Israel News

News Digest — 7/23/21

In News Surrounding Israel by The Friends of Israel

Herzog To Israeli Olympic Team: ‘Waiting To Hear Hatikvah’ On Japanese Soil

President Isaac Herzog wished the Israeli Olympic delegation good luck in a phone call to swimmer Yaakov Tomarkin and triple jumper Hannah Minenko Friday morning (23rd), moments before the opening ceremonies for the much-awaited Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“You have worked hard for many years to reach this moment, and that in itself is admirable and the State of Israel is proud of you,” the president told Tomarkin and Minenko, Israel’s representatives in the opening ceremony.  

“When you enter the stadium, proudly waving the Israeli flag, our hearts will skip a beat.”



Israel To Join African Union As Observer State

After a two-decade absence, Israel is returning to the African Union as a member with an observer status, Jerusalem announced on Thursday (22nd).

Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia Alaly Adamso submitted Israel’s charter to the continental body, the Foreign Ministry reported in a statement.

Israel had observer status with the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor to the African Union, which was dissolved in 2002.

Israel currently has diplomatic relations with 46 of the African Union’s 55-member states.

“This is a day of celebration for Israeli-Africa relations,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.

“The diplomatic achievement is the result of great efforts by the Foreign Ministry, the African Division and Israeli embassies on the continent,” Lapid added.

“This is a corrective step to the anomaly that was in place for almost two decades and it represents an important part of bolstering and fortifying the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations.

The upgrade of ties between Israel and the continental body would allow all parties to collaborate in the war against terrorism raging throughout the continent, as well as against the COVID pandemic.



36 Members Of French Parliament Visit Israel

A delegation of some 36 members of parliament from France visited Israel this week to see Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and meet key officials from Sderot to Jerusalem.

The delegation came as part of an initiative by ELNETThe organization, which is non-profit and non-partisan, said that this is the largest delegation of its kind to visit during the COVID pandemic.  The politicians held meetings with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials.

According to Yossi Abravanel, Deputy Executive Director, ELNET-Israel, Herzog asked the members of the delegation to raise concerns about France’s participation in the Durban conference.  Czech Republic has become the ninth country to pull out of the Durban IV meeting.  The Durban Conference has been well-known for its anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past.

Abravanel said that for 22 of the members of the delegation, this was their first time in Israel, noting that they came from across the political spectrum and did not include any members from extreme left or right-wing parties.  Jews and Muslims were part of the delegation.  “The idea was to bring the first large delegation during COVID.  We had special authorization to bring them and the idea was to get them here to meet the new government and administration,” he said.

Many were not familiar with Israel and got to see Sderot, a community that has been bombarded by Hamas rockets for decades, as well as to see the innovative Iron Dome defense system and meet IDF officers.  On the second day of the visit, they met with the president of Israel and key members of the Knesset.  They also toured the Old City and Yad Vashem and went to the Davidson archeological site near the Western Wall where they were given a presentation about Jewish history.

“The politicians in Israel took this opportunity to pass messages to France,” Abravanel said.

“The prime minister spoke about the Sarah Halimi case,” said Abravanel.  “He expressed concern about how it was managed.  There is now in parliament a special inquiry to check this.  Two members of that commission were in the delegation, so it was important to speak to the  MPs about dealing with anti-Semitism in Europe.”  

Halimi, who was Jewish, was murdered in France, but the perpetrator was not sentenced due to findings that he was high on drugs.

Netanyahu spoke about the Iran threat and said that Europe should be concerned about how Iran uses the threat of being several months from a nuclear weapon to threaten the region, according to Abravanel.

“Our organization’s purpose is to bring decision-makers to see what is going on here on the ground,” he said, noting that while 85% of US members of Congress have visited Israel, only 10% of many European parliaments have.  

There was anti-Israel BDS criticism of the trip by Collectif Palestine Vaincra, which posted publicly against the 36 members who came.

The group published the constituencies of the parliamentarians as part of a campaign to intimidate them and expose them to criticism.  The move could also endanger their lives.

