At least 44 dead, hundreds hurt in crush at Lag BaOmer event in northern Israel

Preliminary police investigation shows that some attendees at festivities on Mount Meron had slipped on the steps, creating a ‘human avalanche’ that crushed members of the crowd; police say all wounded had been evacuated to hospitals

At least 44 people were killed and as many as 150 injured, 23 of them critically overnight in a crush at the Lag BaOmer festivities on Mount Meron in northern Israel.
A stampede broke out after Midnight on Thursday at the Jewish religious gathering in the compound occupied by an ultra-Orthodox insular Hasidic movement Toldos Aharon.
The injured were transported to hospitals in the north and the center of the country.
Eli Beer, director of Hatzalah, said he was shocked by the size of the crowd at the Lag BaOmer celebrations at Mount Meron. Police were quoted as saying some 100,000 people were there.
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He told Army Radio that there were four to five times the number of people that should have entered a location like this. “More than 40 people died as a result of this tragedy,” he said.
A 24-year-old witness, identified only by his first name Dvir, told the Army Radio station that “masses of people were pushed into the same corner and a vortex was created.” He said a first row of people fell down, and then a second row, where he was standing, also began to fall down from the pressure of the stampede.
“I felt like I was about to die,” he said.
Firefighters worked to free the trapped, supported by Israeli Air Force helicopters and rescue services.
Police were trying to clear the tens of thousands who attended the event from the area.
A preliminary police investigation revealed that some of the attendees slipped on the stairs, creating a “human avalanche” that crushed members of the crowd.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “heavy disaster.”
Cellphone reception crashed as families attempted to contact relatives on the scene and Israel police asked that calls be made to their emergency hotline for information. hospitals also set up hotlines for enquiries:
The Ziv Medical Center in Safed – 1255161, The Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya – 1255141, The Baruch Padeh Medical Center in Tiberias – 1255162 and the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa – 1255144. For enquiries about missing relatives the public can call – *1201.
The Jerusalem Municipality opened a crisis center to assist families in locating relatives that can be reached by dialing 106 from Jerusalem. The municipality said they will offer assistance to the families of the dead and injured.
Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had gathered at the Mount Meron tomb of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual Lag BaOmer commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance.
The ecstatic crowds congregated despite warnings by health officials to avoid presenting COVID-19 risks.
Witnesses said they realized people had been asphyxiated or trampled when an organizer appealed over a loudhailer for the throng to disperse.
“We thought maybe there was a [bomb] alert over a suspicious package. No one imagined that this could happen here. Rejoicing became mourning, a great light became a deep darkness,” a pilgrim who gave his name as Yitzhak told Channel 12 TV.
“Rabbi Shimon used to say that he could absolve the world … If he didn’t manage to cancel this edict on the very day of his exaltation, then we need to do real soul-searching.”
Police shut down the site and ordered revelers out.
The tomb is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world and it is an annual pilgrimage site.
Videos posted on social media showed chaotic scenes as Ultra-Orthodox men clambered through gaps in sheets of torn corrugated iron to escape the crush, as police and paramedics tried to reach the wounded.
Bodies lay on stretchers in a corridor, covered in foil blankets.
On Twitter, Netanyahu called it a “heavy disaster” and added: “We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties.”
Private bonfires at Mount Meron were banned last year due to coronavirus restrictions, but lockdown measures were eased this year amid Israel’s rapid COVID-19 vaccination program.
Police said on Thursday that they had arrested two people for disrupting officers’ efforts to keep order at the site.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE PEACE PROCESS UNDER THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION?

It was our great pleasure to have senior fellow at the Institute’s Irwin Levy Family Program on the U.S.-
Israel Strategic Relationship, MR. GHAITH AL-OMARI
 with us in a special webinar we have organised for politicians and diplomats from all over Europe and the US.

Mr Al Omari was taking us through the diferent possible scenarios in the future of the Middle East under the new administration in the US.


BOOTCAMP- MADRID

We were delighted with our partners at the EJA, ECJS and Concert  to welcome Young Pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel activists in Madrid this week for our fourth intensive “bootcamp”.

We met at a challenging time for European Jewry with rising anti-semitism and with anti-Zionism becoming more commonplace.

On the agenda for over 40 participants from Every corner of the continent at this fourth Bootcamp were New challenges for Jewish life in Europe, ICC decision to investigate Israel for war crimes, A changed Middle East – Normalisation of Relations with Israel Arab and Social Media as tool for change.

With inspiring speakers and an upbeat message that we can all enact change and influence, the Bootcamp was a welcome relief from The current pandemic difficulties despite the health restrictions in place.


