Israeli Ship Suffers Mysterious Blast in Gulf of Oman, Iran Suspected

The Israeli-owned ship MV HELIOS RAY was hit by an explosion while transiting the Gulf of Oman on February 26. The blast left holes on both sides of the ship’s hull. The ship’s owner, Rami Ungar, said it was not clear whether missiles or mines caused the explosion. There were no casualties among the crew. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, however, says his “initial assessment” was that Iran was behind the explosion. Reported by Reuters. Read more… The ship docked in Dubai to have the damage assessed. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Israeli Studies Show Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine Effective as Country Moves Towards Reopening

Two new Israeli study shows that the Pzifer Covid-19 vaccine greatly reduces virus transmission. Although the studies need to undergo peer review, the results are encouraging. The most recent study showed an 85 percent reduction in symptomatic COVID-19 within 15 to 28 days. The overall reduction of infections, including asymptomatic spread, was 75 percent. Reported by Fox News. Read more… A study by Israel’s largest health care provider also learned that after participants received both doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, they saw a 94% drop in symptomatic Covid-19 infections. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Meanwhile, the Palestinians have accused Israel of blocking a vaccine shipment to Gaza. The 2,000 doses are for health care workers in the Gaza Strip. Reported by France24. Read more… Israel began reopening business after about three million Israelis, or one-third of the population, have now been vaccinated. Reported by France24. Read more… Businesses further reopened as more than half the population received vaccinations. Shops are open to all, and sites such gyms are open to those with a “Green Pass” showing they have been vaccinated. Reported by France24. Read more… Israel also confirmed that it will vaccinate Palestinians with valid work permits. Reported by France 24. Read more…

Biden, Netanyahu Speak; Netanyahu Calls Meeting with Rivals to Present United Front on Iran Nuke Issues

On February 17 U.S President Joe Biden finally spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister’s office characterized the call as “warm and friendly.” The President and prime minister discussed regional challenges, peace agreements, and the Covid-19 crisis. A statement released by Netanyahu’s office said, “The leaders noted their personal relations of years, and said they would act together to continue to strengthen the alliance between Israel and the U.S.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… After his call with U.S. President Biden, Netanyahu called a meeting of cabinet rivals Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Israeli strategy against Iran’s nuclear program while the U.S. seeks a diplomatic solution. Netanyahu wants to present a united front to Biden as he expects disagreement with the new administration. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Netanyahu and Biden will be delegating talks on the topic to senior staff to avoid direct tension between the two leaders. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Oberlin College, SNL, Garner Criticism Over Anti-Semitism

Oberlin College continues to receive criticism for providing the former Iranian ambassador to the U.N., Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, a platform. The so-called “professor of peace” while ambassador called for the elimination of Israel. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Saturday Night Live is also coming in for its share of criticism after anti-Semitic statements made on the show. Cast member Michael Che made a joke during the “Weekend Update” segment of the show, saying, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.” The American Jewish Committee (AJC) called on NBC to retract the claim as other critics weighed in. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Rush Limbaugh Passes Away

High-profile conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh passed away February 17. Limbaugh spent decades on talk radio supporting conservative interests and was a staunch supporter of Israel. Limbaugh was battling stage 4 lung cancer. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted condolences to Limbaugh’s family, saying he was a great friend of Israel. Reported by Haaretz. Read more…

U.S. Launches Strikes Against Iran-Backed Militias in Syria

The U.S. launched air strikes against Iranian-backed militia in Syria on February 25. It is the first military action taken against Iran under the Biden administrations. F-15 fighters targeted Kait’ib Hezbollah and Kait’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, both Iraqi border-based Shia militia groups. Both groups are believed to have obtained funding and military support from Iran. Reported by Fox News. Read more… The strike was carried out with F-15 fighters using 500-pound laser guided bombs, say officials. The original strike called for two compounds to be hit. The strike on the second target was aborted when a drone showed too many civilians were near the target. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, said the strike was the right move. However, he criticized the Biden administration, saying the fifteen minutes notice given Congress was not enough time to process the information. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was blunter, saying, “I hope it wasn’t just bombs in the desert.” He also said the administration should have targeted something that “threatened the United States of America.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Iran condemned the attacks. It also denied responsibility for the rocket attacks in Iraq that prompted the U.S. strike in Syria. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Syria joined the condemnation, urging U.S. President Joe Biden not to follow “the law of the jungle.” Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Israel May Pursue Own Path Regarding Iran Nuke Program; Zarif Says Sanctions Must be Lifted Before Talks; Erdogan Sees Window of Opportunity for U.S., Iran; Tehran Working with North Korea on Ballistic Missile Program; House Republicans, Dissidents Urge Biden Not to Lift Sanctions

