Something happened this last week that hasn’t happened in DECADES to Israel – an Israeli Air Force fighter jet was shot down by enemy forces, specifically Syria in this case. Thank G-d, both pilots were able to eject over Israel and are now recovering from injuries sustained during their escape from the damaged aircraft. In short, this could have been a lot worse – A LOT WORSE!
The downed aircraft was involved in operations over Syria because of an earlier incident that day when an Iranian drone penetrated Israeli airspace through Jordan. The drone was promptly shot down and recovered by Israel. This is a serious escalation in the conflict between Israel and Syria/Iran. After this incident, the Israeli Air Force inflicted significant damage to both Syrian and Iranian forces in Syria.
So as of now, things have somewhat stabilized. It’s hard to understand why Iran would think its a good idea to start up, but then again, its iran. Its kind of their thing. Someone forgot to educate obama on that before he gave them billions to spend on terrorism. whoops.
Continuing with recent developments in the Shomron (Samaria) area. Again, why is this important? It’s important because one of the longstanding (very misguided) ideas for establishing stability in Israel/the Middle East is the creation of separate state for arabs in the “West Bank”. A large part of this State would need to come from the Shomron. Additionally, and maybe more significantly, in the absence of the creation of this terrorist entity, there are prominent Israeli political leaders that propose evacuating areas of the West Bank of both civilian and military presence. A large part of the proposed retreat would be from the Shomron. Why? The short answer is: the Jewish population is not high enough. What is being done about this? Three significant developments in the past week:
1) Ariel University (in Ariel) had its status upgraded to now be on the same level as all the other universities in Israel – even though it’s physically located in the Shomron. This will have many effects, but the primary one is to allow the establishment of a state-of-the-art medical school.
2) The re-establishment of the outpost called “Evyatar” just to the east of the Tapuach Junction. The location is a former army base. At least seven structures have been built and a constant Jewish presence has been in place for the past 2 weeks. Remains to be seen how the Israeli government will react. I can say as someone who has visited the site, ITS INCREDIBLY STRATEGIC!! You can clearly see all the other Jewish communities in the area from its high perch.
3) After the terrorist murder of Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal, Israeli Government representatives told his widow and family that they are strongly considering allowing the construction of 800 housing units in Har Bracha – the community in which the Rabbi lived. This would more than double the size of the community and increase the Jewish population is the entire area significantly.
May of area – important to focus on area between the cities of Ramallah (at the bottom) and Shechem (at the top).
A disturbing incident took place this week, also in the Shomron, when 2 non-combat Israeli soldiers mistakenly entered the palestinian authority-controlled city of Jenin. The soldiers were nearly lynched and were able to escape from a large crowd with only a series of flesh wounds. The worse part about this incident is how not at all surprising it is.
And finally, the Israeli police have recommended that Prime Minister Netanyahu be indicted for bribery and some other related charges. As we have mentioned numerous times and wherever possible, respect for the Israeli police and their “competence” is very low in Israel, putting it mildly. Their recommendation has no legal authority and the Attorney General will decide whether or not to bring charges. Until then, there is no reason in the world for Netanyahu to resign. Actually, his approval rating has gone up. Nobody has left the government coalition or even threatened to leave. The Israeli “legal” system vs. the Jewish people is becoming quite the recurring theme.
We have entered the month of Adar when we are commanded to increase joy! However, our thoughts and prayers go out to the folks in Florida who have suffered from this most recent school mass shooting tragedy. Thankfully in Israel teachers are allowed to be armed so its one less thing we have to worry about.
Just when you thought the Middle East couldn’t get any messier – it does! So far this week:
-Turkey continues to attack the Kurds in northwest Syria, but the Kurds seem to be hanging tough. Additionally, the Syrian rebels shot down a Russian fighter jet and then killed the pilot on the ground (because why not?). And then the American forces in Syria killed approximately 100 Syrian soldiers as they were trying to conquer areas previously liberated from ISIS.
– Another civil war has broken out in Yemen. How many civil wars does it take to stabilize Yemen? Apparently 3 isn’t enough. Now a group has broken off from the “official government” and is fighting for a southern Yemen independent entity. Surely this will be the solution to all the problems. Meanwhile, death continues to be Yemen’s #1 commodity.