On this Independence Day, Israelis have a lot to be proud of

Opinion: While seems public dissatisfaction with the state of the country is rising, factual data proves that not only are we stronger and more prosperous than ever and we are able to overcome any political crisis
There is no point in denying that after four consecutive election rounds in two years, the atmosphere in the country is tough and even irritating.
And while the public discourse, as filled with discontent as it is, paints a seemingly gloomy picture, the people of Israel are actually pretty pleased with their country – as they should be.
This is not due to blind optimism spurred by the festivities of the 73rd Independence Day. No, it is an actual fact solidified by concrete data.
Israel is placed fourth among OECD countries in the sphere of healthcare. And while the average happiness index score among OECD countries is hovering around 6.5 out of 10, in Israel the score is 8.5.
Indeed, the people of Israel are stronger than the eroding influence of its political system.
And while the voices of discontent among Israelis are indeed loud, they do not, in fact, represent the majority.
Israel’s Gini index – a measure of the distribution of income across a population – reached a 20-year low in 2018, which means inequality gap is narrowing.
That is without mentioning the fact that Israel is ranked fifth in the world in intergenerational mobility – which means that an individual’s wellbeing is less dependent on the socioeconomic status of his or her parents. In that respect, we have beaten countries such as New Zealand, Sweden, Germany and Japan.
According to one survey, however, as least 48% of Israelis are considering emigrating to another country. In reality though, Israelis tend to emigrate much less, at least compared to other OECD countries.
In fact, emigration from Israel has declined. In 1990, according to a study by Uri Altman, the rate of those leaving Israel was 5.3 people per 1,000. After about a decade, it dropped to 4.2 per 1,000 and by 2017 it stood at about 1.6 per 1,000.
It seems that despite warnings about people leaving the country en mass, the majority of Israelis have actually decided to put down roots in the Jewish State.
There is, of course, also talk about how Israel’s democracy is being eroded. But this argument has been reduced to nothing but a flimsy conjecture according the not-so Zionist “The Economist” weekly newspaper, which ranked Israel 27th in its Democracy Index (the highest Israel has ever been ranked).
Israel’s media as a whole is mostly preoccupied with criticizing the country’s politics as well as its politicians and that’s Democracy at its finest. The day the media praises the country’s leadership is the day we should all be worried.
And while criticism is an important part of change and growth, we must remember to zoom out once in a while to see the bigger picture.
Independence Day is the perfect day to do exactly that. To look back at where we started, be amazed at the changes and progress we’ve made throughout these 73 years.
Now, of all days, is the time to be a proud Israeli.

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EIPA Election Special Update

To those of you who sat up all night like we did, a fraternal tip of the hat. To those of you that didn’t, we don’t blame you. In either case, here are the very latest figures:

According to the updated seat map as of now (9.30 am, Wednesday): Likud gets 30 seats; Yesh Atid 17; Shas 9; Blue and White 8; Labor 7; Yamina 7; United Torah Judaism 7; Yisrael Beytenu 7; Joint List 6; Religious Zionism 6; New Hope 6; Meretz 5; and Ra’am 5.

What does all that mean? In our previous pre-poll newsletter we said that this election had little to do with political ideology but whether you were for Prime Minister or against him.

And we also said that Naftali Bennett and his Yamina Party could be the Kingmakers.

Well, we didn’t do too badly, but on the second it wasn’t so clear.

Let’s analyse a bit. Using our ‘visceral’ metric of pro-Bibi or anti-Bibi blocs, the pro bloc appears to have secured 52 seats, the anti 56. That leaves Yamina with 7 and Ra’am – an Arab Party – with 5. To remind you, the magic number for forming a government is 61 seats (there are 120 seats in the Knesset). So, even if Yamina went into the pro-Bloc (which is not certain given the mercurial qualities of both Bennett and Ayelet Shaked), that still leaves the pro-bloc short (as we can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that Ra’am would find it difficult to join this bloc for a myriad of reasons).

Arguably the arithmetic looks slightly more favourable for the Anti-Bloc, but Yamina – a right-wing party, would find itself in coalition with very strange bed-fellows ideologically. This is less complicated for Ra’am, but taking Yamina out of the equation, that bloc stops short too.

Still with us? Good. Let’s summarise this as follows, what the Israeli electorate did (whose turnout dropped down from 70 to 67% this time around compared to last), was take an already fiendishly complicated Ravensburger puzzle, throw it in the air and say to the political parties “You put it back together again”.

That is no easy task. The result, in short, is as divided as the electorate. Whilst there will be lots of noise in the next few days and possibly weeks ahead, reaching 61 at present look intractable for either bloc.

But, and this is important, there are around 400,000 absentee ballots still to be counted, which is much higher than usual given the Covid pandemic. We should know more about these votes by Friday…

Right now the question on everyone’s lips is “Fifth time lucky?” It is certainly looking this morning like the puzzle might need one more toss to see if the pieces can be put together.


Israel’s elections reach coronavirus wards with special polling stations

Central Election Committee says the turnout at hospitals and coronavirus has so far been extremely low despite praise from the patients, who thank hospitals’ staff for helping them exercise their democratic right

Millions of Israelis headed to the polls on Tuesday in the country’s fourth election in two years, but special arrangements had to be made in order to accommodate patients hospitalized in coronavirus wards across Israel and allow them to exercise their right.

Israelis began voting at 7am, with exit polls expected at 10pm, when polling stations close. By 12pm, 25.4% of Israelis cast their votes, much lower than the same figure reported during the previous national vote.

In order to avoid the spread of infection, the Central Election Committee had instructed the hospitals ahead of Election Day on how to stage the vote at their respective coronavirus wards, which includes setting up dedicated polling stations.

As per the committee’s instructions, the staff in these mobile stations – made up of various hospital employees – must be Green Pass holders and must be required to wear full protective gear throughout the Election Day.

In addition, members of the election committee will watch the voting process in these wards through closed-circuit screens, in order to verify the integrity of the unusual voting process.

“I’m saluting them for bringing the ballot boxes to us,” said 45-year-old coronavirus patient, Jalal
Masrawa, who cast his vote at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera. “The staff members came into my room and asked me if I wanted to vote, I told them I did, showed them my ID and voted. There’s a good team that saw to it that patients could vote as well,” Masrawa added.

“I am very happy the patients are being given the chance to fulfill this important democratic duty,” said Dr. Tatiana Mikhalov, director of Hillel Yaffe Medical Center’s coronavirus ward. “The logistics are very complex, and I applaud the hospital staff who enlisted for this important mission.”

