News Digest — 6/21/22

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Israel’s Parliament To Dissolve, FM Lapid To Become Prime Minister

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have agreed to dissolve parliament, triggering a new election, and Lapid will in the meantime take over as prime minister, an official said confirming local media reports.

A vote will be held in parliament next week, after which Lapid will take over the premiership, the official said.  The next elections, Israel’s fifth in three years, are expected to take place in the fall, after the Jewish holidays, most likely on October 25.

Bennett’s government was sworn in last June after four deadlocked elections.  With a razor-thin parliamentary majority and divided on major policy issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and state and religious issues, the eight-faction alliance began to fracture when a handful of members abandoned the coalition.

A poll held last week by Channel 12 News found that 56% of Israelis believe that Bennett’s government should not “continue to exist” and only 35% still support it.



Terrorist Activity On Decline In Judea And Samaria

A month and a half after the gruesome Independence Day attack in Elad, terrorist activity and security warnings in Judea and Samaria are on the decline.

While Operation Breakwater in Northern Samaria, launched to quell the wave of terror that began in March is ongoing, there are no plans for another massive movement of troops at this time.  Nevertheless, IDF officials understand that the relative quiet does not mean terrorist elements have lost interest in carrying out the kind of attack that would destabilize the situation.

At the same time, the defense system is focusing on repairing the separation fence and finding solutions for undocumented and unemployed Palestinians in the understanding that stagnation could lead to volatility.  Many workers, some of whom have entry permits, have grown accustomed to crossing easily into Israel through the many holes in the separation fence.  When the separation fence is completely repaired, it will not be as easy for workers, as they will have to find their way to the security crossings into Israel to get to work. 

With the poor state of the Palestinian economy, the fact that Palestinian academics are having difficulty finding work, and the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic; these alone are the kinds of issues that might lead some people to carry out an attack.  The emphasis in Israel, therefore, is on finding a solution for those who need work.

In recent weeks, the number of authorized workers entering Israeli cities through the security crossings has spiked by over 10% a week.  Defense officials say that 80% of entry permits are in use, and an effort is being made to authorize the entry of thousands of workers.  To date, 98,000 Palestinians have permits to work inside the Green Line, in addition to 39,000 who have permits to work in communities in Judea and Samaria.

The flow of IDF forces to the region and the repair of holes in the separation fence has led to a sharp drop in the number of undocumented Palestinians entering Israeli cities.  However this has led to the rebirth of a troubling phenomenon that sees undocumented Palestinians hiding inside vehicles entering Israeli cities.  This tactic was popular immediately upon the erection of  the separation fence and is now gaining in popularity.  Security officials are concerned some of those sneaking into the country could be terrorists.



For First Time In 10 Years, Egyptian Trade Delegation Arrives In Israel

For the first time in approximately a decade, a delegation of senior Egyptian industrialists operating within the framework of the QIZ (Qualifying Industrial Zone) agreement between Israel, Egypt and the U.S., arrived in Israel on Sunday (19th) for several days of meetings.

The Egyptian delegation includes 12 industrialists and businesspeople in the field of textiles and clothing who are meeting with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Economy and Industry, the Manufacturers Association, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, and the Export Institute.

The delegation members will also visit industrial plants and meet with Israeli companies and businesspeople.

The visit of the Egyptian delegation was initiated by the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other official bodies “with the goal of increasing cooperation and trade volume between Israel and Egypt over the coming years,” the Foreign Ministry stated Monday(20th).

The Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) is a preferential trade zone agreement signed in 2004 and facilitates the export of duty and tax-free products from Egypt to the U.S. as long as the Egyptian product includes 10.5 percent worth of inputs originating from Israel.

The Egyptian delegations arrived after having visited a delegation of economic organizations from Israel at the QIZ Conference in Cairo at the end of May.

This visit is “another step in the warming of economic civilian ties with Egypt, which follows a government decision to promote tangible moves to increase trade with Egypt and remove bureaucratic barriers,” the Ministry noted.

Egypt is considered a significant trading partner for Israel in the Middle East.

The volume of trade between the countries stood at $330 million in 2021.  The spectrum of exports from Israel to Egypt primarily includes textiles and associated products, 78%, chemicals and chemical industry products, 11%, and rubber and plastics at 8%, totaling $120 million.

