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Friday, July 3, 2020

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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.

We are now also releasing a weekly video news brief with the most important Israel-related news highlights from the week to keep you updated and help you pray for the peace of Jerusalem. 

For Second Day in a Row, Israel Reports Record Daily Virus Diagnoses

by Adir Yanko and Yaron Druckman

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The government has imposed a full lockdown on three neighborhoods in the southern city of Ashdod (pictured).

Thursday, 2 July 2020 | The health ministry reported last night that 868 Israelis have tested positive for coronavirus since midnight, the highest tally of virus diagnoses in a day since the onset of the pandemic in the country.

Health authorities have conducted 17,980 tests since midnight, meaning 4.8% of all tests returned positive, an exceptionally high percentage of positive results.

There are currently 8,483 Israelis battling the virus, 57 of them are in serious condition and 24 patients are on ventilators.

Two Israeli have succumbed to complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, bringing the nation’s virus fatalities to 322.

Since the beginning of the week, 2,774 new coronavirus patients have been diagnosed—twice as many during the entire month of May (1,223).

Meanwhile, the government decided yesterday evening to impose a full lockdown on three neighborhoods in the southern city of Ashdod and on three neighborhoods in the central city of Lod.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting that enforcement of social distancing should be immediately increased at event halls, even if it means placing undercover police officers at events.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published on Ynetnews on July 1, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Amos Meron/wikipedia.org

Photo License: wikipedia.org

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord for an end to the pandemic and healing for the over 8,000 Israelis who are currently battling the virus. Pray that measures taken to stop the spread of the virus will be successful and ask the Lord to grant an extra measure of inspiration and resourcefulness to those who are searching for a vaccine.

Scripture

“So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you.”


- Exodus 23:25

Netanyahu: Decision on Sovereignty to be Made Next Week

by Kate Norman

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Elon Moreh, a Jewish community in Samaria

Thursday, 2 July 2020 | Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s target date to begin applying sovereignty over portions of Judea and Samaria has come and gone, the future looks unclear as top Israeli and US brass are still meeting to discuss how to move forward. Netanyahu doesn’t appear to be losing steam, however, as one of his Likud party members announced yesterday that sovereignty “will certainly happen in July.”

Israel will only proceed after US President Donald Trump issues a decision, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis said in a radio interview Wednesday. 

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to hold talks with the Americans, and will simultaneously hold a meeting with the head of the National Security Council and the top security officials as part of a whole host of discussions on the matter,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

Trump was expected to issue a declaration last week but has yet to do so. Top US officials held multiple meetings last week at the White House to discuss the issue with the US ambassador to Israel. No official decisions came out of the meetings, and Trump sent his top envoy for the region, Avi Berkowitz, to Israel for more meetings this week, which have yet to yield a firm outcome.

The sticking point is reportedly how to proceed while drawing minimal backlash, especially after the criticism Israel’s plans have already received from the United Nations, the European Union and multiple European and Arab states.

Multiple European nations have grabbed a microphone to condemn the Jewish state’s move, and a few, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, have even vowed to impose financial sanctions and other punitive measures on Israel if it proceeds.

Netanyahu is seeking to apply Israeli law over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank) as well as the Jordan Valley, which would amount to 30% of the contested region, under Trump’s peace plan that was released earlier this year. The prime minister was given free rein to proceed, despite Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz’s reservations, beginning July 1—as long as it’s done in coordination with the US.

The US/Israeli discussions are covering exactly how to proceed: whether Israel should absorb the Jewish communities all at once or start small with select communities bordering Jerusalem and expand over time. The US has also reportedly urged Israel to entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table by offering them portions of land on which to build without limitations.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has rejected Trump’s peace plan in line with its policy of boycotting the Trump Administration—a policy that began after the president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The PA leadership did counteroffer Israel’s sovereignty plans, offering to restart peace talks with Israel—as long as Trump’s peace proposal is left off the table.

