion International Airport showing that El Al experienced a 151% increase in passenger traffic in June 2022 compared to June 2021.
In the first six months of 2022, some 1.6 million passengers flew with El Al, 400,000 more than in the same period last year.
The 777s have all passed required tests and are ready to be used for commercial flights, according to the airline.
Targets of deadly Nablus raid responsible for recent attacks and planning more
(JNS) — The Palestinian terrorists that were the target of an Israeli raid in Nablus had recently carried out shooting attacks against Israelis, including at Joseph’s Tomb, and were planning more, Israeli media reported on Monday.
Israeli forces, acting on intelligence from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), arrived at the Kasbah in Nablus in civilian vehicles and called on the four terrorists, who were hiding in an apartment, to surrender, according to Channel 12.
Instead, the terrorists opened fire, resulting in two of them being killed by Israeli forces in the subsequent gun battle.
Alerted to the raid by announcements from local mosques, other Palestinian gunmen began converging on the scene and firing at Israeli forces tasked with cordoning off the target area, who responded in kind.
The main target of the raid, Ibrahim Nabulsi, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, managed to escape, and was later seen at the funerals of the two dead gunmen, according to Channel 12.
World-class ATP 250 tennis tournament returns to Israel after 26 years
(JNS) — In welcome news for Israel’s sports and tennis fans, the Association of Tennis Professionals announced its new tournament in the ATP 250 category: The Tel Aviv Watergen Open 2022 will take place in Israel this fall, more than 26 years after the country last hosted a major tennis competition.
The top-tier tour for men is organized by ATP; its 250 tournaments consist of 28 or 32 players, with 20 (or 24) spots accepting ranked players.
The event will feature the world’s top-20 ranked players, who will compete in the daily tournament at the Expo Tel Aviv Complex starting on Sept. 25. Games will take a break for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Both singles and doubles finals will be held on Oct. 2, with players vying for nearly $1,200,000 in prize money.
The tournament is coming to Israel thanks to a joint effort by the Israel Tennis Association and Watergen, the competition’s official sponsor.
“We are very excited that a tournament of this magnitude is coming to Israel,” read a statement by the Israel Tennis Association.
Watergen president Michael Mirilashvili expressed his excitement for the tournament.
“We have been working on this for a long time and are thrilled that our efforts to host a tennis tournament of this magnitude have paid off,” he said. “I’m sure that sports and tennis enthusiasts in Israel will enjoy an extraordinary experience.”
Iran to leave IAEA cameras off until nuclear deal revived
(JNS) — The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization reportedly stated on Monday that the country would keep the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s cameras off until a nuclear deal is reinstated.
Nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami also said Iran would not address unexplained uranium traces demanded by the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported Reuters.
“The claimed PMD [possible military dimensions] cases and locations were closed under the nuclear accord, and if they [the West] are sincere, they should know that closed items will not be reopened. The basis of the nuclear accord was a response to these alleged cases,” Eslami was quoted by state media as saying.
A resolution condemning Iran for failing to provide an explanation for uranium traces discovered at three unreported sites was passed by the IAEA in June. Following that, Iran notified the IAEA that it was taking down equipment, including 27 cameras set up as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
“We will not turn on the IAEA cameras until the other side returns to the nuclear deal,” said Eslami.
He added that “we will decide about the … cameras added under the nuclear deal after the Westerners return to the accord, and we are sure they won’t do anything mischievous.”
If a new nuclear accord with Tehran is reached, it will be “difficult” to reconstruct Iran’s recent actions, Grossi said during an interview on Friday reported by Reuters.
US House seeks more funding for aging Holocaust survivors
(JNS) — The 2023 House Appropriations Committee increased funding last month for aid to Holocaust survivors as part of its request for doling out funds.
The $10 million allocation, which was sought by Jewish groups including the Jewish Federations of North America, is for “Holocaust Survivor’s Assistance and Person-Centered Trauma-Informed Care,” according to the appropriation committee.
“Jewish Federations commend the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed $10 million in funding for the Holocaust Survivor’s Assistance Program—an increase from the current $6 million,” said Elana Broitman, senior vice president of public affairs for JFNA. “Holocaust survivors, older adults affected by trauma and their caregivers face unique challenges and deserve dignity and support, which is why Jewish Federations advocated for bolstering this important program.”
She went on to say that “we expect passage by the full committee and urge the full House and Senate to follow suit in supporting the $10 million funding level for this critical program.”
The allocation will also help “other older adult populations that have been exposed to and impacted by traumatic events, including aging military veterans, first responders, victims of childhood and domestic violence, and survivors of man-made or natural disasters.”
According to JFNA, about one-third of the Holocaust survivors in the United States are estimated to be living in poverty. As a group, Holocaust survivors are subject to increased risk of depression, social isolation and extremely poor outcomes if they don’t receive the proper care.
The Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program is a public-private partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living, JFNA and community-based health and supportive-services providers to better address the needs of the country’s aging Holocaust-survivor population.
