Israel donates nine lung ventilators to the Czech Republic in fight against COVID-19

The consignment of lung ventilators, presented by Ambassador Daniel Meron, arrived in Prague from Israel on Friday

Israel has donated nine lung ventilators to the Czech Republic as aid in its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, Barbora Gejdosova from the Embassy of Israel’s press and political department told journalists.

The consignment arrived in the Václav Havel Airport in Prague on Friday.

Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic Daniel Meron handed over the Flight 60 ventilators to Czech Deputy Health Minister Alena Šteflová.

Meron said the two countries could cooperate and inspect how to control the coronavirus.

Czech Health Minister Jan Blatný welcomed the help during these challenging days.

He said Israel had shown solidarity which only “underlines the special relations” between the two countries.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš discussed contact tracing, a potential coronavirus vaccine, and Israel’s experience with their full lockdown with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu by phone.

Israel reacted to the second wave of the epidemic earlier this autumn with a strict lockdown, which they are currently easing.

After six weeks, first-grade pupils have returned to schools, but are divided into class sizes of a maximum of 20 students and are required to wear face masks. This first of the four lockdown-softening phases has also seen the gradual reopening of shops and recreational activities.

The Czech Republic, too, has been in a state of national emergency that includes a series of restrictions aimed to curb the epidemic.

Schools have been closed, except for kindergartens, as have most retail stores and services.

The Czech lockdown is expected to be relaxed in four stages, though Blatný told the public not to expect any significant changes over the next 2-3 weeks.

The Czech Republic has also received help in its fight against COVID-19 from other EU and NATO countries. Earlier this week, 100 lung ventilators came to the Czech Republic from Germany.

Last week, Czech troops transported 60 lung ventilators from NATO depots in Italy. The Czech Republic has obtained additional medical aid from Austria, Hungary and EU emergency reserves.

The article was published on expats.cz


Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ Is Headed to Europe

Czech Republic is acquiring Israel’s famed ‘Iron Dome” Multi-Mission Radar in an agreement signed earlier this month. The agreement between the Israel Ministry of Defense and Czech Ministry of Defense will see at least eight ELM-2084 radars operational in Czech Republic in coming years as part of the country’s enhanced Mobile Air Defense Radar program.

This is an important $125 million sale because it represents Israel’s inroads into eastern Europe, especially the Visegrad Group of countries that are becoming increasing allies of  Jerusalem. This includes Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. The radars will be delivered between 2021 and 2023 ad they will be interoperable with NATO command and control. The deal was in the works for years.

Prague joined NATO in 1999 and the Bush administration wanted to base interceptors and missile defense radar in Czech Republic. The deal was signed in 2008 but cancelled by the Obama administration as part of the administration’s reset with Russia in 2009 and other changes in policy. Czech Republic refused an offer to base early warning radar in the country in 2011 and went looking elsewhere.

By 2016 it appeared to have signaled that Israel’s radar was its favored choice. Although media reports had indicated that the previous negotiations with the US were about fears of Russian missiles, the larger picture was that Prague needed to modernize its air defense.

Israel’s Iron Dome, which uses the radar Czech Republic is acquiring, has been key to defending the country successfully since the 2012 war and been racking up more successes in the last two years as more than 2,600 rockets were fired by militants in Gaza. The US has even looked at the system for short range air defense (SHORAD).

Iron Dome is one of  Israel’s multi-layered radar that was developed with US support, including the David’s Sling and the Arrow. David’s Sling is similar to the Patriot system. The radars have air surveillance and air defense capabilities. Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries in Israel makes the radar which was sold to Czech Republic.

Czech industries will conduct thirty percent of the procurement locally.

In Israel the agreement is seen as part of a close and strong relationship between the countries. Director of Israel’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), Brig. Gen. (Ret.), Yair Kulas  said he applauded the agreement.

“Today is monumental for the State of Israel due to the history of  Czech support for the State of Israel, since its establishment 70 years ago. This agreement will deepen and strengthen the cooperation and relations with our Czech partners. It is an expression of confidence in the capabilities of the Israeli defense establishment and defense industries and highlights the significance of Israeli technology in the face of the threats shared by the international community. We hope to see this agreement opening the door for further cooperation with our Czech partners and with additional NATO states.”

IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, Yoav Tourgeman said that the “MADR program expands the global use of the ELM- 2084, known as the ‘Iron Dome’ system radar, which currently includes over 100 systems contracted worldwide (including NATO countries). We are proud and honored to supply the best combat proven multi-mission radar to the Czech armed forces. These radars will propel forward the Czech Air-force capabilities and enable to confront the most advanced aerial threats. We believe that the MADR program will pave the path to additional cooperation between the Israeli and Czech defense industries.”

Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (forthcoming Gefen Publishing). Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.

The article was published on The national Interest


Leaders of Visegrad Group, Most Pro-Israel Nations in EU, to Meet in Jerusalem

Leaders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland will meet in Jerusalem in February for the next Visegrad Group summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to strengthen their alliance with Israel.

