Australia/Israel Review


Behind the News – August 2022

Aug 2, 2022 | AIJAC staff

Reports say Israeli-Saudi links continue developing behind the scenes (Image: Shutterstock)
Reports say Israeli-Saudi links continue developing behind the scenes (Image: Shutterstock)

ROCKET AND TERROR REPORT

On July 16, four rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes against Hamas targets, including a major facility for manufacturing raw materials used in rockets, allegedly causing significant disruption to rocket production. 

On July 19, bullets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Israel struck a Hamas target in response. 

Stabbing attacks in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount were thwarted on June 24 and 28, while a stabbing attack was thwarted at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank on July 24. On June 30, Palestinians opened fire on and threw firebombs and IEDs at Jews at the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in Nablus.

Israeli counterterrorism activities and raids continued throughout the West Bank, with multiple suspects apprehended and several Palestinians killed.

 

ISRAEL DOWNS HEZBOLLAH DRONES HEADED TO GAS FIELD

On July 2, Israel shot down three Hezbollah drones heading towards offshore facilities in the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean, shortly after Hezbollah threatened to attack the area. Later, the IDF announced that a fourth drone had also been downed heading towards Israeli maritime assets a few days before the July 2 attempt. 

None of the drones seem to have been armed. Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah threatened attacks to stop Israel drilling at Karish, slated to begin in September, barring some sort of agreement regarding the disputed Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary. 

A suspected Hezbollah drone was downed after crossing into Israel on July 18. 

 

ISRAEL ATTACKS “GAME-CHANGING” IRANIAN WEAPON IN SYRIA

Israel’s ongoing campaign to contain the Iranian presence in Syria continued over July. An Israeli airstrike on the coastal town of al-Hamidiyah on July 3 was unusual, reportedly targeting a weapons transfer into Syria from Iranian vessels docking at the nearby Tartus port. According to Israeli sources, the attack was aimed at stopping an attempt by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to introduce “game changing” air defence systems into Syria to protect their operatives and bases in the country.

On July 22, Israel struck Iranian targets in a-Sayyida Zaynab, south of Damascus, where a drone production workshop was reportedly located.

 

TEHERAN: WE CAN PRODUCE THE BOMB

Senior Iranian officials have escalated public claims that Teheran can produce a nuclear weapon at will. On July 17, Kamal Kharrazi, Foreign Policy Advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, boasted on Al Jazeera that Teheran has “the required technological capabilities to produce a nuclear bomb,” but said, at this stage, the regime has “not decided to do so.” A short time after that, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, another top Khamenei adviser, warned that if the regime decides to build the bomb, “no one could stop us… and they know that.”

Meanwhile, in early July, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran, in another blatant violation of its international obligations, had started enriching uranium to 20% purity at the fortified underground facility at Fordow, using advanced cascades of centrifuges. Both uranium enrichment at Fordow and the use of the advanced centrifuges violate the JCPOA nuclear agreement.

 

IRAN ALLEGEDLY TO SEND DRONES TO RUSSIA

On July 11, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan revealed that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with hundreds of drones, including models capable of firing weapons, “on an expedited timeline” to assist with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He added that Iran was also preparing to train Russians to use the weapons.

On July 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi in Teheran. Both Iranian leaders endorsed the Russian invasion, claiming that Russia needed to act to prevent Ukrainian and Western aggression against Russia.

 

SECRET ISRAELI-SAUDI DEFENCE COOPERATION 

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been quietly cooperating on regional anti-missile and anti-drone defence for much of the past year, according to Israeli news reports. The coordination between the two countries is reportedly part of a US CENTCOM regional defence framework that predates the visit by US President Biden to the two countries in mid-July. As early as March 2021, Israeli warplanes reportedly intercepted and shot down an Iranian attack drone before it could reach Israeli airspace – possibly over Saudi Arabia. 

Further, in March 2022, Israeli defence officials discreetly met with their regional Arab counterparts in the Egyptian Sinai to discuss security coordination against Iranian missiles and drones.

