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Tzipi Livni Retires from Israeli Politics

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who has been a fixture of Israel’s Knesset for twenty years, held a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday evening to announce she is retiring from politics and that her Hatnua party would not be running in upcoming national elections. The announcement came weeks after Livni was humiliated by Labor leader Avi Gabbay who announced in a live TV broadcast, with her at his side, that he was dissolving the partnership between Labor and Hatnua, which subsequently sank to electoral insignificance in most polls.

Livni explained during her press conference that she had tried to form a Center-Left bloc to run in the upcoming elections, scheduled for 9 April, but that she had not been successful. In addition, her own Hatnua party had lost so much support among potential voters that its only likely contribution to the upcoming election would be to siphon off votes from other Center-Left parties, without itself earning enough votes to be seated in the next Knesset.

In related news, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor announced on Tuesday morning that he will not be a candidate for any party in the upcoming election, adding that he hoped he could find some other way to continue serving his country. He is currently working as chairman of the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, one of Israel’s most respected institutions of higher education.

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of Israel's upcoming elections


Report: Israel Experiencing a Baby Boom 
The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, an independently funded think tank in Jerusalem, released a report on Monday showing that Israel’s birthrate is at historically high levels, with the average Israeli woman having 3.1 children. This makes Israel’s fertility rate the highest by far in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with second-place Mexico having a fertility rate of 2.15 children per woman.

Israel Blesses the World
BGN Technologies, a tech transfer company associated with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheeba, announced this week that it has developed an artificial intelligence-based platform to monitor and predict the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Prof. Boaz Lerner of the university’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, explained to the Jerusalem Post that the new platform will allow for better management of such diseases, even if there is not yet a cure or effective treatments for them.

New Museum to Open in Ayalon Valley
The Prime Minister’s Office announced this week that a new museum will be built at Latrun, in the Ayalon Valley between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, to honor Jews who fought in the allied armies and in resistance groups during WWII. The new museum, which will add to the areas attractions for tourists which already include the IDF Armored Museum, mini-Israel and the famous Trappist Monastery, will be named for Chaim Herzog, himself a veteran of the British Army in World War II who later served as the 6th President of Israel.

Today’s video gives honor to some of the most important soldiers defending Israel

Good News and Bad News in Israel Relationship with Europe

Economy Minister Eli Cohen and British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox signed a trade agreement in Tel Aviv on Monday to continue normal relations following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Also on Monday, a summit of the Visegrad-4 (V-4) group planned to be held in Jerusalem in the near future was cancelled following a diplomatic row between Israel and Poland, the V-4 groups largest member. 

“More important even than the agreement itself is what it says about our future relationship,” said Fox at the ceremony where the agreement was signed. “And about the way in which we will be able to cooperate in the future, not just on trade, which has improved enormously in recent years, but also on investments in both directions…We had more venture capital and tech come to London in the past year than the whole of France, Germany and Sweden put together. So clearly, with the sort of innovation that comes out of Israel, there’s enormous potential for us to work together for our mutual benefit.”

Meanwhile, the row between Israel and Poland, which was triggered on Thursday by comments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to the effect that some Polish people cooperated with the Nazi’s to carry out the Holocaust during WWII while visiting a Holocaust memorial in Warsaw, was quickly devolving into a full-blown crisis on Tuesday. Diplomats and officials in both countries were quick to back their leaders positions, while also openly searching for a way out of the crisis.

However, although the crisis has already resulted in the V-4 meeting being cancelled and Polish officials announcing they will not be visiting Israel in the near future as planned, the prime ministers of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all arrived in Israel Monday evening and held meetings with senior Israeli officials throughout the day Tuesday.

Sea of Galilee Rises As Rainy Weather Continues

The skies above Jerusalem remained overcast on Monday morning following a weekend which saw rain falling in many parts of the country. The level of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) was reported on Monday to have risen four feet since the beginning of the rainy winter season in October, although the Water Authority cautioned that it is still as much as 16 feet below historic levels of what would be considered “full” and faith leaders throughout the Holy Land urged their followers to continue praying for more rain before the onset of summer.

Israel Katz Appointed Temporary Foreign Minister
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz as acting foreign minister for the duration of the current government on Sunday. The appointment is highly significant as Katz is highly popular within the faction and has strongly signaled his desire to lead the party when Netanyahu eventually departs the scene. 

