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Friday, November 27, 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.

Israel and the Saudis’ Secret Meet-up

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 | What happened: Israeli media reports suggest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

  • The reports emerged after Avi Scharf in Haaretz published aviation tracking data of a private jet that made a rare trip between Tel Aviv and Neom in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
  • The flight remained on the ground for about two hours and returned to Israel at around half past midnight. It is the same private plane that Netanyahu has used several times for his visits to Russia.
  • It is thought that Netanyahu was accompanied by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen. According to Israeli media, neither Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi nor Defense Minister Benny Gantz were told about the trip.
  • Pompeo and MBS were already scheduled to meet in Neom on Sunday. Pompeo tweeted earlier: “Pleasure to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Our security and economic partnership is strong and we’ll continue to harness it to advance efforts to counter malign Iranian influence in the Gulf, economic goals under the Vision 2030 plan, and human rights reform.”

Context: Saudi Arabia has been supportive of Israel’s normalization agreements with UAE and Bahrain but is thought not to be ready to endorse their own relationship publicly.

  • Normalization with Saudi Arabia would be the most significant development of all. So far, the Saudi monarchy have stuck to conventional thinking that normalization must include significant progress towards a Palestinian state. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said he has “supported normalization with Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: a permanent and full peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians”.
  • Since the Israeli–UAE peace deal, Saudi Arabia will now allow Israeli airliners to use its airspace for commercial travel.
  • Pompeo was in Israel last week and has continued to tour the region. The meeting with MBS and Netanyahu likely focused on their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and its support of proxy militias in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria as well as the prospect of formal Israeli–Saudi ties.
  • Covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia have developed in recent years. The young crown prince is believed to be keen to further develop ties, while his father, King Salman remains more cautious.

Looking ahead: The meeting is primarily a signal to Iran about the growing alliance between Israel and moderate Arab states.

Source: (Excerpt from an article was originally published by BICOM on November 23, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Kremlin.ru/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for the ongoing developments between Israel and the Arab states. Ask the Lord for his guidance as PM Netanyahu works to establish relations with Saudi Arabia, bringing further stability to the region and presenting a formidable, united front to Iran.

Scripture

When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.


- Proverbs 16:7

Pompeo Wraps Up Eventful Visit to Israel

by Ilse Strauss

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Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria express their gratitude to Pompeo.

Friday, 20 November 2020 | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday wrapped up a highly eventful visit to Israel filled with unprecedented stops, groundbreaking statements and landmark announcements.

The US secretary of state’s three-day stop in the Jewish state—part of a 10-day diplomatic journey across Europe and the Middle East—kicked off on Thursday morning with a meeting and joint press statement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which served as the stage for Pompeo’s first momentous declaration of the day.

Dealing a potentially fatal blow to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, Pompeo told the press: “Today I want to make one announcement with respect to a decision by the State Department that we will regard the global anti-Israel BDS campaign as anti-Semitic.”

Slamming BDS as a “cancer,” Pompeo vowed to immediately crack down on groups affiliated with the movement and “withdraw US government support for such groups. The time is right.”

Netanyahu hailed the decision as “simply wonderful.”

Pompeo later released a statement ratifying the announcement, adding that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

Following the press conference—and some sightseeing at the City of David archeological site—Pompeo left Jerusalem for the Psagot Winery tucked into the hills of Samaria, marking the first time in US history that a secretary of state visited so-called contested territory under Israeli control during an official trip.

Since 1967, all US leaders—bar the Trump administration—have treated Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights as contested territory, and purposefully steered clear of these areas for fear of eliciting a political firestorm.

“It is a blessing to be here in Judea and Samaria,” Pompeo wrote in the Psagot visitor’s book, opting to use the biblical name for what the world calls the “West Bank,” the Times of Israel reports.

“May I not be the last Secretary of State to visit this beautiful land,” he added.

The US secretary of state’s historic visit comes a year after he scrapped a 1978 State Department legal opinion deeming Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as “inconsistent with international law” and 10 months after the Trump peace plan gave Israel the nod of approval to apply sovereignty to nearly 30% of Judea and Samaria, while the remaining 70% would be earmarked for a future Palestinian state.

Then, in yet another historic first, Pompeo made his way to the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that Syria claims as its own, as the first US secretary of state to visit the contested area since President Donald Trump announced that the US would break with decades of tradition to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in March last year.

Touring the plateau aboard a Blackhawk helicopter, Pompeo lauded his president’s decision. “You can’t…stare out at what’s across the border and deny the central thing that President Donald Trump recognized…Imagine with [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad in control of this place, the risk of the harm to the West and to Israel.”

Peering out over the Golan Heights, Pompeo affirmed: “This is a part of Israel and [a] central part of Israel.”

With the day almost done and the US secretary of state preparing to jet off to his next destination, Pompeo had one more landmark announcement to make.

Breaking with a longstanding policy, Pompeo said in a statement that Israeli goods produced in Judea and Samaria should henceforth be labelled as “Israel,” “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel” as opposed to “Made in the West Bank” when exporting such goods to the US.

“Today, the Department of State is initiating new guidelines to ensure that country of origin markings of Israeli and Palestinian goods are consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach,” the statement read.

The US policy requiring goods produced in Judea and Samaria to be marked as “Made in the West Bank” has been in force since 1967. The Obama Administration reinforced the directive in 2016, warning that any products labelled as “Made in Israel” would be liable for fines.

During his joint press conference with the Israeli prime minister earlier on Thursday morning, Pompeo hailed the warm friendship between Israel and the US. “President Trump, I know, is proud of the work that we have done alongside of you,” he told Netanyahu. “We’ve done incredible things; it’s remarkable.”

Pompeo is right. The list of “incredible things” achieved is indeed a long one, including US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a US embassy in the City of Gold, to name but two. But perhaps yesterday’s visit from the US secretary of state, the symbolic stops and the landmark announcements will go down as yet another incredible thing in Israel and the US’s friendship.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 20, 2020)

Photo Credit: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord for Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Israel “filled with unprecedented stops and landmark announcements.” Pray that his declarations will stand the test of time. Beseech the Lord for His blessing on Pompeo, President Trump and other US leaders who have been steadfast in their support for Israel, and pray that support will continue well into the future.

Scripture

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.


- Psalm 31:19–20

Iran Warns of “Crushing Response” to Attacks in Syria

by Joshua Spurlock

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Tehran

Monday, 23 November 2020 | With Israel reportedly striking more Iranian targets in Syria over the weekend, Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued another threat against Israel and anyone else interested in disrupting Iranian actions in Israel’s northern neighbor.

While simultaneously claiming that Iran’s presence in Syria is merely “advisory,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh issued a blanket warning—in comments published by the Fars News Agency on Sunday—that “if anyone distorts this presence [in Syria], he/she will receive a crushing response.”

The threat from Iran’s diplomatic corps comes as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported another air strike over the weekend killed 14 militants aligned with Iran. The report said the attack was believed to be launched by Israel, although as of Sunday, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] had not claimed official responsibility publicly. Positions of pro-Iranian militia allegedly from Afghanistan and Iraq were the apparent target of the latest hit. In addition to those killed, the report said that other militants were seriously injured and the death toll could rise.

After the air strike, Iran made it clear their long-term vision was ongoing conflict in their fronts with Israel. Spokesman Khatibzadeh claimed “the aggressive character” of Israel “cannot be treated and the only way against it is 100% resistance in all fronts…[in which] the regime attempts to foment tumult.”

He was quoted by Fars as referring to Israel as the Jerusalem “occupying regime”—again denying Israel’s legitimate claim to their historical capital—and then saying Israel “knows that the hit-and-run era ended long time ago and it moves cautiously.”