Meanwhile, Israel’s ties within the region continue to develop, with Israel’s military Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, visiting Abraham Accords partner Morocco on July 25 to discuss defence cooperation, marking the first ever official trip to the kingdom by an IDF leader. 

 

SAUDI AIRSPACE OPENS TO ISRAEL

In mid-July, the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia announced the state’s airspace will be open to all carriers that meet its requirements for overflights, a step that will give Israeli airlines unrestricted rights to overfly the Kingdom for the first time. Flying over Saudi Arabian airspace would significantly reduce flight times on various routes between Israel and Asian and Pacific destinations, including potentially Australia.

This announcement coincided with US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region, during which Biden became the first American president to fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are also reportedly going to permit direct charter flights from Israel for Muslims participating in the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. 

Analysts suggested these moves indicated acceleration of a trend toward gradual normalisation of Israeli-Saudi relations, but Saudi officials denied this.

 

US FINDS ABU AKLEH DEATH AN ACCIDENT 

On July 4, the US Biden Administration announced the results of its investigation into the shooting death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a firefight in Jenin between Palestinian militant groups and the IDF on May 11. US investigators concluded that her death was probably caused by an Israeli bullet, but said they “found no reason to believe that this was intentional.”

The report noted that the bullet itself, which was produced by the Palestinian Authority after weeks of delay, was too badly damaged to be able to be matched with any weapon through ballistics testing. 

 

UNILEVER ENDS BEN AND JERRY’S ISRAEL BOYCOTT

The Unilever corporation has ended a boycott of Israel by its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, selling the ice cream brand’s operations in the Jewish state to a local manufacturer. Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Product, the previous distributor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel, has now purchased the right to make and market the ice cream in Israel, using the name “Ben & Jerry’s” in Hebrew and Arabic, but not in English. 

Last year, the Ben & Jerry’s board declared that selling its ice cream in “occupied Palestinian territory” did not align with its values, and cancelled its previous licence agreement with Zinger. Unilever had acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 under an arrangement allowing the Ben & Jerry’s board to continue to control business decisions independently. 

Before this latest agreement with him, Unilever was being sued by Zinger and had come under strong public pressure to reverse the Ben & Jerry’s boycott decision. 

 


Stranger Than Fiction

SYNDICATE OF CYNICISM 

Palestinian journalists are represented by a union, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS). On July 21, the PJS put out a statement demanding that Arab and international media boycott all of the Israeli media. This is a serious demand, so we would expect it to be motivated by serious misbehaviour by the Israeli media.

Yet the source of the PJS’s ire was one Israeli newspaper photographer, Meshie Ben Ami, who works for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. As the PJS explained, “Yesterday, a Yedioth Ahronoth cameraman shot at a Palestinian civilian, seriously wounding him in occupied northwest Jerusalem.”

Even if this were true, surely calling for a boycott of the entire Israeli media is a little over the top. However, the PJS explained, this shooting proved that Israeli media personnel are security personnel, part of the “fascist” occupation apparatus, and the Israeli media is therefore a “fascist” group which “glorifies the perpetrators of the crimes against the Palestinians.” 

This, of course, is projection – Palestinian bodies are constantly accusing Israelis of things they themselves are guilty of. The Palestinian media plays a major role in all-pervasive incitement to hatred against Israel in Palestinian society, including glorifying terrorists.

But the real kicker is that the PJS somehow neglected to mention that the Palestinian “civilian” shot had been in the process of carrying out a terrorist attack, stabbing an Israeli civilian with a screwdriver. Ben Ami ran towards the terrorist during the stabbing with his gun drawn, at which point the terrorist advanced towards Ben Ami with the screwdriver. It was only after calling on him to stop that Ben Ami shot him.

The fact that even the journalists’ union is so eager to spread ridiculous false propaganda like this says a great deal about the state of Palestinian journalism, governance and society.

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