– Reports emerged that Israel has been bombing ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula – part of Egypt. How many times? Like 100! This is actually not very surprising given the dramatically changing dynamics of the region that are pushing moderate sunni muslims and Israel together to combat Iran and sunni extremism. The large number of attacks is a bit surprising. Although not many Egyptian soldiers have been killed recently by ISIS, so I guess it all makes sense now.
Speaking of Israel, let’s continue with what’s going on there!
Nearly a month after the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, hy’d, of Havat Gilad, there have been serious developments. The Israeli Government has declared that Havat Gilad will be LEGALIZED! As mentioned in previous pieces, this is a very big deal (and quite rare). Additionally, the leader of the terrorist cell that committed the murder was just now killed by Israeli forces. It would seem that all involved have either been killed or captured at this point – this is a good thing.
Unfortunately, in another terrorist attack in the Shomron (Samaria) region this week, another Rabbi was murdered. This time it was a stabbing and the killer remains on the run. The Rabbi killed, Itamar Ben-Gal, hy’d, lived with his wife and four children in the community of Har Bracha. Since the murder, there have been statements by right-wing Israeli politicians calling on the Government to approve significant numbers of housing permits in Har Bracha – upwards of 800. This would not only change Har Bracha (more than double it), but the entire region! A strengthening of the Jewish Presence in the area would pressure the Israeli Government to take further, bolder steps like returning permanently to Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (nablus) and the former Jewish communities of Homesh and Sa-Nur farther to the north. (map of the area)
There have been a few other terrorist attacks since these, thankfully, much less successful. Remains to be seen if this is a new trend or just more of the same.
In less important news, leaks are leaking out of the Israeli Police (this is about the only thing they can be depended on to do) that they plan to recommend indicting Prime Minister Netanyahu on bribery charges next week. However, its only a recommendation, the Attorney General will be make the actual decision. There are reports that he thinks the whole thing is going nowhere, but we’ll have to see what happens. Regardless, its remarkable how similar the situations with Netanyahu and Trump are – on so many levels! Fascinating!
On the “diplomatic” front, President Trump’s emissaries, Ambassador David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, are verbally sparring with the Palestinian Authority (PA) pretty regularly at this point. One can only imagine where this will lead President Trump, but its unlikely it will go well for the PA. I’d expect a vitriolic tweet sometime soon.
Israeli Government and Economy are totally stable!
Tonight is the Yahrzeit of my Grandfather, of beloved memory, Huna Leib (Lionel) ben Aharon (Packer). Anything good that comes from this installment is dedicated to the spiritual elevation of his precious soul. He was a wonderful man and an even better Grandfather!
Speaking of death, the carnage in northwest Syria continues and seems to only be getting worse. While the Turkish army is making slow but steady progress against the Kurdish defenses, it seems more attention should be focused on the Syrian “rebels”. They are not only fully participating in the fighting, but many videos and pictures have emerged of terrible atrocities they are committing. If this surprises you, I suggest you move from Antarctica to somewhere with access to some form of worldly information. Its difficult to envision the Kurdish forces hanging on, but we can hope and pray. No country is currently more involved in attacking the Jewish Presence in Jerusalem than TURKEY! That my surprise some folks, but evidence is everywhere here in the Old City.
The saga of officially recognizing Havat Gilad as a legal community continues for another week. Now the Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, promises there will be a final cabinet vote on Sunday. To help understand the significance of this potential move, I have included a picture of a map of the area. If one looks closely, Havat Gilad sits in between the Jewish communities of Kedumim and Yitzhar.
On this specific map and in most “peace plans”, the yellow and black line is that of the proposed security fence/possible future Israeli border. Kedumim in inside the line, but Havat Gilad and Yitzhar are outside. By recognizing Havat Gilad, everything gets closer to Yitzhar. Yitzhar sits on the north side of the arab village of Huwara. This is quite a hostile area for Jewish motorists to traverse to get to the nearby Jewish Communities of Yitzhar, Bracha, Itamar and Elon Moreh. Similar to the Hevron area farther south, there is no real possibility for a contiguous “palestinian state” if the Jewish presence remains in this area. The current Israeli Government has promised to build a bypass road around Huwara. If that happens, based on previous similar examples (think/google Tekoa and the “Lieberman Road”), development should skyrocket. Starting to understand why Havat Gilad is so important? If not, pm me. I love the attention.
