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Bringing The Jewish People Home

Friday, April 2, 2021

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Every week, we post seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel’s most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

Rivlin Receives Official Election Results, Calls for “Unusual Alliances”

by Itamar Eichner

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Inside the Knesset building in Jerusalem

Thursday, 1 April 2021 | The Central Elections Committee (CEC) presented President Reuven Rivlin with the official results of the March 23 elections to the 24th Knesset [Parliament] on Wednesday morning.

After receiving the results from CEC Chairman and Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman, CEC Director General Adv. Orly Ades and other members of the committee at his official residence, Rivlin said he was “hopeful that elected representatives would adhere to the people’s demand for unusual alliances, cross-sectoral collaborations, and professional and dedicated work for the sake of all Israeli citizens.”

Rivlin, who is set to task the candidate best positioned to form the next government with the exigent duty next week, called on the future administration to “pass a state budget, heal the systems and citizens hurt [during the COVID-19 pandemic], and rescue state bodies from the political deadlock.”

Representatives from the 13 parties that will comprise the next Knesset will arrive at President Rivlin’s residence in Jerusalem next Monday for consultations that will be broadcast live at his own request.

Each party will be given 15 minutes for consultations, during which Rivlin will ask each representative for their first and second pick, and another 15 minutes to address the press.

The final poll results as presented to the president are as follows: Likud with 30 seats; Yesh Atid 17; Shas 9; Blue & White 8; United Torah Judaism 7; Yamina 7; Labor 7; Yisrael Beitenu 7; Religious Zionist Party 6; Joint List 6; New Hope 6; Meretz 6; and Ra’am 4.

Neither the anti- nor pro-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocs seem to have a clear 61-seat majority in the 120-strong Knesset to form a viable coalition government, with the right-wing Yamina and Islamist Ra’am parties poised as potential kingmakers.

Meanwhile, the battle for the leadership of the bock bloc seeking to unseat Netanyahu is escalating as New Hope chief Gideon Sa’ar threw his weight behind Yamina Chairman Naftali Bennett and called on Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid “drop his ego.”

Lapid called in response to give him the mandate to form the government but made it clear that he would be willing to make concessions afterward.

At the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s bloc maintains media silence.

Source: (Excerpt from an article was originally published by Ynetnews on March 31, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Kathy DeGange/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the elected officials will heed President Rivlin’s request to conduct themselves with integrity and dignity, dedicated to the people who elected them and ready to make concessions and unusual alliances in order to put together the government that will best lead and protect the nation. Also pray that the media will be respectful and even helpful through this process rather than relying on sensationalism. Beseech the Lord that HIS candidate be installed as prime minister and HIS will be done for the nation.

Scripture

For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.


- Proverbs 2:6–8

Iran Plays the China Card

by Jonathan S. Tobin~JNS

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President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping

Thursday, 1 April 2021 | In the two months since Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, the new administration has been dancing around the question of how exactly to accomplish his campaign pledge to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden is determined to reinstate the pact that former President Donald Trump trashed in 2018. But rather than merely lift sanctions and embrace the agreement that was the signature foreign policy accomplishment of his former boss, President Barack Obama, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were cautious about their public statements on the issue. Yet while they claimed that they needed Iran to roll back its efforts to pursue their nuclear goal, it was also no secret that backchannel efforts were underway to find a way to get Tehran to agree to come back into compliance with the weak terms of the 2015 deal.

Biden and Blinken have been simultaneously trying to reassure critics that they were serious about restraining Iran while also repeatedly signaling Tehran that they will make it worth its while to come to the table.

But while the new administration was trying to work out its policy direction, the Iranians weren’t wasting any time. This past weekend, they signed a [US] $400 billion agreement with China that could decisively alter the correlation of forces in the Middle East.

