Netanyahu To Meet Putin For First Formal Talks Since Syria Downed Russian Plane
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Moscow later this month for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the first formal meeting since Russia blamed Israel for the downing of a military aircraft by Syrian anti-aircraft fire over Syria last year, the premier announced Tuesday (5th).
Netanyahu said he will fly to Russia on February 21 for talks focused on Iranian efforts to establish a military presence in Syria.
He made the announcement during a press conference with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.
His office said the Israeli and Russian leaders would also discuss regional issues and improving security coordination between the countries’ militaries in Syria.
Netanyahu has met with Putin numerous times since Russia’s military intervention in Syria in 2015, where along with Iran and proxy groups, it is fighting on behalf of President Bashar Assad’s regime, but contacts have all but stopped since the downed-plane incident.
However, Netanyahu has spoken with Putin by phone and talked with him on the sidelines of World War II commemorations in Paris in November, but the two have not had a formal sit-down since July.
Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow joins a number of other trips he is expected to make abroad this month, including to Poland for a conference on the Middle East and Iran, and to India.
Givati Recon Battalion In Drill Simulating War With Hizbullah
With tensions high along Israel’s northern border, hundreds of soldiers from the IDF’s Givati reconnaissance battalion are completing a drill simulating war with Hizbullah.
Some 200-300 troops are drilling along the Lebanese border “against a challenging enemy which has been getting stronger over the past few years,” Maj. Alon Peiser, deputy commander of Givati’s Gadsar reconnaissance battalion, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday (5th).
The drill which ends on Thursday (7th), is part of a four-month-long drill carried out by the Givati infantry brigade in northern Israel. It has seen troops train on a variety of scenarios alongside tanks, Namer heavy armored vehicles and helicopters from the Israel Air Force.
The IDF has significantly stepped up the scope and frequency of its combat training to improve its readiness. As part of the IDF’s five-year Gideon plan, the military has returned to 17 weeks of consecutive training, an increase from the 13 weeks soldiers trained for the past 15 years.
Peiser said, “In war, our troops will march toward the enemy and when they meet him, they will kill him. We will defeat the enemy in the minimum amount of time and with the minimum amount of collateral damage.”
Israel and Hizbullah fought a 34-day war in 2006, and in recent months tensions have once again risen along the northern border.
Peiser, says his troops are ready.
“I hope, for the sake of Israeli civilians, I hope there won’t be a war.”
“The Lebanese shouldn’t try us, but if they do, they will pay the price,” he warned.
“We are ready for war now, we were ready yesterday. We are prepared – you can count on us in the next war,” Peiser told the Post.
Operation Yehudith Brings 83 Ethiopian Immigrants to Israel
The first group of Ethiopians since Israel’s government approved the immigration of 1,000 people from Addis Ababa last October landed in Israel on Monday night (4th).
The 83 men, women and children are members of the Falash Mura, a group whose ancient ancestors were Jewish, but many were forced to convert to Christianity.
However, they and some 7,000 others have left their villages to find Jewish-run camps set up in Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa and the city of Gondar so that they could one day join relatives who went to Israel over the years. Some have waited 15 years to see their families again.
“The Operation Yehudith campaign to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel is a very moving moment, and all of Israel welcomes you,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, adding “I know you have left friends and family in Ethiopia and I call upon our government to bring all those who remain there, to Israel.”
Frankfurt Launches Jewish Solidarity Campaign
The Conference of European Rabbis is welcoming a project launched in Frankfurt, Germany which is aimed at expressing solidarity with the city’s Jewish population and opposition to anti-Semitism.
Posters hung around the city feature a large photo of a kippa-covered head with the main title reading: “Together in Frankfurt: For the sake of Jewish life and against anti-Semitism in our city.”
The Frankfurt Main Municipality and the Ministry of Economics, Partnership, and Religion are signed on to the posters.
In smaller print, the poster’s text says: “Jewish life is an ancient tradition in Frankfurt and is an inseparable part of the identity of the entire city. Jews are a large part of the unique features of Frankfurt – they created the special role and status of this metropolis. From an economic center and a city of culture, the city was influenced by large Jewish families connected to the past and the present.”
“The wounds after the Holocaust and the terrible time of the Nazis also struck in our city and are still present in society,” say the posters, adding that “we can now acknowledge and rejoice that Jewish life has returned to a permanent and important position in the city and in society. All this requires us to fight more for the sake of strengthening our partnership in recognition of their importance and safety.”
The poster’s text concludes with an assertion that “Anti-Semitism is not the problem of Jewish society alone. It is the problem of the entire society, and therefore it is the responsibility of all of us every day to strengthen our partnership and to stand firm and strong against any phenomenon or sign of anti-semitism and racism.”
The Rabbis of Germany (ORD) and Conference of European Rabbis met with Frankfurt Mayor Peter Goldman, whose father was a Jew, and thanked him for the “positive atmosphere” that he is creating for the Jews and for his determined war against anti-Semitism.
Frankfurt, a central German city on the river Main, is a major financial hub and home to the European Central Bank.
January Tourism To Israel Jumps By 11% Compared To Last Year
The number of tourists who entered Israel in January of this year represented an 11% increase in relation to January 2018, and a 35% increase from January 2017, according to the Tourism Ministry.
A record four million tourists visited Israel last year.
In December, London-based company Euromonitor International reported that Jerusalem is the world’s fastest-growing tourism destination.
“The rise in the number of tourists over several years is proof of the quality of the Israeli tourism industry,” said Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin. “I hope and believe that 2019 will continue this unprecedented momentum in tourism that we have created in the past several years.”
The majority of tourists to Israel are Christians [61%] followed by Jews [22%]. Most hail from the US, France and Russia.