Investigations of the Prime Minister continue and the Government Coalition remains obscenely stable.
This week, Poland is claiming not to be historically anti-Semitic and not to have been involved in the killing Jews in the Holocaust. Not really sure what to say about this other than to simultaneously think of every dumb polack joke I have ever heard. Those folks got a real talent.
Finally, there’s a whole to do about the planned upcoming deportation of African infiltrators from Israel back to Africa. Personally, I don’t see why the black hebrews can’t be thrown in (out) as well. In short, people who live far away from and are not personally affected by them think we should let them all stay, because why the hell not? And those who live with/interact with them, vehemently want them to go. Seems to be a recurring pattern. I would like to make a suggestion: those advocating for the infiltrators to stay should threaten to go to Africa with them, in real solidarity, if they get deported. Even better, they should sign legal paperwork guaranteeing it. Or would they prefer to wax self-righteous all the while preaching from their exclusively ashkenazic high income ivory towers. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what they decide.
Let’s jump right in. The big news this week is actually more regional than domestic. Turkey has attacked northwest Syria (an area called Afrin) in an attempt to massacre and displace the Kurdish forces (known as the YPG) in the area. Just south of this area is the Idlib area that is that last possibly viable area controlled by the Syrian Rebels – these are sunni arab muslims, the kurds are also sunni, but aren’t arabs, the Turks are sunni as well, but Turkish. Hope that’s not too confusing. In short, they have the same religion, but different languages and cultures.
Anyway, not only are the Turks attacking, but they are actively instigating the Syrian rebels to attack the Kurds as well from the south. The idea being that the rebels will then control the area and can continue their conflict with the Syrian regime. Of course, the Syrian regime hasn’t agreed to any of this and if the rebels and the Turks are successful in displacing the Kurds, then the regime will most likely then attempt to displace the rebels and finish them off for good. If successful, this would return all the borders to the way they were before the Syrian civil war erupted 6 years ago. This would leave the problem of the millions of arab sunni refugees from syria having nowhere to return to in Syria. Turkey would like to toss them all back into syria to the captured Afrin area. No idea why the Syrian regime (with Russia and Iran) would ever let that happen.
For now, hard to say exactly what is happening on the ground, but it appears its not going as well for the Turks as they expected and are publicly reporting. If the Kurds can somehow hold them off, that would be quite impressive and could return momentum to the Kurdish people everywhere (in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey) that was lost when the Kurdish city of Kirkuk fell to Iraqi and Shiite forces months ago.
Nobody likes chaos like ISIS, so don’t count them out just yet. Definitely more drama to come!
Moving over to Israel, Israel welcomed Vice-President Mike Pence this week. As was expected, the visit when splendidly. Pence visited the Western Wall, a first by a sitting vice-president, spoke in the Knesset and emphatically recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as Trump did a short time ago. The “palestinians” boycotted Pence and the Israeli arab members of the Knesset disrupted his speech before they were forcibly removed. I’m sure that spectacle deeply impressed President Trump. Quite the downward spiral for the palestinians.
Last week, we mentioned the unauthorized community of Havat Gilad and the potential of it being formally legalized. Hasn’t happened yet, but this week, Naftali Bennett has publicly demanded that this take place this coming Sunday at the cabinet meeting. He claims that all the necessary steps have been approved and all that’s left is a formal cabinet decision.
“legally, it has been approved. Security-wise, it has been approved. Now we need a political decision,” Bennett told Arutz Sheva.” (see full article here)
So we’ll see what happens on Sunday. Would be a huge victory for the Shomron (Samaria) region and some consolation for the widow and orphans of terror victim Rabbi Shevach of Havat Gilad.
The investigations into Prime Minister Netanyahu and leaks from those investigations continue. Nothing very new.
Despite continued friction between Avigdor Lieberman and Judaism, the current Israeli coalition government continues to be quite stable. Although there was a hilarious event this week when some leftist singer made fun of Lieberman’s Russian accent and Lieberman’s comrades demanded he be charged with racism. This guy thinks he’s Putin. He ain’t no Putin. Putin don’t charge people with crimes, they just disappear.
Cold and rainy all over the country right now, so that’s good for filling up the Kinneret and water reserves. Also not great weather for terrorism, so its good news all around.