The pact is a potential game-changer in that it not only gives Iran a reliable market to sell its oil, albeit at a discounted price, but also will involve massive Chinese investment in improving Iran’s infrastructure, military cooperation and intelligence-sharing. In one bold stroke, China is seeking to undermine any effort to isolate Iran so as to pressure it to give up its nuclear option. The deepening relationship between Tehran and Beijing also means that China is backing the ayatollahs against any effort to restrain their missile building as well as their use of terrorism. In essence, China is taking a great leap forward towards asserting itself as an international superpower whose interests in the Middle East will be linked to those of the Islamist regime.

China’s main interest in propping up Iran is to undermine the United States. While many Americans have downplayed the notion of a superpower rivalry between the two nations as a function of over-the-top Trump fear-mongering, this agreement is one more piece of evidence that the Chinese are deadly serious about exerting their influence around the world in ways that hurt American interests and those of its allies. This blow to the security of both Israel and the Arab states in the region is simply collateral damage to a Chinese decision to embrace Iran as its Middle East proxy.

The question is: What will Biden do about it? In the days since the announcement of the China–Iran pact, Washington has yet to publicly speak out on the strategic partnership. Considering that this is arguably the most dangerous development in the region in several years, that silence speaks volumes. An optimist would hope that the administration is merely quietly assessing its options before responding. But given that Biden’s advisers are a collection of veteran advocates of appeasement of Iran, it’s also possible that rather than seeking to stymy this new deadly alliance of dangerous tyrannical regimes, they may simply use it as an excuse to allow Iran off the hook.

Iran is counting on its playing of the China card dealing a devastating blow to any hopes of forcing it to make concessions before returning to the dangerously weak terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. It is also likely assuming that the same collection of Obama administration alumni who bowed to Tehran’s every demand in the negotiations that took place between 2013 and 2015 will similarly give up any idea of strengthening that agreement because of Iran’s stated refusal to do so. It’s imperative that the sunset clauses that would allow the Islamic regime a legal path to a weapon by the end of the 2020s be removed. Still, the Iranians may be forgiven for thinking that with China now openly backing them and demanding that Biden end any effort to pressure into compliance with the deal, the path to their nuclear ambition has just been cleared.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As The New York Times noted, it isn’t as simple as China simply coming to Iran’s rescue. As long as American sanctions are in place, the implementation of the new pact would place Beijing in the position of having to choose between having an economic relationship with the world’s largest economy or one that’s a financial basket case. After all, America’s Western allies wanted to continue doing business with Iran and override Trump’s determination to isolate and force it to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Despite the predictions of the same Obama alumni that are now running national security under Biden that his “maximum pressure” campaign would flop, the Europeans were forced to go along with American sanctions lest they find themselves subject to onerous penalties that would have done damage to their economies.

The timing of the China–Iran deal is no accident. This deal has been in the works since last summer. The Chinese knew that Trump would have responded to their intervention in the Middle East and might not have hesitated to implement sanctions that would have hurt them. They undoubtedly decided to wait and see if he would be re-elected before putting it into motion. They were hoping, as were the Iranians that Biden would let them get away with it.

That leaves Biden with a choice. He can supinely accept the new China–Iran alliance and give up any serious effort to pursue a new nuclear deal. Or he can do what Trump might have done and send a strong message to Beijing and Tehran that America is still the world’s only true superpower, and that any nation that seeks to destabilize the Middle East in this fashion will pay a heavy economic price they can’t afford.

Though it came earlier than the new administration wanted, this is its first major foreign-policy challenge. A great deal—for the United States, Israel and the Middle East—depends on whether its response is sufficiently strong to back the Chinese down and remind Iran that it must relinquish its ambitions for both a nuke and regional hegemony.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Jewish News Syndicate on March 31, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord for His intervention in this very serious situation. Pray that America, Israel and their Arab allies will present a strong enough united front to convince China that it doesn’t want to upset the current balance of power in the region. Pray for God’s protection over Israel as Iran potentially enters this very dangerous alliance with China.

Scripture

Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.


- Psalm 71:3–4

Bahrain Appoints its First-ever Ambassador to Israel

by JNS

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Khalid Al Jalahma will head Bahrain’s first diplomatic mission to Israel.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021 | Bahrain has announced its appointment of the country’s first-ever ambassador to Israel, following the establishment of formal relations in September as part of the Abraham Accords.