Those claims that Israel was being hesitant to combat Iran appeared out of touch with recent events, as the weekend air assault comes just days after Israel publicly took responsibility for striking Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria.

IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said on Twitter the IDF attack was “in response to IEDs [improvised explosive devices] placed against our troops” and that they “hold the Syrian regime and Iran responsible.”

Separately, the IDF Twitter feed confirmed that not only was Iran behind the most recent explosive device plot on the Syrian border, it was responsible for one a few months ago as well.

“Iran, we’re watching you. IDF intel can confirm that the Iranian Quds Force Unit 840, which is part of Iran’s global network of terror, was responsible for the IED attacks on the Israel–Syria border this week & in August 2020. We will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria,” said the IDF tweet.

Israel has repeatedly warned against Iran building a permanent military presence in Syria and has undertaken numerous air strikes to undercut the Iranian forces in the country and to prevent Iran from transferring advanced weaponry to terrorists.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria comes against the backdrop of a potential shift in the American approach to Iran—which Israel is already trying to stop.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, in comments published by his office, gave his thoughts on what should be done about the Iran nuclear deal.

“There can be no going back to the previous nuclear agreement. We must stick to an uncompromising policy of ensuring that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu.

He further noted an additional benefit to pushing back against the Iranian nuclear program beyond preventing Iran from getting the bomb. Alluding to part of the motivation behind the recent Israel–Arab peace deals, Netanyahu said, “Thanks to our determined stand against the nuclearization of Iran, and to our opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran, many Arab countries have fundamentally changed their approach to Israel.”

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by the Mideast Update on November 22, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today.)

Photo Credit: sipo/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will intervene in this very serious situation. Remind Him of His promises to protect Israel from her enemies and to bless His people with peace. Pray that Israel’s strategy will effectively cripple Iran’s presence in Syria and beseech Him for an end to the Iranian threat to the region and to the world.

Scripture

Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down; deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword.


- Psalm 17:13

Number of Suicide Threats Rises amid COVID-19 Outbreak

by Gad Lior

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Between January and October 2020, Israel documented 168 cases of individuals who threatened to take their own lives due to financial struggles (illustrative).

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 | Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March, Israel has seen a spike in the number of suicide threats made by individuals who have run into severe economic tribulations due to the COVID-19-induced nationwide economic crisis, a Justice Ministry official said on Tuesday.

During a meeting of Knesset’s [Parliament’s] Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, the Justice Ministry’s Enforcement and Collection Authority Chairman Tomer Moskowitz revealed that between January and October 2020, Israel had documented 168 cases of individuals who threatened to take their own lives due to financial struggles.

In comparison, that number stood at 129 and 136 in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Moskowitz also said that he asked for training to better handle such cases.

“We asked for training for all our workers who come into contact with debtors. From the security guard at the entrance to our receptionists, public inquiries representatives and more. All in order to allow them to identify and handle cases of a suicidal nature,” Moskowitz said. “This won’t turn them into psychologists or therapists, but it will give them the tools to handle those critical seconds in front of the debtor.”

Dr. Shiri Daniel, Professional Director at Eran, a voluntary organization that provides psychological support services, also reported an increase in the number of incoming calls due to financial distress.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have responded to more than 268,000 calls, compared to a total of 200,000 calls throughout the entirety of 2019,” Daniel said.

“We activate an emergency procedure to save lives three times a day. About 60% of those who contact us are facing a financial and employment crisis combined with a mental crisis.”

Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee Acting Chairman MK Tali Ploskov said that “the issue is always important, and now in the time of the coronavirus, it’s even more relevant…It should constantly be on our minds.”

Director of Government Relations and National Programs at the Health Ministry Miri Cohen said that her department has secured funds to the tune of NIS 9.5 million [US $2,9 million] to bolster personnel and training at suicide hotlines.