Israeli Navy sinks Palestinian vessel ‘smuggling arms’ to Hamas in Gaza
(JNS) — The Israeli Navy on Saturday night sank a Palestinian vessel sailing towards Gaza from Egypt, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.
The vessel had entered a restricted sea area off the southern Gaza Strip, in violation of security restrictions, according to the IDF.
Navy sailors ordered the vessel to stop and fired on it after receiving no response, in line with standard operational procedure. Those who had been aboard swam to the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF.
“The supplies on board the vessel were intended for the Hamas terrorist organization,” the military said in a statement.
Kan News reported that the supplies in question were arms destined for Hamas in Gaza and that the vessel sank.
On July 15, the Israeli Air Force conducted two strikes on Hamas weapon production facilities in the Gaza Strip, following two separate rocket attacks in which four rockets were launched at Israeli territory.
One of the targets hit in Gaza was a Hamas military site consisting of an underground complex containing raw materials used for the manufacturing of rockets, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement at the time.
Blinken meets with Shireen Abu Akleh’s family, pledges to ‘pursue accountability’ in her killing
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the family of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who the United States has said was likely slain by Israeli troops, that he is committed to pursuing accountability for her killing.
“I expressed my deepest condolences and commitment to pursue accountability for her tragic killing,” Blinken tweeted on Tuesday. The tweet attached photos of the meeting.
After the meeting, Abu Akleh’s niece Lina Abu Akleh said the family was waiting for “action”. “Although he made some commitments on Shireen’s killing, we’re still waiting to see if this administration will meaningfully answer our calls for #JusticeForShireen,” she said.
The family, and the Palestinian Authority, have said that they are not satisfied with the results of a U.S. inquiry released on July 4. Working with Israeli forensics experts, U.S. observers concluded Israelis likely fired the shot that killed the prominent Al Jazeera journalist during a raid in Jenin on May 11, but that there was no evidence that the killing was intentional.
In a lengthy statement released to Politico before the meeting at the State Department, the Abu Akleh family called those conclusions an “affront to justice.” They joined a call by dozens of congressional Democrats for a more formal investigation led by the FBI.
Israeli officials, speaking anonymously, have faulted the U.S. investigation in part for equating the Israeli and Palestinian investigations that preceded it as equivalent.
Abu Akleh was killed in May while reporting on an Israeli military raid in the West Bank.
Holocaust memorials in Buchenwald and Berlin vandalized in same week
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA) — In the same week, sets of unidentified individuals cut down trees planted to commemorate Holocaust victims near the former Nazi camp of Buchenwald in Germany and drew swastikas were onto one of the concrete slabs of Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.
Near Buchenwald, the perpetrators on Tuesday sawed off the tops of seven trees planted along a road that used to lead to the camp, the DPA news agency reported.
The trees were planted earlier this year as part of a commemorative project titled “1,000 beeches for Buchenwald,” through which relatives of some of the victims murdered there planted dozens of trees commemorating their families across the campground.
The perpetrators did not take any branches, leaving the tree tops lying near the trunks.
The International Auschwitz Committee, an association of survivors of that former camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, called the incident a “hateful and calculated demonstration of power by neo-Nazis.” Police told DPA that they do not have concrete information on the perpetrators.
Buchenwald was one of the first concentration camps built by the Nazis, who from its construction in 1937 to its liberation in 1945 imprisoned about 238,000 people there. Of those, over 40,000 died.
In a separate incident in Berlin a few days earlier, two swastikas were found etched onto the surface of one of the slabs of the city’s famed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The vandals also wrote “Heil Hitler” on the monument. Police are looking for the culprits but currently have no suspects in custody.
Shelley Greenspan to be next White House Jewish liaison
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Shelley Greenspan, a former staffer and board member for a number of national Jewish groups, is replacing Chanan Weissman as the White House liaison to the Jewish community.
Greenspan, 32, worked for a period in the mid-2010s in the legislative shop of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel powerhouse lobby, and has been a board member of the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Women International.
A rapid response member of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, she then went to work for Amazon on its policy team. She joined the State Department in 2020 and recently moved from there to the Biden National Security Council as a policy advisor for partnerships and global engagement. In February, she helped launch Jewish Democratic Women for Action, which seeks to expand Jewish involvement ahead of the November midterm elections.
The White House liaison leads interactions with national Jewish groups. During his tenure, Weissman launched a number of online forums including frequent pre-Shabbat briefings for the community.
Palestinian attorneys protest in Ramallah against PA ‘rule by decree’
(JNS) — Hundreds of Palestinian attorneys staged a rare public demonstration on Monday in Ramallah against what they described as the Palestinian Authority’s “rule by decree,” denouncing P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas for governing without a parliament, AFP reported.
Since 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was established during the the Oslo Peace Accords with Israel, has remained inactive, meaning that Abbas has presided over the Palestinian Authority without a functioning parliament for virtually the whole of his presidency.
In response, a new leadership of the Palestinian Bar Association has recently attempted to exert pressure on the P.A. to change the situation.
The protesters, dressed in black, were stopped by P.A. riot police from advancing in the direction of P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s office.