"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40
  1. A rocket was fired into Israeli territory from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday morning before being intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system and prompting retaliatory strikes by IDF aircraft. The incident came a day after large numbers of incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons were sent into Israeli territory from the Strip, igniting several large fires which burned crops and forests inside Israel. On Wednesday evening, in response to the barrage of incindiery devices, Israel took the highly unusual step of forbidding fishing boats in Gaza from leaving port entirely, following earlier restrictions on the ranges they could go out to sea.

    Netanyahu Suffers Legal Setback
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a legal setback on Wednesday evening when the Tel Aviv Economic Crimes Division rejected his lawyers assertion that he deserves a delay in his pre-indictment hearing on several charges of fraud and bribery because they have not provided all the necessary documentation in the cases. The hearing, scheduled for 2-3 October, will make it more difficult for Netanyahu to proceed with his plans to push legislation through the Knesset granting immunity from prosecution for sitting elected officials.

    In related news, Justice Minister Amir Ohana told Channel 12 on Wednesday that he may not obey rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court if they contradict his views on what is needed to guarantee national security. He also said he’s continue to support Netanyahu’s legislative agenda including his efforts to shield sitting elected officials from prosecution while in office and other limits on the courts ability to veto Knesset legislation.

    Gabbay Announces Retirement from Politics
    Outgoing Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay, who announced on Tuesday that he will not run for another term as factional leader in upcoming primaries, took it a step further on Wednesday and announced he’s terminating his own political career entirely. He explained that he was taking the step to avoid an appearance of undermining whoever becomes the next chairman, adding that the four former chairmen who had positions in the party while technically being subordinate to him were part of the reason his tenure was so difficult and unproductive.

    “One of the problems with the culture in our party is that former party chairmen remain on our list,” he said. “In the world outside of politics, when a director-general finishes his job, he moves on and does not become subordinate to someone who was under him before. I had four former chairmen under me, which naturally leads to personal problems, and I did not want to continue that phenomenon.”

    Today’s Video Provides a Panel Discussion on the Middle East Economic Outlook

  2. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Teheran on Wednesday for meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, telling journalists assembled for a joint press conference that "It is essential that Iran plays a constructive role in building solid peace and stability in the Middle East…so that the region will not destabilise any further and that no accidental clash will occur in the midst of recent rising tensions.” Rouhani declared during his own remarks that any tensions that exist are all the fault of America, adding “We will not initiate a conflict in the region, even against the US, but if a war starts against us we will then give a crushing response.”

    Meanwhile, reports emerged on Thursday morning that two explosions had occurred impacting oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, further stoking tensions in the region. A US Fifth Fleet spokesperson told reporters the incident is being investigated. It comes followed several days in which mysterious fires burnt cargo ships in several Iranian ports and a large fire did extensive damage to the South pars oil platform. It also came a day after a missile fired at the civil airport in the southwestern Saudi Arabian city of Abha by Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen wounded 26 people, prompting officials in Riyadh to warn of a “stern” response.

    Here is a video giving some further analysis of recent Iranian behavior

  3. The Palestinian Authority flatly rejected an offer from Israel to conduct a joint investigation into an incident Tuesday morning which saw gunfire exchanged between IDF troops and PA security forces in Nablus Tuesday morning. A PA police officer was lightly wounded in the exchange of fire, which the IDF said was a mistake but which the PA has said was a deliberate action meant to increase pressure on the PA for an unspecified purpose. The incident comes as the PA is continuing to refuse participation in an upcoming US-sponsored economic workshop in Bahrain aimed at advancing the Trump Administrations plans for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, despite announcements by several Arab governments that they will send delegations.