Source: (Excerpt of an article originally published by Ynetnews on November 24, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Andrew Neel/pexels.com

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord for His protection over His people as they deal with the financial and social struggles brought about by the pandemic. Pray that He will keep all thoughts of suicide away from His children. Cry out to Him for a swift end to the pandemic and a strong and rapid economic recovery. Pray for the wonderful generosity of Christians around the world to continue as Bridges for Peace works to lessen the stress by providing desperately needed food, other types of assistance as well as a sense of security for those who otherwise have no means to feed themselves or their families.

Scripture

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.


- Psalm 23:1–3

Action
As the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive more and more Israelis to desperation, it is Bridges for Peace's heart and calling to reach out a helping hand to those in need. Our food parcels offer much-needed relief to those who have lost the ability to provide for their families and often make the difference between food on the table and going hungry. Will you come alongside us to ease their burden by donating generously to our Food Program? With the help of Christians who love Israel from around the world, we can see them through these desperate days.

Will the Palestinian Authority Stop Paying Terrorists?

by Brig.–Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser

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Will the PA stop compensating terrorists for murdering Israelis?

Friday, 20 November 2020 | Did the Palestinian Authority (PA) get the message that the world and the United States will not tolerate their “Pay to Slay” policy anymore? News reports claim that the change is under consideration, but we have to watch carefully what they actually do.

Recruiting ex-terrorists to the PA, just because they were convicted terrorists—and especially recruiting them to the security apparatuses—is dangerous in many respects. It does not change anything in the context of rewarding them; it gives them access to weapons and even intelligence information.

Such recruitment is the exact opposite of fighting terror, which is the mission of the security forces. It means that the Americans and Europeans who finance the PA’s security forces will now pay salaries directly to the terrorists.

Regarding setting the payments to the arrested terrorists based on economic needs, if it means that the welfare allocations will be similar to those of needy families, which are less than a tenth of what the terrorists earn, it is a step forward. If not, this is a trick.

Moreover, the PA must annul the law establishing the terrorist entitlement program. This is necessary to signal Palestinian seriousness and readiness to abide by the American Taylor Force Act.

Will they do it? I have doubts.

Source: (This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on November 19, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: pxfuel.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the PA will in fact end the barbaric “pay to slay” policy, putting in place instead a policy which will discourage terrorism. Pray that any attempt at trickery will be quickly and clearly revealed.

Scripture

You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.


- Psalm 5:6

The Coronavirus Rockets from Gaza

by Elior Levy

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Over the weekend, 1,600 new patients were diagnosed with coronavirus in Gaza (illustrative).

Monday, 23 November 2020 | Exactly seven days—minus four hours—elapsed between last week’s rocket fire on Ashdod and the outskirts of Rishon Lezion and the rocket fire on Ashkelon on Saturday night.

This time there was no lightning to be seen in the skies of Gaza. And if it was not a tropical storm, meteor showers or electromagnetic waves from the North Pole, then what caused whoever it was to fire the rocket on Saturday night?

In conversations with several sources in the Gaza Strip, the following scenario unfolded: Those who fired the latest rocket, whatever their organizational affiliation, did so after receiving a green light from Hamas [the terror organization in control of the Gaza Strip], or at least while Gaza’s rulers closed their eyes to what was going on.

And why does Hamas have an interest in gently needling Israel? Because in the last week, the Gaza Strip has been breaking coronavirus morbidity records on an almost daily basis.

Over the weekend, 1,600 new patients were diagnosed in Gaza. This is a higher daily number of infections than in Israel, which has a population five times larger than that of the Gaza Strip. But the really bad news is that the percentage of positive tests in Gaza stood at 30%.

“It was a rocket for ventilators and medical equipment,” one source said. “The situation in Gaza is difficult—and this is Hamas’s way of signaling that.”

Although the World Health Organization is doing its best to provide Gaza with medical assistance in its battle against the virus, it seems that the situation in the Strip is beginning to reach maximum capacity for treating COVID-19.

