Latest News on Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org freelance reporters and staff editors strive to provide high quality news coverage of the latest news from Israel and the Jewish world. In this section JNS.org offers analytical reports and commentaries on politics and international affairs, culture and lifestyle features, arts and sports content, and religious news. For the latest news on Israel, we also include exclusively syndicated content from Israel Hayom, a major daily newspaper in Israel. If you are interested in a specific topic, please browse through the content “categories” in our navigation bar or search our site.

Latest News

Mortar shells fired from Syria into the Israeli Golan Heights Saturday prompted the IDF to respond with a retaliatory strike in Syria, purportedly killing Syrian soldiers. Despite the incidents, a military escalation between Israel and Syria is unlikely and is in neither side’s interest, said Prof. Efraim Inbar, former director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University. “This is nothing new for the IDF to retaliate to spillover from Syria,” Inbar said. “This is an implementation of old policy.”

While Iran routinely threatens Israel, experts say the Islamic Republic was sending messages elsewhere through its first missile strike on another country in three decades. Iran struck Islamic State targets in Syria June 18, in retaliation for Islamic State’s twin terror attacks against prominent Iranian institutions June 7. “The bottom line is that Iran always tries to turn a challenge or weakness, such as the terror attack, into an opportunity to show its strength,” said Dr. Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

The feud between Hamas and Fatah has led to a deepening crisis in Gaza, as a cut in the electricity supplied to the coastal territory is stoking fears of a surge in violence, both between the Palestinian factions and against Israel. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in a 2007 coup, the terror group has persistently carried out rocket attacks against Israel, including during several major rounds of conflict. “Gazans get by on substandard water and just hours a day of electricity. These awful conditions can fuel unrest and cause violent actors to become militant,” said Grant Rumley, a research fellow on Palestinian affairs at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The strategic importance of Christian Zionism was featured this week at the 2017 Herzliya Conference, one of Israel’s most prominent annual policy summits. “We’re excited to be here…taking part in the Herzliya Conference, and being able to communicate the love of Christians to Israeli decision makers, policy makers, academics and all. It’s a great privilege for us and we hope it has real practical impact for the state of Israel,” David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, told JNS.org.

Last week’s visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to Thessaloniki, Greece, marking the construction of a new Holocaust museum, turns the page in the city’s once thriving Jewish community, writes JNS.org's Adam Abrams.

The recent discovery of a previously invisible inscription on the back of an ancient pottery shard, that was on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum for over 50 years, has prompted Tel Aviv University researchers to consider what other hidden inscriptions may have been discarded during archaeological digs, before the availability of high-tech imaging, writes JNS.org's Adam Abrams.

Following recent commemorations around the world for the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, when Israel took control of Judea and Samaria, the Israeli government is pledging to bolster the Jewish settlement enterprise. “Alongside our desire to reach an agreement with our Palestinian neighbors, we will continue to protect the settlement enterprise and strengthen it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said. Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, one of Israel’s largest settlements, told JNS.org he believes Netanyahu “wants to build more across Judea and Samaria, but feels held back by the international community.”

Long before Islamic State first grabbed international attention in 2014 through its brutal conquests in Iraq and Syria, another terrorist organization had already solidified its grip on a narrow piece of land wedged between the regional powers of Israel and Egypt. Since seizing control of Gaza in mid-June 2007, Hamas has survived a maritime blockade, international isolation, multiple wars with Israel and pressure from other Palestinian factions while forming its terrorist regime in Gaza. Yet a decade after Hamas’s territorial coup, recent developments in Mideast geopolitics may provide another challenge to the Palestinian terror group’s chokehold.

As Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman” film heads toward $400 million in earnings, and numerous big-name musical acts line up to perform in Israel this summer, the influence of the BDS movement’s cultural boycott of the Jewish state appears to be waning. Following May’s performances in Tel Aviv by Justin Bieber and Aersomith, the upcoming major shows hitting Israel include Tom Jones, Armin van Buuren, Britney Spears, the Pixies, Guns N' Roses, Rod Stewart, Lil Wayne, Radiohead and comedian Chris Rock.

While the dispute between Qatar and other Arab states could end up benefiting the U.S. and Israel, experts say Qatar finds itself at a crossroads in its relationships with the region’s Sunni and Shi’a powers. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries have cut diplomatic relations with Qatar, citing the Gulf state’s terror ties and cooperation with Iran. “It seems as if they are being forced to choose a side in the Saudi-Iran rivalry, and it isn’t an easy choice for a small, vulnerable state like Qatar,” said Brandon Friedman, a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.