Khalid Al Jalahma will head the Gulf country’s diplomatic mission to Israel, the state news agency BNA reported on Tuesday. Al Jalahma serves as director of operations at Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry and was previously deputy chief of mission at Bahrain’s embassy to the United States from 2009 to 2013.

Israel said the appointment was approved after a call between Bahraini Foreign Minister Abd al-Latif al-Ziani and his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi on Sunday.

“The decision of the Bahraini government to appoint an ambassador to Israel is another important step in the implementation of the peace agreement and of the strengthening of ties between the two countries,” Ashkenazi told al-Ziani, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“In the coming weeks, a team from Bahrain will arrive in Israel to make the necessary arrangements,” the statement added.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 30, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Bahrain Foreign Ministry/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for this strengthening alliance. Pray that Israel will welcome Khalid Al Jalahma, another ambassador from the Arab world, as he settles into his new role. Pray that the relationships built will be strong and sincere, paving the way for true blessing for both nations.

Scripture

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.


- Psalm 32:8

US State Department Human Rights Report Returns to Using “Occupied” Territories

by JNS

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Wednesday, 31 March 2021 | The Biden administration returned to using the term “occupied” when referring to the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem in its annual human rights report issued by the US State Department.

Under the Trump administration, the State Department dropped the term “occupied” when referring to these territories and removed the Golan Heights from the 2018 and 2019 reports after the United States recognized Israeli sovereignty there.

That section of the report covers Israel “within the 1949 Armistice Agreement line, as well as Golan Heights and East Jerusalem territories that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war and where it later extended its domestic law, jurisdiction and administration.”

The language, however, “is not meant to convey a position on any final status issues to be negotiated between the parties to the conflict, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the borders between Israel and any future Palestinian state.”

The report did acknowledge Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, as well as Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in 2019. The title also remained the same: “Israel, West Bank and Gaza.” Prior to the Trump administration, the report had used “Israel and the Occupied Territories.”

Speaking on the decision to keep the title, acting State Department official on human rights Lisa Peterson said its authors continued to believe that it was better to assign specific geographic names.

“That’s in line with our practices generally. We also believe it is clearer and more useful for readers seeking information on human rights in those specific areas,” she told reporters.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said America would no longer consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal, breaking with prior policy and with many in the international community.

Israel gained control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Source: (This article was originally published by Jewish News Syndicate on March 30, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Biden administration won’t systematically eliminate the positive changes that were made by the previous administration. Ask the Lord to direct the minds and hearts of the US State Department, leading them away from the underlying anti-Semitic attitude that has been so prevalent in that department for decades.

Scripture

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.


- Proverbs 21:1

New Iron Dome Upgrade Latest Step in Mideast Arms Race

by Yaakov Lappin~JNS

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The Iron Dome air defense system

Thursday, 1 April 2021 | The announcement by the Israeli Defense Ministry earlier this month of successful trials of an upgraded version of the Iron Dome air defense system represents the latest step in a lengthy arms race.

The current upgrade program has seen live-fire trials every few months, designed to test out how the improvements work in practice. This is the third installment of the current initiative to boost Iron Dome’s performance.

The work is being led by Rafael, Iron Dome’s prime contractor, and the Israel Missile Defense Organization, the agency within the Defense Ministry that is responsible for evolving Israel’s multi-layer air-defense system in response to changing enemy capabilities.

For security reasons, few specifics were given about the upgrades themselves, with the Defense Ministry merely confirming that the tests “demonstrated a significant upgrade of the system’s technological capabilities,” and that “Iron Dome was tested in a range of complex scenarios and successfully intercepted and destroyed targets simulating existing and emerging threats, including the simultaneous interception of multiple UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], as well as a salvo of rockets and missiles.”

The trials were held in southern Israel with the participation of the Israel Air Force’s [IAF’s] Air Defense Array personnel—the latest indication of the fact that the IAF takes an active part in the development of Iron Dome, rather than just receiving a final product and then giving feedback about it to engineers.

