Help us bless the people of Israel.

Friday, March 5, 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.

ICC Moves ahead with Israel War Crime Probe

by Ilse Strauss

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ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Thursday, 4 March 2021 | Despite opposition from Israel, the US, Germany, Australia, Canada and Brazil—to name but a few—the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced yesterday that the international tribunal would forge ahead with a comprehensive investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians—at the behest of the Palestinians.

Although the highly controversial and unorthodox decision elicited raised eyebrows and widespread condemnation, it hardly came as a surprise.

The ICC ruled last month that it has jurisdiction over the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria as well as eastern Jerusalem, supposedly granting the ICC chief prosecutor the legal right to decide whether to launch criminal probes against Israel for alleged war crimes committed in these areas. And Fatou Bensouda, who currently holds this position, has made it clear in the past that she would be gunning for Israel if given the opportunity.

The US condemned Bensouda’s pronouncement, charging that it seeks “to target Israel unfairly.” Israel went one step further, slamming the decision as “purely anti-Semitic and the height of hypocrisy”—and for good reason.

Firstly, Israel is neither a member of the ICC nor a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. This point alone casts serious doubt on the ICC’s jurisdiction and legal grounds for targeting Israeli citizens. Moreover, it introduces a rather obvious question: what is the ICC’s motivation for going after Israel?

Secondly, the ICC is mandated with investigating the “gravest crimes” as a last resort for countries that lack their own internal judicial system and are therefore unable to launch investigations into war crimes or prosecute the perpetrators. These parameters do not apply to Israel, a country that boasts both a well-respected legal system and the necessary military structures to investigate accusations of wrong-doing against its troops.

Another point that calls the ICC’s intentions into question is the timeframe of the probe. The ICC has set its sights specifically on investigating the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, known as Operation Protective Edge. However, according to a statement released by Bensouda, “The investigation will cover crimes…that are alleged to have been committed in the situation since 13 June 2014,” a date specified by the Palestinians when referring the request to the ICC.

One day before—on June 12, 2014—Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in Judea and Samaria. The event sparked a large-scale manhunt, which Palestinian terrorists in Gaza answered with incessant barrages of rockets from the coastal enclave, ultimately escalating into a 40-day war. However, by selecting June 13, 2014, the Palestinians ensured that the ICC would disregard the three Israeli’s murder and that the subsequent events will be viewed out of context.

Bensouda addressed none of these issues, insisting that the “investigation undertaken by the office will be conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor.”

The exact implications of the investigation going forward remains to be seen. According to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, it places hundreds of Israelis in the ICC’s crosshairs. The ICC tries individuals as opposed to countries, which means that several Israel military figures, political role-players and soldiers may be prosecuted by name. The implication is that these individuals may then become subject to international arrest warrants as soon as they leave Israel.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz vowed that Israel would do everything in its power to shield those the ICC seeks to target.

Israel and the US are not the only two nations outraged by the decision. Late last month, a group of former heads of state and high-ranking ministers penned a letter to newly-appointed ICC prosecutor Karim Khan—who replaces Bensouda in June—voicing their condemnation. Signatories include former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper; former Australian Prime Minister John Howard; former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar; former Uruguay President Luis Alberto Lacalle; and former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.

The letter slams the decision as an “unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel waged by the enemies of the Jewish state and supported by numerous international institutions.” They also warned that moving ahead with the probe would politicize the ICC and thus jeopardize its standing and reputation.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 4, 2021)

Photo Credit: Stephan Röhl/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Despite international opposition, the ICC continues in its unlawful campaign against the Jewish state. Pray that the Lord will intervene on Israel’s behalf and bring this travesty to an end before decisions can be handed down and arrest warrants issued for innocent people.

Scripture

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; defend me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity.


- Psalm 59:1–2a

Israel Reportedly Strikes Iranian Targets following Ship Blast

by Ilse Strauss

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An aerial view of the Strait of Hormuz

Monday, 1 March 2021 | Syrian state news agency SANA blamed Israel for an air strike last night in the capital Damascus and its southern suburbs, an area where Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah reportedly have a strong presence.

According to an unnamed military official quoted by SANA, Syrian anti-aircraft artillery managed to shoot down the majority of Israeli missiles before they could hit their mark—a regular boast which few believe.

In line with its standard policy, Israel neither confirmed nor denied the allegations. However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said during a briefing on Friday that Israel takes action “almost weekly” to prevent Iran from burrowing into the Jewish state’s backyard in war-torn Syria.

Several Israeli news sources said last night’s strike came in answer to an explosion damaging an Israel-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Oman last week.

The MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged vessel owned by Tel Aviv-based Ray Shipping Ltd., was rocked by a mysterious blast on Friday as it made its way out of Middle East waters en route to Singapore. The crew sustained no injuries, but the blast ripped two holes on the vessel’s port side and two on its starboard side just above the waterline, US defense officials told the Associated Press.

Israeli officials ascribe the blast to Iranian sabotage. Targeting shipping vessels in the Strait of Hormuz is typical of Tehran’s modus operandi, with the US blaming the mullahs for attacks on two oil tankers in 2019. The latest incident involving an Israeli vessel has sparked renewed fears of flaring tensions between Iran and the US in one of the world’s most strategic shipping lanes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no doubt who is behind Friday’s attack. “It was indeed an act by Iran, that’s clear,” he told Israeli public broadcaster KAN. “Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel, I am determined to halt it.”

Both Gantz and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi also blame Iran, with Kochavi calling the attack on the MV Helios Ray a “reminder” from Tehran.

Israel will, however, answer such “reminders” with a message of its own, Kochavi warned. “This is the place to reiterate that the IDF acts and will act against the threats that endanger [Israel], near and far.”

The alleged Israeli strike last night came three days after the US launched air strikes against Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria on Thursday. The first military operation under the Biden administration is in retaliation for rocket strikes on US targets in Iraq earlier last month in which one civilian contractor was killed and a US service member injured.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 1, 2021)

Photo Credit: Ewan McIntosh/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray for Israel’s military leaders as they make critical decisions regarding their responses to the aggression of their enemies. Ask the Lord to protect and guide them as they work to maintain the integrity of the IDF while safeguarding the nation.

Scripture

The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them.


- Psalm 34:7

In Historic First, UAE Ambassador Takes up Post in Israel

by Ilse Strauss

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Mohammad Mahmoud Al-Khajah, the first UAE ambassador to Israel

Tuesday, 2 March 2021 | Israel and former foe United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached yet another significant milestone when the first ever Gulf state ambassador touched down in the Jewish state yesterday morning and presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin.

Mohammad Mahmoud Al-Khajah, 40, will spend three days in the country meeting with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and scouting out a suitable location for the UA embassy and his home.

One of the first orders of business for Al-Khajah was delivering his credentials to Rivlin in Jerusalem—where the Emirate ambassador was welcomed with a musical reception playing the UAE anthem, a red carpet and the Israeli and UAE flags waving side by side.

Rivlin, who began his remarks in Al-Khajah’s native Arabic before switching to Hebrew, hailed the occasion as a “terrific day, in which the Emirate flag flies alongside the Israeli flag over the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. The entire Israeli nation is moved and welcomes you, gladly,” Rivlin told Al-Khajah.

According to Rivlin, the ties between Israel and the UAE have been long in the making, developing quietly and behind the scenes for some time. “We believed that if we waited patiently, the right time would come in which we would be able to take our ties a step forward, to deepen the friendship between us, to make it public,” the president held.

For his part, Al-Khajah lauded the US-brokered Abraham Accords for bringing about the “new chapter in relations” between Israel and the UAE—the two countries with the largest and the most important economies in the Middle East—and ushering in an era of “stability and security in our region.”