The dedicated polling stations are also open to inpatients from other wards, as well as hospital staff who cannot go out and vote due to their job.

“The voting process is working well,” said Shavi Shmelo, vice president of human resources at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. “In our coronavirus ward, three people have so far voted. In past elections, around 1,100 people voted at Ichilov. So far, I think our voting trend looks promising.”

At Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, four polling stations have been set up, one of which intended for coronavirus patients only.

The first in line to vote there was 29-year-old Ismail Bahuti, who contracted coronavirus after receiving the first vaccine shot. The second in line was 80-year-old Allegra Israel from Haifa. Surprisingly, she arrived at the ballot box with a Green Pass. She said she had contracted the virus and became ill despite being fully vaccinated.

Despite the praise from the hospital staff and patients for their efforts to enable those confined in coronavirus wards to vote, the Central Election Committee said the number of actual voters in these dedicated polling stations is still very low, and are therefore calling on all those who have yet to cast their votes to do so.

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‘I trust the vaccine’ – Palestinians line up for shots to work in Israel

Palestinians on receiving the coronavirus vaccines needed to be able to cross and work in Israel.

Hiyi Ouanina did not want to infect her elderly mother with COVID-19, so she was grateful to be one of the 120,000 Palestinian workers whom Israel plans to inoculate against the virus over the next two weeks.
“I don’t want to make other people sick,” Ouanina told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday as she sat in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, recovering briefly from the quick injection of a Moderna vaccine.
She was among the first 21,000 Palestinians to receive the vaccine in a joint operation run by the Office of the Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Health Ministry and Magen David Adom that began Monday.
The mother of four with an easy smile, who spoke English from her school days, said many Palestinians are fearful of the vaccination, and their comments “made me afraid.”
She was grateful to receive a vaccine offered to her by Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority and felt safer when she received the shot.
“I trust it [the Israeli vaccine] more,” said Ouanina, a resident of the nearby village of Battir.
As she sat on a white plastic chair in a large bare room at the bottom of a small commercial center, Ouanina said she was lucky to have been inoculated thanks to her work as a housekeeper in nearby Neveh Daniel.
The PA has done little to help its people receive a vaccine, she said, adding that its best advice was for people to refrain from going to work and to “just stay home.”
Israel has vaccinated more than five million of its citizens. The number of infections has started to drop, and the country has begun to reopen for business.
The PA is relying on a lockdown strategy as it scrambles to acquire vaccines. So far, only 22,000 vaccines have entered the Gaza Strip, and another 10,000 have gone to the West Bank.
The program to vaccinate Palestinians who have work permits to enter Israel, including the settlements, represents the best chance Palestinians have to receive the vaccine.
Israel has been under fire for prioritizing its citizens first in the vaccination process. Critics believe Israel should have distributed the first 10 million doses, enough for five million people, it received from Pfizer equitably between Israeli citizens and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel plans to prioritize the Palestinians once its own vaccination program is completed. It has argued that under the Oslo Accords, the PA is responsible for the healthcare of its citizens. In addition to the workers’ program, it also gave the Palestinians 2,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and pledged an additional 3,000.
Col. Eyal Zevi, COGAT’s head of Operational Department, spoke of the importance of vaccinating Palestinians on Monday, when the IDF opened eight vaccination centers at the crossings into Israel.
“The virus knows no geographical borders, and therefore, the vaccination of the Palestinian workers is a common interest for both parties,” he said.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visited Barkan Industrial Park in Samaria to make the opening of its vaccination center for the Palestinians who jointly work with Israelis in the factories located there. Both he and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan congratulated the first Palestinian worker who was vaccinated at the site.

Edelstein then traveled to the nearby city of Ariel to inaugurate another vaccination center with Mayor Eli Shaviro.

At both locations, Edelstein spoke of the importance of coexistence with the Palestinians as exhibited in the joint industrial areas of Barkan and Ariel.
This is what the future should look like, he said, adding: “This is the future. This is peace. This is coexistence.”
Efrat Regional Council head Oded Ravivi said: “Coronavirus teaches us how important good neighborliness is; how good relations between settlers and Palestinians can be when we cooperate.”
But for the Palestinians who walked to the small stone vaccination center, with its Arabic signs and Arabic-speaking staff, the vaccine was less about coexistence and more about safety and work.
Hanadi Abdo, a cashier at the Rami Levy supermarket near Gush Etzion junction, said inoculation was a work requirement, but she was glad for the option because she is exposed daily to a constant stream of people.
“We need this,” she said, adding that luckily, her two adult daughters are college students and were also able to receive vaccines.
“I wanted to get vaccinated. I don’t want corona,” Abdo said, adding that she also had a 13-year-old daughter whose safety she had to think of.
Walid Ahmad Abu Swai, a plumber from Bethlehem and a father of four, was in Efrat with his son, who also received the vaccine. His other son was also able to get vaccinated, but his two daughters and his wife were not.
Mahmoud Zohada, the head of a construction team in Efrat, said his father had already been stricken and recovered from the disease.
“I was in isolation for five weeks,” the father of four said, adding that he convinced those who work for him to get vaccinated.
Zohada is waiting for the second vaccine, which will be available to the 120,000 workers in a month.
But a number of Palestinians interviewed by the Post said the vaccine made them nervous and that they had agreed to be vaccinated because it was a work requirement.
Eyad Abu Hammad said if it were up to him, he would ward off COVID-19 with hot water, lemon and garlic rather than risk taking the vaccine.
“I know many people who have had COVID-19 and were fine,” he said, so when push came to shove, he was more concerned about the inoculation than the disease.
“I was afraid because I don’t know enough about the vaccine,” Abu Hammad said, adding that there were still many unanswered questions about the long-term impact of vaccination.
Still, the father of five from the West Bank village of Wadi an Nis, southwest of Bethlehem, found himself in the unique position of being the only one in his family of seven with the option to receive the vaccine.
Abu Hammad said he did not have a choice. His employer in Neveh Daniel said he could only come to work if was vaccinated.
After receiving his shot, the IDF gave him a vaccination certificate on a small white piece of paper, and his friend took a photo of the moment.
Afterward, all he felt was a small headache, he said.
With the shot and without the shot, “I’m leaving my fate in God’s hand,” Abu Hammad said.•

