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Top South African rabbi critical of govt's 'support' of Hamas, says US needs to stop 'bad actors' on continent

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Top South African rabbi critical of govt's 'support' of Hamas, says US needs to stop 'bad actors' on continent

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FIRST ON FOX – Iran, Russia and China are sweeping across Africa, with the U.S. facing a crisis of influence. In South Africa, the government has aligned itself with the “bad actors” Russia, China and Iran. These are the main takeaways from an exclusive interview with South Africa’s chief rabbi, Dr. Warren Goldstein. 

Goldstein spoke with Fox News Digital in Johannesburg on Monday, on the eve of what promises to be a watershed presidential election in South Africa this week. Thirty years ago, the African National Congress (ANC) Party swept into power, carrying Nelson Mandela to become the country’s first democratic president. There have been remarkable achievements, but corruption, nepotism, failed government promises and catastrophic fraud-linked power blackouts have left democracy critically strained and many voters disillusioned. In Wednesday’s polls, for the first time, the ANC is likely to lose its majority. 

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Across Africa, as democracies become weaker, countries which are strange bedfellows step out of the murky shadows. “The bad actors in international politics, China, Russia and Iran, are making a grab for the African continent,” Goldstein told Fox News Digital.  

Goldstein added “also realize that the African continent is suffering from a wave of jihadi terror in which Christians are being persecuted across the continent. In this context, South Africa in particular, and the African continent in general, is a beacon and can be a very important ally for the United States in promoting freedom and democracy.”

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South Africa’s chief rabbi, Dr. Warren Goldstein. (Office of the Chief Rabbi )

“American values are at stake on the African continent, and we need a much stronger American presence in the continent as a whole and in South Africa in particular”, he continued.

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Responding to the growing worry of U.S. foes gaining ground in South Africa and the region, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital “we have a strong relationship with South Africa and that relationship is based on the priorities of the American people and the South African people, our shared values and our interests. We are committed to an affirmative agenda with South Africa, through which we work together to bring our nations’ respective priorities to the table.”  

The spokesperson added “The United States believes all countries may choose the countries and groupings with which they associate. South Africa is a sovereign country that can make its own decisions about how to engage others. The relationship between the United States and South Africa is broad, deep, and multifaceted, grounded in values, interests, and people-to-people ties that include our common journeys to uphold human dignity. We’re focused on making our relationship even stronger, to the benefit of Americans and South Africans, and we aren’t distracted by what others are doing.”

Analysts have often accused the ANC of telling the South African government, in which, until Wednesday, its members have a majority, what to do and say. This, Goldstein told Fox News Digital, has led to the country turning away from the West. “A very important thing to understand is the distinction between the ANC government and the South African people. They are very divergent in their values,” said Goldstein.

Biden and Ramaphosa

President Biden, right, shakes hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on Sept. 16, 2022 in Washington, D.C. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of enduring partnership, and discussed their work together to address regional and global challenges. (Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)

“The ANC government has aligned itself with Russia, China and Iran. The South African people do not share their values in this regard. And to note that this is going to be the first time in South African history the ANC is going to drop below 50% (in electoral votes).”

“It has lost the support of the majority of South Africans. And therefore, when America is considering the opportunities for alliances with South Africa, with the continent, it needs to look beyond the ANC government. That it is a waning force in South African politics, and it is eventually on its way out” 

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CHRISTIANS IN AFRICA FACE WORRYING RISE IN KILLINGS, PERSECUTION AND DISPLACEMENT

Iran in Africa

A woman holds up a poster of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (not seen) as they welcome him upon arrival for a state visit at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on July 13, 2023. (Jekesai Nijikizana/AFP via Getty Images)

The South African government responded to Goldstein’s criticism, noting, “Firstly, it’s wrong to label the South African government with a political party,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy at South Africa’s Department of International Relations, told Fox News Digital.

“Decisions of the state are taken by the state and not the ruling party,” Monyela added. “The values that this government espouses are shared by the people it represents. The constitution of the Republic is the guide.”

However, the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), believes the ANC pushes its cadres into influential government positions. On their own website, the ANC calls the positioning of their faithful ‘cadre deployment,” as if such a procedure was part of a military exercise.

