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Israel, US Team Up to Send Warning Message to Iran
by Ilse Strauss
Monday, 8 March 2021 | In a clear message to Iran, the US dispatched two B-52Hs on a patrol mission over the Middle East yesterday—and had Israeli Air Force F-15s escort the pair of heavy bombers as they passed through Israeli airspace.
The United States Central Command announced the mission in a statement, but did not mention Iran explicitly, saying the flight was meant to “deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the US military’s commitment to security in the region.”
Despite the ambiguity, the US’s intentions were clear.
The show of force comes as simmering tensions between Washington, Jerusalem and Tehran threaten to reach boiling point and thrust the already fraught region into all-out war. In recent weeks, Iran has been stirring up friction with a number of strikes on US military bases in Iraq by Tehran-backed militias, with the last attack killing a US contractor. The US answered the attacks last week with a strike on Iranian-linked militias in Syria, the first military operation under the Biden administration.
The mullahs are also reportedly behind an attempted bombing near the Israeli embassy in India last month. Israel also holds Iran responsible for an attack on an Israeli-owned cargo ship, the MV Helios Ray, that was rocked by a mysterious explosion as the vessel made its way out of Middle East waters in the Gulf of Oman en route to Singapore. Sources hold that Israel retaliated days later with air strikes on the Syrian capital and its southern suburbs, an area where Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah reportedly have a strong presence.
Interestingly, Iran’s motive behind initiating the back-and-forth strikes—planned and executed to inflict some damage, but not enough to elicit a crushing retaliation—is not an immediate full-scale military conflict with the joint forces of Israel and the US—not yet anyway. The mullahs in Tehran have a much longer game and something more sinister in mind.
Iran has been acting out in a bid to improve its bargaining position with the US as the two nations prepare for a negotiated return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Washington and Tehran have been at loggerheads over what a revival of the deal should entail and who should take the first restitutory step. Iran demands that the US brings an end to the crippling sanctions instituted to force Tehran to toe the nuclear line, with each act of aggression serving as a means to pressure the US into capitulating and bolstering its negotiation position. The US, on the other hand, demands Iran’s immediate return to full compliance. The face-off has resulted in what the Times of Israel describes as a game of chicken, with each world leader waiting to see if the other will blink first.
The B-52H “Stratofortresses” in the Middle Eastern skies—the fourth such bomber deployment in the region this year and the second under Biden—thus serve as a reminder to Tehran to think twice before taking on the US.
Yesterday’s mission also underscores the US’s close ties with powerful allies in the region. In addition to the Israeli F-15s escorting the B-52Hs through Israeli air space, aircraft from Saudi Arabia and Qatar also flew alongside the bombers as they made their way through the two nations’ airspaces.
Commenting on the mission, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement: “This flight is another testament to the strategic cooperation with American forces, which is a cornerstone in the preservation of the security of the airspace of the State of Israel and the Middle East.”
As the back-and-forth between the US and Iran continues, Israel—the role-player with arguably the most at stake—keeps a close eye on the situation as it unfolds.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned last week that if world leaders continue to sit idly by, Israel would be forced to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions by itself.
Speaking during an interview with Fox News, Gantz said, “The Iranian nuclear aspirations must be stopped. If the world stops them [Iran] before, it’s much the better. But if not, we must stand independently and we must defend ourselves by ourselves.
“We have them [the attack plans] in our hands,” the defense minister continued, “but we will continue [to] constantly improve them.”
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 8, 2021)
Photo Credit: מינוזיג - MinoZig/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
Pray for the effectiveness of this combined show of force as a deterrent to Iran and her proxies, including Hezbollah. Also pray that the Lord will guide upcoming discussions between the US and Iran, alerting American negotiators to the dangers of reentering the nuclear deal that PM Netanyahu has insisted is a very bad deal for everyone…except Iran.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
Israeli Elections: The Countdown Begins—Again
by Kate Norman and Ilse Strauss
Wednesday, 10 March 2021 | Some 4,000 Israeli diplomats and their families serving in Jerusalem’s 100 embassies and consulates around the world will cast their votes as the first to the polls in the Jewish state’s fourth consecutive national election in less than two years. The remainder of Israel’s 6.3 million eligible voters will wait until March 23 to cast their votes for the composition of the next Knesset (government)—and ultimately the prime minister to stand at its head.