“The vision which begins today is one which seeks a more flourishing, more stable future,” Al-Khajah continued. “The two nations have a shared mission: to establish peace and security throughout the region.”

The UAE ambassador vowed to strengthen and enhance the burgeoning ties between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, and to make every effort to see the two countries and their people cross the divide that has separated them for generation.

Yesterday’s agenda also included a meeting between Al-Khajah and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Ashkenazi hailed the “historic opportunity to present a model for warm and comprehensive peace between the countries and the peoples…I am delighted to see the swift warming up of relations between the countries and the fulfillment of the vison of peace between the cultures and the peoples.”

Al-Khajah reiterated his pledge to Rivlin, saying his “mission here is to foster and develop this relationship. We hope this will bring peace and prosperity to the people of the Middle East.”

The UAE was the first country to clasp Israel’s hand in friendship after more than 70 years of animosity, agreeing to establish full diplomatic relations with Jerusalem under the Abraham Accords, a peace pact orchestrated by former US president Donald Trump. This made the UAE the third Arab state to normalize relations with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan followed in the UAE’s footsteps soon after.

UAE Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum swore Al-Khajah in as the first UAE ambassador to Israel on February 15.

Jerusalem dispatched a temporary ambassador to Abu Dhabi early in January to set up a temporary mission until a permanent embassy can be established.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 2, 2021)

Photo Credit: Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud/en.wikipedia.org

Photo License: Wikipedia

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for this next step in securing the relationship between Israel and the UAE. Pray for the ambassador’s safety at all times. Pray also that he and his family will indeed be welcomed into Israeli society, giving him a true picture of the people of God and their ethos.

Scripture

“And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.


- Leviticus 19:33–34

Putting the Rumors Regarding Israel to the Test

by Ilse Strauss

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Rumors have been rife regarding Israel’s so-called green passport.

Friday, 5 March 2021 | Over the past few weeks, video clips, pictures and sound recordings have been doing the rounds on social media and messaging apps like WhatsApp accusing Israel of denying entry to amenities like supermarkets to anybody who has not received the COVID-19 vaccine. According to these rumors, access is restricted to holders of the so-called green passport—a document issued to those who have received both the first and second shot—which makes it a case of “No vaccine, no food” in Israel.

I visited a number of stores around Jerusalem to validate the truth of the accusations and put the rumors to the test. First, I disclosed to the manager that I have not yet been vaccinated and that I do not have a green passport. I then asked whether I could enter to do my shopping as normal.

The response ranged from a hearty, “Yes, of course! You are welcome!” to disbelieving laughter that I would even consider the possibility of being turned away. Bottom line? Not one of the establishments—including two supermarkets, a health food store, a mall, a pharmacy, a restaurant and a furniture outlet—denied me entry.

You can view a short video of the interaction here.

It is true that Israel has emerged as the world leader in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, far outstripping the rest of the developed world. It is also true that Israel issues a green passport to those who have been fully vaccinated. It is further true that in a bid to open the economy while ensuring the health of its people, Israel restricts access to certain events like concerts—where proximity and social distancing cannot be regulated—to those who chose to get the vaccine and now hold the green passport.

It is, however, a gross untruth that Israel withholds general goods and services by wielding the choice between having the vaccine or not as a weapon.

We’d like to urge you to be particularly discerning with regards to video clips, recordings or warnings regarding the alleged situation in Israel. This is yet another strategy by the enemy to whip the world into a frenzy of condemnation by focusing the spotlight on yet another alleged wrong done by Israel.

Remember that a short video clip does not give you the context of what is happening. Remember that messages forwarded en masse usually come with an agenda and are aimed at stirring emotions. Above all, remember to keep your eyes, ears and heart on what God says in His Word, not the opinion, interpretation or speculation of man.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 5, 2021)

Photo Credit: Stroyblocks.com/screenshot

Prayer Focus
Thank Him for the prevailing attitude in Israel that supports the freedom to make their own decisions that Israelis enjoy. Pray that this video will go a long way in putting to rest the ridiculous rumors accusing Israel of depriving its citizens of the necessities of life.