Israel generally approves the entrance of medical equipment into Gaza, while the Palestinian Authority is routinely indifferent to what is happening there and is less than happy to help Hamas in any way.

Hamas in Gaza is a government entity skilled at exporting its internal woes. In other words, when Hamas feels that it is under fire from its own public, it immediately moves to divert it towards Israel.

As such, all the old and tired clichés that have been heard in recent days from Israeli military sources—like “Hamas is not currently interested in an escalation” and/or “Hamas has been deterred”—are only relevant if there is calm in the Gaza Strip. But there is no calm in the Gaza Strip; there is only corona.

For it was just last April that local Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar went on television to threaten that if they needed respirators in Gaza, he would make sure that Israelis could not breathe either.

Last week’s rockets and Saturday night’s rocket are just a classic reminder of Sinwar’s promise to Israel and mediators about the explosive situation. And lightning has nothing to do with it.

Not Buying the Excuses

In recent years, a “red telephone” has been used between Jerusalem and Gaza to convey urgent messages.

The switchboard to which both sides direct their messages is in Cairo, at the headquarters of Egyptian intelligence.

In many instances, the messages passed using this method have prevented mistaken assessments of the other’s actions and spared unnecessary rounds of violence. But it seems Israel fell too much in love with this tool.

For example, last week it was used to convey the message from Hamas to Israel that damage caused by the weather had led to the launch of the rockets at the center of the country.

In Israel, they rushed to accept the clarification from Gaza, struck a handful of tin sheds on the Gaza border in order to tick the response box and were sure to release the message they received.

They were also quick to announce the fact that Military Intelligence identified the launchers from which the rockets were fired (by mistake of course) as belonging to Hamas and not Islamic Jihad.

But by Saturday night, after the latest rocket fire, the tone had already changed. Suddenly there was no more talk of mistakes, suddenly the retaliatory attack was far more significant, suddenly the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Spokesman’s response included the old caveat that “Hamas is responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip.”

Keen observers will note that this phrase did not appear in the statement about last week’s attack in the Gaza Strip.

It seems that someone is saying that Israel is not buying every word that Hamas says to Israel via the Egyptians.

Previous experience indeed shows that Sinwar knows very well how to use Egyptian intelligence as a tool to put pressure on Israel.

Sometimes it is worth learning from past experience to understand that “launch errors” always miraculously occur at sensitive times, and the Hamas leadership in Gaza is well aware of which weak spots it can aggravate to get its message across (and then shouting that it was all a mistake).

It’s not lightning; it’s just the coronavirus.

Source: (This article was originally published by Ynetnews on November 22, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash)/unsplash.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the people of Gaza will receive the medical help and equipment they need to fight the coronavirus. Pray also that the repulsive Hamas policy of diverting attention from its own failures by attacking Israel will be brought to a quick and lasting halt. Ask the Lord for a change in leadership in Gaza that will put into power those who are concerned for the welfare of Gazans and who will be sincere partners for peace with Israel.

Scripture

Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor.


- Proverbs 28:15–16a

Netanyahu Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

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The Nobel Peace Prize for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been nominated (illustrative).

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 | Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lord David Trimble today submitted the candidacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
 
Lord Trimble, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Pursuant to the rules of the Nobel Prize Committee, since Lord Trimble is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, his decision to submit Prime Minister Netanyahu’s candidacy will lead the committee to discuss the issue.

Source: (Press release originally published by the Prime Minister’s Office on November 24, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Florian Pircher/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
PM Netanyahu has worked tirelessly for peace throughout his tenure as prime minister. Pray that the world will recognize the true heart of Israelis who desire nothing but to live in peace with their neighbors through this nomination. Pray that the courageous actions on the part of Israeli and UAE leaders will be recognized and honored by the Nobel Prize committee.

Scripture

Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.


- Psalm 34:14

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