Israel on high-alert as tensions rise between the US & Iran: Israel Update

January 10, 2019

Last week, the United States targeted and killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq. In response, Iran announced it will no longer honor any part of the JCPOA nuclear deal, then proceeded to fire over a dozen missiles at US bases in Iraq—though no casualties were reported. Countering claims that the US had given Israel advance notice of the plan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly denied any Israeli involvement in the killing of Soleimani. Additionally, Senior Iranian officials warned of potential future attacks on Haifa and Dubai—a threat to which Netanyahu cautioned Iran that it would suffer a "crushing blow" if they attacked Israel. Thursday morning, US President Donald Trump announced additional economic sanctions on Iran, while seeming to downplay the possibility of any further escalation in the near future.


As a "diplomatic gesture of good will," Israel released two Syrian citizens from prison in exchange for the body of Sgt. Zachary Baumel, of blessed memory, who was returned to Israel earlier this year. Baumel went missing in action during the Battle of Sultan Yacoub in the 1982 Lebanon War, and his remains were returned to Israel with help from Russia. The two prisoners Zidan Tuil and Hamis Ahmed were transferred to Syria via the Quientra crossing despite reports that they had asked not to be returned to the war-torn country. 


At the Kohelet Policy Forum conference on January 8, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is “disavowing the deeply flawed” Carter-era policy, which asserted that Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate international law. This announcement came amid speculation that the Trump Administration’s “Deal of the Century” may be presented in the coming weeks. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he would not allow any settlements to be uprooted as a result of a new peace initiative, and further touted plans to construct nearly 2,000 new settlements in the West Bank. Relatedly, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett created a new post to help combat illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank.


Israel's Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz voiced concern that Trump’s peace plan could be unveiled prior to Israel’s upcoming elections on March 2, suggesting that such a decision would be "a harsh interference in the electoral process in Israel.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu remains mired in legal difficulties, and has announced that he would be seeking immunity from his three graft cases. In response to a High Court of Justice petition, Netanyahu relinquished his ministerial posts, and has appointed four MKs to fill those positions


Heavy rainfall in northern Israel during the past two weeks broke a 50-year-old record for Israel, according to Israeli meteorological services. The heavy rain resulted in massive flooding and caused severe damage throughout the region. Over the past two days alone, over 100 mm (3.9 inches) of rain fell in northern Israel, causing severe flooding in Nahariya and significant water rise in Haifa. In Nahariya, 38-year-old Moti Ben Shabbat drowned when he jumped into a flooded car to rescue the passengers, but was then washed away by the floodwater's powerful current. 


Shabbat Shalom,


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


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The 2020 Jewish and Israeli Film Festival will kick off Thursday, January 23 with a showing of The Unorthodox, a powerful display of how activism can yield social change. Opening night is sponsored by the JCRC and Israel Center of the Jewish Federation, who will host a pre-screening “Israeli election experience” and a post screening facilitated discussion. To learn more or purchase tickets, click here.
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The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is the non-partisan, public affairs arm of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.

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