“The new version of the Iron Dome system will be delivered to the IAF and the Navy for operational use and will strengthen Israel’s multi-tier missile defense capabilities,” said the Defense Ministry. The mention of the navy is a reference to the sea-based version of Iron Dome, known as “C-Dome,” which will be used onboard Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 missile ships to protect offshore gas rigs. These are strategic sites in Israel’s economic waters that adversaries like Hezbollah and Hamas would likely target in a future conflict. In light of the fact that some 70% of Israel’s electricity supply now depends on natural gas, defending the rigs is a top national priority, and the Iron Dome has a big part to play in this defense.

“Significant Leap Forward in Technological Capabilities”

A general sense of improvements being made to Iron Dome is discernable in recent comments to JNS by Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shachar Shohat, Rafael vice president and marketing and business development manager of the company’s Air and Missile Defense Division.

Shohat noted in February that a decade had passed since Iron Dome’s first revolutionary interception of a Gazan rocket heading towards an Israeli built-up area in 2011. Ten years and more than 2,500 interceptions later, Iron Dome’s interception rate surpasses 90%, while the system itself has undergone so many changes that it’s not the same as it was in 2011.

Upgrades include the ability to knock out threats at higher altitudes and lower altitudes, and to strike larger numbers of incoming rockets—a key capability in light of intentions by terror armies like Hamas and Hezbollah to “saturate” Israel’s air defenses and try to punch through them after overwhelming them.

The Iron Dome of 2021 can protect not only cities but also vital strategic sites. In addition to rockets and mortars, it is designed to now take on drones and cruise missiles. The latter have low-altitude flight paths unlike the rainbow-shaped trajectories of ballistic rockets.

The interface between operators and the system—designed to make it relatively straightforward to use—is also undergoing regular upgrades.

The head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, Moshe Patel, alluded to these changes when he stated, “Thirty years after the First Gulf War, which led to the establishment of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, and 10 years after the Iron Dome’s first operational interception, we have achieved a significant leap forward in the technological capabilities of the Iron Dome system. In the three test campaigns conducted in the last few months, the Iron Dome system demonstrated outstanding capabilities against evolving threats, including successfully intercepting salvos of rockets and missiles as well as intercepting multiple UAVs simultaneously.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally posted by the Jewish News Syndicate on March 30, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for this new version of the Iron Dome and for the military innovations that help to keep Israel ahead of the game in the areas of defense and security. Pray that these technological advances will serve as deterrents to Israel’s enemies. At the same time, pray that even those involved in the development of such sophisticated weaponry will remember that it is the Lord of Hosts who is Israel’s protector.

Scripture

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.


- Psalm 57:1–3

The Palestinian Authority’s Terrorist Payments Sidestep US and Israeli Law

by Yoni Ben Menachem

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The Palestinian Authority has decided to pay grants to terrorists and their families through the Palestinian postal banks (illustrative).

Tuesday, 30 March 2021 | The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians over the payment of grants to terrorists and the families of “shahids [martyrs]” entered a new phase after the Palestinian government decided to pay the funds through postal banks to some 12,000 families. The PA’s [Palestinian Authority’s] postal banks are not considered “banking institutions.”

The Palestinian government’s action came after the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] commercial banks shut the accounts of the terrorists and the families of the “shahids” and the wounded following an order issued by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Central Command threatening to impose penalties on any bank that transfers funds to those accounts.

Amendment 67 of the military order issued by the commander of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, stipulates that banks through which salaries are transferred violate the “Terrorism Law.”

The order also warned bank managers operating within the PA that they and their employees will be considered criminal accomplices if they continue to manage accounts of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel because it “supports, promotes, funds or rewards” terrorism, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

The PA’s Chairman of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, said that the salaries of the security prisoners in Israeli jails for March would be paid early in April through the post offices in the West Bank until ATMs are established from which the salaries can be withdrawn with a “smart” card. The Palestinian Ministry of Communications and Technology has already begun to install a network of ATMs in branches of the postal bank in the West Bank.