The polling kicks off tonight at 10 p.m. at Israel’s New Zealand mission, with the embassies on the US west coast in San Francisco and Los Angeles being the last to set up their ballot boxes. Voting stations will be open for the next two days.
In a historic first, the Jewish state’s diplomats will also cast their votes in Israel’s newly established missions in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco after establishing diplomatic relations with these countries since the previous elections in March 2020, the Times of Israel reports.
Why a Fourth Election?
This month’s round will be Israel’s fourth attempt to put an end to more than two years of political mayhem and uncertainty. But why the deadlock? And why the fourth round?
The Israeli parliamentary system has three distinct phases. The first is the general election, where citizens vote for the party of their choice rather than an individual candidate. Parties that receive 3.25% or more of the total vote are given seats in the Knesset, with every 3.25% equating to four seats. The Knesset is comprised of 120 seats, which means the ruling party must hold a majority of 61 seats. Because no single party ever achieves this, a number of parties must join forces to form a coalition of at least 61 seats.
The second phase comes once the national votes have been tallied. It entails the president appointing a candidate for prime minister. This is usually—but not always—the leader of the party that won the most seats. In the third and final phase, the presidential appointee has four weeks (with the possibility of a two-week extension) to make a coalition and form a majority government of at least 61 seats. If the party leader fails, the president appoints a second party leader to form a coalition government. Should the second party leader also fail, another election is called and the process starts all over again.
In December 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s majority coalition crumbled when then Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned in protest to the prime minister accepting a cease-fire with Hamas. Netanyahu opted for early elections, with public opinion assuming an easy victory for the reigning prime minister and his Likud party.
However, the April and September 2019 elections and then the March 2020 round yielded no clear winner, no majority coalition and no prime minister—ultimately leaving the country without a fully functioning government for more than a year.
In the April 2019 elections, Netanyahu’s Likud party achieved a one-seat victory over main rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, at 36–35. President Reuven Rivlin nominated Netanyahu to form a majority coalition, a task that seemed like a mere formality. Yet in what Israeli media called a “shocking turn of events,” Netanyahu couldn’t secure the support he needed, sending Israel back to the polls for a second round of national elections.
The September 2019 elections unfolded in much the same way. This time, Gantz’s Blue and White party won 33 seats, with Netanyahu’s Likud scoring 32 seats. While Gantz’s party technically emerged as the winner, Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with “mission impossible”: forming Israel’s next government, claiming he had a slightly better chance than Gantz to scrape together the required 61 seats. Yet Netanyahu proved unable to fulfill mission impossible, and Rivlin passed the task to Gantz, who also failed, triggering the third round of national elections for the first time in Israel’s history.
On March 2, 2020, as the first tentacles of the COVID-19 pandemic began its chokehold of the Jewish state, Israelis flocked to the polls again. By the time the final votes were tallied, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition came up short of the majority, only landing 58 seats. This time, Rivlin gave Gantz the seemingly impossible task of forming a government.
With the clock ticking, Israel about to enter its first national lockdown—and the prospective economic fallout thereof—and the dreaded prospect of a fourth election looming, Gantz and Netanyahu decided to set their differences aside to form a power-sharing unity government to lead Israel amid the coronavirus crisis through a rotating premiership between the two party chairs.
Despite the agreement, relations between Netanyahu and Gantz remained strained, with the two leaders failing to see eye to eye on a number of issues. The apex of the political turmoil was the approval of the state budget. According to Israeli law, the 2020 had to be passed by December 23, 2020. Failure to do so would mean automatically disbanding the Knesset and another round of elections.
Prolonged negotiations between Likud and Blue and White to reach an agreement on the budget collapsed, and as the clock struck midnight on December 23, the die was cast. The new vote was automatically set for March 23, 2021, exactly 90 days after the 23rd Knesset crumbled.
Will We Have a Winner this Time?
As the first Israelis cast their votes, the question on everybody’s lips is: will the fourth consecutive elections break the deadlock and produce a winner able to rally the required 61 seats to form—and lead—Israel’s next Knesset for four years?
While polls and opinions differ, predicting several possible outcomes, the simple answer is that nobody knows. In the year since going to the polls the last time, Israelis have suffered through a global pandemic, emerged as the world leaders in vaccinating its people against the plague and celebrated peace deals and diplomatic relations with former foes—to name but a few.