Their offer, which was laid out in a letter to the Quartet on the Middle East (US, Russia, the UN and the EU), would include “minor territorial exchanges” based on pre-Six Day  War borders and an independent state “with a limited amount of weapons and…a strong police force.”

As world powers thousands of miles away from the area in question continue to weigh in and US and Israeli officials continue to meet to hash out the details, Netanyahu doesn’t appear to be giving up anytime soon.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 2, 2020)

Photo Credit: Sarah Yoder/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray again that PM Netanyahu and the other leaders involved in making this decision will move according to the will of the God of Israel rather than capitulate to international pressure. Ask the Lord for His clear direction and remind Him of His promises to restore to Israel the land promised to their forefathers. Pray also that any such moves on Israel’s part will not destroy the burgeoning relationships between Israel and Arab states in the region.

Scripture

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.


- Psalm 121:1–4

US Vows “Military Option Is Always on the Table” to Thwart Iranian Nuclear Ambitions

by Ilse Strauss

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Brian Hook, US special envoy for Iran

Wednesday, 1 July 2020 | The Islamic Republic will under no circumstances be allowed to go nuclear. In fact, the US is prepared to take military action to put a stop the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. This was US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook’s pledge yesterday during a visit to Jerusalem.

“We’ve made very clear, the president has, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon,” Hook said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13.

“The Israeli people and the American people and the international community should know that President Trump will never allow them to have a nuclear weapon,” Hook said, adding that “the military option is always on the table.”

Hook, the proponent and engineer of the Trump Administration’s strategy of applying maximum pressure on the Iranian regime, stopped in the Israeli capital at the tail end of a Middle East tour to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to rally support between these states and Israel for a US initiative to prolong a 13-year United Nations weapons embargo on Tehran. The embargo is set to expire in October.

Hook spelled out the consequences of the UN Security Council failing to extend the embargo. “In four short months, Iran will be able to freely import fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships, submarines, large-caliber artillery systems and missiles of certain ranges.

“Iran will then be in a position to export these weapons and their technologies to their proxies, such as Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, [Shi’ite] militia groups in Iraq, Syria militant networks in Bahrain and to the Houthis in Yemen,” Hook continued.

“The last thing that this region needs is more Iranian weapons,” he added. “This is a threat to Israel’s security because no country sponsors more terrorism and anti-Semitism in the world than the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

There is, however, a positive consequence of the threat from Tehran, Hook added. “One nice thing I’ll say about Iran’s foreign policy is that is has helped to bring together the Arabs and the Israelis…When you see the Arabs and Israelis agree so strongly on something, I think people need to listen carefully.”

Hook met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on separate occasions yesterday. During their meeting, Netanyahu called for stringent measures to curb Tehran before it is too late. 

“I believe it’s time to implement snapback sanctions,” the prime minister said. “I don’t think we can afford to wait. We should not wait for Iran to start its breakout to a nuclear weapon, because then it will be too late for sanctions.”

Warning against Iranian duplicity, Netanyahu said Tehran “deliberately deceives the international community. It lies all the time. It lies on solemn pledges and commitments that it took before the international community. It continues its secret program to develop nuclear weapons. It continues its secret program to develop the means to deliver nuclear weapons.”

According to Netanyahu, Jerusalem remains “absolutely resolved to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in our immediate vicinity.”

Breaking with Israel’s usual no-comment policy regarding operations conducted on foreign soil, the prime minister admitted that Israel undertakes “repeated and forceful military action against Iran and its proxies in Syria and elsewhere if necessary.”

Netanyahu also echoed Hook’s vow, saying that Israel would “do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” Addressing Hook, he added: “I know that’s your position as well.”

Cementing Jerusalem and Washington’s close ties, Hook told Netanyahu that the US and Israel sees “eye-to-eye” when it comes to Iran.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 1, 2020)

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State from United States/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Ask the Lord to give Israel and the United States a clear and precise strategy for ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions once and for all, and cry out to Him for an extension of the UN weapons embargo on Tehran. Pray that the nations of the world will recognize the potentially disastrous scenario for the Middle East and the world that awaits should the embargo be ended.