South African genocide case against Israel at ICJ in the Netherlands

Public hearings in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel begin at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on Jan. 11, 2024. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty Images)

In a document accompanying a court action in February, the DA stated “The ANC controls both the demand-side and the supply-side of senior administrative roles, State-owned enterprises (SOEs), boards, entities, and independent state institutions.”

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This past Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s top court, voted that Israel should “immediately halt its military offensive in Rafah.” South Africa had applied to the court to stop the attack in Gaza. 

Rabbi Goldstein said, “The ICJ ruling is not only an attack on Israel’s right to self-defense, it is also a threat to the United States of America and all countries of the free world. – when you can have, for example, a judge from Lebanon presiding over this matter, and countries representing, if you think about the United Nations, the vast majority of the members of United Nations do not come from free democracies. You cannot have dictatorships and their representatives determining when free democracies can defend themselves against the forces of terrorism and violence in the world.”

ANGER RISES OVER SOUTH AFRICA MAKING MILLIONS IN US BENEFITS WHILE COZYING UP TO IRAN, RUSSIA AND HAMAS

South Africa election

President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to supporters during the ANC Siyanqoba Rally held at FNB Stadium on May 25, 2024 in Johannesburg. South Africa’s national and provincial elections will be held on May 29, 2024 to elect a new National Assembly and provincial legislature in each of the nine provinces. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Monyela defended the country’s actions, saying “The SA government’s principled position on the Palestine/Israeli matter has been vindicated repeatedly by the rulings of the ICJ. We approached the ICJ to stop the current genocidal acts being perpetrated by Israel against the people of Palestine. This is what all peace-loving people of the world, who believe in human rights and international law, should do.”

South Africa kicked out Israel’s ambassador and closed the embassy, but Goldstein told Fox News Digital that there is little antisemitism among ordinary South Africans. “Antisemitism in South Africa today is a fascinating paradox, which is very revealing about what is actually happening in this country. On the one hand, you have the South African government that has been the most anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, pro-Iranian government in the world when considering free democracies, which is a betrayal of the South African constitution and the values of this country.”

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US CONCERNED OVER SOUTH AFRICA’S GROWING TIES WITH RUSSIA, IRAN AND HAMAS: ‘FALLEN’ FOR PROPAGANDA

Israel supporters in South Africa

Members of the Active African Christians United Movement pose as one of them blows through a shofar as others gather in support of Israel outside the embassy of Israel in Pretoria on Nov. 17, 2023. (Photo by EMMANUEL CROSET/AFP via Getty Images)

Goldstein continued” On the other hand, the South African Jewish community has experienced amongst the lowest levels of antisemitism of any Jewish community in the world. And so you have this paradox, an assault, an ANC government that has been pro-Iran, and a South African people that is welcoming of its fellow citizens of the Jewish faith together with all of the citizens of this country, this tremendous spirit of togetherness of unity and diversity, which is the motto of the country, really drawing from the spirit of Nelson Mandela, which is still felt to this day, which is utterly at odds with the spirit and the values of the ANC government.”

Monyela hit back, adding, “The challenge with this comment is the deliberate blurring of the lines between the ANC and the state. The South African Government is not anti-Israel and most certainly not pro-Hamas.”

Anti-Israel protest in South Africa

A man brandishes a replica toy gun during a pro-Palestinian demonstration organized by the South African opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters in front of the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria on Oct. 23, 2023. (Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is the most ridiculous and outrageous thing to suggest”, added Monyela. “These false and manufactured narratives, including the baseless antisemitism label, are a blunt object meant to silence us from speaking out against the genocidal acts of Israel against the Palestinian people.” He claimed that “The ICJ has repeatedly agreed with us. Look at the comments of the President of France on the latest attacks in Rafah that killed innocent civilians. Even the White House has criticized Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister himself has called for an investigation. South Africa is consistent in calling for the respect of human rights and international law. Our position on the two-state solution is on record.” 

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Fox News Digital reached out to the ANC for comment, but received no response.

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The fate of the latest cease-fire proposal hinges on Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza

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The fate of the latest cease-fire proposal hinges on Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on two men: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.

