War drums with Hezbollah; Netanyahu in the dock: Israel Update


May 22, 2020


Both Israel and Hezbollah appear to be gearing up for a war as the Israeli military is striking Hezbollah targets in neighboring Syria, and troops stage training drills that appear to anticipate an invasion into Lebanon. Hezbollah is beefing up its own forces and is threatening to invade Israel, if provoked. Hezbollah has begun training Syrian Arab Army’s 1st Corps, deploying it for intelligence gathering against the IDF in the Golan Heights. Should Hezbollah decide to carry out an attack from the Golan Heights, they will have significant weaponry and logistics available to them. While Israel does not believe that Hezbollah plans to provoke a war with Israel in the near future, the IDF is concerned that any major event that could threaten the regime in Tehran—such as an altercation between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf or in Iraq—might prod a Hezbollah attack on Israel.


After the Jerusalem District Court rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to skip the start of his corruption trial, Sunday will mark an all new precedent for Israel: a sitting prime minister in the dock as a criminal defendant. Netanyahu's attorneys had asked the court for an exemption, arguing that his presence was “not essential” because their client had “read this indictment several times already,” and that the presence of his bodyguards would violate the Health Ministry's social distancing protocols. The court rejected the request, saying that Netanyahu "must, like all other accused, appear and give his statement before the court.” Already in power for over a decade, he will now likely be prime minister for another 18 months, as he fights the corruption charges. For more in-depth coverage of Netanyahu’s trial, click here.


Numerous Israeli websites were hit Thursday morning in a cyberattack. Hundreds of sites were targeted, including some belonging to major firms, political groups, and other notable organizations and individuals. A video appeared on the affected websites showing Israeli cities being bombed and a message in Hebrew and broken English: "The countdown of Israel destruction has begun since a long time ago.” A hacking expert linked the attack(s) to an activist group with ties to Turkey, the Gaza Strip, and some North African countries. However, there was no indication there were any direct ties to Iran. That being said, on Wednesday Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put out a tweet containing these words: “We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime, and we do not hesitate to say this.” The attack came days after a cyberattack on computer systems at an Iranian port was blamed on Israel. Monday, The Washington Post reported that on May 9, Israel had brought down the computer systems at Shahid Rajaee’s port terminal, causing a total shutdown of the facility. Israel’s alleged action was likely in response to an alleged Iranian attempt to hack Israel’s water infrastructure system, on May 7. The increasing hostility of these back-and-forth cyberattacks seems to point to a conflict that is unlikely to end anytime soon.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinian Authority will no longer be committed to any signed agreements with Israel or the United States, following Israel's announcement to annex large parts of the West Bank. In a statement delivered Wednesday, Abbas said, "the State of Palestine is absolved as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones.” The UN Middle East envoy said Israel must abandon its threat to annex parts of the West Bank, branding such a plan as a serious violation of international law that would “close the door to a renewal of negotiations.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions on the annexation plan would begin on July 1.


The safety, health, and well-being of all community members is a priority for the Jewish Federation. Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This page has been developed to help our community stay informed and provide the resources needed to maintain a sense of connection. As more resources are curated, this page will be continually updated. 


In observance of Shavuot next Friday, we will be taking a break from the Israel Update. We will reutrn Friday, June 5. 



Shabbat Shalom,


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


P.S. If you or a friend would like to get our own, up-to-the-minute Israel Update, you can sign up here; when asked for "interests" click "weekly Israel Update."


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Every Sunday, our Hillel at Miami University's fellow, Nevo Schpire, hosts an Israeli cooking show.


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