Israel, Austria and Denmark establish vaccine-supply alliance

Israel, Austria and Denmark said on Thursday they would set up a joint research and development fund and possibly production facilities for COVID-19 vaccines to ensure they had long-term supplies for booster shots or to contend with virus mutations.

European Union members Austria and Denmark have been chafing at delays in ordering, approving and distributing vaccines within here 27-member bloc that have left it trailing far behind Israel’s world-beating vaccination campaign.

After hosting his Austrian and Danish counterparts for talks and a tour of an Israeli gym open to those documented as having been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 with presumed immunity, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the pact.

“Once we get over this cycle of the disease we have no guarantee that it won’t come back. We don’t know how long – nobody knows – how long these vaccines will hold up,” he said at a joint news conference. “And therefore we have to protect our people against the reemergence of this pandemic or mutations.”

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz said he was “very happy” about an EU vaccine initiative “but we also need to cooperate worldwide”.

The European Commission has said member states were free to strike separate deals should they wish to.

The trilateral pact, Kurz said, would include investment in production plants in Europe and Israel, and each country contributing where it best can to the manufacturing cycle.

“In Austria, for example, lipid production necessary for many vaccines is already taking place,” the chancellor said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said her country was looking to expand its production capacity. “We would like in common also to explore possible cooperation on clinical trials” with Israel and Austria, she said.

Netanyahu, who said 90% of eligible Israelis have either received at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or recovered from the virus, has made the programme a showcase of his campaign for a March 23 election.

“We will be, together, ‘Vaccination Nations’,” he said of the deal with Austria and Denmark. “And we agreed that if other nations want to join us, we will discuss this among ourselves and welcome others to come in as well.”

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Israel expands its COVID-19 vaccination push, scrapping age cap

A month and a half after launching its world-leading coronavirus vaccination campaign, the Jewish state allows all its citizens aged 16 and over to get vaccinated against the pathogen, having already vaccinated 3.3 million citizens with the first vaccine dose and 1.9 million with the second booster shot

Israel expanded its COVID-19 vaccination campaign Thursday morning to include all citizens aged 16 and over.

So far, the Jewish state has only allowed Israelis over the age of 35 to get the vaccine, later adding high school students between the ages of 16–18 to enable them to attend their matriculation exams later in the year.

Some healthcare providers have previously allowed some people under the age of 35 to receive the vaccine, mainly due to fear of discarding unused vaccine doses.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein took to Twitter to urge all citizens to go and get vaccinated.
“Come on down, this is the only way we can beat coronavirus — together”, Edelstein wrote. “Starting this morning, anyone over the age of 16 can get vaccinated. Use this opportunity, almost no other country in the world has it.”

Clalit Health Services CEO Ehud Davidson congratulated on the expansion of the country’s inoculation campaign and joined Edelstein’s call.

“The vaccine is our most efficient tool in dealing with the pandemic,” Davidson said. “We are operating over 170 vaccination centers across the country. Clalit teams, who lead the vaccination campaign with much success and have already vaccinated over 1,650,000 patients are waiting for you — come get vaccinated.”
Health Ministry Director-General instructed the country’s healthcare providers to allow vaccinating citizens between the ages of 18–35 but at the same time, ordered to concentrate efforts on the over-50 age group and housebound citizens.
Israel has already vaccinated 3.3 million of its citizens with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since the country launched its vaccination campaign in December, and 1.9 million of them have also been given the second booster shot — with some 107,000 of them being inoculated on Wednesday alone.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel will begin gradually lifting lockdown restrictions next week while urging citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more infectious British variant of the disease spreads nationwide.

“We are in the midst of a race between the vaccination campaign and the [COVID-19] variant,” Netanyahu told a press conference. “The vaccination campaign is our key to exiting the pandemic.”
The premier also said that 97% of the country’s COVID-19 victims and 93% of serious cases were among those aged 50 and over.
“If we take control of the disease in these age groups, and manage to vaccinate all over 50s, we will be on the path to victory over coronavirus, leaving any surprises like new variants. That is why I am setting a national goal to vaccinate 90% of those aged 50 and over in the next two weeks. It will allow us to gradually open the economy and save lives.”

Meanwhile, the government is scheduled to meet later on Thursday to discuss extending the nationwide lockdown and an exit strategy.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Health Minister Edelstein will demand extending the lockdown’s travel restrictions until Sunday and gradually opening the education system afterward.

Blue & White will demand lifting restrictions starting Friday morning.

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Israel Welcomes European Commission’s Handbook on Anti-Semitism

Israel welcomed the publication of the ‘Handbook for the Practical Use of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism’ by the European Commission as “a highly important document” that will help combat anti-Semitism on the Continent.

