Israel’s Daring Efforts to Bring Ethiopian Jews to Their Homeland

April 17 2020

After his election to the Israeli premiership in 1977, one of Menachem Begin’s first orders to the Mossad was “Bring me the Jews of Ethiopia.” This directive bore fruits, some seven years later, in the form of Operation Moses, a massive effort that clandestinely brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to the Jewish state. To pull it off, Israeli spies created a fake diving resort on the Sudanese coast as a cover for their activities. The story is the subject of a 2019 film, and also a book by Raffi Berg titled Red Sea Spies. Praising the book as both accurate and “vivid,” Stephen Daisley writes in his review:

By day, [the Mossad agents] ran their diving resort; by night, they snuck Jews out of the refugee camps in Sudan to which they had journeyed. Cut off from other Jews for millennia, the Beta Israel, [as Ethiopian Jews call themselves], believed themselves the last of the Israelites and were astonished to learn that Jews could be Europeans.

Initially, they were spirited through the desert to a coastal point near [the resort]. There, special forces lay waiting with dinghies to row them to a naval ship in the Red Sea, which in turn delivered them “home” to Israel. The risk of discovery and death hung over these danger-drenched night crawls; the dinghies had to be abandoned after Sudanese troops mistook them for smugglers one night and opened fire.

The Mossad switched to airlifts, flying out Beta Israel from a disused British airstrip, although this only drew more attention, and the operatives had a series of close calls. In the end, Jerusalem paid off Khartoum and was allowed to transfer a further 6,000 Jews to Israel, provided they did so in secrecy, for the Sudanese president Jaafar Nimeiri feared a backlash from Arab allies.

The scope of the operation was as breathtaking as it was daring. “What the Mossad’s mission amounted to,” Berg writes, “was having to engineer a mass exodus of an unknown number of nationals of a foreign, hostile state, people who spoke no Hebrew, were antiquated in their ways, barely traveled, and distrusted strangers.”

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Ethiopian Jews, Menachem Begin, Mossad, Sudan

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship