VFI News September 3, 2021

Lapid: US Withdrawal from Afghanistan was Right Move, Done Poorly

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was the right move but was carried out poorly, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday, September 1, in the first sound of criticism from a senior Israeli official about the recent withdrawal.

“It was probably the right decision but wasn’t performed in the right manner,” Lapid told foreign reporters in Jerusalem.

“We don’t understand completely all the consequences of this move, of this retreat,” he added.

It could affect Pakistan and Iran’s long border with Afghanistan that is now run by a radical Sunni organization, Lapid said. He further speculated that it could “hugely” impact the battle with al-Qaeda.

“We should wait a little before we jump to conclusions about the aftermath of the US withdrawal,” Lapid said.

Lapid added that he does not believe that the US pullout from Afghanistan signals an American retreat from the region.

“I do not think that the US is retreating from the Middle East,” Lapid said.

“The US is seeing new avenues of influence in the region,” Lapid said, adding that Biden was updating the US method of operation and replacing policies of past administrations. “This administration is very keen on being on top of the current game, not the game that was played before,” he added.

Lapid said the two main challenges facing Israel in the region are from Iran and its proxy group in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

“The world needs a plan B, and Iran needs to know there is a credible threat on it if they will keep on advancing their nuclear program as they do now,” Lapid said. (JPost / VFI News)

“Lord, we pray that you would continue to protect Your followers in Afghanistan, heal the brokenhearted and bring peace into the region.”

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.

Iranian Fuel Exported to Lebanon Without Government's Permission

The Lebanese government has received no request for fuel to be imported from Iran, the caretaker energy minister, Raymond Ghajar, said on Wednesday, September 1, appearing to confirm that the Shi'ite group Hezbollah has bypassed the state with a move to import Iranian fuel.

Hezbollah, a heavily armed group founded by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 1982, announced last month that a shipment of Iranian fuel oil was on its way to help ease crippling shortages.

The group is by far the most powerful faction in Lebanon, where it has been part of the ruling system for years.

The fuel crisis, caused by a broader meltdown of Lebanon's economy and plunge in the value of its currency, has forced even essential services to shut down or scale back operations.

Hezbollah's opponents say the declaration, followed by announcements of two further Iranian fuel shipments for Lebanon, has further undermined the authority of the state and exposed Lebanon to the risk of U.S. sanctions. 

Asked about the Iranian shipment, the caretaker energy minister Raymond Ghajar told journalists "…our role is restricted to import permits, we did not receive a request for permission." When asked if this meant the ship was coming without permits, Ghajar said: "No. We do not have information. Permission was not requested from us. This is all I am saying." (JPost / VFI News)

“God, we ask that you look after Your people, and ensure that trade and international relations remain honest and in good faith.”

Ex-Mossad Chief Wants to Use Positive Bennett-Biden Meeting to Stop Iran

Israel should use the positive meeting last week between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden to stop Iran’s march toward hegemony in the Middle East and toward a nuclear weapon, former Mossad director Yossi Cohen wrote on Wednesday, September 1.

In his first public op-ed since retiring as Mossad chief in June, Cohen wrote in Yediot Aharonot, “Especially in light of the positive relations prevailing between Jerusalem and Washington DC, between Prime Minister Bennett and President Biden, these messages [stopping Iran] could be accepted positively, in my estimation, and could be internalized by the US’s policy-makers.”

More specifically, he hooked onto Biden’s statement to prevent Iran from going nuclear at any time, and not merely during his current term, as a sign that Washington DC was in a unique position of being open to altering its policy of simply wanting to negotiate a weak nuclear deal with Tehran.

Cohen warned that the speedy fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban along with the Biden administration’s constant push to return to the 2015 JCPOA Iran nuclear deal is a formula for disaster and must be confronted quickly.

The former Mossad chief expressed concern that the US may soon fully withdraw from Iraq, as it did in Afghanistan, which could lead to the current Iraqi regime falling and becoming completely dominated by the Islamic Republic.

