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Netanyahu Passes Threshold for Nomination as Israel's Premier

By VOA News

Israel's president said on Tuesday a majority of members of parliament had advised him to have Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu form a government after the April 9 election, effectively ensuring his nomination. In office for the past decade, Netanyahu won a fifth term despite an announcement by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in February that he intends to charge the prime minister in three corruption cases. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing. President Reuven Rivlin chooses a party leader whom he judges have the best prospect of putting together a ruling coalition. He will announce his candidate on Wednesday. In broadcast remarks on Tuesday, the second day of Rivlin's consultations with political parties on their preferences for prime minister, he said Netanyahu "now has a majority of Knesset members" behind him. "Any room I had for maneuver has effectively been removed at this moment," he added. Netanyahu's nomination has been a foregone conclusion since right-wing and religious parties allied with Netanyahu's Likud captured the largest number of seats in the Knesset in last week's ballot and his closest rival, centrist Benny Gantz, conceded defeat. Netanyahu has said he intends to build a coalition with five far-right, right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would give the Likud-led government 65 seats, four more than his outgoing administration.

Syrian Military Officials' First Criticism of Russia, Alleging Moscow's Collusion with Israel

By DEBKAfile

Russia comes under fire from Damascus for the first time, since its 2015 intervention on behalf of the Assad regime, on the charge of collaborating with Israel. Unidentified Syrian military sources said on Monday, April 15: "Israel possesses one of the most powerful military intelligence wings in the world," and "not only benefits from close intelligence ties with the US coalition but also the Russian military." Syrian officials have never ventured to criticize the Russian military whose support was critical in rescuing Bashar Assad from an eight-year insurgency. However, dissent was sparked in Syrian army rank and file and the general population by Israel's aerial missile attack on Syria's "Scientific Studies and Research Center at Masyaf on Saturday, April 13. The most important Syrian-Iranian production hub for upgrading the surface missile and air defense capabilities of the Syrian army and Hizbullah was gutted. Even more infuriating, the Russian S-300 air defense battery posted near Masyaf did not launch a single missile against the enemy assailants. Still strongly implying Russian collusion, the Syrian military officials declared that the Israelis knew perfectly well that the S-300 was not ready for use and exploited this information. They went on to say: "Russia may disapprove of the Israeli air strikes in Syria, but they will not intervene to stop them as they currently have an agreement with the Netanyahu administration." Syrian officials have never, in the more than two years of Israel air strikes in Syria against Iranian targets, referred to the Russian military's non-interference or its connection to a Putin–Netanyahu deal. Damascus' frustration is further compounded by its inability to take direct action against Israeli air strikes because they are launched from next-door Lebanon's air space. The Syrian official made it clear that Damascus has no wish to violate Lebanese sovereignty.

Khamenei: Koran Prohibits Ties with Israel

By World Israel News
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told participants in an international Koran competition in Tehran that maintaining ties with Israel is prohibited. According to various Iranian and regional media reports, Khamenei told the "masters, reciters and memorizers" who took part in the competition that the Koran says that Muslims must be "stern to the disbelievers." "Some Muslims forget, like those Muslim countries which compromise with the U.S. and the Zionists [Israel] to shed the blood of Palestinians and violate their rights. They abandoned being `stern to the disbelievers', and they became servants of the disbelievers. Today, the officials of many Muslim states represent examples of that," said Khamenei in his comments on Monday. The Iranian leader Khamenei also criticized Muslim states that engage in wars against their Muslim brethren. "Another group has forgotten the principle [from the Koran] of `compassionate among themselves.' They reject and excommunicate the believers in Allah, the Koran… When `compassionate among themselves' is abandoned, internal wars may arise," he cautioned, according to the reports. "You see the current situation in Yemen and Syria; Yemen has been bombarded for four years now," he said. "Those who bombard Yemen are Muslims in appearance, but they do not show mercy to Muslims." In an apparent reference to sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear and terror activity, the supreme leader warned that "what the enemies do against Iran today are their last resorts of enmity. The sterner they become against us, the stronger our willpower will become; the more they intensify their measures against us, the more powerful we will become." The Iranian threat has paved the way for closer ties between Israel and a number of Arab states. After the Obama administration forged a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, together with five other world powers, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the pact last May and intensified sanctions against Tehran.

Attackers: We'll Restart Auschwitz When We Grow Up

A Jewish high school student was attacked in an anti-Semitic incident in northern Italy Monday. "When we grow up, we will restart Auschwitz, and all of you will burn in ovens, you Jews," the attackers, who were also students, shouted at the victim. Renzo Gattenia, president of the Federation of Italian Jewish Communities, Andrea Pizarro, Jewish community leader Ferrara Luciano, and Meir Caro, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in the region, issued a joint condemnation of the ant-Semitic incident. "This aggression is an example of the worrisome situation and the hidden climate of anti-Semitism that also reaches schools," the three wrote. "This is an abyss to which we all fall, and it frightens us even more because this sense of hatred, of course, also resides among the children."

