News from Israel and the Jewish World

JNS.org is an editorial content and business-services resource for media, reaching global Jewish communities. Below you will find the most pressing, breaking news from Israel and the Jewish world. JNS.org is updated regularly and includes special Israel news through exclusive English-language syndication of content by Israel Hayom, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers.

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The headlines of the Jewish press this week were filled with stories about angry American Jews arriving in Israel and denouncing the Israeli government’s decision regarding egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. This week’s other headlines, however, reported some threats to Israel that are genuinely existential, not merely a rhetorical flourish. While American Jews speak about “fighting” over the Western Wall issue, Israeli Jews who could be hit by Syrian mortars or Hamas rockets are the ones doing the real fighting, writes JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow.

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.

If you haven’t encountered the term “Shi’a corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran in Syria intensifies. It has been an established fact that the Iranian proxy Hezbollah has increased its number of missiles pointed at Israel by a factor of 10—despite the existence of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Hezbollah disarm entirely. A Shi’a land corridor would make enforcing this resolution a much harder task. As always, Israel is prepared for the worst, writes JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen.

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.

The Israeli authorities last week confiscated two tractors, a hydraulic excavator and other equipment used by Palestinians to carry out illegal quarrying that has been damaging a rare nature reserve in the Judean Desert, writes JNS.org's Stephen M. Flatow.

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.

Israel's IDF is using state-of-the art technology, including augmented reality (AR), for 21st century combat readiness with the help of a new digital network that significantly enhances the military's capabilities and coordination, reports Yaakov Lappin for JNS.org.

During the 20th Maccabiah Games next month, about 7,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries will descend upon the Holy Land to join 2,500 Israeli athletes in the Olympic-style competition. Held every four years, the Jewish multi-sport competition is the world’s third-largest sporting event. From July 4-18, the Maccabiah Games will have the added significance of coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of this year’s host city, Jerusalem. “The Maccabiah is the one place that Jews from all over the world can come together and bond, and there’s no better place to do so than Jerusalem,” Maccabiah Chairman Amir Peled told JNS.org.

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.

JNS.org columnist Ben Cohen is pleased to see that Arab states are finally punishing Qatar over its pro-Iran foreign policy and deep ties to terrorism funding, including support for Hamas. Yet after decades of corrupt and violent rule, the Arab world is still hostage to the same fundamental conflicts that nurtured both Arabism and Islamism. This lasting reality, far more than Qatar’s temporary discomfort, is what defines the region today and makes it so perilous, writes Cohen.

Noted literary couple Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have discovered a new cause: the evils of “the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.” Having become experts on the subject after one brief visit to a few sites in the region, Chabon and Waldman have now edited an anthology of essays about “the occupation.” Yet at the same time, these critics of Israel have accidentally admitted there is no “occupation.” JNS.org columnist Stephen M. Flatow explains.

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.

The most important incident during President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East took place out of view of the international press. At the time, it went unreported and unremarked upon. But Trump’s outburst of anger at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may have set a tone that will either create real progress toward peace or, more likely, instill a degree of realism about Israel’s antagonists that has been lacking in the new administration, writes JNS.org Opinion Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.

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].”