Each leader faces significant political and personal pressures that may be influencing their decision-making. And neither seems to be in a rush to make concessions to end the devastating eight-month-long war and free hostages taken by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack.

Hamas has accepted the broad outline of the plan but requested “amendments.” Netanyahu has publicly disputed aspects of it, even though the U.S. has framed it as an Israeli plan.

Among the major sticking points is how to move from an initial temporary truce in the deal’s first phase to a permanent cease-fire that includes an end to the fighting and full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Here is a look at what may be driving the two leaders:

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Netanyahu is ‘buying time’

Throughout the war, the long-serving Israeli leader has been criticized for letting political considerations get in the way of his decision-making.

His government is buoyed by two ultranationalist parties that oppose cease-fire deals. Instead, they prefer continuous military pressure to try to defeat Hamas and free the hostages. They also talk about “encouraging” Palestinians to leave and reestablishing Israeli settlements, which were dismantled when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 after a 38-year occupation.

Netanyahu himself has taken a tough line on the cease-fire, saying he will not end the war until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities are destroyed.

But with his hard-line partners pledging to topple the government if a cease-fire is struck, Netanyahu has been pushed even farther into the corner. His reliance on them to remain in power recently intensified after a centrist member of his war Cabinet, former military chief Benny Gantz, quit over frustrations with Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict.

Netanyahu has had to balance internal pressures against demands from the Biden administration, which is promoting the latest cease-fire proposal, and from families of hostages who believe only a deal can set their loved ones free. Tens of thousands of Israelis have joined mass protests in support of the hostage families.

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Netanyahu appears to be siding with his far-right governing partners for the moment, knowing they hold the key to his immediate political survival, although he says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

Their departure from the government could lead to new elections, which would open him up to a vote that could end his rule and likely the start of investigations into the failures of Oct. 7.

Netanyahu is also on trial for corruption, proceedings that have continued throughout the war yet have faded from the public consciousness. A cease-fire deal could refocus attention on the charges, which have dogged the Israeli leader for years and which he adamantly denies.

Netanyahu’s political fortunes appear to have improved over the course of the war. His public support plummeted in the aftermath of Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel. But over time it has gradually ticked up. While he would still face a tough path toward reelection, he isn’t a write-off.

“He runs the war as he wants, which means very slowly. He’s buying time,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israeli Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think thank, and chairman of the political science department at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

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Rahat said Netanyahu is also keen to push on with the war in the hopes that former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to office, possibly giving Israel more leeway in its fight against Hamas.

“I don’t see any cease-fire that really comes close to being something he adopts,” Rahat said. “But he’s not the only one that controls reality.”

Sinwar’s mission is to survive

Hamas’ leader in Gaza also appears to be in no rush to sign on to a deal.

The militant group’s exiled leadership is somewhat varied in its opinion on how to approach a cease-fire agreement. But Sinwar — the mastermind of the Oct. 7 attacks — has particular weight on the matter.

As a Hamas stalwart who spent decades in Israeli prisons, he has incentives to keep the war going.

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On a personal level, his life may be on the line. Israel vowed to kill him in response to the October assault, and Sinwar is believed to be hiding deep within Gaza’s underground tunnels surrounded by Israeli hostages.

If a cease-fire takes hold, Sinwar will be taking a great risk stepping out in public.

“I think he understands that he’s kind of a dead man walking. But it’s a matter of how long can he hold out?” said Khaled el-Gindy, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute think tank.

But Sinwar is motivated by more than just his own personal fate. Steeped in Hamas’ radical ideology, Sinwar seeks Israel’s destruction and has made political gains by watching the war harm Israel’s international standing and boost support for the Palestinian cause.

Israel has faced surging international criticism — from its Western allies, from the international justice system, from protesters around the world — over its conduct during the war. That has deepened Israel’s global isolation, brought accusations that it is committing genocide against Palestinians and driven the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to seek the arrests of Israeli leaders.

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Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, wrote on the social platform X that Sinwar was also “counting on the sustained global outcry due to the horrendous killing of Gazans to force Israel to stop the war eventually,” on his own terms.

