USAID NOMINEE SAMANTHA POWER QUESTIONED OVER RECORD AS U.N. AMBASSADOR: President Joe Biden’s nominee for USAID, Samantha Power, is facing tough questions at her confirmation hearing, especially over a controversial decision made during her tenure as U.N. Ambassador under former President Barack Obama in the final hours of his administration.
Her decision to abstain from U.N. Security Council resolution 2334, which condemned as violations of international law Israel’s presence in “the occupied Palestinian territories” which it defined as including “East Jerusalem” and incorporating the “Old City of Jerusalem,” sparked outrage at the time. The historically rare American abstention was the key to the resolution’s unanimous passage by the other 14 members of the body. At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed Power’s decision to abstain from the resolution, calling into question what he described as “the most shameful moment of the Obama administration.” Power refused to answer Cruz’s questions about whether she personally supports the resolution. However, she defended her non-vote at the UNSC as part of the Obama administration’s continuing strategy to encourage Israel and the Palestinian Arabs to “avoid unilateral steps” including inciting violence, terrorism, and the “building of settlements.” At the hearing, Power said that the two “guiding principles” of her time at the U.N. with regards to Israel were fighting anti-Israel bias and “preserving space for a two-state solution.” (INN / VFI News)
BIDEN’S UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE CRITICIZED BY ZIONIST ORG: The nomination of Colin Kahl, President Joe Biden’s pick for undersecretary of defense for policy, who has been criticized by pro-Israel groups for his role in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, will proceed to a full Senate vote. In a close decision, the chamber’s Armed Services Committee narrowly approved his nomination in an even party-line split.
Kahl initially worked for the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration before joining the Obama administration, working under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates from 2014 to 2017. Pro-Israel groups, including the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), are calling for his nomination to be rejected—especially concerning his record on Iran and past statements about Israel. In 2018, Kahl tweeted a false theory that “The Israeli intel firm Black Cube used to go after Harvey Weinstein’s accusers also targeted me & @brhodes (& our families). Was this authorized by the Trump White House?” (INN / VFI News)
NETANYAHU BANNED FROM TOP LAW ENFORCEMENT APPOINTMENTS: Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has the authority to bind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a conflict-of-interest arrangement given his status as an indicted defendant, the High Court of Justice ruled Thursday.
Netanyahu has been on trial for three public corruption affairs since last May. Witnesses will be called against him starting on April 5. There has been concern that he might try to appoint law-enforcement officials or judges, or pass legislation impacting the legal establishment, to interfere with the course of his trial. The three justices, led by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, agreed with all but one of the restrictions Mandelblit had proposed, be put on Netanyahu. (JPost / VFI News)
ENVOY SAYS ISRAEL IN TALKS WITH US OVER ENTRY INTO VISA WAIVER PROGRAM: Israel and the United States are holding talks on the Jewish state’s entry to the US Visa Waiver Program, the Israeli ambassador in Washington said Wednesday.
Ambassador Gilad Erdan said he and US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas agreed to set up a joint team to examine the matter. Erdan tweeted that his conversation with Mayorkas on increased cooperation on terrorism and national security as well as the visa waiver program was “productive.” Israel and pro-Israel groups have long pushed for Israel’s entry into the program, which allows for 90-day visits for business or tourism. The program is seen as a facilitator for trade. (TOI / VFI News)
IRAN FIRED MISSILE AT ISRAELI SHIP IN ARABIAN SEA: The incident was reported to Israeli security officials and to the ship’s owners. The ship will continue on its way to India, where the damage will be assessed, a report said.
An Iranian missile was fired at an Israeli ship in the Arabian Sea, hitting and damaging it. The container ship is owned by an Israeli businessman and was making its way to Tanzania from India. Israeli security officials are examining the possible implications of the incident and estimate that it could mean Iran intends to attack more Israeli ships. The ship is owned by Haifa-based XT Management. Iran was also the main suspect behind an attack in late February on the Israeli-owned cargo vessel MV Helios Ray, which was damaged by a mysterious explosion in the Gulf of Oman. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAELI AND SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTRIES SIGN EXPORT AGREEMENT: The Defense Ministry has signed an agreement with the Slovakian Defense Ministry for the procurement of 17 radar systems made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
The agreement includes the transfer of technology and knowledge from Israel to Slovakia, as well as industrial cooperation, the Defense Ministry said Thursday in a press release. The radar components will be manufactured in collaboration with defense industries in Slovakia under the professional guidance of IAI and the Defense Ministry. The radar detects airborne threats, classifies them, calculates their threat level, and provides essential data that enables systems to neutralize multiple threats simultaneously. In addition, the radar systems will be interoperable with NATO defense mechanisms. (JPost / VFI News)
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS CREATES JEWISH COUNCIL TO FIGHT ANTISEMITISM: The University of Illinois has created a new Jewish advisory council in order to combat antisemitism and build an inclusive campus environment for Jewish students at the university, as reported by the student newspaper on Monday.
The council was announced by Chancellor Robert Jones on March 12 and came following complaints from students regarding antisemitic incidences on campus. “This is a step forward, a good step forward, in solving the problem of dealing with antisemitism on campus,” Erez Cohen, co-chairman of the council and executive director of Illinois Hillel said. (JPost / VFI News)
EL AL POSTS 500M LOSS IN 2020 AMID PANDEMIC: El Al Israel Airlines Ltd., the nation’s flagship carrier, said Thursday it posted a massive half-a-billion-dollar loss in 2020, as its passenger flights were grounded for most of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company said it lost $531 million in 2020, compared to a loss of $59.6 million in 2019. Revenues from operations for the year plunged 71 percent to $623.1 million, compared to revenues of $2.2 billion in 2019, due to the cancellation of regular passenger flights from February 2020. Since the fourth quarter of 2020, some flights to some destinations have resumed. Revenue from cargo flights surged 100% by some $132 million in 2020, compared to the previous year, the company said. (TOI / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff