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Netanyahu Confirms Latest Israeli Strike in Syria

By Reuters
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli forces had carried out another strike in Iran-aligned Syria, a day after the Syrian army said an Israeli drone fired missiles near a demolished hospital and an army observation post. "We are operating every day, including yesterday, against Iran. All the time. Against Iran and against its attempt to entrench itself in the area," Netanyahu told reporters before flying to Poland for a Mideast conference. He stressed that Iran is the focus of the Warsaw Mideast summit. Israel is trying to counter the influence carved out in Syria by Iran, which has supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war that erupted in 2011. Monday's airstrike, which occurred in the southern Quneitra province, caused only material damage, the Syrian army said. Israel has been increasingly open about carrying out air strikes in Syria with an election looming in April. Netanyahu has said in recent weeks that Israel has carried out hundreds of attacks in Syria over the past several years and would ramp up its fight following the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. Prior to leaving for a major meeting in Poland, Netanyahu commented on the Israeli strike on Monday and stressed that Iran is the focus of the Warsaw Mideast summit.

Chinese Investment in Israel Raises Security Fears

By the Wall Street Journal
Security officials are raising alarms over Chinese investment in Israeli technology companies, prompting the Israeli government to scrutinize the money flows and businesses to reconsider accepting Chinese funds. Israel is moving to create an interagency government body to oversee sensitive commercial deals involving foreign companies, U.S. and Israeli officials said, akin to the U.S.'s Committee on Foreign Investment. The effort has been underway in recent months but has taken on added urgency amid recent complaints about Chinese investment from American and Israeli security officials, including national security adviser John Bolton and Israel's domestic spy chief, U.S. and Israeli officials said. U.S. and Israeli officials said they are especially concerned about stepped-up Chinese investments in Israeli companies whose products are dual use, meaning they have both military and commercial applications, such as drones and artificial intelligence. They also worry about China using Israeli companies as a way to uncover U.S. secrets and about Beijing transferring Israeli technological know-how to its ally, Iran, an arch foe of Israel. Officials said they worry that Chinese government entities could gain access to sensitive information by gaining control over and insight into companies that are in the dual-use space. National security adviser John Bolton and other American officials have warned that Chinese investments in Israeli technology could hinder intelligence ties. With few deep-pocketed investment partners outside of the U.S. and Europe, Israel has for years welcomed Chinese money as Beijing embarked on a long-term plan of cementing its global influence with loans and business partnerships. Concerns about Chinese investments flared in 2015 when state-controlled Shanghai International Port Group won a government contract to build and operate Haifa's port for 25 years. The worries have accelerated with the global rise of telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co.—which the U.S. government accuses of spying for Beijing—and a blitz of Chinese investment in Israel's vaunted tech industry. Chinese investors participated in 12% of deals in the first three quarters of 2018 with Israeli tech companies, reflecting an increase over the past three years, according to a report by the IVC Research Center, which tracks the Israeli tech industry. U.S. and Israeli investors account for a much larger share, generally about one-third of deals each annually, according to IVC. In the first three quarters of 2018, according to IVC, Chinese investors were involved in all 17 financing rounds for Israeli startups of $20 million or more. Efraim Halevy, former director of Israel's spy agency, the Mossad, said the country has been slow to recognize the security threat that Chinese investment represents, and said it is especially worrisome in dual-use products. "That is a very dangerous area," said Halevy, who supports continued Chinese investment in Israel but wants it vetted for national security. Chinese officials have dismissed such warnings as "ridiculous," accusing the U.S. of invoking national security to harm normal commercial activities. "The U.S. has been abusing the idea of `national security,' slandering and striking down the normal commercial activities of Chinese enterprises," a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said in January. Israel is already home to 12 Chinese trade offices from 11 cities across the country. They aim to foster investments that go both ways, including funding Israeli companies that in turn set up offices or share technology in China. Israeli executives said their government and U.S. investors have stepped up the pressure to steer clear of Chinese investment in dual-use companies. "Some small Israeli companies are saying we are not sure we want to take investments from China because we don't want to be locked out of the U.S.," said Sam Chester, a Tel Aviv-based consultant at Indigo Global, who helps connect Chinese investors and Israeli tech companies. He added, however, that U.S. pressure isn't a concern for most Israeli companies doing business with Chinese firms. Others say China is too big to turn down, and that potential concerns can be mitigated.

Liberman: Want Jewish Children and Grandchildren? Move to Israel

By the Jerusalem Post

Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, said on Tuesday that Jews who "want their children and grandchildren to remain Jewish have only one choice: move to Israel as soon as possible. A wave of antisemitism is sweeping the world and gaining momentum," Liberman said in the statement. Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, rejected Liberman's comments, saying that Jewish life in North America is "vibrant" and has "remarkable energy," and invited Liberman to visit and see for himself. Liberman's comments came on Tuesday, almost 48 hours after Jewish and non-Jewish leaders across Israel and the US hastily responded to comments by Omar, who tweeted that she believes AIPAC pays politicians to be pro-Israel. The former defense minister said that Omar's tweets are not isolated, but rather are part of a rising wave of anti-Semitic incidents around the world, and point to an increasing rate of assimilation. Neo-Nazi demonstrations with hundreds of participants take place in Budapest, Hungary, and the police don't lift a finger," he said. "Anti-Semitic slurs are hurled at Jews on the London Underground and on the Frankfurt high-speed train in Germany. In the heart of Paris, yellow paint was sprayed on a Jewish-owned restaurant and the word `Jude' was written all over it." Specifically, he cited a 16% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK and a 74% increase in France. "Jews throughout the world and in Europe in particular must conclude from these anti-Semitic incidents," Liberman said. However, some Diaspora leaders dismissed Liberman's comments and rejected his opinion that Jewish life outside of Israel was in danger of dying out. "It's unfortunate that Mr. Liberman has not spent extended time visiting and experiencing Jewish life in America. He would observe a remarkable amount of energy," Silverman said. "I don't think he would make those statements if he spent time in day schools, in Jewish camps, congregations, Jewish community centers and Hillels. Federations welcome the opportunity to show him a glimpse of North America's vibrant Jewish life." Rabbi Josh Weinberg, president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), similarly suggested that Liberman's comments were based on a lack of familiarity with Jewish communities in the US. "We, in the Reform Movement, have a wide-reaching network of congregations, camps, youth experiences, and a youth movement that are proven to have a positive impact on lifelong Jewish identity which also extends to the next generation," said Weinberg.