But Sinwar could face some difficult questions of his own when the war ends — not only over his personal role in the atrocities of Oct. 7 but also from the Palestinian public as the full extent of the wartime devastation and the years-long process of reconstruction sink in.

El-Gindy said Sinwar wasn’t deterred by the high price Palestinian civilians in Gaza are paying in the war, seeing it as an unavoidable sacrifice on the road toward liberation.

From Sinwar’s perspective, continuing to fight Israel’s powerful army, even if only through pockets of resistance, denies Israel a victory, el-Gindy said.

“Their whole mission is to survive,” he said. “If they survive, they win.”

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Associated Press writers Julia Frankel and Jack Jeffery contributed from Jerusalem.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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Nationwide blackout reported in Ecuador

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Nationwide blackout reported in Ecuador

A failure in an energy transmission line on Wednesday produced an unexpected blackout throughout Ecuador, the government said, days after announcing that there would be power outages in the country due to production problems.

Ecuador’s Minister of Energy Roberto Luque said in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the failure was reported by the country’s National Electricity Operator and caused “a cascade disconnection,” leaving the nation without energy service.

He added that efforts are being made to solve the problem and repair faulty power lines as soon as possible.

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In some sectors of the country the outage lasted 20 minutes, but media outlets and social media users reported that the problem continued in most cities.

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People walk outside of a metro station after a blackout affected the entire country, in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. In some sectors of the country the outage lasted 20 minutes, but media outlets and social media users reported that the problem continued in most cities. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Emilia Cevallos, a waitress in a restaurant north of the capital, Quito, said the blackout was surprising.

“We thought it was only in this sector, but when we left we realized that while some stores had connected generators, the majority did not have electricity,” she said. “The traffic lights were not working either.”

The Quito municipality said on X that traffic agents were mobilized to coordinate the flow of traffic. Quito Metro, the company that operates the city’s subway system, said service was suspended as a result of the electrical failure.

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Since last year, Ecuador has faced an electricity generation crisis that has led to rationing throughout the country. In April, the government of President Daniel Noboa began to ration electricity in the country’s main cities as a drought linked to the El Niño weather pattern depleted reservoirs and limited output at hydroelectric plants that produce about 75% of the nation’s power.

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Residents evacuated from Athens suburb as wildfire season hits Greece

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Residents evacuated from Athens suburb as wildfire season hits Greece

Over 70 firefighters and 13 planes and helicopters worked to control the blaze, which closed traffic along a main highway connecting Athens to its airport.

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Greece is bracing itself for what is expected to be a long wildfire season spurred by an unprecedentedly hot June, according to the country’s national meteorological service.

Firefighters were called to put out a blaze that erupted in the southern suburb of Athens, Vari, which started in an uninhabited area covered by olive trees and shrubs.

Additionally, authorities issued text message evacuation alerts to the two nearby settlements of Lambrika and Kitsi.

Although no injuries were reported, fire service spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said the blaze spread quickly due to strong winds.

“We have a new fire breaking out every 10 minutes,” Vathrakogiannis said in a televised message, adding that the situation remained “difficult”.

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Over 70 firefighters and 13 planes and helicopters worked to control the blaze, which closed traffic along a main highway connecting Athens to its airport.

Images on local television showed a storage facility alight with flames searing across fields of olive trees.

Residents on the Cycladean island of Naxos were also issued evacuation alerts, while those living in the village of Moutsouna were told to leave their homes as a precaution.

Scores of wildfires tackled but risks remain

The Greek fire service announced it had tackled 41 wildfires in total between Monday and Tuesday evening.

According to the National Meteorological Service, winds in Greece are predicted to be as strong as 74 kilometres per hour as temperatures climb above 40C.

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Greece’s Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias warned against accidentally triggering wildfires, which can spread rapidly due to wind.

Commenting on the arrest of a 30-year-old agricultural worker who caused a fire in the city of Nigrita, Kilkias said on X that “even the smallest fire can rapidly turn into a fiery front.”

The European Commission recorded last year’s wildfire season as one of the worst in this century, with fires leading to at least 20 deaths in Greece.

Video editor • Abby Chitty

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