Scripture

“The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”


- Deuteronomy 28:7

Israeli and Emirati Companies Join to Fight Coronavirus

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The flag of the United Arab Emirates

Thursday, 2 July 2020 | What happened: Two private Israeli companies have signed cooperation agreements with two UAE companies to research and develop technology in the fight against the coronavirus.

  • The Emirati state news agency WAM confirmed the initiative between the private firms last week. “This scientific and medical agreement forms part of constructive cooperation aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic to safeguard the health of the region’s peoples. As a result of the pandemic’s spread worldwide, it is imperative to place the protection of humanity at the forefront of global action to overcome this unprecedented crisis.” The names of the companies were not revealed.
  • Israel’s Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Hezi Levy said that scientific and medical cooperation bridges would be built to address political-historical challenges that would improve and strengthen the health and resilience of the residents of the region. Prof. Levy said that solutions must be found to safeguard people’s health when facing a pandemic on a scale that the world had not seen until today.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke the [news of the] new initiative between the two countries last week. Addressing a military ceremony in southern Israel, Netanyahu said: “The health ministers of the UAE and the State of Israel will announce cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus. This cooperation will be in research and development and technology, fields which could improve the health security of the entire region. This is the result of continuous and intensive contacts over the past few months.”

Context: The new initiative comes at a time of perceived Arab opposition to Israel’s plan to apply its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].

  • On June 12, Yediot Ahronot published an op-ed by Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Minister of State and the Ambassador to the US, warning Israel against its plan to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, saying such a move would destroy any hopes for further rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world. It was the first time a senior Emirati official was published in Israeli Hebrew media.
  • However, [two weeks ago] the UAE’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said it could work with Israel on some areas, including the battle against the coronavirus and on technology, despite political differences.
  • In May and June the UAE’s Etihad Airways landed its first two direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Israel, carrying shipments of medical supplies to assist the Palestinians in coping with the coronavirus pandemic. The Palestinian Authority [PA] rejected the aid, saying it was an excuse for a step toward the normalization of ties between Israel and the Gulf states.
  • A report last week by Ynet said that a shipment of 100,000 coronavirus test kits delivered to Israel earlier this year by the Mossad [Israeli intelligence agency] from an undisclosed country came from the UAE.

Looking ahead: The cooperation represents Israel’s success at building stronger ties with Arab states.

  • The timing of the announcement suggests that Netanyahu is trying to prove that any move in the West Bank won’t hurt burgeoning ties with Gulf states.
  • It is also possible that the agreement is a way for the UAE to claim a role in staving off a West Bank move. This would serve Netanyahu the ladder he needs to climb down and would serve the UAE by increasing cooperation with Israel in which they have an interest.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by BICOM on June 26, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Paolo Rosa/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the relationships that have recently been established between Israel and various Arab states in the region. Pray that these cooperative efforts will only serve to strengthen those ties, and ask the Lord to bless their efforts with success.

Scripture

“The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”


- Deuteronomy 28:8

Palestinians Counter Sovereignty with Offer to Resuscitate Peace Talks

by Ilse Strauss

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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 | Five months after US President Donald Trump released his Peace to Prosperity plan—and days before Israel’s target date to initiate the application of sovereignty to the pockets of land in Judea and Samaria as well as the Jordan Valley allocated to the Jewish state under that plan—the Palestinians deemed it the appropriate time to formally respond to the proposal.

According to the AFP, the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Monday dispatched its counter-proposal in a letter addressed to the Quartet on the Middle East, a foursome comprising the US, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, tasked with mediating peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The PA’s proposition include an offer to resuscitate peace talks with Israel, agree to “minor territorial exchanges” based on pre-Six Day War borders and accept “a state with a limited amount of weapons and…a strong police force,” with an international force, such as NATO, monitoring compliance to a peace treaty.