The bottom line? With less than two weeks to go until Israel heads to the polls, much has changed. But whether—and how—these changes will influence voting behavior is anyone’s guess.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 10, 2021)
Photo Credit: יעקב/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
Beseech the Lord for His voice to be heard—even for those who may not realize it—so that the outcome of this incredibly crucial election will be in line with His perfect will for Israel at this time in her history.
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
IDF Steadily Boosts and Builds its Readiness against Hezbollah
by Yaakov Lappin~JNS
Tuesday, 9 March 2021 | Despite ongoing disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] has been able to stick to an intensive and large-scale combat training program and build its readiness against adversaries, particularly against the most significant threat in proximity: Hezbollah.
Last month, the IDF completed its “Lightning Storm” exercise, which saw the military apply lessons learned from recent incidents on the Lebanese border and the sharpening of battle procedures against what the IDF described as “the backdrop of possible escalation.”
The Military Intelligence Directorate has recently assessed that Hezbollah could, for the first time in years, be prepared to initiate escalations that in the organization’s view would lead to a number of “battle days,” though Israeli officials have warned the Iranian backed terror army that it would not be able to control such escalations.
“Lightning Storm” saw close cooperation between forces from the IDF Northern Command, which is responsible for the Lebanese and Syrian fronts; intelligence collection units; the Israel Air Force [IAF], which practiced air support; the Israel Navy; a variety of firepower systems; and the Cyber Defense Directorate, among others.
It included training with an IDF attack system dubbed “Circle of Fire,” which brings together firepower, intelligence data, the ability to acquire targets and command networks from multiple military branches into a single network.
“Building readiness is made up of three components,” Professor Col. (Res.) Gabi Siboni, a senior military and strategy researcher, told JNS on Sunday.
“The first component is made up of capabilities—these are the muscles—the means and the systems needed to conduct operations. The second is training—practicing the ability to activate these capabilities,” said Siboni. “The third component is conceptual, or the understanding that guides operations.”
Siboni explained that it is critical for guiding concepts to employ cunning and utilize all available tools “in order to unbalance and overcome the enemy.”
While combat concepts have not been affected by pandemic disruptions, training has been to a degree, said Siboni, adding, however, that “the IDF found ways to reach a balance here and maintain the readiness of its forces.”
Those measures included using battle simulation tools and holding large exercises. Despite the challenging past year, Siboni said “the IDF has sufficient capabilities to provide responses to all existing threats.”
The idea of network-centered combat that led to the development of systems like “Circle of Fire” is not new, he noted, but is “developing together with technological capabilities.”
As the military’s combat networks gain new abilities, they are able to transfer large amounts of data on targets to shooters.
Wars are characterized by firepower and by maneuvering ground units, said Siboni.
While the objective of the maneuver is to decrease the rate of projectile fire at Israel, the firepower plays a key role in building deterrence since it “leaves a bitter taste for the enemy for many years, and it causes the enemy to take a long time to rebuild.”
While all IDF operations and combat drills contribute to deterrence, ultimately, the most lasting deterrence is shaped “by what occurred in the past rounds of fighting,” said Siboni.
It is memories of past fighting that leads “the enemy to understand the implications of challenging the State of Israel, and this serves as the biggest deterrence,” he said, particularly when it takes into account the fact that the IDF’s capabilities are significantly more powerful these days.
Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/jns.org
Praise the Lord for the remarkable forces of the IDF and the incredible advances they have made in their abilities to combine all their forces to protect the nation. Pray that the Lord will continue to bless them with the innovation and strength that they need to deter their enemies and if necessary, insure victory.
Blessed be the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle—my lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer.
Report: Abbas Holds Elections to Coax Biden, Quartet to Broker Talks with Israel
Thursday, 11 March 2021 | The Palestinian Authority [PA] decided to hold elections because PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is laying the groundwork for renewing negotiations with Israel and the administration of US President Joe Biden, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported on Monday.
According to the report, the aim of such talks—which would include the Middle East Quartet, made up of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia—is to extricate the PA both from its economic crisis and from the isolation under the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
Citing reports in the Arab and Palestinian press, MEMRI states that the Biden administration recently demanded that the PA clarify whether, after its elections, there will be a government in Ramallah that recognizes Israel, puts an end to violence and honors past agreements. In response, according to those reports, the PA sent the Biden administration and the Quartet a letter claiming that all factions, including Hamas, are committed to “a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders.”
Hamas officials, however, have made statements contradicting that assertion, saying that the organization does not intend to cease armed resistance or to relinquish any territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
One example of such a statement, according to MEMRI, was made by Hamas political bureau head Ismail Haniyeh during a February 20 Zoom conference on the fight against normalization with Israel.
“Hamas is continuing with its resistance plan to end the occupation and liberate the Palestinian land from the sea to the river [while] rejecting any [political] arrangement that will take away from the rights of our people on its land and its homeland or will impinge on the right of return,” he said.
Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/jns.org
Pray that any disingenuous plans on the part of the PA or Hamas will be recognized by the international community, keeping them from entering into agreements that will be harmful to the nation of Israel. Pray that the US will stand firm in its demands before anyone enters negotiations.
You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
Egypt Introduces Judaism into Curriculum for First Time Ever
by Ilse Strauss
Tuesday, 9 March 2021 | In yet another indication of a new era dawning in the Middle East, the Egyptian Ministry of Education updated its school curriculum with a new subject that will allow Egyptian students to study verses from Judaism for the first time in the country’s history, Al-Monitor reported
The new subject is aimed at instilling in students the importance of shared values by studying the touching points and commonalities—particularly religious tenets and verses—between the three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The Egyptian parliament commended the decision. “The Ministry of Education’s approval of the subject of religious values shared between the divine religions expresses the state’s keenness to spread the values of tolerance and fraternity,” Al-Monitor quoted Kamal Amer, the head of the parliamentary defense and the National Security Committee in the Egyptian Parliament, as saying.
According to Amer, the three Abrahamic faiths “include common values that students must study to be able to confront the extremist…ideas that backward groups are working to spread in society. “President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is keen to teach the youth the values of respect for others, tolerance and rejection of fanaticism and extremism.”
After more than 30 years of vowing to annihilate the Jewish state—and facing Israel on the battlefield numerous times as one of its most formidable foes—Egypt was the first Arab nation to officially recognize Israel in a peace treaty signed in 1979.
While the treaty put a stop to hostilities between the two neighbors, the peace was a frosty one and relations remained coldly indifferent at best.
Jordan followed in Egypt’s footsteps 15 years later by signing another peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and becoming the second Arab state to recognize the Jewish state.
Then, nearly three decades of Arab nations shunning Israel’s outstretched hand of peace later, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco all normalized relations with the Jewish state in quick succession as part of the US-orchestrated Abraham Accord.
Unlike the frosty peace between Israel and neighbors Egypt and Jordan, the Abraham Accord ushered in an era of mutual cooperation, closer ties and collaboration in a number of areas.
Morocco took the newly forged friendship a step further by becoming the first Arab nation to include Jewish history and culture in its curriculum, a move that the head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco described as having “the impact of a tsunami.”
While Egypt has not gone quite to Morocco’s lengths, students being exposed to the values and key verses in Judaism—the religion of its former arch foe—and that in a positive light, is certainly a step in the right direction.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 9, 2021)
Photo Credit: Karen Green/wikimedia.org
Photo License: Wikimedia
Pray that the steps being taken by the Egyptian Ministry of Education will be effective in teaching their youth the values of respect for others, tolerance and the rejection of fanaticism and extremism. Pray that they will be able to reverse the damage that years of education of hatred and violence have done.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones…to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
US, European BDS Groups Team Up with Hamas, Iran against Israel
by Kate Norman
Tuesday, 9 March 2021 | Multiple Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) groups from North America and Europe joined in an anti-Israel event in January with leaders from Iran, Hamas and several terrorist groups, the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday.
The event voiced outrage in response to four Arab states (the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco) normalizing ties with Israel last year in peace deals orchestrated by former US President Donald Trump’s administration.
The BDS event was organized by the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine (GCRP), an umbrella organization for groups that support Palestinian statehood and the BDS movement. The GCRP’s slogan for this year is “2021: A Year to Confront Normalization.”
The event took place simultaneously in the Gaza Strip and the Iranian capital of Tehran. The Gaza conference was called “Year to Confront Normalization” and the Iranian event titled “Together Against Normalization.”