US Citizen High on Labor List Vows to Help English Speakers in Israel

By the Jerusalem Post

44 candidates ran in Monday's Labor primary, each having their own strengths and weaknesses. But only one candidate had the ultimate secret weapon: A mother from Brooklyn. Irene Fink, who is 75, stood all day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. outside the WIZO building on Jerusalem's Mapu Street that housed the capital's only polling station. She told every single voter who came that she is the proud mother of Yair "Yaya" Fink, opposition leader Thanks in part to Irene, Yaya received 15,507 votes, outscoring all but seven of the MKs in the Labor faction. He finished eighth in the primary, which means he will be placed ninth on the list if Gabbay does not end up using his reserved slots on the list, and 12th if Gabbay does. The younger Fink, 34, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that he would forever be grateful to his mother and that he would be a proud representative of the English-speaking community in Israel if elected to the Knesset. Fink is a US citizen thanks both to Irene and to his father, who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and comes from a respected family in the Scranton Jewish community. Fink promises to deliver "a new type of religious Zionism," one which is supportive of gay rights, peace and even limited public transportation on Shabbat. He is a member of the public council of Tzav Pius, an NGO devoted to better relations between secular and religious Israelis and enjoys a top position in Ofek, a cooperative bank initiative. In an interview given to Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post, Fink said that he "speaks for the real Judaism, the tolerant Judaism that believes in `love thy neighbor'... Jewish values that put equality and social justice at the center." Saying that he views liberal Leftist values and Jewish values as complementary, he voiced support for LGBT equal rights, civil marriages for Jewish Israelis and dividing Jerusalem to obtain a peace agreement with the Palestinians. He has been a vegetarian since the age of 7 and was a serious basketball player in high-school.

EL AL Expands Flight Plans to Include Non-Stop Trips from Orlando to Israel

By Reuters and the Jerusalem Post

El Al Israel Airlines said on Tuesday it was continuing to expand into North America with a nonstop flight during the summer months between Tel Aviv and Orlando. The weekly flights to the home of Disney World will begin in June using Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft, El Al said. Flight times have been estimated at 13.5 hours per trip. Israel's flag carrier is investing heavily in 787 aircraft to renew its fleet and has been adding long-haul flights to win back customers from increased competition. In December, El Al said it was starting nonstop flights in June to Las Vegas from Tel Aviv and in May to San Francisco. In 2017 it began flights to Miami. El Al also flies to New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Toronto.

When President Lincoln Fought for the Jews

By Steven J. Kessler (Commentary JTA)
During Black History Month, we recognize the historical importance of President Abraham Lincoln as the foremost figure in the battle to abolish slavery. But even as Lincoln, whose 210th birthday was marked Tuesday, Feb. 12, is widely known for his role fighting for equality, he may still be underappreciated. In fact, as a moral compass and a role model for liberty, his influence extends far beyond the specific events for which he is most well-known. In Lincoln's time, like today, the issue of equality was relevant to many minority groups. While Jews had been living in America for centuries by the time of Lincoln's presidency, anti-Semitism was widespread, even among the abolitionists. While the Civil War raged in late 1862, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wanted to stop the trade of Southern cotton. A number of Jews were involved in the cotton trade, including some in black market activity, and on Dec. 17, Grant issued a shocking order calling for the expulsion of all Jews from a wide swath of the South. Fortunately, the order had little impact because of faulty army communications – and to Lincoln. When Lincoln heard that Grant was attempting to banish Jews, he quickly reversed the order. "To condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad," Lincoln said. "I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners." To Lincoln, prejudice was abhorrent, and expelling one minority while fighting for the rights of another was unthinkable. It's noteworthy that Grant, who made the order banishing Jews from the area he commanded, regretted his actions later in life. When he served as president, Grant actively worked to promote Jewish interests in the United States and abroad, bringing Jews into the federal government at an unprecedented rate. Grant later indicated that he had issued the order without entirely thinking it through, but his pro-Jewish actions later in life can perhaps be attributed in part to the moral leadership Lincoln displayed in rejecting the order. On a deeper level, Lincoln can also be seen as the man who truly deserves credit for upholding the idea that "all men are created equal." While Thomas Jefferson first expressed the sentiment in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, for some 90 years the principle was selectively applied at best. But Lincoln didn't just speak this value, he practiced it. In the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, Lincoln emphasized how applying exceptions to the phrase "all men are created equal" is a logical fallacy. "If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book in which we find it and tear it out!" he said. The notion of limiting equality was, to Lincoln, a clear rejection of the phrase's keyword: "all." The message of equality that Lincoln fought for was instrumental in abolishing slavery. But it was also a major factor in shaping America into a country that holds freedom as a value worth fighting for. And over the following decades, generations of Americans absorbed the values that Lincoln championed and Grant came to appreciate: That oppression against minorities was intolerable, regardless of the minority.

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