However, the PA vehemently rejects the territorial exchanges offered in the Peace to Prosperity plan that paves the way for Israel to apply sovereignty to existing Jewish communities amounting to 30% of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley—a process that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aims to launch as early as next month—existing alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state. In fact, the letter threatens to withdraw the offer of concessions should Israel apply sovereignty to “any part” of what the PA claims as “Palestinian territory.”

“No one has as much interest as the Palestinians in reaching a peace agreement and no one has as much to lose as the Palestinians in the absence of peace,” AFP quoted the four-page letter to the Quartet as saying.

This is the first time the Palestinians offer a formal response to President Trump’s peace plan. Ever since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the PA has boycotted the Trump Administration and cut all ties with the US as well as security cooperation with Israel. The PA also accused the US of a pro-Israel bias and preemptively rejected Trump’s “Deal of the Century” in its entirety, hailing it as the “slap of the century.”

This is also the first time the Palestinians express a willingness to sit down with Israel for direct talks after the previous round of negotiations in 2014 went the way of every other round before that: the Palestinians shunning Israel’s outstretched hand for peace.

Two days before the Palestinians dispatched their counter-proposal missive, Netanyahu reiterated an invitation he has extended on numerous occasions in the past. Speaking at a virtual summit on Saturday evening, the prime minister called on the Palestinians to enter negotiations based on the President Trump’s peace plan.  

“I encourage the Palestinians not to lose another opportunity, not to waste another century trying to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu said. “They should embrace Trump’s vision. They should sit down and negotiate in good faith. They should be prepared to negotiate a historic compromise that can bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

“Israel is prepared for such negotiations,” Netanyahu continued. “I am prepared for such a negotiation. And I’m sure that many Arab states in our region are hoping we enter such negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz echoed Netanyahu’s call, advising the Palestinians to rethink their rejection of the plan “and not miss another opportunity for positive change, for peace and for prosperity.”

Judging from the counter-proposal the Quartet received on Monday, its seems like history is set to repeat itself. It seems like Palestinian leaders will once again snub their noses at another opportunity to gain the very things they claim to want, dooming its people to yet another cycle of violence and misery.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 30, 2020)

Photo Credit: UNIS Vienna/flickr.com

Photo License: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that this last-ditch effort on the part of Palestinian leadership to sabotage the Trump peace plan that PM Netanyahu has so heartily embraced will not be successful. Ask the Lord for a move of His spirit among PA leaders that will bring them to the table to negotiate in good faith a “historic compromise that will bring peace,” an invitation that the prime minister has repeatedly extended.

Scripture

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy.


- Proverbs 12:20

The International Criminal Court’s Lack of Jurisdiction over the So-called “Situation in Palestine”

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The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 | Editor’s Note: As Israel awaits an upcoming decision by the International Criminal Court on whether it has jurisdiction to launch a war crimes probe against Israel, the Israeli Attorney General released the following statement regarding the legalities of such a probe.

For several years now, the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been conducting a preliminary examination further to a request submitted by the Palestinians. The principled legal position of the State of Israel, which is not a party to the ICC, is that the court lacks jurisdiction in relation to Israel and that any Palestinian actions with respect to the court are legally invalid. A year ago, I announced that I was considering publishing a reasoned opinion regarding the court’s lack of jurisdiction to deal with the Palestinian request, with a view to making public Israel’s position in this regard as presented in various legal and diplomatic fora. In light of the prosecutor’s recent statement, in the context of her annual report on preliminary examinations, noting her intention to reach a decision in the matter, I consider it appropriate to publish the paper. As set out in detail in the opinion, the court manifestly lacks jurisdiction for the following reasons:

