VFI News May 31, 2022

Iraq Approves: Death Penalty for Normalization with Israel

Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday, May 26, passed a bill criminalizing the normalization of ties and any relations, including business ties, with Israel, The Associated Press reported.

The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable with the death sentence or life imprisonment.

The law was approved with 275 lawmakers voting in favor of it in the 329-seat assembly. A parliament statement said the legislation is “a true reflection of the will of the people”, according to the report.

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last year, called for Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate this “great achievement.” Hundreds later gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans.

Iraq has not recognized Israel since the country's formation in 1948. The two nations have no diplomatic relations.

Four Arab countries - the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain, and Morocco - established diplomatic relations with Israel as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020.

Iraqi lawmakers are adamant that Iraq will not join the Abraham Accords, despite calls for it to do so.

This past September, prominent Sunni and Shiite leaders held a conference in the city of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, in which they openly called for peace with Israel.

The Iraqi government condemned the conference, and a Baghdad court later issued an arrest warrant for two people who participated in it. (INN/ VFI News)

“God, we ask that you remove the hatred and prejudice from the Arab world.”

The articles included in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Vision for Israel. We try to provide accurate reporting on news pertinent to Israel, the Middle East, the diaspora, and Jewish issues around the world—and we hope that you find it both informative and useful for intercessory prayer.

Era of Iranian Immunity is Over

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hinted at Israel's possible role in the assassination of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer last week during the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, May 29.

"Last week we again saw that instead of improving the lives of the Iranian people, the regime in Tehran chooses tyranny, terror, and lies. Last week masses of Iranian people went out into the streets of Abadan and other places in Iran to demonstrate against the tyranny of the regime. In response, Iranian forces shot at Iranian civilians. In many places in Iran at the moment, it is difficult to acquire water and bread at a reasonable price. Iran invests in terror – like the underground UAV base they showcased recently," Bennett said,

"Iran has also been investing in lies such as its deliberate misleading of the IAEA in order to evade visits by the agency, as was revealed last week. The Iranian regime is based on tyranny, terror, and lies.

"The world must stand alongside the Iranian people and stand up against the brutal regime. For many years, the Iranian regime has carried out terrorism against Israel and the region via proxies but for some reason, the head of the octopus – Iran itself – has enjoyed immunity. As we have said more than once, the era of immunity for the Iranian regime is over. Those who finance terrorists, those who arm terrorists, and those who send terrorists – will pay the full price," he said. (TOI / VFI News)

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. - Isaiah 2:4

Taliban Are ‘Making Women Invisible’ in Afghanistan

The Taliban government’s restrictions on women are aimed at making them “invisible” in Afghan society, a UN human rights observer said Thursday, May 26, during a visit to the nation.

Since the Taliban stormed back to power last year, they have imposed harsh restrictions on women and girls to comply with their austere vision of Islam.

Teenage girls have been shut out from secondary schools, while women have been forced from some government jobs and barred from traveling alone.

This month Afghanistan’s supreme leader and Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada ordered women to cover up fully in public, including their faces.

These policies show a “pattern of absolute gender segregation and are aimed at making women invisible in the society,” Richard Bennett, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul.

In March the Taliban ordered all secondary schools for girls to shut down, just hours after opening them for the first time since taking power in August.

Foreign governments have insisted the Taliban’s record on human rights, especially women’s rights, will be key in determining whether the administration will be formally recognized.

During two decades of US-led military intervention in Afghanistan, women and girls made marginal gains in the deeply patriarchal nation.

Some Afghan women initially pushed back against the new Taliban curbs, holding small protests where they demanded the right to education and work. (TOI/ VFI News)

“Lord, we ask that You will protect the women in Afghanistan from the radical Islamists. We pray that You will reveal yourself to them and bring them into salvation.”

Israel to Finalize UAE Free Trade Agreement, First with an Arab State

Israel is set to finalize its free trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates in Dubai on Tuesday, May 31, marking the first time it has come to such a wide-ranging economic arrangement with an Arab state.

“This is a visit of strategic importance to the economic relations between the State of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, in which I will sign the free trade agreement and promote a number of economic partnerships,” said Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai, who will be in Dubai to sign the document.

“Together we will remove barriers and promote comprehensive trade and new technologies,” she said.

“This is a free, full, first trade agreement with an Arab state, which takes place so soon after the establishment of diplomatic relations.”

The agreement comes less than two years after Israel and the UAE established full diplomatic ties under the rubric of the Abraham Accords. Based on the accords, Israel also normalized ties with Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.

Israel also has a limited free-trade agreement with Jordan, but it does not reach the same level as this document, which is more along the lines of Israel’s FTAs with the United States and the European Union.

This agreement covers 96% of the trade between Israel and the UAE, which stood last year at $885 million.

That is more than double Israel’s $330m. in trade with Egypt in 2021, even though the two countries have had a peace agreement since 1979. (JPost/VFI News)

“God, we ask that you guide our relationships and make sure that all agreements are made in good faith and with honesty.”

Hineh Lo Yanum (Psalm 121:4) by Barry & Batya Segal

This psalm is a celebration of God's constant and continued protection of His people. Though we may slumber and rest, our God is constantly vigilant and watching over us. We must trust Him as our protector, and rely on Him alone for our reassurance. Though worldly entities may seem tempting, the only stronghold that is always diligent is God's love.