Sheikh Yusuf Abbas, general coordinator of the GCRP and one of the coordinators for the event in Gaza, said the campaign “mainly aims to make everyone understand that normalization is treason,” as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.
More than 61 Arab and international organizations participated in the conference, as well as the former prime minister of Malaysia—who has a history of documented anti-Semitism, Nelson Mandela’s grandson and Mahatma Gandhi’s great-grandson, in addition to journalists, politicians and activists from the Middle East and around the world.
Two additional high-profile attendants included Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, and Ziyah Nakhala, the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another terror group operating in the Strip. They did not attend the conference in Gaza, but instead—always happy to attend an international “We hate Israel” party—attended and addressed the Tehran event.
Haniyeh praised the BDS movement in his speech, saying, “We see good results to the work of or diaspora in raising awareness, cutting relations with the occupation and delegitimizing it,” as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.
Another participant in the hate fest was the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Organization, an international organization known for waving “Zionism is terrorism” signs and actively painting Israel as an apartheid occupier on social media and at other events. The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel designated the group as a terrorist organization this year due to its connection to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP has been designated as a terrorist group by the US, the European Union, Canada and Australia.
Despite the diverse group of voices against normalization with Israel, the Jewish state has expressed hope and assurance that more countries are to follow the four Arab states last year who signed official peace deals with Jerusalem. The historic announcement of Israel’s official peace with the UAE marked the third-ever peace treaty between the Jewish state and an Arab nation, following Egypt in 1997 and Jordan in 1994.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 9, 2021)
Photo Credit: Sonia Ionescu/McGill Daily/flickr.com
Photo License: Flickr
Pray that the steps toward normalization of relations and the building of alliances between Israel and Arab states that began in 2020 will continue. Beseech the Lord that growing numbers of such relationships will strengthen Israel’s position at the United Nations and be a stabilizing force for peace in the region.
For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us.
Brazilian Delegation in Israel to View New Virus Treatment
by Itamar Eichner
Monday, 8 March 2021 | Israel on Sunday welcomed an official Brazilian delegation—including the son of President Jair Bolsonaro—who arrived to review a new COVID-19 treatment developed in Tel Aviv.
The delegation is headed by Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and Eduardo Bolsonaro, who is chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in Congress, and includes representatives from Brazil’s ministries of health and science as well as two members of congress.
The promising new treatment was developed at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital under Prof. Nadir Arber, and has cured 29 out of 30 COVID-19 patients in serious or critical condition during the first phase of its clinical trial.
Speaking before the delegation departed, President Bolsonaro expressed hope that this new treatment would help Brazil to control the pandemic that is raging through the country. So far, 11 million Brazilians have been infected and 260,000 have died from the disease.
The situation in Brazil has been attributed to two new variants of the pathogen that have recently been discovered in the country. One variant has already spread to at least 25 countries and has an apparent resilience to coronavirus vaccines.
The second variant has caused a widespread outbreak in the Brazilian city of Manaus, which raised concerns that it is prone to cause reinfection among recovering patients.
The delegation was set to meet in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, while the rest of its meetings were to take place inside their hotel rooms due to the coronavirus restrictions.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the Brazilian foreign minister would meet with his Israeli counterpart to sign a partnership agreement and make a joint statement to the media.
The ministry said Araujo would also meet with health officials to discuss ways of cooperating on the coronavirus crisis.
“The entire visit is carried out according to the restrictions and in accordance with the guidelines of the Health Ministry,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Last week, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen visited Israel for talks with Netanyahu that led to the creation of a joint research and development fund and possibly production facilities for COVID-19 vaccines.
Kurz commended Israel’s handling of the pandemic, saying that “the world is looking at Israel with admiration.”
Frederiksen said Denmark and Austria were “very inspired by Israel’s ability to roll out the vaccines” for the coronavirus so efficiently and could not allow themselves to be “caught off guard again.”
Photo Credit: Gustavo Magalhães/MRE/flickr.com
Photo License: Flickr
Praise the Lord that the nations are looking at Israel with admiration, recognizing the nation’s remarkable ability to deal with the pandemic and the possibility of an actual cure for COVID-19. Pray that these nations will work hand in hand with Israel to bring the same relief to their people, and pray that there will be recognition of the Lord’s hand of faithfulness and blessing in Israel’s success against this deadly plague.
And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.
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