Israel welcomed the publication of the ‘Handbook for the Practical Use of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism’ by the European Commission as “a highly important document” that will help combat anti-Semitism on the Continent.

The document was commissioned by the European Commission and published jointly with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), with support from the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Lior Haiat, the spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated Sunday that Israel expresses its appreciation to Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU’s Coordinator on combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life, her team, and to the European Commission for “the uncompromising commitment to fight against the ugly and dangerous phenomenon of anti-Semitism, which is only growing.”

“The Handbook is a highly important document that will assist in supporting the implementation of the IHRA definition as a central instrument in the fight against anti-Semitism,” he added.

The IHRA has 34 member countries and seven observer countries. Acceptance to the IHRA depends on the counties’ adherence to the Stockholm Declaration on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research of January 28, 2000, as well as several other conditions.

Several countries adopted the IHRA definition in 2020, including Muslim countries for the first time, Bahrain and Albania, and Muslim institutions, the Global Council of Imams and King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence.

The IHRA adopted in 2016 the working-definition of anti-Semitism, according to which anti-Semitism is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The IHRA states that anti-Semitic examples include denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and leveling accusations against Jewish citizens of various countries that they are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries.

The United Kingdom, Austria, Scotland, Romania, Canada, Germany, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Moldova, Macedonia, the US, Greece, Belgium, Slovenia, Sweden, Holland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxemburg, France, Cyprus, Italy, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Serbia and Argentina, Kosovo, Albania and Spain are all members.

The IHRA working definition for anti-Semitism, while not legally binding, has become a widely used tool around the world to educate people about anti-Semitism, as well as recognize and counter its manifestations.

Based on the comprehensive research carried out by the Federal Association of Departments for Research and Information on Antisemitism, the newly published handbook provides an overview of good practices by international organizations, national administrations, civil society and Jewish communities from across Europe.

The European Commission Vice President for “Protecting our European Way of Life” Margaritis Schinas stated that “we need to fight anti-Semitism whenever we encounter it. Jewish life is part of our societies and we are determined to protect it.”

“The handbook will become another valuable tool for Member States to effectively implement the landmark Council Declaration on combating antisemitism,” he added.

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Israel appoints first diplomat to UAE

DUBAI: Israel has appointed Eitan Naeh to set up a temporary mission in the United Arab Emirates, newspaper The Times of Israel reported.
The news of Naeh’s appointment was first carried by Israel’s Kan public broadcaster. The diplomat served as an ambassador in Turkey from 2016 until 2018, when he was expelled by Ankara.
He will be the first Israeli to receive a full diplomatic status in the UAE and his temporary mission will help establish a permanent embassy.
The UAE and Bahrain in August became the first Arab states in a quarter of a century to normalize relations and establish formal ties with Israel. The “Abraham Accords” were brokered by US President Donald Trump and signed during a ceremony at the White House.

 

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Mother of six found dead in suspected West Bank terror attack

Security forces alerted after Esther Horgan fails to return home from jog on Sunday evening near her home in settlement of Tal Menashe; her body found with marks of violent attack; manhunt launched to find perpetrator

The body of an Israeli mother of six was found in a West Bank forest early Monday in a suspected terror attack.

Esther Horgan, 52, left her home in the northern West Bank settlement of Tal Menashe on Sunday afternoon for a jog in the nearby Shaked Forest.

Her body was found early Monday with clear signs of a violent attack which police and the Shin Bet security agency suspect was an act of terror.

Security forces launched a manhunt Monday morning in an effort to find the perpetrator.

Paramedic Assaf Tapuhi, who arrived on the scene, said that the woman showed no signs of life and was pronounced dead.

The Samaria Regional Council said in a statement that Horgan’s murder was an act of terror.

“Her husband alerted security forces after she failed to return home. She was found with her skull bashed in,” the statement said.

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“A dear woman so full of kindness goes out in the afternoon in the center of the State of Israel to exercise a minute away from her home, and is murdered by vile people in such a cruel way,” said the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan.

“I ask what barbarians, like those in the Middle Ages, what cruelty does it take to bash a 52-year-old woman in the face with a rock in cold blood? What evil are we facing?'”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed that Israel would track down those responsible for her murder.

“I send my deepest sympathies to the Horgan family on the horrific murder of Esther, of blessed memory,” said Gantz in a statement.

“Israel’s security forces are working to find the despicable murderer and take him promptly into custody. We will never accept a reality in which human life becomes dispensable.”

President Reuven Rivlin expressed his condolences to the Horgan family and said Israel would find the killer.

“This is a hard, heart-breaking morning with news of the cruel murder of Esther Horgan, who left her house yesterday and did not return,” the president said in a statement released by his office.

“A full life of wonderful works, of home and family, of creativity and care have been cut short by a beast in human guise. I have full faith that our security forces will get to the despicable murders and that justice will be done. I embrace Esther’s family, her children and their father. We are with you in this time of such deep grief.”

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Israel to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as December – report

Medical personnel to be vaccinated first, with general population possibly facing winter with no immunization

Israel is expected to receive up to half a million doses of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine against the coronavirus as early as December, one month earlier than originally hoped for, Channel 12 reported Monday.

According to the unsourced report, the country would receive anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 doses of the vaccine and will devote them primarily to those working in the medical field, while the general population would not be vaccinated this winter.

The report also quoted a senior Health Ministry official as saying that the early arrival of the vaccine would have a “positive” effect on Israel’s battle against COVID-19 this winter.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase coronavirus vaccine shots, days after the US pharmaceutical firm said data suggested its vaccine was 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.