    Jordan, Egypt and Morocco announced on Tuesday evening that they would send delegations to the summit on 25-26 June, joining Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

    In related news, Tuesday saw several more fires breaking out in southern Israel, with officials blaming incendiary balloons being sent over the border into Israeli territory from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Also on Tuesday, the international soccer organization FIFA announced that it is launching an investigation into chairman of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), Jibril Rajoub for various violations of FIFA’s code of ethics including promoting and glorifying terrorism; inciting hatred and violence; promoting racism; and preventing the use of the game of soccer to build a bridge for peace. The investigation is based on evidence provided to FIFA by the NGO Palestinian Media Watch.

    Syrian Regime Says Israeli Missiles Hit Tel al-Harah
    Assad-regime controlled media in Syria reported Wednesday morning that Israeli missile strikes had caused material damage but no casualties to military infrastructure at Tel al-Harah in the Daraa district of southern Syria. In related news, the regime recently signaled a lack of interest in renewing ties with the Islamist terror militia Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip and formally had a headquarters in Damascus before essentially abandoning the regime in 2011 when it appeared as if rebel factions were close to toppling it.

    Moldova Moving Embassy to Jerusalem
    The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another crushing defeat on Tuesday when the former Soviet Republic of Moldova announced it is moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On the economic front, US defense giant Lockheed Martin secured a contract from Israel’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday to operate and maintain a training center for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Nevatim Air Force Base in the South. Also, US-based Ford Motor Company followed the example of other large industrial conglomerates to open a technology innovation center in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
    "We recognize the importance of being in one of the world’s leading innovation communities and ecosystems," said Bill Ford, the executive chairman of FMC at the launch ceremony. "This new center is not only an expansion of our existing Research and Innovation centers but provides an opportunity to join a growing innovation community in Israel."

    Today's video highlights some of the soldiers who protect the Jewish State

  4. Attorney’s for Sara Netanyahu, the wife of the Prime Minister, announced on Wednesday morning that she had signed a plea agreement with prosecutors in the so-called “Prepared Food Affair” which will require her to pay a NIS 55,000 fine and have a conviction on the charge of intentionally exploiting another person's error entered into her criminal record, which allows her to avoid a conviction on more serious charges of fraud and breach of trust. The announcement came amidst a host of political developments relating to upcoming Knesset elections on 17 September.

    Israel’s Labor Party was holding its convention Wednesday to decide, among other things, whether to retain the list of candidates which ran in the previous elections on 9 April for the upcoming elections or to form a new list. The convention comes a day after Party leader Avi Gabbay announced he would not run for re-election to his post but is still interested in being a candidate for Knesset.

    Meanwhile, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz made a public appeal at a Knesset press conference Wednesday for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to advance the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on various charges of fraud and bribery, saying that the unsettled nature of the cases is having a negative effect on the national life of the country.

    “Netanyahu is weak, the original elections were brought forward because of his legal needs,” said Gantz.  “Instead of the government acting to advance the county, the state is causing a situation that the country is stuck, and all of this is because he is weak. Responsibility is now in the hands of the attorney-general and I call on him to halt this corrupt escape dance from judgement. There is a hearing, there is a date, this legal mumbo jumbo cannot continue. Things need to happen.”

    Here is a video giving some analysis of the current political climate in Israel

  5. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano spoke out forcefully on Monday, warning about increased tensions between Iran and the US while adding that the Islamic Republic has followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium. “The situation in the region here is highly explosive and extremely serious,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas Maas told a news conference alongside Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Teheran on Monday. “A dangerous escalation of existing tensions can also lead to a military escalation.”

    “Reducing tension is only possible through stopping the economic war by America,” Zarif said during his own comments. “Those who wage such wars cannot expect to remain safe.” However, he added that “Tehran will cooperate with EU signatories of the (JCPOA nuclear) deal to save it.” He also lashed out at Israel, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for provoking a conflict with his country.

    Netanyahu responded to that comment by posting this video

    Here is another recent video in which Iran’s renegade nuclear program is analyzed by one of the world’s leading nuclear experts

    Here are some more videos giving a closer look at the current situation with Iran