Imports from Egypt include chemicals and chemical industry products, 32%, fresh agricultural produce, and food products, 27%, and electrical and mechanical machinery, 17%, totaling $210 million.



Concerns Rise For Safety Of Israeli Tourists In The UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt

There is an increasing concern in the Israeli security establishment regarding the safety of Israelis in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt, as the Iranian threat to Israelis in Turkey refuses to ebb, Channel 13 News reported Sunday (19th).

Citing unnamed Israeli security officials, the report said that while the threat to Israeli tourists in the Gulf and across the Middle East is not concrete, it could become so very soon, especially if “Tehran gets desperate.”

Iran is seeking to retaliate for the mysterious recent deaths of Iranian scientists and top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, which the regime blames on Israel.

Last week, Turkish media outlets exposed an Iranian ring that had planned to carry out attacks against Israelis in the country, particularly in Istanbul – a favorite destination for Israelis.

Israel’s National Security Council Counterterrorism Bureau raised its travel warning for Istanbul to the highest level possible last week.  The level 4 travel advisory stipulates that Israelis should not travel to Istanbul, while any Israelis currently there should leave immediately.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said over the weekend that Israel had obtained intelligence that several Iranian terror squads were actively trying to “hunt Israelis” through social media or identify them at major tourist sites in Istanbul.

“Israel is working to foil the Iranians’ attempts to carry out an attack and is preparing to respond with force in the face of any threat to Israeli citizens everywhere,” he said.

“Anyone targeting Israelis abroad will pay a price,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Sunday (19th), during the weekly Cabinet meeting.  “We are witnessing Iranian attempts to harm Israelis overseas.  Israel’s defense establishment is working to stop terrorist attacks before they can be carried out.  We will continue to target those who send terrorists and those behind them, as well.

“We have a new rule – if you send them [terrorists] you will pay the price,” the prime minister asserted.



Iran Gives Up Demand To Remove Revolutionary Guards From U.S. Blacklist

Iran has agreed to relinquish its demand for the Revolutionary Guards to be removed from Washington’s terrorism blacklist in return for a relief in sanctions, the Qatar-linked Middle East Eye news site reported on Monday (20th) citing unnamed Iranian sources.

Last month, President Joe Biden cemented his decision to keep the IRGC on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, essentially ending talks to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal.

However, according to the report, Tehran has now dropped the demand and is instead calling on Washington to lift sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards’ economic arm, the Khatam-al Anbiya Central Headquarters.  

The U.S. did not respond to a request for comment from a London-based outlet but recent statements suggest that it will not back Iran’s latest proposal. 

Further, Iran is considering a U.S. demand to issue a public declaration saying it would refrain from targeting senior American officials.

However, Iran is unlikely to agree to such a concession, out of fear the regime would be accused of hypocrisy after publicly vowing to avenge the U.S.’s targeted killing of Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani.

“It would be very costly for the conservative government of President Ebrahim Raisi to declare that they have reached a deal over not killing U.S. officials including former ones,” a source told the news site.

“This would be against their previous promise that killers of the slain Quds commander Qassem Soleimani would be pursued.”



Will Rain In Summer Soon Be The Norm In Israel?

With its warm Mediterranean climate, Israel rarely gets any rain in summer.  However, researchers examining precipitation patterns in Israel over the last century or so say that in the future, the country will experience rainfall in July and August.

An analysis of rainy days in the country going back as far as 1860 indicates that Israel’s rainy season has gradually shifted to both start and end later on in the year.  If at one point in time, the rainy season ended in March, it now ends in April and May.  This year the rainy season continued until June, leading researchers to conclude that in the future, it will continue into the summer months.

The research was carried out within the framework of the first-ever hackathon hosted by Bl-Elad Data.

Researchers said, “From the analysis of Israel Meteorological Service data and documentation of rainy days from 1860 to the present, one can see a clear trend of a delay in the first rainy day, from the 222nd day of the Gregorian Calendar in the first year when measurements were taken [1860] to the 269th day of the current year.  The last day of rain has also changed, from the 127th day to the 205th day of the year.

“It turns out that the climate in Israel is moving and changing, with the warmer months coming later, around September, and both the starting and ending points of the rainy days changing throughout the year.  This is all part of a global shift,” said the researchers.