As part of the agreement with Pfizer, Netanyahu said Israel would receive 8 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 4 million Israelis. Netanyahu expressed hope that Pfizer would begin supplying the vaccine in January, pending authorization from health officials in the United States and Israel.

Last Friday, Pfizer announced that it was asking US regulators to allow emergency use of its vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could end in limited first shots being administered as early as next month.

The request came days after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech updated its data on the effectiveness of the vaccine, announcing that it appeared to be 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19.

Pursuing another avenue to procure vaccines, Netanyahu announced Friday that Israel was also close to signing a deal with AstraZeneca to purchase “millions” of doses of its vaccine.

If signed, it would be the third deal signed by Israel to receive vaccinations, following similar deals with Pfizer and Moderna. Israel has also been in talks with Russia to receive its Sputnik V vaccine, though some experts have questioned its opaque certification process.

However, none of the deals guarantees a deadline for the arrival of the vaccines, and with mass global demand, it is still not clear how many doses Israel will get, and when.

Israel has also been working on a home-grown vaccine, though it is currently only in phase 1 trials and its development is expected to take months longer than the foreign candidates. Channel 12 reported Friday that it will likely be available to the public this summer.


AMERICA’S ELECTION: IMPLICATIONS ON FOREIGN POLICY IN EUROPE, THE MIDDLE EAST AND BEYOND

The November, 2020 American elections are viewed as the most consequential in a generation. 

It was our great pleasure to have Senior Vice President for Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, DR. JONATHAN SCHANZER with us in a special webinar we have organised for politicians and diplomats from all over Europe and the US.

Ambassador Shapiro was taking us through the way this Presidential election will frame America’s foreign policy in the next 4 years and the way the changes in Congress will help set the tone in Washington


THE CHANGING MIDDLE EAST: AN IN-DEPTH BRIEFING BY U.S. AMBASSADOR DAN SHAPIRO

In no time in recent memory has the Middle East regionseen such transformative strategic and diplomatic news.

It was our great pleasure to have U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro with us in a special webinar we have organised for politicians and diplomats from all over Europe and the US.

Ambassador Shapiro was taking us through the changing Middle East, provided an in-depth briefing to  the recent actions by the Gulf states, the possible future in Iran nuclear file and US elections possible affects on the foreign policy in the MENA region.


BOOTCAMP- ROME, Sep 2020

We were delighted with our partners at the ECJS to welcome Young Pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel activists in Rome this week for our third intensive two day “bootcamp”.

We met at a challenging time for European Jewry with rising anti-semitism and with anti-Zionism becoming more commonplace.

On the agenda for the over 30 participants from Every corner of the continent at this third Bootcamp were two major challenges – How Jews can reclaim the narrative of human and civil rights from those that conflate Palestinian issued into other social movements, and Lawfare, How to properly and accurately reflect international law when discussing Israel.

With inspiring speakers and an upbeat message that we can all enact change and influence, the Bootcamp was a welcome relief from The current pandemic difficulties despite the health restrictions in place.


NSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE: SEEKING PEACE BETWEEN ISRAEL,ITS ARAB NEIGHBORS AND THE PALESTINIANS

It is fair to say that the American peace plan has caused a stir in diplomatic circles with a lot of heat but not much light being shed on the subject. With this in mind we were delighted an honoured to host the Honorable Jason Greenblatt, the principle architect of the plan, former White House special envoy for the Middle East and former adviser to President Trump to brief the European diplomatic corps in Brussels, Washington and Israel on the actual mechanics of the deal how it came about and what it contains in detail.

Our webinar was very well attended with 23 out of the EU 27 countries in attendance.


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 must be ready for November 4

Analysis: Both candidates are committed to Israel’s security, but will act differently; Biden is unlikely to reverse recognition of Jerusalem but will likely reinstate settlement policies, while Trump could flip on Iran if he sees chance for deal