Qadri Abu Bakr said 7,500 released terrorists would receive salaries for official jobs in the PA’s civilian and security institutions and that they would receive the wages in the same way that government officials are paid.

The PA was forced to pay three months in advance at the end of last year after the Palestinian banks closed the terrorist accounts in their West Bank branches.

Dozens of released terrorists demonstrated in Ramallah last week in front of Palestinian government buildings demanding faster hiring into Palestinian Authority institutions so that they could receive their salaries.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said this week that Israel had cut NIS 52 million [US $15.6 million] each month from the tax revenues it collects for the Authority to offset the amount paid by the PA to the terrorists and the families of those killed and injured.

Deductions Mandated by Israeli and American Laws

Last year, Israel began deducting tax revenues in accordance with the “offset law” approved by the Knesset [Parliament] and following the comparable American “Taylor Force” legislation passed by Congress.

The PA initially considered establishing an independent bank to transfer the grants to terrorists and their families but eventually dropped the idea, deciding to make the payments through the postal bank branches.

Cat and Mouse Game

Paying the salaries to terrorists through post offices is a new evasive maneuver to circumvent Israel’s demand to halt paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

This is a “cat and mouse” game. Israel is obligated to transfer the tax dollars to the PA under the Paris Agreement. Israel does not seek the PA’s collapse and wants tens of thousands of PA officials to receive salaries. However, the PA takes shameless advantage and uses the money it receives from Israel to pay terrorists and their families.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally posted by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on March 25, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Joe Catron/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray for wisdom as Israel is forced to play this game of “cat and mouse.” Beseech the Lord that some way will be found to ensure that those who should legitimately receive salaries will do so but the appalling program through which the PA pays terrorists for murdering Israelis will come to an end.

Scripture

Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones.


- Psalm 83:1–3

Israeli, Slovak Defense Ministries Sign US $175 Million Defense-export Agreement

by JNS

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Slovak National Armaments Director Jozef Zekucia and IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Kulas, head of the Directorate of International Defense Cooperation in the Israeli Defense Ministry

Friday, 26 March 2021 | Israel and Slovakia on Thursday signed a first-of-its-kind, US $175 million agreement for the procurement of seventeen sophisticated radar systems for the Slovak Air Force, according to a statement by Israel’s Defense Ministry.

The agreement, which was signed in a festive ceremony at the Slovak Ministry of Defense in Bratislava, includes the transfer of technology and knowledge from Israel to Slovakia, as well as industrial cooperation. The radar components will be manufactured in collaboration with defense industries in Slovakia, under the professional guidance of Israel Aerospace Industries [IAI] and Israel’s Defense Ministry.

The flagship Multi-Mission Radar (MMR), manufactured by IAI subsidiary ELTA systems, “will provide the Slovak defense establishment with a complete aerial situational assessment,” according to the statement.

“The radar detects airborne threats, classifies them, calculates their threat level and provides essential data that enables systems to neutralize multiple threats simultaneously. In addition, these radar systems will be interoperable with NATO defense mechanisms,” said the statement.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the agreement a “significant milestone” in cooperation between the two countries’ defense ministries.

“The new agreement first and foremost provides Slovakia with high-quality, advanced systems to maintain their national security, while also strengthening defense industries and creating many new jobs in Israel and Slovakia,” said Gantz.

Gantz’s Slovak counterpart, Jaroslav Nad, said that the agreement had made a “positive impact” on bilateral ties between the two countries in the defense and security fields.

“I do believe we now have a solid basis for our next cooperation,” he said.

Source: (This article was originally published by JNS on March 25, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Aerospace Industries/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for another growing alliance, this one between Israel and Slovakia. Pray that Israel will be able to meet the terms of the agreement successfully. Pray that the radar systems being procured for the Slovak Air Force will serve their purposes, providing another layer of security for Slovakia and its neighbors as well as serving as a deterrent to their enemies.

Scripture

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!


- Psalm 31:19