  • Only sovereign states can delegate criminal jurisdiction to the court. The Palestinian Authority [PA] clearly does not meet the criteria for statehood under international law and the court’s founding statute.
  • The claim that the Palestinians have purported to join the Rome Statute does not meet, nor can it replace, the substantive test requiring criminal jurisdiction to have been delegated to the court by a sovereign state with a defined territory.
  • Israel has valid legal claims over the same territory in relation to which the Palestinians are seeking to submit to the court’s jurisdiction. Israel and the Palestinians agreed, with the support of the international community, to resolve their dispute over the future status of this territory in the framework of negotiations.
  • By approaching the ICC, the Palestinians are seeking to breach the framework agreed to by the parties and to push the court to determine political issues that should be resolved by negotiations, and not by criminal proceedings. The court was not established for such purposes, nor does it have the authority or capacity to determine such matters especially in the absence of the consent of the parties.
  • The paper published today sets out my opinion solely with respect to the court’s lack of jurisdiction. Subject to future developments, I may consider addressing additional issues related to this matter.

The paper is the product of a collaborative inter-agency effort, including personnel from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Security Council, headed by the Deputy Attorney General for International Law, Dr. Roy Schondorf, and the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tal Becker; in full coordination with Israel’s senior political echelon.

Source: (Ministry of Foreign Affairs originally published this article on December 20, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: User Hanhil from the Nederlandstalige Wikipedia/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that the court will hand down the only morally and legally acceptable decision that it can make: that it has no jurisdiction in this matter, that Palestine is not in fact a state with definable borders and that a determination in such matters is clearly outside the parameters the court itself has established to function within.

Scripture

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the LORD loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.


- Psalm 37:27–28

UK Labour Leader Fires Shadow Minister over Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory

by Sara Miller

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British Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer

Friday, 26 June 2020 | The head of the British Labour party, Sir Keir Starmer, yesterday sacked a member of his shadow cabinet for sharing an article in which an actress known for her support of Jeremy Corbyn claimed the US police officers who killed George Floyd were using methods acquired in Israel.

“This afternoon Keir Starmer asked Rebecca Long-Bailey to step down from the shadow cabinet,” the Labour leader’s spokesman said.

“As leader of the Labour party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority. Anti-Semitism takes many different forms, and it is important that we all are vigilant against it,” he said.

“The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services,” Maxine Peake told the Independent newspaper in an article published earlier yesterday.

The paper added a comment from Israel police that rejected the claim, saying that “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”

The interview drew widespread criticism from British Jews, who have long expressed alarm at the rise in anti-Semitism in [the] Labour [party] under Corbyn’s leadership.

But Long-Bailey, who was shadow education minister before her dismissal, tweeted the Peake interview with the comment, “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond.”

Long-Bailey’s dismissal was welcomed by the Board of Deputies [BoD] of British Jews, which thanked Starmer for taking action.

“After Rebecca Long-Bailey shared a conspiracy theory, we and others gave her the opportunity to retract and apologize. To our surprise and dismay, her response was pathetic,” said BoD President Marie van der Zyl.

“[I]t is right that after so many challenging years Labour is now making this clear under its new leader,” she said. 

Starmer replaced Corbyn as Labour leader in April, after the latter led the party to two successive general election defeats. The new leader vowed to make dealing with the party’s institutional anti-Semitism one of his top priorities.

Corbyn, a far-left London MP [member of Parliament] and veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, drew repeated criticism for Labour’s refusal to tackle the phenomenon. The party is currently being investigated for anti-Semitism by the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission. Starmer has pledged his full cooperation with the investigation.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on June 25, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Rwendland/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for this action taken by UK Labor Leader Keir Starmer. Pray that his efforts to rid the Labour Party of its endemic anti-Semitism will be successful for the safety of the Jewish community in the UK and the UK’s relationship with Israel. Also ask the Lord to bring an end to the ridiculous and damaging conspiracy theories such as this one that are so frequently aimed at Israel and the Jewish people. Pray that the truth of God’s purpose for His people will become increasingly known.

Scripture

“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.”


- Isaiah 42:6

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