Regardless of who wins the American presidential election, the U.S. stance on Israel’s security and its position within the international community would remain mostly as is.
Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee former vice president Joe Biden have proven their deep commitment to keeping Israel a sovereign and democratic nation, with a strong and stable Jewish majority.
And although both candidates’ policies seem to have little to no difference on some issues, Israel must be ready for the morning after the elections, especially on key topics.
Iran nuclear deal
Both Trump and Biden are interested in a reworked nuclear deal with the Iranians and an end to their missile production and cover regional actions. Both are very worried by the latest developments coming out of the Islamic Republic regarding atomic production.
Tehran has accumulated a large amount of enriched uranium and is developing state of the art centrifuges, stating that if the U.S. can break the agreement – so can they.
Both candidates know that the eventual results of this creeping development could lead to a scenario where the Iranians take the “Samson route” – toughing out any new sanctions while speeding up the development of their first ever operational nuclear warhead, all the while holding a loaded gun to the West’s temple.
When and if this happens, America’s chief allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, will turn to the White House and demand it meet its obligation to preventing any Iranian nuclear weapons.
The U.S. administration will find itself in a dilemma: either forfeit to the Iranians or launch an all-out military intervention.
This possible scenario is both Trump and Biden’s worse nightmare and they will do anything they can to prevent it from coming to pass.
Both candidates’ foreign policy calls for a reduction in American military presence in the Middle East to the absolute minimum (with China and Russia now the main strategic challenge for Washington) and definitely not bring any more American soldiers back home in caskets.
Logic for both candidates and their advisers dictates that after the elections, regardless of which of them wins, the Iranians will want to go back to the negotiating table to save their citizens from economic collapse, brought forth by the incumbent’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran.
This assessment also leads them to believe that Tehran will be willing to make concessions.
The Islamic Republic’s current position, voiced straight from Iranian upreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close circle, is that the U.S. must first end its sanctions and compensate for the economic damage caused – and maybe then talks can resume.
The conservative ayatollahs who are set to replace the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani in the 2021 elections emphasize that Iran has learned to live with the sanctions, and that they do not believe the U.S.
Meanwhile Rouhani, whom Trump portrayed as a naïve leader, remains silent.
So what does all mean?
For starters, it seems that both Trump and Biden are willing to reach a compromise to get the Iranian issue off their backs in the coming years.
Both are willing to tone down the U.S. demands on Iran’s nuclear and missile developments and its covert operations in the area.
Tehran, on the other hand, has presented very stringent terms for returning to the negotiating table and is prepared to conduct fierce and unrelenting deliberations on all matters.
Israel must make doubly sure that whoever ends in the Oval Office will not compromise with the Iranians at the expanse of its national security interests and that of the moderate Sunni Arab nations.
If Biden is elected and Benjamin Netanyahu remains Israel’s prime minister, the possibility for a diplomatic clash only worsens. During Biden’s tenure as vice president, there was a lot of bad blood between Netanyahu and the White House.
The prime minister and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer – a former Republican operative – have managed to totally position Israel within the GOP. Any intimate conversation between Netanyahu and Biden will be difficult.
With Trump, Netanyahu found an intuitive and attentive partner. But the unpredictable and narcissistic businessman, reigning
for a second and final term, might turn on Israel in a flash if he smells a hint of a “good deal” with Iran.
With reelection no longer relevant, the Evangelical vote and support from Sheldon Adelson become inconsequential beside
the prospect of a legacy as a master statesman, with the tantalizing hope for a Nobel Peace Prize drowning out any cries of anguish from Jerusalem and Riyadh.
Palestinian issue
A second Trump government is likely to wait for Mahmoud Abbas’ disappearance from the Palestinian political scene and an end to the subsequent infighting to decide on the identity of his heir.
In the interim, senior White House advisor and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will continue to persuade more Arab nations to reach normalization agreements with Israel in preparation for a post-Abbas Palestinian Authority.
When that day arrives, a consolidated, rich and moderate Arab camp will be at hand to “help” bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table with Israel on the basis of Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan.
For the time being, there will be a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and no annexation. However, settlements will be allowed to expand to meet the needs of a growing population, which has been a long standing arrangement understood by multiple administrations.
A Biden administration will probably not reverse the steps taken by his predecessor to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
But with influence of the more liberal wing of his party, Biden is expected to revive the policy labeling the West Bank settlements as a breach of international law.
He is expected also to champion the idea that the basis for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is based on a two-state solution, along the 1967 lines with some border concessions and a corridor connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
A Biden White House and a Netanyahu-led government would essentially be a rerun of the Obama administration. It would probably not happen immediately, with the former vice president and his cabinet first having to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the trade war and tensions with China, a new disarmament agreement with Russia and many other pressing issues.
Only then – assuming the Iranians do not make any serious headway in their nuclear development plans – will Biden deal with the Palestinian issue, possibly more than a year into his presidency.
Mideast arms sales
A second Trump term will maintain its current policy of weapons sales to Middle East countries: sell as much and as quickly as it can to U.S.-friendly nations who are all threatened by Iran and are able to spend tens of billions of dollars on weapon systems (mostly aerial) that would bring prestige and influence to their leaders.
Trump will give them all they want without any unnecessary moral considerations in order to create more jobs and money for the American economy in general and the arms industry in particular.
Biden will probably take the more selective and calculated route, opting to refrain from selling F-35 fighter jets, advanced security systems and long-range drones to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait, which Trump has already authorized for the UAE.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. refused to even instruct the Emiratis on how to operate these systems.
However, Biden will most likely authorize the sale of defense-oriented weapon systems such as advanced alert systems, UAVs, advanced radars, anti-missile installations, naval defenses and logistical systems.
In any case, the IDF will still retain its qualitative military edge regardless of any future weapons sales in the region.
Even if the results on November 4 are clear cut and do not deteriorate into a legal battle, the U.S. will remain a divided nation long afterwards. Every decision by the future president regarding a controversial issue could whip up a storm and even lead to violent clashes on the streets.
It is likely that the president will be reluctant to make unpopular decisions on fateful issues for fear of public reaction, especially on social media. A president who does not enjoy public trust and support is a lame duck, especially when it comes to foreign and security affairs.
The Russians, Chinese and Iranians understand this and are trying to increase the mistrust in the American authorities – especially the president – and deepen the division among the people with a stream of “fake news” directed at American social media.
And a weak America is a nightmare for Israel’s security.
The article was published in Ynet

Israeli rapid COVID-19 test to be used in major European airports

A trial of the test last month involving some 400 people at Sheba showed about 95% accuracy.