Scripture

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!


- Psalm 133:1

Israel, US Reach Behind-the-Scenes Agreement on Iran

by Itamar Eichner

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Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi

Wednesday, 3 March 2021 | Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Tuesday that Israel and the United States have agreed that neither nation will make decisions pertaining to Iran and the Iran nuclear deal without informing the other first.

“If anyone thought the Americans would run to make an agreement with Iran—it did not happen up until now, and I hope it will not happen going forward,” Ashkenazi said in a Zoom call with Israeli representatives to East Asia and the Pacific, stressing that relations with the Biden administration were good and that he has been in close contact with his US counterpart, Anthony Blinken.

“There is a decision by a small forum constituting of the prime minister, the defense minister, foreign minister and the heads of the defense establishment to enter a dialogue with them in a non-oppositional manner, discuss Israeli interests and how to forge a great agreement that will safeguard Israeli and regional interests and prevent a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to exhaust this dialogue in person and to professionally converse with the Americans as allies.”

Israel’s top diplomat also spoke about Iranian threats on Israeli foreign missions after a suspected Iranian attack near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, India, and said that the state was doing its best to ensure the well-being of its representatives abroad.

He also added that he expected Israel to establish relations with more Arab countries in 2021 after normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco the previous year, saying: “It’s not a question of if, but under which condition.”

Ashkenazi also said that one of his ministry’s goals was to improve relations with neighboring Jordan and Egypt, and to expand cooperation with them at the business level as well.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ashkenazi met with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, at the Allenby Border Crossing between the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] and Jordan.

The two discussed promoting cooperation between the two nations and economic and civil issues involving the Palestinians, per a statement from Ashekanzi’s office.

This was the third such meeting between the ministers at Allenby Crossing.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on March 2, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo License: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will grant great wisdom to Israel’s leaders as they continue to forge relationships throughout the region. Beseech the Lord that discussions with the US will bear much fruit, ensuring that Israel’s interests are protected and Iran is kept from achieving its nuclear goals.

Scripture

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


- Psalm 32:8

Germany: Covid-19 Triggers New Wave of Anti-Semitism

by Soeren Kern~Gatestone

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A German flag

Monday, 1 March 2021 | The number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in Germany surged to a two-decade high in 2020, according to new statistics released by the German government.

Anti-Semitism in Germany has been steadily growing in recent years, fueled in part by far left anti-Israel activists and by mass migration from the Muslim world. The problem is now being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which far right conspiracy theorists are blaming on both Jews and Israel.

German police reported a total of 2,275 anti-Semitic hate crimes—an average of six per day—in 2020, according to preliminary data provided by the federal government. The tally represents a more than 10% increase over the number of anti-Semitic crimes reported in 2019, itself a record-breaking year for such offenses. The official numbers represent only the crimes reported to the police; the actual number of incidents is presumably much bigger.

The new data, published on February 11 by the newspaper Tagesspiegel, shows that police were able to identify 1,367 suspects—but that only five individuals were ultimately arrested. The statistics also show that 55 (roughly 2.5%) of the crimes involved violence. This implies that most of the other incidents appear to involve anti-Semitic hate speech on the internet, property damage or propaganda crimes such as anti-Jewish graffiti.

Identifying the Perpetrators

It remains unclear why so few perpetrators have faced legal consequences for their crimes, especially when government officials repeatedly claim that fighting anti-Semitism is a top priority. A reason may be that it is politically incorrect to identify the true suspects.

The anti-Semitism statistics for 2020 do not include information about the backgrounds of the perpetrators. Tagesspiegel automatically blamed the far right. Independent studies, however, have found that right wing extremists have been responsible for only a fraction of anti-Semitic attacks in Germany in recent years.

A 2017 survey of German Jews by the University of Bielefeld found that 60% of anti-Semitic attacks were said to have been carried out by Muslims, compared to 19% by far left extremists and 19% by far right perpetrators. Muslims were also said to be responsible for 81% of anti-Semitic attacks involving physical violence. The survey found that 70% of German Jews believe that mass migration from the Muslim world has fueled anti-Semitism in Germany.

Nevertheless, German police systematically assign unsolved anti-Semitic hate crimes to the far right. In one well-known case, police blamed far right extremists for chanting the Nazi slogan “Sieg Heil” at an Islamist al-Quds rally in Berlin.

An April 2017 report by the Independent Expert Group on Anti-Semitism (Unabhängigen Expertenkreises Antisemitismus), which advises the German government, found:

“Xenophobic and anti-Semitic crimes are always assigned to the far right if no further specifics can be identified and for which no suspects have been identified. This may result in a distorted picture of the motivation for the crime and its perpetrators.”

To be sure, the far right also bears responsibility for anti-Semitism in Germany—just not all of it, as is often claimed. One of Germany’s leading anti-Semitism scholars, Monica Schwarz-Friesel, has noted that what makes the far right particularly frightening—and therefore more newsworthy—is that they are completely open about their hatred of Jews and Israel. By contrast, she said, Jew haters on the far left tend to shroud their anti-Semitism behind the guise of anti-Zionism and Palestinian activism.

 Coronavirus-Related Anti-Semitism

The surge in anti-Semitism in Germany in 2020 is also related to the coronavirus pandemic, which fringe groups are using as a pretext to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Some of the conspiracy theories consist of medieval anti-Jewish scapegoating repackaged for a modern pandemic. A common claim is that Jews manufactured the coronavirus to advance their supposed global control.

Most coronavirus-related anti-Semitism is spread on the internet. A comprehensive assessment of coronavirus-related anti-Semitism in Germany can be found in the 2020 Annual Report on Anti-Semitism published by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs on January 27, 2021: “The number of posts featuring Holocaust trivialization and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories referencing Covid-19 have been on the rise since March. The most common types of anti-Semitic posts relate to different forms of conspiracy theories and among them 53.4% contained Classic Antisemitism….

“Other altered anti-Semitic codes include theories surrounding ‘Jewish influence,’ and claims the pandemic serves the Jews to amass enormous profits from the vaccines, and thus take over the world’s economy, and ultimately, world domination….

“Well-known Jewish personalities such as members of the Rothschild family or George Soros are referred to as backers, masterminds, or profiteers of the pandemic because of their alleged influence on the pharmaceutical industry.”

Coronavirus Protests

As in other European countries, central and local governments in Germany have tried to contain the pandemic with lockdowns and other severe restrictions on personal movement. The extended social distancing measures, which have caused widespread economic and financial distress, have sparked anti-government protests.

Germans opposed to government lockdowns hail from across the political spectrum: this is not a strictly left or right issue, but one of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to protest against what many perceive to be a massive government assault on civil liberties.

Some of the protests are being organized by a small but growing grassroots movement called Querdenker (“Unconventional Thinkers” or “Out-of-the-Box Thinkers”) that opposes German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “Merkill Corona dictatorship.”

The movement, which now has 70 branches across Germany, has organized more than 100 coronavirus protests, which, according to the group, have been attended by at least 100,000 people.

One of the largest Querdenker demonstrations to date took place in Berlin on August 29, 2020. An estimated 40,000 people gathered to protest the government’s coronavirus policies. The protests turned violent after being infiltrated by several hundred far right agitators waving Nazi-era flags.

Since then, dozens of anti-Semitic incidents have been reported at such rallies. Some protesters have been seen wearing t-shirts with Nazi-era yellow stars in which the word “Jew” was replaced with “unvaccinated.” Others have carried posters with the inscription, “Vaccination makes you free,” a reference to the “Work makes you free” slogan placed at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Some have referred to the “final solution of the corona question” as well as of “vaccination in Dachau.”

