The new foreign minister of Israel was handed his credentials in a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem on Tuesday, officially assuming the role as Israel’s top diplomat at a tense time amid the war against Hamas in Gaza.
“We are in the midst of a Third World War against Iran and radical Islam,” said Israel Katz, who had been serving as energy minister. He also previously served as foreign minister from 2019-2020.
Iran is the main international sponsor of Hamas, providing the Palestinian terror group with funds, arms, and training.
In his remarks, Katz thanked outgoing Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who has held the position since the current Israeli coalition government’s formation at the end of last year. He will now take over Katz’s role at the Energy Ministry.
“I have always said that we have a foreign minister full of energy, and now you are going to the Energy Ministry,” Katz said. “We will continue to act together as we have done until today.”
Katz outlined his priorities as Israel’s top diplomat, saying at the top of the list is “the return of the abductees home,” referring to the 240 hostages abducted by Hamas terrorists during their Oct. 7 onslaught across southern Israel. The surprise attack, in which the terrorists murdered over 1,200 people, sparked the current war in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas.
According to Israel, there are 129 hostages still being held by Hamas — including some believed to be dead — after over 100 were released as part of a temporary ceasefire deal in November.
“We are in painful, difficult, and also hopeful moments of mobilizing the entire country,” Katz said. “This enemy reminds us in his actions of the darkest periods in human history, and we are determined and we will achieve the goals of collapsing Hamas.”
The Foreign Ministry has been at the forefront of the global campaign to bring about the release of the hostages.
“Our commitment as a state and ministry is first of all to return the abductees home with new initiatives, to exert global pressure,” Katz said. “The second thing is to preserve the international legitimacy space for fighting in Gaza and the north and for any development that exists. Also, to exert political pressure on Hezbollah in order to create an outline for the implementation of Resolution 1701, in order to bring about their withdrawal from the northern border.”
Amid the war with Hamas in Gaza to Israel’s south, Israeli forces have been clashing with Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terror group in Hezbollah, to the north. Fighting between Israel and Hezbollah has intensified in recent weeks. Katz was referring to the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. It called for the disarmament of Hezbollah and the deployment of Lebanese and UN peacekeeping forces, UNIFIL, in southern Lebanon.
Continuing his point about a third world war, Katz also addressed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
“The Iranian race to obtain nuclear weapons continues even more vigorously during these times,” the new foreign minister said. “The front that Iran has built here in this region is not only against Israel … This is a Third World War with today’s tools, and we are at the front for the whole world.”
Cohen also addressed the event, speaking of the ministry’s role since the war began.
“We all felt from the beginning of the war how essential the Foreign Ministry is and contributes to the country’s security,” he said. “On Oct. 7, the Foreign Ministry was one of the first to come to its senses. At 8 am, a situation room was opened that has been working around the clock ever since.”
Cohen also highlighted some of the recent efforts by the ministry on behalf of the Oct. 7 hostages and victims.
“I personally stood in five delegations of abductees abroad so that they would be heard with the aim of increasing the political pressure and remaining conscious until the last of the abductees returned home,” he said. “Our ambassadors have done more than 8,000 interviews. The digital activity has more than 2.5 billion exposures. Three months into the fighting we are receiving support as no one thought we would receive.”
Cohen concluded by wishing “my friends, colleagues, and Israel Katz success … I have no doubt that with your many years of experience and early familiarity with the office, you will continue to lead the office at the forefront of the political struggle. Don’t worry. I will be back. We will meet again.”
Tribute: Rabbi Dovid Schochet, 91, a pioneer in building Toronto’s observant community
The Jewish community in Toronto lost a towering leader when Rabbi Dovid Schochet, the president of the Toronto Rabbinical Council and the senior rabbi of the Chabad community in Toronto, passed away at the age of 91 on Jan. 28. He was born in 1932 in Basel, Switzerland, the second of 10 children, to Rabbi […]
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Attacker in 2021 Antisemitic Assault in New York Sentenced to Three Years in State Prison
The final criminal proceeding for the case of Joseph “Joey” Borgen, a Jewish man whom a gang of antisemites mauled and pepper-sprayed in broad daylight during protests and counter-protests over Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas, resulted in another conviction Wednesday.
Mohammed Said Othman, 29, was sentenced to three years in state prison, according to a press release issued by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.
Borgen, who is Jewish, was wearing a kippah while walking in Manhattan when Said Othman, along with several other men, ambushed him without being provoked. They shouted antisemitic slurs at the pro-Israel advocate, who suffered a concussion, wrist injury, black eye, and bruises all over his body.
Since then, three other sentences have been handed down in the Borgen case. Waseem Awawdeh, who continuously struck Borgen with a crutch while allegedly joining the others in shouting antisemitic epithets at him, pleaded guilty to attempted assault as a hate crime and received 18 months in jail, as part of a plea bargain negotiated with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathon Junig.
In November, Mahmoud Musa received seven years in prison for his role in the attack. In December, Mohammed Othman was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in state prison and five additional years of post-release supervision.
As seen in footage of the incident, Othman kicked and repeatedly struck Borgen in the face while sitting on his chest to weigh him down. In court, he pleaded guilty to gang assault and third-degree hate crime assault.
“These defendants violently targeted and assaulted another individual simply because he is Jewish,” District Attorney Bragg said in a statement. “While this office always supports the right to peacefully protest and engage in open dialogue, these multi-year prison sentences makes clear that physically attacking someone because of their religion is never acceptable. I thank our hate crimes unit for its diligent work in this case.”
Throughout the criminal proceedings in his case, Joey Borgen called on New York City lawmakers to do more to eradicate antisemitic hatred in the five boroughs.
In December, he told The Algemeiner that while he is pleased with the outcome of the case he is worried that the group with which his attackers were allegedly affiliated, the extreme anti-Zionist organization Within Our Lifetime (WOL), is still engaging in antisemitic activity that could lead to more hate crimes.
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, WOL has posted (and deleted) a map, titled “Know Your Enemies,” showing the addresses of Jewish organizations in New York City, and staged numerous disruptive protests. The group is led by Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York (CUNY) student who once threatened to set on fire someone’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) hoodie while he was wearing it.
“They’re still causing havoc; they’re forcing Jewish attendees of a fundraiser to speak at the backdoor of a police van, and they’re bombarding the mother of a hostage with horrible antisemitic chants,” Borgen said. “While I’m happy that I got a positive result in my case, I’m still disturbed that this same group is still going around causing issues for Jewish people, attacking restaurants, and putting people in danger.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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