The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism got a taste of its own medicine June 7, as twin terror attacks struck prominent Iranian institutions. Experts say the attacks may test the stability of the tyrannical Islamic regime that has ruled Iran for the past 38 years. “If this event turns into a series of events, it could lead to serious trouble for the regime, and the reactions of the West have historically proven extremely important in either propping up a weak regime, or leading directly to its ouster,” said Dr. Harold Rhode, a leading expert on Iranian culture who served within the U.S. Department of Defense for 28 years.

The decision by the Jewish weekly newspaper The Forward to publish a paid advertisement supporting imprisoned Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti is being questioned by some editors of other American Jewish newspapers. “Would The Forward, in the interests of ‘freedom of expression,’ accept ads from white supremacists? To ask the question is to answer it,” Jason Maoz, senior editor of The Jewish Press of Brooklyn, told JNS.org.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited western Africa this week as part of a broad government initiative to expand Israel’s influence on that continent, following Netanyahu’s historic trip to eastern Africa last year. The objectives of Israel’s pivot towards Africa include improving the outcomes for the Jewish state on U.N. votes, expanding economic cooperation, curbing Iranian influence in Africa and establishing diplomatic relations with Muslim-African states. Israel is “returning to Africa in a big way,” Netanyahu declared.

The organization borrows its name from the Hanukkah story’s heroes, and its founder is one of America’s highest-profile Jewish philanthropists. Yet as dozens of national Jewish nonprofits devote resources to fighting anti-Zionism on college campuses, the Maccabee Task Force (MTF) says it isn’t concerned about getting “credit” for pro-Israel victories. “What we found quickly is that it is best to work behind the scenes, and let the students on the frontlines and the pro-Israel professionals who actually live on the campus lead the way,” says MTF Director David Brog.

Following Saturday night’s terror attack that killed seven people in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to crack down on the “new trend” in the U.K., which has seen three major Islamist terror attacks in recent months. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the London attack by saying, “These terrorists worship death. They murder indiscriminately, but they will not frighten us....They will only harden our resolve to defeat them. Here in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, everywhere—together, we will defeat them faster.”

The high-profile U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which is awaiting congressional approval, raised alarm in Jerusalem due to the potential diminishment of Israel’s military edge over regional foes. The $110 billion sale is meant to counteract the growing regional aggression of the Saudis’ chief rival, Iran. While Israel shares Iran-related concerns with Saudi Arabia, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he is “not at peace with the whole arms race in the Middle East.” Yaakov Amidror, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, told JNS.org the arms sale creates “an obligation to ensure that Israel’s qualitative edge is secured, and to that end, there is a need to understand what exactly was sold to [the Saudis].”

Just as President Donald Trump was implementing his reset of U.S. ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel suddenly found its way into Trump’s recent controversial revelation of classified information to Russia. Yet experts believe the Russia incident, which blurred the lines between the diplomatic and defense worlds, does not threaten the robust intelligence-sharing and broader defense relationship between America and Israel. “This is a passing episode that will be handled by professionals, without substantial impact,” Yaakov Amidror, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, told JNS.org.

Acting immediately on a report issued Friday by Palestinian Media Watch, Norway demanded that the Palestinian Authority return Norwegian state funding for a women’s youth center named after female Palestinian terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who masterminded an attack that killed 37 Israelis.

Why aren’t Muslim countries leading givers to the Palestinian cause? The question has renewed relevance upon a United Nations agency’s recent release of its list of donors. Western countries and Japan are the most significant contributors to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while the only major Muslim givers are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Ronen Yizhak, head of the Middle East Studies department at Israel’s Western Galilee College, told JNS.org that among Arab and Muslim nations, “there is a lot of talking, but little actual deeds” on financial aid to the Palestinians.

Prominent Democrats and major Jewish organizations are joining President Donald Trump in calling on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stop making payments to terrorists and their families. All the cosponsors on the recently introduced Taylor Force Act—which would make U.S. aid to the PA conditional on the PA halting its terror payments—are Republicans. But New Jersey’s Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, told JNS.org he “shares deep concerns” about the PA’s terror payments and believes “this practice should be stopped.” Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, wrote in a recent letter that “Palestinian leaders must understand unequivocally that the U.S. opposes…continued payments to the families of terrorists.”