Other protesters have trivialized the Holocaust by putting themselves on the same level as the Jews persecuted by the Nazi regime and by referring to themselves as resistance fighters opposing an allegedly undemocratic government. Some protesters have claimed that the government-imposed quarantines are equivalent to Nazi-era prison camps. Others have said that after being in quarantine, they now know how Anne Frank felt.

“By comparing the measures taken to contain the pandemic to the Holocaust, the Shoah [Holocaust] is being trivialized,” said Alexander Rasumny of RIAS. “Something like that is hurtful for all people who have a personal point of reference to the Shoah, actually for all Jewish people.”

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently warned that many of the conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic had made it clear: “Even today, anti-Semitism is not just a phenomenon of the right wing extremist fringes. It reaches into the middle of our society.”

The German government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, warned that the coronavirus pandemic is becoming a breeding ground for anti-Jewish agitation: “The past has tragically shown that words can become deeds. Each and every individual is challenged here by intervening and reporting anti-Semitic defamations to the platform operators.”

Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Gatestone Institute on February 24, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: PxHere.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that Germany will fulfil its promises to make fighting anti-Semitism a priority by arresting and prosecuting those who are guilty of such crimes. Also pray that the German government will continue with its pledge to eradicate hate groups from German soil and to educate their citizens to recognize and stand against anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Scripture

Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.


- Psalm 25:19–21a

Palestinians Bemoan Sad State of Economy while Squandering Millions on Terrorist Salaries

by Kate Norman

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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh

Friday, 26 February 2021 | The Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister painted a despairing picture of the PA’s economy before a committee that meets twice a year to coordinate international aid for the Palestinians.

The PA economy was kicked by the pandemic when it was already down, doubling the deficit to US $1.2 billion, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lamented at a virtual meeting with the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC). The prime minister said the Palestinians are unable to pull themselves out of the financial hole.

“We cannot finance our deficit by borrowing from international markets or by printing money,” Shtayyeh pointed out. “This means that we lack the economic shock absorbers that have helped other countries deal with the economic consequences of COVID-19.”

The Palestinian people are indeed embroiled in difficult circumstances, as unemployment rates rose to 15% in Judea and Samaria and 43% in Gaza at the end of 2020, with a poverty rate of some 30%, according to the United Nations and the World Bank.

This is a sad story indeed, made even worse by a few other pertinent details the despondent prime minister left out of his tale of woe.

Shtayyeh’s forlorn budget report comes just days after Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that the PA paid terrorists at least NIS 512 million (US $156.8 million) in 2020.

PMW analyzed the PA budget in comparison to previous years and discovered that the PA attempted to hide the money for its “Pay-for-Slay” terror reward system by funneling it through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to hide it from their international donors.

Also note that Israel, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, came very close to applying Israeli sovereignty over portions of Judea and Samaria (the so-called “West Bank”) last year. Outraged, the PA cut off all security and civil coordination with the Jewish state.

As part of its protest, the PA refused US $1.08 billion in tax money that Israel had collected on behalf of the Palestinians. If the PA had accepted the $1.08 billion then, it likely would not be $1.2 billion in the hole now.

Another sore spot for the PA was former US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut off funding for the Palestinian people, in response to the PA’s refusal to shut down its program providing financial rewards to convicted or dead terrorists and their families.

Perhaps the key to the Palestinian budget problem lies at the heart of the vow that PA President Mahmoud Abbas made in 2018: “Even if we only have a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families.”

Nonetheless, US President Joe Biden’s administration promised to overturn the policy of its predecessor and restore American funding to the PA.

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price responded after the AHLC meeting, “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people…”

Price did not mention any details, however, on how much money the US would provide or when.