Israel may not engage with U.S. President Joe Biden on strategy regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Israel is urging tougher sanctions and a “credible military threat.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running for re-election in April, has revived his hard line against Iran. The new U.S. administration has said it wants to return to the 2015 deal with Iran. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says the U.S. must lift sanctions if it wants to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal. Reported by U.S. News and World Report. Read more… Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan reportedly told Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, that he saw a window of opportunity for Iran and the United States. Erdogan also said that he wanted to see sanctions on Iran lifted. Reported by Yahoo News. Read more… Iran is also again working with North Korea to develop a long-range ballistic missile. Some experts say that if the joint rogue nations’ efforts are successful, the missiles could hit the U.S. mainland. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Meanwhile, House Republicans are urging President Biden not to lift sanctions on Iran, calling it an “historic mistake” because Iran poses an “ever-imminent threat to American democracy and national security.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… The Organization of Iranian-American Communities (OIAC) also urged the Biden administration to remain strong and keep the pressure on Iran, saying the regime in Tehran is at its “weakest point in history.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… And a new report by the Washington Post says that former Secretary of State John Kerry had secret meetings with Iranian Foreign Ministers Javad Zarif during the Trump administrations. The report says the meetings were to undermine former president Donald Trump’s hardline stance against Tehran. Robert Malley also met with Zarif. Both Kerry and Malley are members of the Biden administration. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

IAEA Strikes Deal with Tehran Over Snap Inspections

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on February 21 that it had struck a deal with Iran that would allow snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites to continue. The deal comes as Iran continues to step away from the 2015 nuclear deal. The deal allows snap inspections to continue for three months. Reported by Reuters. Read more… The deal drew criticism from Iranian lawmakers, saying the deal broke a law mandating an end to the inspections. Reported by Reuters. Read more… However, a week later Iran is threatening to cancel deal if the IAEA endorses U.S.-led criticism of Tehran. Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Declassified Intelligence Report Points Finger at Crown Prince in Khashoggi Murder

The White House declassified a report regarding the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The report squarely puts the blame for the murder on Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. The report, compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said, “We base this assessment on the crown prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Mohammed bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the crown prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.” The prince denies involvement. Reported by Fox News. Read more… The Biden administration is rethinking its diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia following declassification of the report. Reported by Fox News. Read more… White House press secretary Jen Psaki says there are more effective ways to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder than sanctioning the prince. Psaki told CNN’s Dana Bush that, “We believe there is more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again and to also be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement — where there is national interests for the United States. That is what diplomacy looks like.” Reported by CNN. Read more… However, Saudi columnists warned the Biden administration not to bully Riyadh, saying that the country’s sovereignty is a red line. The White House reportedly imposed sanctions on some of those involved in the murder, but none on the prince. Columnist Khaled al-Malik wrote, “America does not have the right to bully a strategic regional ally and it is not in its interest to let domestic differences harm its regional interests and those of its partners.” Reported by Reuters. Read more…

World Commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

On January 27, 2021, the world officially commemorated the six million Jewish men, women, and children who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day went online this year due to the Covid-19 crisis. A wide range of events and online exhibitions took place staged by the United Nations, the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the European Union, and other international organizations. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more… Yad Vashem created an online exhibit, “My Lost Childhood,” discussing the horrors child survivors faced after being liberated. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a video address remembering those who were murdered, warning that “if people thought that following the horrors of Auschwitz and Treblinka, humanity would finally learn its lesson and rid itself of antisemitism, that it would throw it into the dustbin of history where it belongs, well, they were wrong. Dead wrong.”  Netanyahu went on to say, “In the twenty-first century, the disease of antisemitism continues to contaminate and spread. It can be found alive, kicking and pernicious on North American university campuses, in South Asian madrassas, among European elites. Antisemitism exists in the affluent West and in the developing world in the East.” But he also said that things were different today—Jews were no longer homeless, stateless, or defenseless, but were today “firmly rooted in our ancient land, free and strong in our independent state.” Reported by Israel National News. Read more… Pope Francis also offered a warning, saying, “To remember also means being careful because these things can happen again, starting with ideological proposals that claim to want to save a people but end up destroying a people and humanity.” Continuing, the Pope said, “Be wary of how this path of death, extermination and brutality started,” a reference to the rise of the Nazi party on a wave of extreme nationalism. Reported by The New York Post. Read more… Gilad Erdan, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative of Israel to the U.N. wrote in an opinion piece on Fox News that “the similarities between the Islamic Republic and the Nazi regime of Iran are striking as the path we are heading down nearly a century later.” He said that “Iran is dominated by an irrational, extremist ideology, with a single totalitarian party that executes its opponents and has succeeded in controlling every aspect of life in its country,” and noted its expansionist ambitions in the Middle East “closely mirror that Nazi’s efforts to take over Europe.” He warned that the main difference between the Nazis and Iran is that today Iran is closer than ever to obtaining nuclear weapons, something the Nazis did not have. Reported by Fox News. Read more…