Here's how Jewish Groups are Planning for the Next Pittsburgh


Imagine three Pittsburghs, simultaneously — a multi-pronged murderous attack at Jewish institutions across the country. The Jewish community's top security arm did just that last week at an exercise joining community leaders from across the country with senior U.S. law enforcement officials. Six months after the massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue complex in Pittsburgh, several dozen officials met in a conference room overlooking the National Mall in Washington D.C. and reviewed the lessons of that awful day as a means of dealing with future attacks. The most surprising and poignant recommendations came from survivors of the Pittsburgh shooting — for better or worse. They recalled practices that already were in place and probably saved lives, among them persuading otherwise Shabbat-observant rabbis to carry cellphones strictly for emergency use and urging people to flee a shooting rather than hide in place. The tabletop exercise was organized by Secure Community Network, an arm of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was invited to cover the session on condition that it does not quote officials on the record describing details of security procedures. The three-city scenario imagined a car-ramming and shooting attack on the Jewish Community Center in Memphis, including surveillance by a mysterious drone, and almost simultaneous shooting attacks on a Jewish student barbecue at the University of Michigan and a Boston-area synagogue. Michael Masters, SCN's director, made it clear that such a nightmare was not out of the question. "From the dark recesses of the internet to world capitals we see an increase in activity, an increase in threats to our community," he said. The lessons were communication, communication, communication: Between national security agencies and local state and law enforcement, and local Jewish agencies and law enforcement. Security officials should be familiar with how communities most commonly communicate for the more mundane realities of Jewish life: Find out the listservs and WhatsApp networks for religious schools, for adult Jewish education, for sports. Get out information that delivers the facts and is stripped of emotive language, and the security officials recommend specific actions. "We don't want to start a panic. Law enforcement should tell us what level the threat is," one participant said. "You can't just send out an alert after alert. We need to give people an action step, not something to make it worse."

According to the tabletop exercise, keeping in touch was vital not only to summon law enforcement (it took Pittsburgh first responders less than three minutes to confront the Tree of Life killer), but to identify threats in advance. The tabletop exercise included early warnings of threats on Jewish institutions in California. The problem with that portion of the tabletop, participants said, was that often there are no warnings; the Pittsburgh killer had been below the radar. Pittsburgh officials said the community had run two exercises in the year previous. As a result, the Tree of Life rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, who is Sabbath observant, was persuaded to carry a cellphone, and he was the first call to alert police. Orthodox synagogues, participants said, were now interested in early warning systems suitable for Shabbat, when the observant eschew mobile phones and broadcast technology. Such systems would use phones designated only for emergency calls and alarm systems that would warn worshippers in case of a nearby attack. In Pittsburgh, Orthodox worshippers learned of the attack only when alerted in person that they were to remain indoors during a lockdown. Stephen Weiss, a teacher who was in the Pittsburgh synagogue complex, learned from exercises held in advance that it was better to flee than hide. Someone was yelling for the worshippers to duck, but his training kicked in, and he fled. Weiss encouraged others to follow suit, saving lives. "I knew that getting down was not the best thing; it was to get out of the room," he said. By exiting the sanctuary, Weiss was able to warn others in the three-congregation complex to get out of the building. As part of the advance training for attacks on Jewish institutions, Pittsburgh first responders learned how to tend to the wounded while police were still engaging the attacker, which likely also saved lives. Another recommendation was to select in advance the site most amenable to gathering families and sorting through information. Pittsburgh set up a command center at the local JCC, which was near the scene of the attack. Brad Orsini, the community security director in Pittsburgh, said ushers should be trained to lead the response during attacks. Unfortunately, he said, his experience was that most ushers at synagogues were "900 years old," and he called for communities to train younger ushers. There was knowing laughter in the room. Several officials addressed the logistics of providing warnings to broad networks of member institutions, particularly schools or synagogues that are pretty much the Jewish presence in isolated communities and lack broader support nearby. Participants also spoke of the need for psychological preparation for attacks. Matthew Berger, the vice president for communications at Hillel International, urged others to designate two communications officials: one to gather information from first responders and officials, and one to distribute it to others, including the media. Juggling both is overwhelming, he said. Another federal agency official said that in a crisis, responders would likely want to prioritize new information that would help stop the attacker and could lead to cutting off families desperately seeking information. "Someone calling from out of state, saying `is that my family?' and someone saying `that's my Enterprise van' is two different things — but you don't want the bureau cutting off families," the official said. Rabbi Deborah Waxman, who heads the Reconstructionist movement, recalled speeding to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia immediately. The first thing she noticed was that the rabbis, expected to attend to the pastoral care of traumatized families, were themselves traumatized. "Those hours at the JCC were brutal," Waxman said. "The folks I spoke with desperately wanted pastoral support." Her recommendation: Set up a network of regional rabbis, so in the event of an attack they are ready to supplement local rabbis in caring for the community.

Anti-Vaccine Activists are Using a Holocaust-Era Yellow Star of David to Promote their Cause


Anti-vaccination activists are using the yellow Star of David that Nazis forced Jews to wear during World War II to promote their cause. Activists are using a star that has the words "No Vax" in Hebrew-stylized letters on social media, while others are wearing yellow stars at events, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Del Bigtree, CEO of the anti-vaccination group ICAN, wore a yellow star last week at a rally in Austin, Texas, and activists in suburban New York's Rockland County likened a ban on unvaccinated children in public spaces to combat a measles outbreak to Nazi treatment of Jews, The Washington Post reported. The anti-vaccine crowd has decided their persecution can only be expressed in Holocaust metaphors. At a recent rally in Texas anti-vax media personality, Del Bigtree pinned a yellow star on himself mid-speech. "It is simply wrong to compare the plight of Jews during the Holocaust to that of anti-vaxxers," Jonathan Greenblatt, the group's national director, told the Post. "Groups advancing a political or social agenda should be able to assert their ideas without trivializing the memory of the 6 million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust." The anti-vaccination movement has risen in popularity in recent years. Recent measles outbreaks have been traced back to Orthodox Jewish communities, where some parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids.

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