A European Union official said the organization will raise 20 million Euros (US $24.5 million) to purchase vaccinations for the PA, as the Palestinian government is struggling to provide vaccines for its population.

Israel too is providing the PA with 5,000 doses, and has already delivered 2,000 of those, the Jerusalem Post reported, and might even vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 26, 2021)

Photo Credit: Sinn Féin/flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the international community will be successful in walking the fine line between assisting the Palestinian people who are legitimately in need and pouring money into a system that pays terrorists to kill Israelis. Pray that the Palestinian leadership will be held accountable for their blatant disregard for the needs of their own people while squandering foreign aid and perpetuating hatred toward Israel.

Scripture

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!


- Isaiah 5:20

Thousand Precision Missiles in Hands of Hezbollah “Red Line” for Israeli Action

by Yoav Limor~Israel Hayom via JNS

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A satellite image released by the IDF in 2018 showing three production sites used by Hezbollah to convert regular missiles into precision-guided missiles.

Friday, 26 February 2021 | “If Hezbollah crosses a quantitative or qualitative threshold for precision weapons, we will have to act against it. This is a serious decision, but one from which we cannot run away,” said Lt. Col. Eran Niv, head of the Israel Defense Forces’ [IDF] Warfare Methods and Innovation Division.

“Beyond Iran’s nuclear program, this is the greatest threat to Israel today. This is the event, with a capital ‘T.’ It is the focus of situational assessments. It is the scenario in training exercises. Everything is geared in that direction, but so is the response. In the meantime, we are trying to act in other creative ways, which won’t allow [Hezbollah] to get there,” said Niv.

Military Intelligence Directorate (MID) chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman recently said that Hezbollah presently has “a few dozen” precision-guided rockets and missiles. Israeli officials are troubled by Hezbollah’s efforts to acquire a much larger arsenal of such weapons, which will be capable in the next year of hitting high-quality targets, such as air force bases, infrastructure facilities and government buildings.

In recent years, the IDF has invested a great deal of energy and resources in preventing Hezbollah from acquiring precision rockets and missiles. A considerable number of the airstrikes in Syria—attributed to Israel—were aimed at stopping precision weapons from being smuggled into Lebanon. In their efforts to overcome Israel’s campaign, Iran and Hezbollah transitioned from smuggling rockets and missiles to smuggling guidance systems. These systems include a small computer, GPS and wing-tip devices to help steer the projectile, followed by a relatively easy process of converting and upgrading regular rockets and missiles.

Israel has never launched a war to prevent certain weapons from falling into the hands of enemy countries and terrorist organizations (except for nuclear weapons). Senior Israeli officials, however, believe the government must set clear red lines pertaining to Hezbollah’s precision-weapons project, as it is a conventional threat with the potential to reach unprecedented proportions. The officials stipulated an amount of 500–1,000 precision projectiles in the hands of Hezbollah as the maximum threshold necessitating Israeli action.

“We must examine and designate the right timing for taking action against the precision-weapon project, in the understanding that it can trigger a broad conflagration,” said former MID chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who is currently head of the Institute for National Security Studies. “Hundreds of precision missiles in the hands of the Iranian axis, particularly Hezbollah, which can cause comprehensive civilian damage in Israel and paralyze vital systems, is a strategic threat that can’t be allowed to develop.”

Yadlin believes that if Hezbollah accelerates its armament efforts, Israel will have to consider a preventative strike to negate the threat. According to other defense officials, Israel mustn’t initiate such a strike, as doing so would assuredly spark a war. They believe Israel should consider “exploiting the opportunity” of a limited escalation on the northern border to target Hezbollah’s precision capabilities.

Source: (This article was originally published by Israel Hayom via JNS on February 24, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/jns.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel will know precisely when and how to act to keep precision weapons out of the hands of Hezbollah. Also pray that the Lord will move to stop the flow of such weapons from nations like Iran who are all too eager to arm Israel’s enemies.

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.


- Proverbs 2:6–7