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of Israel's upcoming elections



Nasrallah Issues Fiery Threats to Attack Israel
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, took part in “Martyrs Remembrance Day" events Saturday by giving a speech in which he said, among other things, that his troops are prepared to do battle with Israel. He also made reference to a recent report by IDF Ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick which cast serious doubts on the readiness of the IDF ground forces, saying that Israeli leaders "do not trust their army but we trust ours."

Jerusalem’s Old City Getting NIS 200 Million Facelift
Reports emerged over the weekend that the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City is about to get a massive NIS 200 million facelift, with repairs and improvements being made to a variety of sites in the neighborhood popular with locals and tourists alike. The project is being launched jointly by the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and the office of Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. Funding is being provided by the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Jerusalem Ministry of Heritage.

Today's video gives some anlayis of US involvement in Syria

Iranian Officials Denounce Pushback Against Them

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif gave a fiery speech at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, demanding that European countries reject an appeal by US Vice President Mike Pence the day earlier at the same conference to follow Washington’s lead in walking away from the JCPOA nuclear agreement and rejoining the campaign to confront the Islamic Republic’s renegade nuclear program. Also on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rohani gave a televised address in which he demanded that his country’s neighbors ignore its malign activities and believe him when he says that the clerical regime in Teheran “is ready to work with regional states to preserve security in the Middle East."

He went on the describe the massive number of reports that his government is supporting terrorist groups and otherwise fomenting domestic unrest in nearly every other country in the Middle East as a conspiracy by the US and Israel to damage Iran’s reputation. 

Here is a video giving some analysis of Iran’s recent activities in Syria



Later, at a ceremony in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, Rohani gave another address in which he announced, without citing any empirical evidence, that Iran has deployed a submarine capable of launching cruise missiles.

"Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is fully self-reliant on land, air, and sea," he said. "Our defensive power is meant to defend our interests and we have never sought to attack any country…our enemy's pressure and sanctions imposed on Iran have instigated our progress.”

Here is a video giving some further analysis of current events regarding Iran

Netanyahu Returning from Successful Warsaw Summit

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was delayed in returning to Israel from Warsaw, Poland on Friday morning due to technical problems with his aircraft. Despite this, the event was deemed a diplomatic victory for the Jewish State due to the optics of him and other Israeli officials meeting with Arab leaders as well as statements favourable to Israel made by officials from several countries represented at the conference.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Netanyahu said it could be possible to have normal diplomatic and trade relations with some Arab countries even without a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. However, he was quick to add, full peace and normalized relations would be more difficult to attain. He added that several foreign ministers from Arab countries spoke in the closed-door sessions about Iran and “said exactly what I have said.”
On the sidelines of the Conference he also met with the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Brazil, Oman and Poland. Meanwhile, a diplomatic row with host Poland over Netanyahu’s comments to the press upon leaving the Museum of the History of Polish Jews "Poles cooperated with the Germans" during the Holocaust was averted Friday morning when the Prime Minister’s Office sent a clarification to Poland’s foreign ministry blaming the media for misrepresenting the remarks.

Also at the Conference was US special envoy Jared Kushner, who unveiled parts of the so-called “deal of the century” in some of the closed-door sessions. Little was revealed to the press about the plan except that it does not conform to the parameters of the 2002 Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative.

“I think it was a great initiative, in 2002 when it was done, but it hasn’t produced peace, so if that was the framework under which something would be accomplished then I think that would have been accomplished a long time ago, and then I wouldn’t be doing the duty I’m doing right now to try to bring the people together,” Kushner reportedly said. He also said in the meetings that the full plan won’t be released until after the upcoming Israeli elections on 9 April.

“I will look at it once it is presented. I have to say that I know the Trump administration seeks to insure the security of Israel for generations,” Netanyahu said in response to reporters questions about what Kushner had presented.

Finally, one Arab Foreign Minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa of Bahrain, was quite vocal in placing the blame for the continued lack of resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict squarely at the feet of Iran, saying’s the Islamic Republic’s “toxic” support for terrorist groups, including in the West Bank and Gaza, were the primary reason peace has not yet been achieved. Additionally, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said during a panel discussion that Israel had every right to defend itself against Iranian aggression in Syria.

