Israel news summary

Israel News for 5-2-18

Airstrikes Confirmed
Three US officials have confirmed that the airstrikes against Iranian bases Syria on Sunday were launched by Israel. The officials said that Israeli F-15s hit Hama after Iran delivered weapons to a base that houses Iran’s 47th Brigade, including surface-to-air missiles. In addition to killing two dozen troops, including officers, the strike wounded three dozen others and destroyed 200 missiles. They said that while Israel did not ask the US for permission to attack, it did send cautionary notes.

During the past week, senior Israeli military leaders have been meeting with senior U.S. counterparts, both in the region and in the U.S., looking for U.S. support for stronger action against Iran in Syria. U.S. officials say the Israeli requests include intelligence support.

One senior US official said, “On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top of the list right now.”

The Iranians have said that they will retaliate “at the right time”.

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Revelation Aftermath
On Monday night PM Netanyahu went on live TV and revealed, in English, that the Mossad had stolen thousands of secret Iranian documents that indicate that Iran has no intention of ceasing its nuclear program. The documents did not, however, reveal any Iranian violations of the current nuclear agreement.

The purpose of the PM’s multimedia presentation was to convince US and European leaders to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The US seems to have enthusiastically embraced the information. Whether Trump will decide to withdraw for the agreement will most likely remains a question until the May 12th deadline. The Europeans are by all indications committed to sticking with the agreement.

Former Deputy Mossad Director Ram Ben-Barak questioned Netanyahu’s decision to expose the sensitive information on the Mossad’s complicated operation. He said, “I see no good reason for it. It’s very likely that many people objected to the publication of this information, because it’s harmful. The Iranians are probably racking their brains now, trying to figure out how it happened. They will investigate and eventually find out all kinds of things. I think it was unnecessary. We could have reached the same result without that press conference.”
Regarding the actual agreement Ben-Barak said, “The Iranians don’t want to violate the agreement because they want it to expire in eight years, and then they’ll develop the nuclear program. In the meantime, they are building military activities to threaten the State of Israel which has to deal with them. The right thing to do, therefore, is to say to the world powers, including Russia: Either supervise Iran to make sure that it’s upholding the agreement, or impose sanctions. Unfortunately, we are choosing a policy of bombastic statements that are heating up the entire region, and that’s a shame.”

Intelligence Minister Katz defended the PM saying, “By releasing the documents we are pushing Iran into a corner, and that benefits us, especially in light of the conflict in the north. He [Netanyahu] decided to expose the material and he did it in a good way.”

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Abbas Slammed
PM Netanyahu slammed PA President Abbas for claiming that Jews were murdered in the Holocaust because they engaged in usury. Netanyahu said, Abbas “was a Holocaust denier and has remained a Holocaust denier. I call on the international community to condemn Abu Mazen’s grave antisemitism.” US officials including Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also strongly condemned Abbas.

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Power Deal
Israel has signed a 15-year, $775 million deal with the Palestinian Authority to put electricity distribution for Palestinians in the West Bank in PA hands and build four power plants. Israel currently supplies electricity to the Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is not included in the deal.

As part of the new deal, the PA will pay off a 915-million-shekel debt to the state-owned utility Israel Electric Corp (IEC), while taking charge of the distribution of electricity to West Bank Palestinians. The IEC will sell power to the Palestinian Electricity Transmission Company (PETL) through four plants to be built by the IEC and PA. PETL will own the power plants and channel the electricity supply.

Israeli Finance Ministry Director-General Shai Babad said that the deal, “brings about a new reality in the Palestinians’ energy sector, reduces restrictions on electricity supply, strengthens economic stability…and opens a new era in economic relations between the two sides.”

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Guatemala Moves Embassy
Guatemala has started to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, transferring furniture and other equipment into a yet-unfinished office in the capital’s Malha Technology Park. Earlier this week, the Guatemalan flag was raised outside the building. PM Netanyahu tweeted, “I was moved to see the flag of Guatemala waving in Jerusalem in advance of the opening of the Guatemalan embassy later this month. Dear friends, welcome back to our eternal capital!”

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Kabbalistic Wedding
Tonight, hundreds of thousands of Jews will celebrate the “hilullah” of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), the second century sage who is believed to have authored the Zohar, the cornerstone text of the kabbala (Jewish mysticism), in Meron (near Tzfat), where he is buried. The Aramaic word “hillulah” literally means wedding, but it is used to commemorate the Rashbi’s day of death, during which he is believed to have revealed the deepest secrets of Kabbalah to his close circle of students (a good reason to celebrate).

The day is also Lag B’omer, the 33 day in the traditional counting of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. During that time period the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva (the Rashbi’s teacher) were stricken by a plague and died as punishment for their lack of mutual respect and brotherly love. But on the 33rd day, Lag B’omer, the dying ceased.

The celebration at Meron is highlighted by the burning of a huge bonfire that is lit by many prominent Hassidic Rebbes, with the Boyaner Rebbe leading off the festivities. Thousands of smaller bonfires are also lit in the Meron area and throughout Israel — and barbecue, marshmallows and amores are often not far behind.
It’s also customary for young boys to get their first haircuts at Meron (after letting it grow until age 3), so barbers eagerly join the crowds and do a brisk business — as do vendors of all sorts of cabalistic amulets and charms.

Ten of thousands of people are camping out at Meron for Shabbat. Hundreds of buses carrying thousands more will be making the trek after Shabbat ends. Some rabbis have demanded that the celebration be moved to Sunday night so as to avoid potential desecration of Shabbat by people either traveling to or preparing for the event on Shabbat. But they were ignored. Tradition stands.

Any event that can bring together hundreds of thousands of Jews from different religious walks of life is something to celebrate. May the merit of Rashbi and the Jewish unity at Meron bless Israel and the Jewish People with peace and success.