I’m not going to say that things got done in Israel this week, precisely because Prime Minister Netanyahu was in India most of the time. But…..
Two nights ago in Jenin (northern Samaria/West Bank), Israeli security services finally caught up with some of the terrorist murderers of Rabbi Raziel Shevach of Havat Gilad. Some of the terrorists were killed and some captured, many details still remain unclear at this point. It would seem that at least one has escaped for now. Two Israeli security personnel were wounded in the operation and are recovering from their injuries. There is nothing unique about Israel tracking down terrorists. Israel is famous for this and that’s a very good thing.
Since the tragic murder of Rabbi Shevach, there has been alot of political discussion/statements/panderin
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The “outposts” – as the unauthorized communities are called – issue has somewhat overshadowed some final authorization for building permits that were granted in Judea and Samaria last week. While its much slower development than potentially possible, I want to highlight 2 of the projects approved – those in a community named Alon and another in a community called Karmei Tzur. Both of these communities are very strategic as they sit on the edges of “consensus” areas – Karmei Tzur on the edge of Gush Etzion and Alon on the edge of the Maale Adumim area. AND BOTH ARE BEING DOUBLED IN SIZE! No way around it, that’s’ big. Of course the houses have not been built yet and anything can happen…..
Netanyahu’s visit to India seems to have gone quite well. Remains to be seen if India brings back the $500 million deal for weapons from Israel that was recently cancelled.
The police have begun to recommend some indictments in some of the various investigations into Netanyahu and his associates. No meaning to any of this yet, but the show goes on….
The Government coalition continues to be incredibly stable – the region, not so much. Drama everywhere.
President Trump has significantly cut funding to UNRWA – a UN front for supporting terrorism and the destruction of Israel. Also,there are reports/rumors that the US Embassy will move to Jerusalem within a year. Trump continues to cement his already unprecedented pro-Israel legacy. And Vice-President Pence arrives to Israel on Sunday, with a scheduled visit to the Western Wall and a speech to the Knesset.
Abu Mazen, the head of the “Palestinian Authority”, gave a speech this past week that Prime Minister Netanyahu couldn’t have written better himself. (see here) In the speech, the palestinian dictator rejected any Jewish historical or religious claim to any part of the Land of Israel, personally insulted President Trump and the United States of America and made various threats. 3 for 3!
All this completely validates everything that Netanyahu has been saying about Abu Mazen and the rest of the “palestinian leadership” for years. Of course, its makes Obama and European leaders look ridiculously foolish. However, more importantly in Israel, how does the Left respond to such a speech? The new head of the Zionist Union, a so far politically peculiar individual, condemned the speech. But that’s not good enough. He must admit that his side of the political spectrum has simply been duped for many years. (Duped by violent terrorists, but nonetheless duped).
This should be a seminal moment for the Left. In terms of the palestinian leader and agenda – THEY HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY WRONG!
This is not such an important moment for the Right in Israel. Having an “I told you so” moment is always enjoyable. However, none of what Abu Mazen said in his speech is news to the Right and the Right still has very legitimate criticism to hurl at Netanyahu – Why so little development in Jerusalem (Givat HaMatos, Kidmat Tzion, Shimon HaTzadik)? Why such limited access to Jewish holy sites (Joseph’s Tomb, Joshua’s Tomb, “Shalom Al Yisrael” Synagogue in Jericho)? Why the lack of recognition of Jewish purchases in Hevron and Jewish property rights in historic Jerusalem? Why no official return to Homesh and Sa-Nur? E-1? E-2? The list goes on and on.
G-d willing, thanks to some solidly honest remarks by an evil terrorist despot, the entire spectrum of Israeli thought on issues vis-a-vis the palestinians should shift dramatically rightward. The Right should certainly up the pressure on the Government to act more aggressively and the Left should acknowledge their “Come to Bibi” moment.
As most are probably aware, the big news this week in Israel is quite tragic – a Father/Husband/Rabbi/Mohel/
I want to spend a little bit of time on this because it encompasses alot of different aspects of the current political situation.
