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Quneitra Falls to Syrian Army. Damascus: 1974 Accord Permits Syrian Air Flights over Israel's Golan Border

By DEBKAfile

Syrian rebel resistance to the Syrian Army advance on Quneitra opposite the Israeli Golan crumbled on Thursday, July 19, in the absence of Israeli military support. The terms of surrender that rebel leaders signed with Syrian army officers obliged them to hand over all their strongholds, including the town of Quneitra. The Syrian army was able to return to the positions held before the 2011 uprising without a shot. Rebels refusing to sign were to be sent with their families north to Idlib province. Israeli officials and military leaders were dismayed by a message received from Damascus claiming that the 1974 Separation of Forces Accord, which both governments resuscitated this week, allowed Syrian aircraft, including assault helicopters and UAVs, to fly over the buffer zones of the Golan up to the Israel border. Damascus relayed a copy of the accord to Moscow with a warning that any Israeli attempt to shoot down a Syrian overflight would be a breach of the 1974 accord, and its endorsement on July 16 at Helsinki by Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. DEBKAfile revealed on July 17 that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had partnered the Helsinki deal for the restoration of southern Syria to the Syrian army under Russian oversight. Israeli officers were handed the Syrian message on Thursday by the UNDOF commander, Maj Gen. Francis Vib-Sanziri of Ghana, who is henceforth responsible for monitoring implementation of the Helsinki deal. According to DEBKAfile's military sources, this Syrian message for the first time forbids the Israeli air force and anti-air missile batteries shooting down Syrian aerial vehicles entering the airspace over the buffer zones. On July 13, Israel shot down a Syrian drone entering the buffer zone. This is no longer permissible. Israel is even precluded from discovering if the intruder belongs to Iran or Hizbullah, leaving both these hostile entities free to fly at will over Israel's Golan border. Furthermore, Assad may have those flight painted with Syrian air force markings, just as he supplies Syrian military uniforms to disguise Hizbullah and pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen. Our sources reveal that it took the Assad regime no more than four days to renege on Syria's role in the Helsinki accord. For regaining Quneitra, the Syrian army, led by disguised Hizbullah and Shiite troops, was obliged to evacuate the Beit Jinn pocket opposite the IDF's Hermon outpost. On Monday, July 16, the Syrians pretended to pull back, while leaving several hundred troops behind – disguised this time as civilians and farmers.

Knesset Passes Highly Controversial Nation-State Law

By VOA News
Israel's Knesset early Thursday passed a highly controversial law that states only Jews in Israel have the right to self-determination and encourages Jewish settlement. The so-called nation-state law passed 62-55 after nearly eight hours of fierce debate and harsh criticism, especially from Arab members of parliament. Some Arab lawmakers angrily tore up copies of the bill, calling it the "death of democracy" and "peak of racism" in Israel. But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hailed the bill as a "defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel." Seventy years after the Jewish state was founded, the law declares, "Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it." But it also secures the right of all Israeli residents to preserve their heritage without consideration of religion. "With this law, we determined the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and respects the rights of all its citizens," Netanyahu said. But despite Netanyahu's assurance that Arab civil rights would not be violated, Arab lawmakers say the law includes a provision that downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with "special status." They also say it gives Jews the right to build exclusively Jewish communities. One parliamentarian called it an "apartheid" law and accused the government of being scared of the Arabic language. Israeli Arabs are guaranteed full civil rights. But many complain of discrimination, especially when it comes to receiving government services. Netanyahu said Israel's enemies have been trying to delegitimize its existence, but now Jewish statehood is enshrined in law. "Long live the State of Israel!" he declared. Arab legislator Ahmad Tibi says the new law is racist. "The nationality bill is a hate crime," said Tibi. "They are totally discriminating against the Arab citizens, against the Arab minority." Critics say the bill does enormous damage to the State of Israel, whose image abroad is already battered due to its alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians. In a radio interview, Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri said the last thing Israel needs is more bad publicity. He said the law accomplishes nothing other than providing ammunition to Israel's detractors, including those who accuse the Jewish state of apartheid.

Palestinians Slam Saudi Documentary about Israel's Founding

By the Jerusalem Post

Amid rumors of warming ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Palestinian groups have lashed out against a recently released documentary series from Saudi-owned television news channel Al-Arabiya that depicts the lead-up to and the creation of the Jewish state. The two-part series, titled The Naqba, is rich with imagery from the Holocaust and the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish population. It interviews Israelis, Arabs and historians in what it says is an attempt to depict the controversial topic in an unbiased light. The documentary "reconstructs the story of the birth of Israel in a way that is free of ideology or partisanism" by reviewing the crucial "moments of this chapter of the 20th century through testimonies and interviews with eyewitnesses and historians on both sides," the TV channel's description of the show reads in Arabic. However, the series depicts the dire situation of European Jewry following the Holocaust with the narrator saying things like "Israel was born, and the dream became a reality" and "Arab neighboring armies invaded Palestine [following the UN partition plan]." As a result, many Palestinians have complained that the show is an attempt by Saudi Arabia to normalize the Jewish country. "It seems that Al-Arabiya decided to take off its Arab dress," the Forum of Palestinian Journalists wrote in a statement on its website. "The Naqba addresses the circumstances of the establishment of the occupation on the land of Palestine according to the Zionist narrative, speaking of what it calls the `Naqba of the Jews' [the Holocaust], which forced them to establish their homeland in Palestine, in a suspicious attempt to obliterate the facts of history." "This documentary," the statement continued, "stripped of all the values of humanity, nationalism and religion, is even more dangerous in light of the plans for the liquidation of the Palestinian cause through the `deal of the century,' promoted by the American administration led by President Donald Trump," referring to a much-hyped Israel-Palestinian peace plan expected to be revealed by the US soon that Trump has claimed will be "the deal of the century." The Palestinian Anti-Normalization Center – which describes itself as a "group of Palestinian and Arab activists who stand by the just cause of the Palestinian people" – also slammed the new series. "We condemn, in the strongest terms, this media catastrophe, which is scandalous and comes in the context of the series of normalization and the promotion of a false story of the establishment of the Zionist entity," the group wrote, adding, "The history of the Palestinian cause is a clear and present history. Al-Arabiya TV and others will not succeed in falsifying the facts of history."

