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Israeli Leaders Warn Hezbollah Not to Push Israel, Point to Gaza as Example: ‘This Is What Will Happen Here’

Israeli soldiers stand by, as a mobile artillery unit fires on the Israeli side of the Israel-Lebanon border, Dec. 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Gil Eliyahu

Israel’s top leaders have sent a clear warning to Hezbollah: Stop attacking Israel with rockets and other weapons, or the Jewish state will target the Iran-backed terror group in Lebanon just as it’s decimating the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah not to escalate the current conflict during a visit to the town of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon.

“Hezbollah got us wrong in a major way in 2006, and is getting us seriously wrong even now,” he told a group of Israeli soldiers, referring to the 34-day conflict known as the Second Lebanon War fought between Israel and the powerful Islamist group.

“Hezbollah made a big mistake with us in 2006 and it is making one now,” Netanyahu added. “It thought that we were like a spiderweb.”

Before the 2006 war, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah referred to Israeli society as a spiderweb, characterizing the Jewish state as weak. He reused that same metaphor in a November speech, saying, “Israel has revealed itself to be a weak state, as fragile as a spiderweb, and it needs American and Western support.”

Netanyahu said that Hezbollah knows such a characterization is false, adding, “It sees here tremendous power, the unity of a people, a determination to do whatever is necessary to restore security to the north, and I tell you — this is my policy.”

Hezbollah operates with impunity in Lebanon, where it wields significant political and military clout, and rules over large swathes of the southern part of the country.

The terror group and Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire since the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza in early October, forcing hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the north to evacuate their homes. Fighting at the Lebanese border has intensified in recent weeks, leading to concerns that the conflict in Gaza — the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, another Iran-backed Islamist terror group, to Israel’s south — could escalate into a regional conflict.

“We will do everything to restore security to the north and allow your families — because many of you are from here — to return home in safety and to know that we are not to be trifled with,” Netanyahu told the soldiers on Monday. “We will do whatever is necessary.”

“Of course, we prefer that this be done without a widespread campaign,” the prime minister continued, expressing Israel’s wish to avoid conflict. “But that will not stop us.”

Netanyahu then warned Hezbollah that, should fighting continue to escalate, Israel is prepared to take its ongoing military campaign of air strikes and ground operations against Hamas in Gaza and use it against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

“We gave them an example of what is happening to their friends in the south; this is what will happen here in the north,” he said. “We will do everything to restore security.”

Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, massacred 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 240 hostages. The Israeli government has pledged to bring all hostages home and destroy Hamas to the point that the terror group no longer poses a threat. At least 8,000 terrorists have been killed so far including key leaders, according to the Israeli military, which has destroyed much of the group’s infrastructure.

Netanyahu’s comments echoed remarks made by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday.

Gallant explained that Israel isn’t afraid to go to war with Hezbollah in Lebanon if pushed to the brink.

While Israel doesn’t seek such a war, the defense chief clarified, “80,000 people need to be able to go back to their homes safely,” he said, referring to Israelis who were forced to evacuate their homes near the northern border. But if all else fails, “we are willing to sacrifice.”

Gallant then warned Hezbollah, like Netanyahu, that Israel could target its fighters in Lebanon just as it’s currently doing to Hamas in Gaza.

“They [Hezbollah] see what is happening in Gaza,” Gallant said. “They know we can copy-paste to Beirut [the Lebanese capital].”

Elaborating on the dangers that Israel is facing, the defense minister said the source of both areas of conflict — Hamas to the south and Hezbollah to the north — is the same: Iran.

“My basic view: We are fighting an axis, not a single enemy,” Gallant said. “Iran is building up military power around Israel in order to use it.”

Iran has provided arms, funds, and training to both Hamas and Hezbollah. All three have the stated aim of seeking Israel’s destruction.

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Major Israeli Tech Entrepreneur Gil Shwed Retires

Gil Shwed, former Chief Executive of Network security provider Check Point Software Technologies, speaks during the annual Cyberweek conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel, June 20, 2016

Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to his 30-year tenure as CEO of Check Point, an Israeli software firm.

“This year Check Point celebrated 30 years since its establishment, in which we managed to generate growth and reached a peak in almost every parameter. I feel that this is the right time for me to focus on Check Point’s next leap,” Shwed, 56, said. “We are now looking for a replacement for the position of CEO. It’s a process that will take time and even when it ends I will remain involved. I want to focus less on the daily work, and more on the future of the company.”

Check Point was founded in 1993 by Shwed, Shlomo Kramer, and Marius Nacht. Shwed and Kramer were friends from their time together in Israel’s elite cyber unit 8200.

The company provides AI-powered advanced software and hardware for cyber security to more than 100,000 customers globally, bringing in more than $2 billion per year in revenue.

Headquartered in Tel Aviv and publicly traded on the NASDAQ, Check Point has a market cap of more than $19 billion dollars, making it Israel’s second most valuable company, $2 billion less than automobile giant Mobileye Eye. Shwed’s role as CEO has allowed him to amass a fortune of $4.4 billion due to his 20% share ownership in the company.

Shwed is also a recipient of the Israel Prize, an annual award given to Israelis who have shown a high level of excellence in their specific fields. Shwed was given the first award in the technology field when it was introduced in 2018.