Cohen wrote that he is concerned that either the limited scope of this mission or any future reduction in the US physical presence in Iraq, could alter the face of the region by empowering Iranian control in the large and influential country.

He discussed Iran’s four-year public campaign to create a land bridge through the region and a “circle of fire” around Israel, including the presence of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel and proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza.

Next, he said that Iran’s plan to move forward with advanced centrifuges and enrich uranium in two underground nuclear facilities (which are harder to attack from the air), Fordow and Natanz, are bringing it closer to a nuclear weapon.

Cohen warned that the JCPOA, without a major overhaul, would allow Iran to reach a nuclear weapon when it expires in 2030, or even earlier. (JPost / VFI News)

Though an army camp besieges me, my heart will not fear. Though war breaks out against me, even then will I be confident. - Psalm 27:3

Israel-Jordan Ties Boosted by Rare Alignment in Interests on Water, Energy

As scientific warnings of dire climate change-induced drought grow, many in Israel and Jordan cast worried eyes at the river running between them and the critical but limited resources they share.

This month, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed unequivocally that the climate is changing faster than previously feared, heaping pressure on finite water supplies even as demands grow greater than ever before. But experts say that instead of provoking an argument, Israel and Jordan could be poised for an unprecedented boom in water cooperation amid technological advancements, climate pressures, and stronger ties.

Warnings about looming “water wars,” including in the Middle East, were often inflated, said Duke University professor Erika Weinthal. “Water is a resource that allows for adversaries to actually find ways to cooperate,” said Weinthal, a specialist in global environmental politics, who has worked extensively on Israel-Jordan issues.

“If you look at the data, you see more cooperation over water than conflict, and where there is conflict, it is usually verbal,” added Weinthal, a leader in the emerging academic field of environmental peace-building. (TOI / VFI News)

“God, we ask that you create truthful and strong ties between Israel and the neighboring countries, and foster peace and prosperity in the region.”

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Jews Target of 58% of all Religiously-Motivated Hate Crimes in US

Jews in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the US despite constituting a mere 2% of the population, newly released FBI statistics for 2020 have shown.

The data also showed that Jews constitute the third-largest target of hate crimes out of all minorities in the entire country, more than, Hispanics, Muslims, Asians, and virtually all other groups.

Only anti-black or African-American, anti-White, and anti-LGBT attacks were more numerous than anti-Jewish ones.

In total, the FBI received information of 7,759 hate crimes committed in 2020, submitted by over 15,000 law enforcement agencies around the country.

Of those, 4,939 attacks were motivated by race or ethnicity, 1,174 by religion, and 1,051 by sexual orientation, with the remainder based on hatred for disability, gender, gender identity, and multiple biases.

Of the religiously motivated hate crimes, fully 676 were committed against Jews, some 58% of all such attacks, and 9% of the total number of hate crimes committed across the US in 2020.

Although still high, the 2020 numbers are marginally lower than those of 2019, when anti-Jewish attacks constituted 63% of all religiously motivated hate crimes and 13% of all hate crimes nationwide. (JPost / VFI News)

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 5:10

Asteroid the Size of Golden Gate Bridge to Fly by Earth in September

Another massive asteroid is set to approach Earth's orbit within the next month, with a diameter rivaling the size of San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Dubbed 2021 NY1, the large asteroid is set to pass by the planet on September 22, according to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory asteroid tracker. It has an estimated diameter of 130 meters to 300 meters. For comparison, the Golden Gate Bridge has a height of just 227 meters.

The asteroid is one of many that are set to pass by the planet in the coming month. Another one, 2021 QC1, is set to pass by on September 1. This asteroid is smaller, with a diameter of just 71 meters to 160 meters. However, this is still huge and is around the size of the Statue of Liberty.