This will be the first time that a Visegrad Group summit is held outside of Europe.

The four leaders—Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babis—will meet on Feb. 18-19 in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu already attended the Visegrad Group summit in Budapest in 2017, during which he criticized the EU’s policy towards Israel.

The Israeli premier has been fostering closer ties with the Visegrad Group countries in order to advance pro-Israel issues at the EU level.

“The Visegrad Group is one of the sub-alliances that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is developing in the EU to neutralize what he views as an anti-Israel bias from Brussels,” wrote The Jerurusalem Post.

Both the Czech Republic and Hungary  blocked any EU resolution to condemn the controversial move decided by US President Donald Trump.

The Visegrad Group (also known as the “Visegrad Four,” or simply “V4”) reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in a number of fields of common interest within the all-European integration.

Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have always been part of a single civilization sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots in diverse religious traditions, which they wish to preserve and further strengthen.

The article was published by the Algemeiner


EIPA applauds Trump decision on Jerusalem

Europe Israel Public Affairs applauds the decision of US President Donald Trump to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

The move comes after more than two decades after the adoption by the US Congress of Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Every 6 months the sitting American President would sign a waiver from that bill.

President Trump opened his historical address stating “It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done”

Czech Republic followed suit becoming the first EU country to break the bloc of Member States and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

EIPA Director Alex Benjamin observed that despite differences between EU and Israel over the 1967 imposed borders, and most vehemently over the settlements issue, more EU countries should consider acknowledging the de facto status of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. “We fail to see the reasons for High Representative Federica Mogherini ‘serious concerns’. The US announcement does not prejudge nor impose borders for Jerusalem, which are still subject to final status talks. It merely reflects the historical accuracy of the last five decades, during which Jerusalem functioned as Israel’s capital.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EIPA Founder added “Historical evidence attests our Jewish presence in Jerusalem dating way back to 3000 years ago. Jerusalem has always been our home. It is about time state leaders catch up with history and acknowledge this indisputable fact.”


NETANYAHU TO ATTEND CENTRAL EUROPEAN SUMMIT

Jerusalem continues outreach to subregional groups.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to Budapest next month for a meeting with the heads of the four central European countries that make up the Visegrad group, as Israel continues to try to build relationships with various regional subgroupings around the world.

Netanyahu is expected to meet with the heads of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia at the summit on July 18-19.

This visit will come less than a month after Netanyahu met with the heads of Cyprus and Greece in Thessaloniki, with Israel having developed a close alliance with those EU countries. And in early May, Netanyahu went to Liberia to take part in a summit there of 15 West African states.

With Jerusalem’s relationship with the European Union often strained because of the Palestinian issue and the desire of some key voices in Brussels to link development of ties to that issue, Israel has adopted a policy of forging close ties with specific countries or groupings of countries inside the EU who are more sympathetic to Israel’s position and are also interested in having close bilateral relations.

For instance, the energy issue has bound Israel much closer to Cyprus and Greece, and the Visegrad countries find themselves interested in forging closer ties because of economic, security and energy issues as well. These countries forums, as well as inside discussions in EU institutions in Brussels.

The same dynamic is at work in Africa. With Israel having been boxed out of any formal status in the African Union, largely because of the opposition of South Africa and the Arab North African countries, it has made inroads instead with African organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States, or even ad hoc groupings, as Netanyahu did last July when he met the leaders of seven East African countries.

Netanyahu’s visit to Budapest will be the first visit there of an Israeli prime minister since the country emerged from Communist rule in 1989. He is expected to hold both bilateral talks with the leaders of each of the Visegrad countries, as well as a joint meeting as well.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in Israel in May. The V4, as the Visegrad group is known, is a political and cultural alliance aimed at facilitating the integration of the four countries in European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

Szijjarto told the Hungarian news agency MTI when he was in Israel that the three most important aspects of economic cooperation with Israel were in the areas of automobile navigation, water management and energy.

“The automobile industry provides the backbone of the Hungarian economy, and the future development of this sector of industry fundamentally determines the growth of the Hungarian economy,” Szijjarto highlighted.

Close cooperation with Israel could make Hungary the European center for the testing and development of self-driven vehicles, he said.

“Based on the buying up of certain companies, it has become clear that Israel will be one of the global centers for the development of [autonomous vehicles]. Israeli company NavNGo is one of the Hungarian government’s strategic partners, employs hundreds of GPS software engineers in Hungary and is one of the world leaders within the field of developing such software, and plays an extremely important role in making self-driven cars a reality,” he said.

Audi, Opel and Suzuki exports make up a huge percentage of the country’s overall exports, and Europe’s largest engine manufacturing plant is located in the country.

With regard to energy, the foreign minister – referring to Israel’s offshore operations – said: “Israel’s natural gas deposits could play a significant role in the energy security of Europe and Hungary. If extraction begins according to schedule in 2019-20, Hungary will have an interest in purchasing gas [either via a pipeline or in the form of liquefied natural gas] in view of the fact that we would like to purchase natural gas form as many sources as possible.”

The article was published on The Jerusalem Post