Some of the members of the delegation who returned to France on Wednesday night (21st), expressed outrage over the smear campaign that they are currently facing by the BDS and anti-Israel groups in France because of their visit to Israel.  They also mocked the claim that the new Israel government represents the “far right” in Israel, noting that the coalition was also made up of centrist, left-wing and Arab parties.



Israeli Air Force International Blue Guardian Drone Drill Comes To A Close

The first-ever international drone drill by the Israel Air Force, called Blue Guardian wrapped up Thursday (22nd).

Participants from Israel, Germany, Italy, France, the US and the UK operated the Zik (Hermes 450) drone in a variety of scenarios.

The drill at Palmachim air base in central Israel lasted two weeks.

Two teams from the US Air Force, one team from France, two teams from Italy, one team from Germany and one team from the UK’s Royal Air Force with three drone operators participated.

Israel had nine teams consisting of two drone operators from the various IAF drone squadrons, including the 161st Black Snake Squadron, the 20th Squadron and the 210 White Eagle Squadron.

During the first week, participants focused on basic training in flying the Zik, acquiring familiarity with its systems and operations.

The Hermes-450 is a multi-mission tactical UAV that can carry a range of payloads, including infrared sensors and pods for communications intelligence and electronic intelligence.  The drone has an endurance of 17 hours and a flight level of 18,000 feet.

In addition to gathering intelligence, the drone is also used to assist ground forces by helping to direct attacks.

During the first week, foreign crews operated the Zik with Israeli operators from the IAF.  During the second week, it was operated without the Israelis

The goal of the drill was to “position the IDF as a global professional leader in the operation of UAVs, and to strengthen learning and cooperation between air forces.” the IDF said.

Drones played an integral part in Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, with most taking off from Palmachim.  About 643 missions were made by drones, totaling 132.6 flight hours during the 11-day conflict with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

“Israel is a leader in the field of remotely manned aircraft, and the missions of these aircraft are constantly evolving and are complex,” a recent press release said.

The IAF has been training the countries that have purchased Israeli drones for years, but “it wasn’t enough,” so the IAF decided to hold an international drill, a senior IAF officer said.

“The Air Force takes part in many exercises alongside forces from countries around the world to prepare itself for a wide range of scenarios, strengthen professional ties and share operational knowledge,” the IAF said.

The threat posed by Iran has allowed the IAF to take part in drills with countries that have recently normalized ties with Israel, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the Iniohos exercise in Greece in April, a senior IAF officer said.



Iranian American Journalist Targeted In Iran Kidnap Plot: “I Would Love To Visit Israel” – Jacob Magid 

Iranian American journalist Masih Alinejad, whom Iran sought to kidnap from US soil last year, told the Times of Israel: “I would love to visit Israel.  I’m sure that saying this will lead to more threats against me and my family, but someone should take a step, break this taboo and speak up against this hate propagated by the regime.”

Referring to the Iranian plot against her, she said: “This whole kidnapping story is a challenge from the Islamic Republic to the US government.  If the US keeps silent, then it is a signal to Iran, and they’ll come after more citizens on American soil.”  She added: “This regime, which kills its own citizens – do you think you can trust them?  That you can talk to them?  That you can have a deal with this regime, without asking them to respect human rights?”

“In Iran, my brother has been arrested and remains in jail due to my activism.  Newly elected President Ibrahim Raisi was the head of the judiciary when my brother got arrested because of my activities,” said Masih.

She insists that the Khameini and Raisi government is not representative of the majority of Iranians, “who do not view the US and Israel as the enemy.”



Israel Could Have Personal Electric Flying Vehicles Within Years

As the transportation industry is racing towards an all-electric future, Israeli aerospace manufacturer AIR unveiled on Wednesday (21st) a plan for a personal electric flying vehicle for the consumer market.

The vehicle is designed for private urban air mobility.  That type of aircraft uses electric propulsion to take off, hover, and land vertically.  It also has minimal impact on the environment.

“Everybody wants to fly, and with AIR, they finally can,” AIR CEO and Co-Founder Rani Plaut said.  “We are creating fun and functional personal airEVs (air electric vehicles) that blaze the path towards a new era of air mobility accessible to everyone.”

According to a statement, the company plans to begin rollout in 2024, “giving everyone the freedom to fly.”