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Israel’s Leading Hotel Chain Expands Internationally

A view of Athens, Greece. Photo: Jan M via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s leading hotel chain Isrotel has announced the opening of their first hotel outside of the country.

The brand, under a new division called ALUMA, meaning “ray of light” in Hebrew, will open its Skylark Hotel in Athens, Greece next month.

“We succeeded in doing the best in Israel, creating a culture that people love, so if you know Isrotel you will want to visit,” Benny Levy, the VP of sales and marketing at Isrotel, told The Algemeiner.

Levy says just because they are expanding outside of the Jewish state, “We aren’t stopping opening in Israel … Outside of Israel the potential is endless, it is a significant opportunity.”

Lior Raviv, CEO of Isrotel, added, “ALUMA is an international chain of hotels that will benefit from Isrotel’s longstanding experience and uncompromising standards of excellence, offering global travelers a wide range of city hotels and leisure resorts to choose from, and providing unique hospitality experiences. As a sister company of Isrotel, ALUMA is guided by our approach to hospitality as a way of life.”

They said most of the workers will be Israelis, ensuring the culture of the brand remains. “Israeli tourists, and especially loyal guests of Isrotel, who return to us time and again due to our hospitality experience and high standard of service, will find those same qualities and sense of a ‘home away from home’ at ALUMA, backed by the international standards of perfection and excellence,” added Raviv.

According to Isrotel, the Skylark hotel will be followed by the Anise Hotel, also in Athens, a month later. An additional hotel in Athens and one in Thessaloniki will open by the end of 2024. They said the total investment in the project is 70 million euros, with plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in the future.

Isrotel has 23 hotels across Israel, including eight in the resort town of Eilat in the south of Israel. Their international move comes as Israel’s National Planning and Construction Council announced this week the changes to the city’s height limitations for hotels, allowing up to 20 floors from the previously permitted eight floors.

Tourism Minister Haim Katz praised the move, saying, “We are bringing good news to Eilat. Hundreds and even thousands of rooms will be added in the city. The move will encourage competition, remove excess bureaucracy for a hotel that wants to renew itself, and allow entrepreneurs who have not yet built to increase supply.”

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Investment Firm Announces Recommendations for Preventing Corporate Anti-Israel Bias

Illustrative Anti-Israel event. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Morningstar, Inc., a Chicago based investment firm managing over $250 billion in assets, has issued a report including several recommendations for reducing anti-Israel bias in the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings its Sustainalytics subsidiary assigns to corporations.

For several years, Sustainalytics gave poor ESG ratings to Israel affiliated companies, a practice that led Jewish civil rights groups and lawmakers to suspect that the company was violating state laws against engaging in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.

The firm denied the allegations, but a review of the its ratings by JLens, a leading Jewish investor network, found that Sustainalytics created “BDS blacklists” and used in its internal reports “politicized anti-Israel language” to describe Israel. JLens’ work, which was the first to raise alarms about the issue, led to Morningstar’s cracking down on the practices and adopting policies for ensuring that Sustainalytics does not become a BDS collaborator.

Released on Jan. 31, Morningstar’s new report builds on that commitment, outlining several policy changes, including: eliminating a designation which identified companies as being involved in “occupied territories/disputed region,” quashing reliance on disinformative media reports aimed at distorting a company’s ESG rating, and appointing legal experts to examine matters relevant to international human rights law.

“We welcome Morningstar’s commitment to eliminate anti-Israel bias in Sustainalytics research products,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to ongoing engagement with Morningstar to ensure the expert recommendations are fully and effectively implemented.”

The ADL took a leading role in combating anti-Israel bias in ESG ratings, incorporating JLens in Nov. 2022. ADL noted at the time that BDS activists target firms managing ESG rated funds, which attracted over $500 billion in investments in 2021, a 55% increase from the previous year, according to JP Morgan. During 2022’s proxy season, a time when publicly traded companies hold annual meetings to assess performance and weigh suggestions from shareholders, Israel was named in eight of 20 resolutions targeting foreign governments, “making the country only second to China.”

Morningstar’s recommendations will shield ESG from political bias and increase its reliability, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law founder and chairman Kenneth L. Marcus explained in a statement applauding the report.

“Anti-Israel external forces are doing everything they can to infiltrate campuses, boardrooms, the [United Nations]., sports leagues, and the securities industry,” he said. “We commend Morningstar for engaging with us, examining their ESG product, and committing to make the changes necessary to ensure that their rating system is apolitical, objective, and honest. We believe that implementing the experts’ report is critical to achieving this goal.”

Ari Hoffnung, managing director of JLens, added that “investor are entitled to research that is both objective and devoid of any anti-Israel bias.”

Last July, Morningstar removed 109 negative “controversy ratings” that Sustainalytics subsidiary had given to companies operating in Israel. The firm has also stopped referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ or ‘occupied territory” and committed to educating its employees about antisemitism and amassing information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from “independent, recognized experts.”

Morningstar, however, has repeatedly denied that it ever supported BDS. In June 2022, Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor issued a statement arguing that an external review of Sustainalytics found no evidence that it “encouraged divestment from Israel” but acknowledged that at least one of its departments singled out businesses “linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “sometimes used inflammatory language and failed to provide sourcing attribution clearly and consistently.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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