Here is a vidoe of Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the summit

US and Israel Wrap Up Juniper Falcon War Games

US and Israeli troops wrapped up the Juniper Falcon 2019 joint air defence exercises on Thursday. The drills included testing a wide array of equipment and training against scenarios ranging from ballistic missile strikes on the Jewish State to mass casualty events. Logistical, naval, medical and other units participated in the drills which incorporated hundreds of soldiers from US European Command and the IDF. Drills like Juniper Falcon “provide the glue” that strengthens “the bond between the United States and Israel,” said Lt.-Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, deputy commander, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa. He continued by saying that it such exercises also build confidence which has “facilitated the ability for American troops to easily come here during times of emergency.”

Here is a video about the Juniper Falcon 2019 Exrecise posted by the IDF



In related news, a fresh cadre of officers headed for the IDF’s recently formed Border Defence Force graduated from their four month course on Thursday and will soon be assigned to their new units. “Israel understood it had to invest more on defending its borders, and while it might only be two years old the course is built on past history,” Lt.-Col. Ayalon Peretz, one of the commanders at the Border Defense School, told The Jerusalem Post, adding that with “every course we are getting better and better.”

Islamic Scholar in Gaza Instructs Followers to Attack Israelis
Dr. Muhammad Suleiman Al-Farra, a lecturer at the Shari'a and Law College of the Islamic University of Gaza, recently gave an interview to Al-Aqsa TV in which he said, among other things, that all Moslems have a religious duty to “strive to fight them [the Jews], using any means that might enable us to get to them anywhere in our pure land…when the time Allah gave runs out, fighting them will become mandatory… kill the polytheists wherever you may find them.” He added that all of Israel is “a battlefield between us and the Jews. Therefore, we must strive to fight them, using any means that might enable us to get to them anywhere in our pure land.”

Hapoel Jerusalem Wins Basketball State Cup
Basketball fans in Israel’s capital had something to cheer about Thursday evening as the Hapoel Jerusalem club defeated Maccabi Rishon Lezion 82-67 to clinch the 2019 Israel State Cup for the first time since 2008. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin presented the trophy to the team amidst wild cheers from their loyal fans.

Israel Blesses the World
Israel’s IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) NGO sent a delegation to fire-ravaged southern California earlier this year to train their counter-parts there and share best practices for disaster response. The training sessions are designed to assist with responding to "man-made and natural disasters catalyzes change for vulnerable populations worldwide, applies professional skills as part of IsraAID missions, and acquires the know-how to respond to local disasters," according to the organization.

Israel’s Religious Zionist Parties Agree to Run Together in Elections
The Bayit Yehudi (National Home) and National Union factions agreed late Thursday evening to run a combined list in the upcoming elections on 9 April. “This agreement was reached with an understanding of the importance of this time and the challenges ahead of us, and with friendship and mutual modesty we are starting a new path,” said Bayit Yehudi chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz.

Report; ‘Iran Two Years Away from Nuclear Weapons’

An Israeli Intelligence assessment was released on Wednesday estimating that if Iran were to determine to do so it could have a working nuclear weapon within two years. The same report assessed that the Iranian leadership is attempting to buy time in the hope that US President Donald Trump will not be re-elected in 2020. In related news, reports emerged this week that the US is conducting a campaign of sabotage against Iran’s renegade ballistic missile program, which has suffered two failed test launches in recent weeks. The program, which is officially secret but has been widely suspected for years, includes efforts to pass on defective parts and materials to be used in the construction of missiles, resulting in the failure destruction of the missiles in flight or even on the launchpad.

In related news, the son of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed 40 years ago in Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, was interviewed this week by various media outlets and expressed his belief that the clerical regime which rules Iran is close to the breaking point due to a combination of external pressure and internal dissent. As if to solidify this point, a car bomb attack on a bus carrying members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in southeast Iran killed 27 people on Wednesday. A Sunni separatist group calling itself Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack.

Here are some videos recently posted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry regarding Iran





Israel Blesses the World
A team from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheeva published an article this week in the trade publication International Journal of Energy Research detailing their work in the field of nuclear safety. “The Chernobyl and Fukushima Daichii accidents raised awareness and put the issue of severe core accidents – SCA – on the scientific agenda,” said Dr. Gilad Erez from the Unit of Nuclear Engineering in the Faculty of Sciences. “That is a big step towards the ultimate goal of studying severe core accidents on a full-core scale.”