Conservative Rabbi Recounts Arrest over Prohibited Marriage


A Haifa-based Conservative Rabbi recounted his controversial early morning arrest for marrying a couple without the permission of Israel's rabbinate, which is a criminal offense. "Yesterday I received three phone calls from the police and said that there was a complaint against me for illegally arranging marriages," Dov Haiyun told the Kan Public Broadcasting Corporation. "I told them I was out of town and tomorrow I am at the president's house. They said they would send me a summons." Haiyun had been scheduled to take part in a study session at President Reuven Rivlin's residence, a commitment he ended up making. "I was surprised at 5:30 in the morning," continued Haiyun. "The police car was waiting for me downstairs, with bars in the windows. I told them I was on my way to prayer, so they told me I would pray at the station." Haiyun had been roused out of bed by the police and questioned on suspicion of an offense under section 7 of the Marriage and Divorce Ordinance, which prohibits private marriage and divorce, and establishes a two-year prison term for marriage or divorce without registration. The arrest had caused outrage across Israel, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the investigation halted. The Rabbinate said that it had pressed for Haiyun's arrest after he had married a 'mamzer, (bastard)' or the product of an adulterous marriage forbidden by Jewish law. According to Halachah as followed by Orthodox Jews, a person born from certain forbidden relationships, or the descendant of such a person, is considered a "mamzer" and can only marry another mamzer or a convert. Conservative Judaism has essentially rendered the "mamzer" category inoperative. Haiyun contended, however, that he had checked the couple's background and had decided that nothing in Jewish law forbade them from marrying each other, adding that the rabbinate agreed after conducting a subsequent probe. "It is a story of a couple that the rabbinate told them before marriage that they are forbidden from marrying each other," Haiyun said. "They came to me, I checked the subject, and I solved the problem according to Jewish law. Soon, the rabbinical court ruled the same." Haiyun was released after several hours of questioning. Following a swift public and political firestorm over the arrest, the Haifa District Police said that Haiyun was not required to return to the station for further interrogation last Monday after he had agreed to do so voluntarily. Haiyun heads the Conservative community in Haifa and has been officiating at non-Orthodox weddings in Israel for decades. He was detained following a complaint by the Haifa Rabbinical Court, according to a spokesperson for the Masorti Movement in Israel. "It's very unpleasant to be dragged out of bed for interrogation for the sin of carrying out weddings in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel. I am not an offender, not a murderer, not a criminal. I was shocked," he told Kan . "It is hard for me to think of a less Jewish act on the eve of Tisha B'Av. The police were dragged in to serve as a tool for the Orthodox rabbinical court. It is a sad day for democracy in Israel," he added.

Austria Downplays Fears over Proposed Jewish Registry

By Israel Hayom
A proposal in an Austrian province to restrict the kosher slaughter of animals has drawn strong criticism in the European country. An official in Lower Austria province responsible for animal welfare, Gottfried Waldhäusl of the nationalist Freedom Party told the Wiener Zeitung newspaper, "We are examining whether the demand for meat can be coupled to residency." He objected to people from nearby Vienna, where a majority of Austria's Jewish population resides, coming to have animals slaughtered there. He further said religious ritual slaughter should be rejected. A top official with Austria's center-left opposition Social Democrats, Max Lercher, said Wednesday that Waldhäusl planned to make Jews register to receive kosher meat. He said the notion Jews would be made to register in such a manner was "a clearly anti-Semitic demand." Vienna's Jewish community was also critical. Jewish Community President Oskar Deutsch said the plans would require compiling lists of Jews and was thus reminiscent of Nazi laws introduced to Austria following its annexation by Germany in 1938, the BBC reported. The American Jewish Committee's Berlin office also blasted the move, questioning whether the plan would also require Jews wear the yellow Star of David as was required under the Nazi regime. Austria's Ambassador to Israel Martin Weiss tried to downplay reports of the planned registry on Twitter, Wednesday, writing, "This story has given rise to great concerns in Austria's Jewish and Muslim community. Leading politicians from Lower Austria have thus gone on record & made it clear that they will find a solution together with these communities – and allay all fears!" Klaus Schneeberger of the conservative Austrian People's Party, which leads the regional government, told the Austria Press Agency that authorities would not establish any such registry.

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