An even bigger one is set to fly by on September 9. Dubbed 2010 RJ53, this colossal asteroid has a diameter of approximately 774 meters in size, around twice the size of the Empire State Building in New York.

Despite the size of these asteroids, it is unlikely any of them will come close to impacting the Earth. Out of the three aforementioned asteroids, only 2010 RJ53 will fly closer to the Earth than the moon, its closest distance being an estimated 366,000 kilometers away from the planet. For comparison, the moon maintains a distance of 384,400 kilometers away from Earth. (JPost / VFI News)

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” - Psalm 4:8

Israeli AI Startup Bets on Robotic Beehives to Save Global Bee Populations

The Beehome is a solar-powered, converted container that brings together robotics, artificial intelligence, imaging, a software platform, and a mobile application to monitor and care for honeybees around the clock. The device can house up to 24 bee colonies and automatically controls for climate and humidity conditions, detects and eliminates pests and parasites, identifies when a colony is preparing to swarm, sends alerts when human intervention is needed, and even harvests the honey the bees produce.

“The Beehome works with 24 colonies, 12 on each side. And in the center, there’s a robotic system that moves and monitors [the colonies] 24/7 using computer vision, machine learning, and neural networks. It dispenses food, water, medicine if there is a disease or pest, it knows if it’s too hot or cold — the robot can treat all of this,” serial Israeli entrepreneur, and co-founder of the Beehome, Saar Safra said. 

Controlling and monitoring all these conditions in real-time ensures that yields improve, pollination occurs more efficiently, and honeybee populations are protected, he explained.

Bee populations certainly need protecting. Due to what Safra calls a “perfect storm” of climate change, habitat loss, excessive use of agricultural chemicals, parasitic mites, and various pathogens, bee populations have been declining for decades and the world “is losing about 40 percent of colonies every year.”

In the US, beekeepers lost an estimated 45% of their managed honeybee colonies between April 2020 and April 2021, marking the second-highest annual loss on record according to the most recent loss and management report issued by the Bee Informed Partnership.

It’s an astonishing figure given that “nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least in part, on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land,” according to the United Nations.

In addition, “pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (e.g., canola and palm oils), fibers (e.g., cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts,” according to the World Bee Project, a UK-based initiative advancing the integration of various technologies to help save the bees.

Indeed, technology is a much-needed solution to protect bee populations and help them thrive – at the risk of losing important processes that bees facilitate, Safra said. (TOI / VFI News)

“God, we ask that you oversee those who aim to protect Your planet and Your creation.” 

Israeli Study Suggests ‘Silent Mutations’ can Help Detect Cancer and Predict Survival

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that “silent mutations” in cancer genomes can be used to predict both the type of cancer and a patient’s probability of surviving it, and say the method they developed may help save lives in the future.

Silent mutations are mutations in DNA that don’t change the sequence of amino acids in proteins and therefore have no effect on an organism’s phenotype — the observable physical characteristics. In recent years, it has been shown that such mutations can affect gene expression, and may be associated with the development and spread of cancer cells.

According to the study led by Prof. Tamir Tuller and research student Tal Gutman, silent mutations can help not only in the diagnosis of cancer but also in identifying cancer types and predicting chances of survival.

Using quantitative tools never before used to explore the functionality of silent mutations, Tuller and Gutman examined some three million mutations from cancer genomes of 9,915 patients and attempted to identify the type of cancer and predict survival probability 10 years after the initial diagnosis — based on silent mutations alone.

The findings show that “the predictive power of silent mutations is often similar to that of ‘ordinary,’ non-silent mutations,” the study says, and furthermore, that “by combining information from silent and non-silent mutations, classification could be improved for 68 percent of the cancer types.”

Tuller said that the results of the study have “several important implications.”

“First of all, there is no doubt that by using silent mutations we can improve existing diagnostic and prognostic models,” he said, noting that a 17% improvement in classification was “very significant.” (TOI / VFI News)

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” - 3 John 1:2