Newsletter : 18fx0727.txt
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Russia Thanks Israel for Striking ISIS Targets in Syria
By World Israel News
Russia's Ministry of Defense on Thursday issued a rare statement thanking the IDF for a
strike it conducted against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in southern Syria in retaliation
for ISIS rocket fire on Israel. On Wednesday, ISIS fired two Grad rockets at Israel's
north, setting off sirens in the area. The rockets landed in the Kinneret, Sea of Galilee,
causing no damage or injuries. The beaches were full of swimmers nearby amid the summer
In response, the IDF aircraft targeted the rocket launcher from which they were fired. IDF
artillery targeted the area surrounding it. "Russian armed forces' command in Syria used
the existing communication channels to thank the IDF leadership for killing terrorists and
stopping a massive provocation," the Ministry said in a statement, according to Russia's
Sputnik News. "A precision strike by jets and IDF artillery operatively destroyed Daesh
(Arabic acronym for ISIS) terrorists and their rocket launchers," the Russian ministry
The IDF estimates that the ISIS fire was a spillover from the intense fighting between
Bashar al-Assad's advancing armies and rebel forces based adjacent to Israel border with
Syria. Ynet reported that Israeli defense officials believe ISIS launched the rockets at
Israel as a provocation in an attempt to make Israel attack the Syrian army in
retaliation. This assessment is based on the fact Assad's army was attacking ISIS from the
north and east, and so any fire to the west, towards Israel, would have to be intentional,
Authorities Weigh Replacing Stone that Fell Out of Western Wall
By Israel Hayom
A stone that fell out of the Western Wall earlier this week and landed near an
egalitarian prayer plaza at the holy site was removed from the premises by crane
Wednesday. The block, weighing hundreds of pounds, was carried out of the way to an area
near the Mughrabi Bridge.
A Western Wall Heritage Foundation official said Wednesday that the stone had been removed
to a closed-off area that could not be accessed by the public. "The stone will be kept
there and receive the best care both in professional terms [as antiquity] and as a
holy object because the place is considered a holy site," the official said.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation met with experts from the Israel Antiquities
Authority a number of times this week to devise the best approach to dealing with the
stone. One possibility entailed replacing the stone in the wall. "The stone can be
reaffixed, but there is concern that it won't stay in place because of its weight," the
official said. "The stone could be drilled back into place, but that raises problems with
Halachah [Jewish law]. The stones of the Western Wall cannot be damaged because of their
An investigation into the unusual dislodging of a stone revealed that it was just a matter
of time before this particular stone came loose. "The stone bore signs of dust, which
means the stone was in the process of detaching. It wasn't a sudden occurrence," the
Abbas' Fatah: Israel Planning to Destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque
By the Jerusalem Post
The stone that fell from the Western Wall earlier this week proves that Israel has
devised a plan to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a spokesperson for the ruling
Fatah faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed on Thursday.
The Palestinians have since used the incident to revive their long-standing charge that
Israel is planning to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque to rebuild the Third Temple.
Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesperson for Fatah, said on Thursday that the dislodging of the
stone was a "dangerous sign of what was happening in the al-Aqsa Mosque and its
surroundings" a reference to the archaeological work that has been going on near
the Temple Mount for decades in the site called the Davidson Center, the Jerusalem
"We affirm that al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings, including what is beneath it, are
purely Islamic," Qawassmeh said. "The Jews have no right to it." He said that visits by
Jews to the Temple Mount, as well as Israeli archaeological excavations "beneath" the
compound, which Palestinians call al-Haram ash-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), are a "crime
against all religions and a blatant violation of the sanctity of the religion of Islam."
The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, and heads of the Waqf Department recently
claimed that ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations "endangered" al-Aqsa Mosque.
Netanyahu Discusses 'Druze Needs' over Nationality Law Protest
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held a meeting with government ministers and Knesset
members Thursday about the needs of the Druze community ahead of his meeting Friday with
Druze leaders in the wake of their protest over the Nationality Law.
The prime minister will meet on Friday with the Druze community's dignitaries, including
spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafak Tarif. Tarif said he was happy to accept the prime
minister's invitation to meet, as long as the meeting will focus on amending the
"We are not talking about other problems right now, like the budget. We want to know the
Druze's status under the Nationality Law and understand how the law's definition of the
Druze's status and rights will affect the community. This is our current concern. This,
and nothing more," he said.
On Sunday, coalition party leaders will discuss the matter to formulate a plan to help
resolve the real issues facing the Druze community in Israel. Also, the government will
consider promoting legislation to give preference to Druze who serve or served in the IDF.
During Thursday's meeting, Netanyahu and the other officials discussed the possibility of
adding to a law passed in May that sets a day in the State of Israel's official national
calendar celebrating the Druze community and their contribution to the country.
Alternatively, the coalition could propose new legislation to establish the Druze
community's status in the State of Israel.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday criticized the law that he and his party
members voted for. "Following conversations with many of our Druze brothers, it appears
that the way we passed the Nationality Law was detrimental to the Druze community and to
those who link their fate with the Jewish state," Bennett wrote in his Twitter account.
"This, of course, is not the intention of the Israeli government. These are our blood
brothers who made a covenant with us, and stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, on the
battlefield. We, the Government of Israel, have a responsibility to find a way to bridge
the gap," Bennett stated.
Netanyahu put all of his weight behind the Nationality Law, which states that the State of
Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and that Hebrew is the official language
of the state. Arabic was defined as having a special status, with the official state use
of Arabic to be determined in separate legislation. Under the previous version of the
bill, which passed in its first reading in May, the Arabic language was to receive special
status and state services were to be made accessible in Arabic as well.