US Delivers $16 Million Worth of Missiles to LAF
Despite recent indications of the increase in cooperation between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, the Pentagon delivered a shipment of Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) to the LAF Air Force this week. “These APKWS laser-guided rockets are a key component for the Lebanese Air Force’s new A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft,” said a statement by the US Embassy in Beirut. The statement added that the $16 million shipment “demonstrates the US government’s firm and steady commitment to support to the Lebanese Army in their capacity as the sole, legitimate defender of Lebanon.”

Here is a video giving some analysis of the situation in Lebanon

Netanyahu Meets with Arab Government Officials

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Warsaw Wednesday and Thursday for a conference on the future of the Middle East attended by senior officials and diplomats from over 60 other countries, including Israel’s Arab neighbors who came despite demands for a boycott by the Palestinian Authority. “What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of combating Iran.” Netanyahu said. "What we are doing is pushing and driving Iran from Syria. We are committed to doing this. It is cold in Warsaw right now but Israel's foreign relations are warming up, warming up for the better."

On Wednesday Netanyahu had a public meeting with Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah and during the formal part of the meetings he sat next to Yemeni Foreign Minister.

Here is a video of Netanyahu’s meeting with Abdullah



The official name of the conference is the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East, and is ostensibly aimed at addressing various regional issues, but Iran is at the top of the agenda and some observers have said that little else is even on the agenda.

Here are some other videos from the conference





"Today, the Iranian people see some European countries as cunning and untrustworthy along with the criminal America. The government of the Islamic Republic must carefully preserve its boundaries with them,” said a statement in response to the conference issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "Iran must not retreat a single step from national and revolutionary values.”

Here are some videos recently posted by Israel’s Foreign Ministry regarding Iran



Netanyahu in Warsaw for Multi-National Conference on Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed for Warsaw Tuesday evening to participate in a conference on the future of the Middle East co-sponsored by Poland and the US. Representatives from over 60 countries, including several Arab states, are scheduled to attend, despite a boycott of the event by the Palestinian Authority whose President Mahmoud Abbas described it as part of “a conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian national cause.” Iranian leaders have also denounced it as a plot against them.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the meeting in January, saying it would “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

Netanyahu said during the cabinet meeting on Sunday morning that “the first issue on the agenda is Iran – how to continue preventing it from entrenching in Syria, how to thwart its aggression in the region and, above all, how to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”

However, it is widely expected that Jared Kushner, senior advisor to US President Donald Trump, will roll out elements of the so-called “deal of the century” during the conference as well.

Here is a video giving some analysis of current events surrounding Iran

Tension Increasing Between Israel and Northern Neighbors

Military units loyal to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad deployed to positions in the Quneitra area bordering the Golan Heights this week, according to reports in Arab media outlets. The deployments come as the IDF conducted large-scale exercises in the north of the country. “This drill simulated what will need to be done during a war with Hezbollah,” Maj. Tsur Goldman of the 401st Armored Brigade told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, referring to an exercise his unit took part in in the northern Jordan Valley.

Here is a video giving some analysis of the situation on Israel’s northern border



Israel Blesses the World
Scientists and engineers at the Weizmann Institute of science in Israel, along with their colleagues at the NYU School of Medicine, have developed Artificial Intelligence-based processes to perform echo-cardiograms in a fraction of the time and with far greater accuracy then previous processes. The new technology will allow far more effective treatments of various heart conditions. In related news, engineers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) were part of a team which recently announced their development of new drip irrigation systems designed to drastically reduce the need for  chemical pesticides in agriculture.

The DripByDrip system, which was developed in partnership with Bayer, Netafim and BGN Technologies, combines several different computer systems and is adaptable for use in the cultivation of potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, citrus, and brassicas, with the potential for application in the production of various other crops.

Rivlin Honored Guest in Cyprus
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was an honored guest of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday, receiving a full honor guard at the Presidential Palace in Larnaca. “The Israel-Cyprus partnership is an island of friendship, democracy and creativity, in the often stormy Mediterranean Sea,” said Rivlin. He added that the two countries, along with Greece, are eager to move forward on a variety of joint projects, especially in relation to the development of natural gas fields in the region.

El Al Adding New Routes to Orlando
El Al Israel Airlines, the national carrier of the Jewish State, issued a statement on Tuesday that it is launching a new non-stop route this summer between Tel Aviv and Orlando, Florida. The roughly 13.5 hour routes are enabled by EL Al’s growing fleet of long-haul Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft.

 

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