-The terrorists have yet to be apprehended, but there is good amount of speculation that they are somehow connected to the Tanzim/Palestinian Authority. The main reasons being the quality of the weapon used and the quality of the shooting (unfortunately). This indicates that the terrorists were able to obtain quality weaponry and train to use it. This is very difficult for the more extreme groups, like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in that area. More potentially damning, this attack could have come at the direction of PA leadership in response to how poorly things are going for the PA diplomatically as it concerns Israel and the US, under President Trump. One might question how they could be so stupid to think this would help things, however, its pretty much par for course. When diplomacy fails or stutters, terrorism is their default response.
-Havat Gilad: Havat Gilad is an extremely strategically located Jewish community. The community sits on privately-owned Jewish land but has not received official authorization from the Government. It would fit the category of an “illegal outpost”. (However most “illegal outposts” are on state-owned land, and this is privately-owned). The community sits right off the highway in between the Jewish communities of Kedumim and Yitzhar. Without Havat Gilad there would be a long stretch of hostile highway without any permanent Jewish presence. In short, the future of the Jewish presence in the Shomron relies greatly on the existence and development of Havat Gilad. Since the tragic terrorist attack, many government officials have pledged to work to recognize Havat Gilad as an official community. This would be a big deal. Remains to be seen if these promises will be kept (many are not). In the meantime, the victim of the terrorist attack, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, hy’d, was the first person to be buried in the outpost. I’m not aware of any other such situation in which someone is buried in an unauthorized community. Its a bold move and likely significantly strengthens the chances of the community continuing to exist in that location.
In other news, some not-so-important legislation has been passed in the Knesset and much actually important legislation has been further delayed. This continues a long-running trend and yet, as I have stated pretty much every week, the current Israeli Government coalition continues to be incredibly stable. (Today, Minister Kahlon stated that he wouldn’t bring the government down for any reason – that’s a pretty extreme thing to say).
There are published rumors that Saudi Arabia is considering buying weaponry from Israel. Not so surprising under the current sunni-shiite regional conflict.There is talk of President Trump pulling out/sabotaging the Iran nuclear deal. And there is talk of Prime Minister Netanyahu promising a state to the “palestinians” in northern Sinai in exchange for Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
In short, there is a lot of talk. Not so much action. There is supposed to be an announcement soon about newly approved building in Judea and Samaria. Let’s see what is decided and discuss what it really means next week.
The big news this week in the region continues to be the bitter infighting among the muslims. Of course people are killed on a daily basis in Syria, but that seemingly interests no one. There are 2 relatively new big outbreaks of conflict:
1) Iran. There are currently demonstrations throughout Iran against their crazy government. In the last week, over 20 people have been killed, including 2 policemen. Friday is always a big day for protests with the muslims, so we’ll see if this continues tomorrow and how intensely. Some people are predicting this could get HUGE and lead to a revolution. For now, we can pray.
2) Isis vs. Hamas in the Sinai. Isis in the northern Sinai Peninsula just declared war on Hamas in Gaza. In classic isis style, the declaration was accompanied by an execution on video. Good to see they haven’t let all the fame change them. isis can never have enough enemies, however, this could bring hamas and egypt closer together – not necessarily the greatest thing for Israel.
3) In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to stall on any significant political legislation. However, despite this and some coalition jostling about Shabbat and the death penalty for terrorists, all seems stable. As I’ve pointed out continuously, no one in this current coalition wants it to end. Everyone is winning too much. (just like in Trump’s America!).
Endless criminal investigations against Netanyahu continue endlessly. Announcements are coming next week about building permits in Judea and Samaria. Alot of promises have been made over the past few months, and years. Remains to be seen if any of these will be realized next week or at any time in the near future.
Here’s why not. President Trump doesn’t seem to like the “Palestinian Authority” very much. And his dislike, as it often does, seems to be growing by the Tweet. Now President Trump has publicly stated that he intends to cut funding to the terrorist entity for their continuous disrespect of the United States and their refusal to resume “peace” negotiations with Israel. In short, as has been the case since President Trump’s inauguration, PM Netanyahu is being as patient as possible – trying to allow the arabs enough time to dig holes (tunnels?) they can’t get out of. When that moment comes, or political pressure becomes too strong (more likely), there will be many, many options waiting to be unleashed – laws, building, and more building.
Wherever you are – try to stay warm, dry and safe. (unless you’re a syrian refugee, in which case none of those options are realistically possible. but like we said earlier, no one cares about that. what happens in syria…..whatever)