Hugo Chavez Dies: Israel-Venezuela to Reboot Relations?

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Today’s Top Stories

1. Although Jerusalem’s keeping quiet about Hugo Chavez’s death,  Haaretz reports of Israeli hopes to “reboot” relations with Venezuela. For background on El Commandante’s animus towards Israel, see Israel HaYom. The JTA elaborates on Chavez’s strained relationship with Venezuela’s Jewish community.

Repairing Israeli-Venezuelan ties isn’t far-fetched. Elections are supposed to be held within 30 days; the Jewish Chronicle notes that opposition leader Henrique Capriles is the grandson of Holocaust survivors:

Mr Capriles, a Catholic whose grandparents fled Nazi Europe for South America, had reportedly pledged to re-establish ties with Israel.

For now, he is calling for unity as the country mourns the man that led it for more than 14 years. But if he did challenge Chavez’s expected successor – Vice President Nicolas Maduro – it could mark a turning point for the Jewish community of Venezuela and for the country’s relations with the US and Israel.

Before closing out on Chavez, I want to recognize The Daily Mash for this ace headline:

The Daily Mash

2. There goes the neighborhood: Israeli media reports that Syrian jihadi gunmen along the Golan border are now studying IDF patrols.

Members of the al-Furqan group — affiliated with the global al-Qaeda organization which has acted in Yemen and Iraq — were filmed close to Israel’s border, out in the open, in footage screened by Israel’s Channel 10 on Tuesday night.

In a number of videos uploaded to the internet, the fighters can also be seen holding various munitions, including old anti-tank rockets and heavy machine guns.

Sources in the IDF believe the gunmen affiliated with these and other terror groups are currently preoccupied with fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, and that if they plan on turning their focus on Israel they won’t do so before they have more control in Syria, the TV report said. Plainly, though, it added, the decades of relative quiet for Israel on its border with Syria are coming to an end . . .

3. Here’s some successful soft diplomacy I wish we’d see more of. Israeli-Iranian singer Israeli-Iranian singer Rita Yahan-Farouz rocked the UN General Assembly hall with a message of peace for Iran. Chemi Shalev described Tunes for Peace as a surreal night where diplomats danced in their seats.

Fans can watch the whole performance.  After the show, Rita told the Jerusalem Post:

“The people there— the real people there in Iran, not the government— they want to live normal lives. They are like us. They are the same,” Rita told the Post. “So we have to remember that, and remind them of that.”

4. Lots of recent hot content from HonestReporting you must not miss:

Israel and the Palestinians

Egypt’s battle against the Gaza tunnels is escalating. After the military began flooding them with water (and sometimes sewage), smugglers adapted with pumps. The Times of Israel describes the Egyptian response:

The source said that Egyptian army engineering units are preparing to bring heavy equipment to bear on the tunnels. The engineering units will be provided with special military protection as they work to destroy the passages in order to prevent attacks by smugglers hoping to save the underground infrastructure.

UNICEF The UN Children’s Fund slammed the treatment of Palestinian kids in the Israel’s West Bank justice system. The UNICEF report (pdf) is harsh; Israel’s response, as quoted by Reuters, sounds like a no-contest plea:

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said officials from the ministry and the Israeli military had cooperated with UNICEF in its work on the report, with the goal of improving the treatment of Palestinian minors in custody.

“Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect,” he said.

 In a calculated poke at Israel, Turkey appointed an ambassador the State of Palestine.

Student papers continue debating Israeli Apartheid Week. Today serves up the Duke Chronicle, Brown Daily Herald, Stanford Daily, and The Beaver (London School of Economics).

  Over at the Greensboro News-Record, Pastor Jeff Paschal shares his thoughts on the Mideast conflict after returning from an interfaith mission to the Holy Land. If you participate in a mission to Israel, write up something for your local paper. I’m putting a visiting Houston’s mission on notice.

On the next page:

  • UK diplomat flees protesting Palestinian students
  • Marathons create  run-around for Israel, Hamas and the UN
  • Two Palestinians found hanged in Yarmouk refugee camp.

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