This week, 100 Druze IDF officers in reserves, many of them with a rich record of fighting
in Israel's various wars over the years, have joined the fight against the law. Several of
the Druze reserve officers expressed anger for being excluded from Israeli society despite
the fact they served and continued to serve the country. "I don't understand why this law
is necessary. Is somebody questioning that the fact the country is Jewish? This law only
creates second-class citizens," Brig. Gen. (res.) Imad Fares lamented.
Romanian Minister Compares Killing Sick Pigs to Auschwitz
By Reuters & JTA
Israel reacted with "dismay and disappointment" on Thursday to a comment by Romanian
Agriculture Minister Petre Daea, who compared the slaughter of sick pigs to the murder of
Jews at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.
Daea's remark was made in a brief televised interview detailing veterinary health measures
to halt the spread of African swine fever at a breeding farm in southern Romania, with
44,580 pigs being culled. He said: "The pigs (at the farm) are all incinerated ... it's
extraordinary work; it's like Auschwitz."
In a statement on Thursday Daea, a Social Democrat, apologized, saying: "I only wanted to
present the particularly difficult situation facing pig breeders from African swine fever.
In my soul there is a lot of pain, I wanted to describe the awful moments our farmers
In its statement expressing dismay, the Israeli embassy in Bucharest said: "We hope ...
that Minister Daea made such an association because of the lack of in-depth information on
what the Holocaust and Auschwitz are, without the intention of dishonoring the memory of
millions of victims."
Romania has only in recent years started to come to terms with its role in the
extermination of Jews, admitting for the first time in 2003 that it took part. Sensitivity
towards the Holocaust and knowledge of it remain patchy. During World War Two, Jews from
across Europe were sent to death camps built and operated by the Germans, including
Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany until August 1944 when it changed sides, and much of
the Jewish property seized during the war was later nationalized by the communist
dictatorship that followed. According to a 2004 report by a commission headed by Nobel
laureate Elie Wiesel, between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed
by civilian and military authorities in Romania and areas they controlled during the war.
Romania had a pre-war Jewish population of about 800,000, but fewer than 11,000 Jews now
live in the EU member state, which has a total population of around 20 million.
Israel Risks Falling Behind on Inflation in Bid to Weaken Shekel
By Bloomberg News
For much of Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug's five-year term, she fought tooth and
nail against shekel bulls as they propelled the currency to record highs, undercutting
Now, as the shekel finally weakens amid a global surge in the dollar, Flug is facing a new
conundrum: what to do about the reappearance of inflation as her term comes to an end? If
she adopts a more hawkish stance, she risks giving back the shekel weakness she fought so
hard for. If she sticks to her current policy, she risks falling behind on rising prices.
For now, Flug is prioritizing the currency, charting out a slow trajectory of
interest-rate increases. At the bank's July 9 monetary policy discussion, Flug said the
central bank wants to see annual inflation inside its target range of 1% to 3% for several
months before it will begin normalizing rates.
For Rafael Gozlan, chief economist at Israel Brokerage & Investments Ltd., that
signals further shekel weakness ahead. "Flug's announcement that the Bank of Israel
intended to wait until inflation, especially actual inflation as opposed to expectations,
settled down, essentially positions the bank behind the curve at this stage," said Gozlan.
He predicted that inflation-linked bonds would gain as the market's inflation expectations
As in the rest of the developed world, inflation has largely been absent in Israel for the
past three years but is now rising, spelling the end of the global easy-money era. The
BOI's monetary policy committee has kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of
0.1% for the past three years and bought billions of dollars to keep the shekel from
appreciating too quickly.
Leading up to the last rate decision, investors started betting the central bank would get
ahead of the curve and signal a more hawkish stance. With prices rising for everything
from wages to rent to food, Israel's benchmark bond yield surged 19 points higher in the
month leading up to the decision. Then came Flug's carefully worded message on inflation,
which investors interpreted as dovish, sending yields down 14 basis points in the two days
following the decision.
"We believe that despite the overall rise in headline inflation and robust growth
dynamics, the monetary policy committee will deliberately keep its dovish communication
style at least until year-end to fend off renewed appreciation pressure on the shekel,"
said Christian Wietoska, emerging-markets fixed-income strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in
Israel's economic growth has surpassed analyst expectations in recent quarters, and the
central bank's research department expects it to reach 3.7% this year. Prices are expected
to rise 1.4% over the next 12 months. Yet Flug doesn't want to pull the trigger on rates
before she's certain inflation has found its footing.
It may well fall to the next governor to steer the bank in a new direction. Finance
Minister Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been meeting with
candidates to replace Flug, whose five-year term ends November 12. The governor, who has
clashed with the two men over how to steer Israel's economy, told Netanyahu earlier this
month she won't seek to extend her tenure.
The BOI's research department anticipates interest rates rising to 0.25% in the fourth
quarter of this year, with another increase in the third quarter of 2019. That pace
suggests a significant gap could open with the U.S., where the lending rate is already at
1.75% to 2% and is expected to rise more quickly.
Those projections are leading analysts to revise their forecasts for the shekel, with the
median estimate among seven contributors surveyed by Bloomberg predicting the shekel will
trade at 3.61 per dollar by year-end, compared with an estimate of 3.45 at the start of
"The Bank of Israel has no need to change its stance aggressively, and for now the Bank of
Israel is, in fact, welcoming the depreciation seen on the foreign currency front,"
Wietoska said. "Nevertheless, there's a limit to how wide the gap in interest rate
differentials to the U.S. can become."
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