Israel News

News Digest — 1/11/22

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Magnitude 6.4 Earthquake Strikes Cyprus Region – Felt In Israel

An earthquake of magnitude 6.4 struck the Cyprus region on Tuesday (11th), the European Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said.

The quake was at a depth of 1.24 miles.

The earthquake was felt throughout the region, including in multiple locations in Israel, according to the Israeli Police, who noted they received dozens of calls on hotlines.

People throughout Israel said the earthquake was felt at around 3:10 a.m. in cities all over the country, including Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva, Haifa, Beersheba, Jerusalem and Nahariya according to Ynet.

A tsunami warning is not currently in effect for Israel, the police said.

The quake was also felt in Egypt, according to Egypt’s National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics, who estimated its magnitude at 6.6.

The quake was felt as far away as Greece.

In the Cyprus capital of Nicosia it was reported that buildings shook and sent people running into the streets.    

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus is approximately 180 miles from Israel.



Head Of US Naval Forces Central Command Concludes Third Visit To Israel In 6 Months

The Israel Defense Forces announced on Monday (10th) that Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, Commander of the US Naval Forces under Central Command, the Fifth Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces completed his most recent visit to Israel.

“It was the third visit of the commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command to Israel in the last six months, reflecting the close cooperation between the US and Israeli navies,” said the IDF.  “The visit demonstrates the importance of the strategic and operational connection between the fleets.”

During the trip, Cooper met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, as well as the commander of the Israeli Navy, Vice Adm. David Saar Salama.

The IDF reported that “the commanders talked about promoting international cooperation and strengthening ties in order to continue protecting and monitoring international waters, vital to international trade and regional stability in the Middle East.”

Cooper also met with the IDF’s head of the Strategic Planning and Cooperation Directorate, Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman.

“The visit strengthened the dialogue between the fleets regarding joint activities,” stated the IDF, adding that Cooper “was briefed on the challenges in the southern maritime arena and the economic waters, including Israel’s offshore assets, by the commander of the Southern Maritime Arena, Capt. Eli Soholitzky.”

In a statement, Kochavi said: “Maritime cooperation between the IDF and the US military is another example of the strength of the strategic relationship between the two militaries.  The joint work with the US military will continue to yield many achievements for Israel and our security.  Together, we will continue to face the challenges ahead in order to maintain stability in the Middle East.”

Cooper said his “visit reflects our strong commitment to the enduring strategic relationship fostered over decades.  Our bilateral maritime partnership is built on trust and shared interests in maintaining security and stability in the surrounding seas.  I believe exciting opportunities lie ahead as we strengthen and expand our naval cooperation throughout the region.”



Eyeing Iran, Bennett Says Military Undergoing Largest Rearmament In Years

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the Knesset on Monday (10th) that the country’s military and other security services were undergoing their largest rearming in years.

Bennett’s comments came as the IDF was working intensively to prepare for a potential military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, amid growing concerns that ongoing talks between the world powers and Tehran in Vienna about curbing the latter’s nuclear program may result in an agreement that Israel deems unacceptable, or is in no agreement with whatsoever.

“We are investing in security rearmament of the IDF and the entire defense establishment.  I would say that this is rearmament that we haven’t seen for years.  This rearmament is important for our survival, and I am very glad about it and am determined to see it through quickly.” Bennett said, speaking to the parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Bennett’s government increased the 2022 defense budget to nearly $19.2 billion, a large chunk of which was to be earmarked for planning on military engagement with Iran, including billions to upgrade or procure vehicles, ordnance and more. 

In a criticism of his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett claimed the military had been in a “tailspin” for years, which “severely damaged Israeli national security, in every dimension.”  Bennett was Defense Minister under Netanyahu in 2019 and 2020.

Bennett reiterated that Israel will not be party to any nuclear deal with Iran and will do whatever it deems necessary to ensure the country’s security.

“In terms of the Vienna talks, the nuclear talks – we are indeed concerned.  It is important for me to say and to clarify here in a way that can’t be misunderstood:  Israel is not part of the agreements, Israel is not bound by what is written in the agreements if they are signed, and Israel will continue to ensure its full freedom of operation in any place and at any time, with no limitations,” Bennett said.

The rest of the premier’s remarks were delivered behind closed doors.

This was Bennett’s first appearance as prime minister before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a parliamentary body meant to oversee the military, foreign policy and related issues.

In his remarks at the start of the meeting, Bennett told the committee that Iran was “at the top of our list of challenges.”

“Iran is the head of the octopus that sends enemies and proxies and its tentacles at us, on all of our borders.  We are dealing  – day and night – with Iran and its proxies.  We are making a change, moving to a mindset of constant attack and not just constant defense,” he said.

Israel has been engaged in a long simmering shadow war with Iran for years, mostly through regular airstrikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria and Iranian weapons en route to Syria, as well as occasional attacks – on Iranian nuclear facilities, according to foreign reports.

Israel has opposed a return to the 2015 deal, instead pushing for negotiators to revamp the accord with stricter restraints on Iran and to address malign activity in the region beyond the nuclear portfolio.  Officials have threatened that Israel could take military action to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, even without the support of other nations.



Israeli Exports To Ireland Increased By 517%

Israeli exports increased to about $140 billion in 2021 and hit a record high, an increase of close to 20% compared to about $114.3 billion in 2020, according to estimates by the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy and Industry.

For the first time in Israel’s economic history, exports of services exceed exports of goods with a 51% to 49% ratio, while the exports of goods are also on the rise.

The leading sectors in the export of goods are automation and electronic equipment, products of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and optical and medical equipment.

One of the most surprising countries of destination that experienced impressive growth was Ireland, with a whopping 517% increase, as the total sum in Israeli exports went from $140,801,000 in the first nine months of 2020 to $869,257,000 in the first nine months of 2021.

Ireland has one of the least friendly policies toward Israel and many of its politicians have promoted a boycott on Israeli goods.

Data obtained by TPS from the Foreign Trade Administration shows that the main increase occurred in the mechanization and electronics sector, with $59, 248,000 in trade in the first nine months of 2020, to $732,719,000 in the first nine months of 2021, 12 times the sales in the previous year.

Another sector that showed an impressive growth is “transportation products,” with $58,170,000 in the first nine months of 2020, to $111,201,000 in the first nine months of 2021.

Other export categories of Israeli goods to Ireland that showed a more modest increase were agriculture and food products, base metals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and the chemical industry, medical and optical equipment, and rubber and plastic products.

Irish-Israeli relations have been strained in recent years following the suggestion that Dublin would ban the import of products from Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, labeling them as “settlement products.”  The Irish parliament passed such a bill in January 2019, celebrated as a win for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), but was subsequently blocked by the government.



Arab Sentenced To 28 Months In Prison For Pouring Boiling Coffee On Jewish Passerby

The Jerusalem District Court has handed down a 28-month sentence to an Arab who poured boiling hot coffee onto a Jewish man as he was passing through Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.  The incident occurred a year ago, during Operation Guardian of the Walls, and was filmed by another Arab who uploaded the picture onto social media using TikTok; it was subsequently viewed many times.

Following the attack, the Arabs involved fled from the scene; Border Police gave chase and apprehended two of those involved.  Later that same day, the Arab who perpetrated the attack was caught at his grandmother’s home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya.

According to a report by Kan News, the Arab was found guilty and entered a plea bargain, admitting to having caused grievous bodily harm and having nationalistic motivations.  He will also pay NIS 18 thousand to the victim of the attack.

“The accused perpetrated this attack during a period of heightened tensions and specifically in the city of Jerusalem, during Operation Guardian of the Walls,” Judge Rafi Carmel stated.  “The attack was filmed and disseminated via TikTok which only served to fan the flames, making the incident far more severe in nature,” he added.