News Digest — 2/19/19

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Netanyahu In Warsaw: For Arab Leaders, Iran Threat More Urgent Than Palestinians

WARSAW, Poland — Four Arab foreign ministers who spoke at the Warsaw Middle East Summit affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday (14th).

Speaking to reporters shortly after he left the event, most of which was closed to the press, the prime minister hailed the very fact that 10 Arab foreign ministers agreed to share a conference stage with an Israeli leader as the “breaking of a taboo.”

“Four out of five Arab foreign ministers who addressed the conference on Thursday (14th) spoke strongly and clearly against Iran, saying exactly what I’ve been saying for years,” Netanyahu said.  “They were as clear as possible about the issue, and Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression.”

Netanyahu did not specify which four Arab foreign ministers spoke out.

Asked when and how further Arab states would fully normalize relations with Israel, which has peace treaties only with Jordan and Egypt, Netanyahu replied that what happened in Warsaw over the last 24 hours shows that they are already “half-open.”

“Here you have Arab foreign ministers, who say that Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and don’t say it in secret but on a stage with 60 other countries present,” he said.

“The Palestinian issue came up during the conference,” Netanyahu said, but added that “the Arab officials preferred to focus their remarks on Iran.”



Gaza Militant Groups Warn Of Escalation Ahead Of Weekly Protests

A joint statement by all of Gaza’s militant groups on Wednesday (13th) warned that clashes at the Gaza border, which take place every Friday, could this week lead to an escalation in violence.

The organizations “will not allow Israel to keep harming protesters during the March of Return peaceful rallies,” they said in a statement, referring to the weekly demonstrations that take place near the Gaza Strip’s border fence, which often turn into violent riots.

“The Zionist enemy is responsible for any kind of harm to the rights of the Palestinian people,” the statement read.  “All signs point to a nearing clash, we won’t accept the fact that our people are starving and thirsty.”

The statement was released several days after Hamas stepped up hostilities toward Israel, with the resuming of nightly clashes on the border fence.  Dozens of Palestinians have clashed with IDF forces along the Strip’s fence in the Jabaliya region in recent days, throwing firecrackers at IDF soldiers, who used crowd-dispersal methods in an attempt to control the riots.

Hamas is planning to continue nighttime clashes on a regular weekly basis.  Furthermore, the organization also resumed confrontations at the Strip’s northern naval border, including with Gazan vessels that sail to the border every Tuesday.

According to assessments by Israeli Military Intelligence, Gaza is second place on the IDF agenda as long as Iranian forces are still involved in Syria and Lebanon.



Iran Blames Israel, US For Deadly Attack On Revolutionary Guards

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States and its regional allies, namely Israel, on Thursday (14th) for a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran that killed at least 27 members of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Iranian state TV reported.

The force said on Wednesday (13th) a suicide bomber driving a vehicle laden with explosives had attacked a bus transporting members of the Guards in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

A militant Sunni Muslim group, Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, has claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian media has reported.

“The crime will remain as a ‘dirty stain’ in the black record of the main supporters of terrorism in the White House, Tel Aviv and their regional agents,” Rouhani said.

The heavy losses among Iran’s premier military force prompted a senior Revolutionary Guards commander to issue a warning to the country’s foes.

“Our response in defense of the Islamic Revolution will not be limited to our borders,” Ali Fadavi was quoted as saying by Fars.

“The enemies will receive a very firm response from the Revolutionary Guards like before.”  He did not specify which enemies or what actions Tehran would take.

The Guards’ estimated 125,000-strong army, with army, navy and air units, has acted as the sword and shield of Shiite clerical rule in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.



Why Palestinians Oppose An Anti-Iran Coalition – Khaled Abu Toameh

For several weeks now, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been waging a campaign against the US-Polish Conference held this week in Warsaw.  US and Polish officials held sessions on Syria, Yemen, missile development, terrorism and illicit finance and cybersecurity, as well as “Iran’s destructive policies in the region.”  But the Palestinians somehow convinced themselves that the main purpose of the conference was to bring the Arab countries closer to Israel, though neither the US nor Poland had mentioned the issue of normalization as being on the agenda.

PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said, “This is an attempt to change the priorities in the Middle East so that confronting Iran would become the main issue instead of ending the Israeli occupation,” and called on Arab countries to boycott the conference.  Several Arab countries now consider the Iranian “threat” their main priority and believe that it should take precedence over the Palestinian dispute.

Even if the conference was aimed at creating a coalition against Iran, one would expect the PA to be the first to join it.  In the past few years, the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly charged Iran with meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians, especially by supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  Recently, a senior Palestinian official accused Iran of being behind the weekly March of Return demonstrations, saying, “Iran is financing these marches.”



Violent Attacks On Jews In Germany Surge 60%

In yet another dramatic sign of rising anti-semitism on the European continent, Germany’s government disclosed on Wednesday (13th) that violent attacks against Jews in the country surged by 60% during 2018.

Germany’s government again reiterated its firm opposition to anti-semitism in its response to the numbers as a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in Germany.”

Last April, the German government appointed career diplomat Felix Klein as the country’s first federal commissioner charged with combating anti-Semitism.  In successive interviews, Klein identified both the far right and elements within Germany’s various Muslim communities as responsible for the increase in offenses against Jews.

Additional government statistics made public Wednesday (13th) showed that more than 19,000 hate crimes were carried out by German far-right extremists in 2018, of which nearly 1,100 involved violence.

News of last year’s precipitate increase in Germany came one day after the French government announced a shocking rise of 74% in anti-Semitic crimes committed last year.

Last week, the Community Security Trust – the UK Jewish Community’s security body – published its highest ever annual toll of anti-Semitic incidents with 1,652 offenses targeting British Jews in 2018, more than 100 of which involved violence.

About 100,000 Jews live in Germany, a community-swell in recent years with the arrival of thousands of young Israelis.