Israel to Launch Fourth Natural Gas Exploration

Israel will begin the process of launching a fourth exploration for natural gas in its territorial waters, Energy Minister Karin Elharrar said on Monday, May 30. The decision came due to the growing need for gas in Europe as it attempts to curb its dependence on Russia's natural gas, as part of sanctions slapped on Moscow by the West over its invasion of Ukraine.

The decision came despite Elharrar's plan to halt all searches for natural gases during 2022 in order to focus on renewable energies, which she announced on December 15.

"The State of Israel is pitching in and helping Europe diversify its energy sources," she said at a press conference on Monday. "The global energy crisis provides an opportunity for the State of Israel to export natural gas, along with the honest and real concern for what is going on in Europe.

"The Energy Ministry under my leadership is acting to ensure Israel's energy security, the diversity of our energy sources and investment in renewable energies, and the Israeli economy's gas reserves for the coming decades," Elharrar said.

"It's important to stress that we and the Europeans are in agreement that the most important strategic move in order to overcome the crisis is to accelerate the development of renewable energies," Energy Ministry Director-General Lior Shilat said.

Israel has begun to hold talks with international partners, especially in Europe, the US, and Egypt, in order to understand their strategy in handling the crisis. (JPost / VFI News)

1 in 10 Israelis is a Jerusalemite, Latest Statistics Show

In advance of Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research published its annual report, the 36th of its kind, under the title, "Jerusalem in data, 2022," which presents a comprehensive picture of Israel's capital.

One of the most interesting findings of the report is that one in ten Israelis is a Jerusalemite. As such, the capital continues to retain its status as the largest city in the country by a significant margin. At the end of 2021, Jerusalem's population stood at 965,100 people, having grown by 1.5 percent from the previous year. However, the average growth rate across the country is somewhat higher, at 1.6 percent.

Furthermore, like most other large cities in Israel and across the developed world, Jerusalem has net negative migration, which in 2020 translated to a population decrease of 7,800 people. 38 percent of Jerusalemites who move to settle elsewhere don't go far, choosing to live in the region. And in 2021, the number of those leaving the city spiked, with a net negative migration of 10,900 people.

Jerusalem also continues to be a very diverse city. In 2020, there were 570,100 Jews living in the capital, 61 percent of the city's population. Arabs constituted 39 percent of the city's population, with 353,800 Muslims and 12,900 Christians, for a total of 366,800. Also of note is the fact that the Jewish population of the capital has declined from being 74 percent of the total in 1967 to just 61 percent in 2020. In 1967 Arabs constituted just 26 percent of Jerusalem's population. (INN/ VFI News)

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. - Psalm 125:2

Over 50,000 Participants in the Jerusalem Flag March

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands behind his decision to approve the Flag March held on Sunday, May 29, in honor of Jerusalem Day, which passed through the Damascus Gate in accordance with the route that has existed for decades.

Bennett said, "We decided that the Flag March would go along its traditional route, and so it was. This year we broke records with over 50,000 participants who painted the city with the colors of our flag. It is moving and joyful to see all the people of Israel celebrating together. Am Yisrael Chai."

Last year, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to approve the march through the Damascus Gate in light of Hamas' threats to launch missiles at Israel, as it indeed did in the end.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who visited the Jerusalem Police headquarters on Sunday, was also pleased with the decision to allow the march to go through the Damascus Gate. Barlev said that "the decision I made about a week and a half ago, on the recommendation of the police and other security officials, that the march be held this year as scheduled and on its regular route - it was a right and inevitable decision.

MK Simcha Rothman from the Religious Zionist faction offered praise for the government, writing on Facebook, "When they deserve it, they deserve it. Hats off to the Israeli government, the Public Security Minister, the Prime Minister and the Alternate Prime Minister, the commissioner, and anyone who had a hand in the decision not to fold in the face of threats, and allow the Flag March, which connected the two parts of the city. And of course, well done to the police, the Border Police, the dancers, and the celebrants. Chag Sameach." (INN/ VFI News)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! - Psalm 122:6

Israeli Orchestra Performs in Egypt for the First Time in 40 Years

An Israeli orchestra has performed in Egypt for the first time in 40 years, surprising locals by playing Egyptian classics from the 50s and 60s.

The event took place as part of Israel’s 74th Independence Day celebrations at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, according to a report by public broadcaster Kan.

Ariel Cohen, the conductor, and co-founder of the Firqat Alnoor orchestra described the excitement of being able to perform in the Arab country, which signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979, but has seen relations remain frosty.

“The Egyptian audience that attended the event were astonished to see an [Israeli] orchestra performing Egyptian music, and not pop or fusion, but the DNA of Egyptian music… and to play it as it was played in Egypt in the 50s or the 60s — they really appreciated it and complimented us. It was a great pleasure to perform in front of such an audience,” Cohen said.

And while Cohen said he wasn’t sure if music alone could create a warm relationship between Egyptians and Israelis, he said that “music, when it’s done properly, can bring people together, and that’s what we saw when we performed there.” (TOI/ VFI News)

“Lord, we thank you for art and for inspiring artists and musicians. May you use music to bring us together and create warm connections throughout the world.”

The suggestions, opinions, and scripture references made by VFI News writers and editors are based on the best information received.

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