A rapid COVID-19 screening test developed in Israel will be used to screen passengers in several European airports.
The test involves gargling with a small amount of special mouthwash and spitting it into a test tube.
Virusight Diagnostic, a newly formed Artificial Intelligence health care venture between Sheba Medical Center’s ARC Innovation Center and Newsight Imaging, has signed a strategic letter of intent for rapid screening of airline passengers with ICTS Europe, a security provider at major airports in 23 countries, Newsight announced in a statement on its website.
trial of the test last month involving some 400 people at Sheba showed about 95% accuracy.
“Tests will be immediate, affordable and monitored, so that airports and airlines can optimize the level of safety by mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection,” the statement said.
The gargle test uses SpectraLIT, Newsight Imaging’s portable and accurate spectral analysis device, to determine the presence of the COVID-19 virus.
The article was published on The JPost

Moving White House ceremony starts to relegitimize a precious little word: Peace

26 years after the Israel-Jordan treaty, a whole generation of Israelis and Arabs witnesses something it had simply never seen before

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up the documents they signed at the Abraham Accords ceremony where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

“In Israel’s entire history, there have previously been only two such agreements. Now we have achieved two in a single month. And there are more to follow.” Thus spoke US President Donald Trump near the start of his remarks to hundreds of people at the White House, and untold numbers around the world, watching on Tuesday as Israel established relations simultaneously with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Our first, earth-shattering peace agreement came in 1979, when Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat — having restored his country’s self-respect in the 1973 war, after its six-day humiliation in 1967 — shattered three decades of intransigent Arab hostility to the very fact of Israel’s existence and signed the Camp David Accords with prime minister Menachem Begin.

And then came… nothing.

Israel had wanted to believe that after Egypt, the floodgates of normalization would open. Instead, Egypt was boycotted by the rest of the Arab world for its crime in legitimizing Israel, and Sadat was soon gunned down.

Only 15 years later, in 1994, did Jordan’s King Hussein dare to become our second full peace partner, liberated to publicly acknowledge his hidden alliance with Israel because prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had pledged to try to resolve the Palestinian conflict and had warily shaken hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

And then came… nothing. Nothing, this time, for a full quarter century

Until Tuesday’s dual wedding.

And so, when Trump noted that he was overseeing the doubling of Israel’s entire history of peace alliances, he was also telling a whole generation of Israelis and of Arabs — a generation that has simply never witnessed such a ceremony before — that, yes, Israeli-Arab peace is actually possible. It can be achieved here and now. It’s not something that happened a couple of times long ago and then froze over, or that dreamers talk endlessly about being almost within reach.

And it’s hopefully not something that, after it is ostensibly attained, disintegrates into conflict and bloodshed, as was the case with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and the strategic Palestinian terrorist onslaught of the Second Intifada.

For once, “let us put all cynicism aside,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his remarks. And for a rare few hours, in the midst of a pandemic, and even as Hamas tried to spoil the show with rocket fire from Gaza, everything about the ceremony encouraged us to do precisely that.

What Netanyahu called “the pulse of history” was tangible in the warmth of the separate interactions between Trump, the two Gulf foreign ministers, and Netanyahu that preceded the main event. If Tuesday’s widening of the circle of peace was insufficient, Trump vouchsafed to Netanyahu that “five or six” other states are waiting in line. “Frankly, we could have had them here today,” he said, but that would have been disrespectful to the UAE, which had shown the courage to go first, and to Bahrain, which had been so determined to join the festivities.

It was tangible in the content of all the leaders’ speeches — their individual declared commitments to genuine and lasting peace between our peoples — and the sincerity and warmth with which they delivered their remarks.

It was tangible in the little-noticed moments, such as when UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Nahyan, having completed his address, walked over to where Netanyahu was standing, and, with attention focused elsewhere, they smiled at each other and exchanged a few words. Or when everybody — and especially the joyful star of the show Al Nahyan — laughed good-naturedly at the logistical complexities that inevitably arise when two-to-four leaders are signing and/or witnessing three accords.

If Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was the first vital step toward the acceptance of modern Israel’s revival in the Jews’ ancient homeland, Tuesday’s ceremony may come to signify our belated acceptance by those further afield who, as Trump noted, have for decades been fed lies and falsehoods about Israel, and especially Israel’s ostensible religious intolerance.

The Palestinians are still absent, of course, dismally led in the West Bank by President Mahmoud Abbas into what appears to be a deepening alliance with the Gaza-ruling terrorists of Hamas. Still, the US president who brokered these accords remains insistently optimistic that, as he told the press pack during his Oval Office session with Netanyahu, “at the right time, they’ll be joining too.”

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said at the very start of his speech. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” he went on, and “thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”

Trump delivered these hitherto mind-boggling claims in tones that were almost matter-of-fact. These new peace allies are “going to work together; they are friends,” he said, as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

But for a whole generation, 26 years after any of us last saw anything like it, Tuesday’s ceremony was anything but normal. It was, rather, unprecedented, surprising and heartening. For once in the tortured context of Israel and the Arab conflict, it was a pleasure to put all cynicism aside.

For after 26 years, Tuesday’s ceremony tentatively relegitimized that precious little word: Peace.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Ashkenazi meets EU counterparts in Germany on first diplomatic trip overseas

The foreign minister pressed Germany to prevent Iranian arms embargo from running down in October

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Berlin Wednesday on his first official visit overseas where he is set to meet with his EU counterparts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas invited Ashkenazi to Thursday’s conference of EU foreign ministers.

Shortly after his arrival, Ashkenazi met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, thanking him for his country’s stance in designating the entirety of Hezbollah – both the political and military wing – as a terrorist organization.

In addition to updating the president on the recent deal to normalize ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Ashkenazi also implored Germany’s head of state to prevent the United Nations’ arms embargo against Iran from running down in October.

Ashkenazi spoke at a ceremony at “Platform 17 in Berlin’s Grunewald Station, where there is a memorial marking Nazi Germany’s deportation of more than 55,000 Jews. He was joined by Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and representatives of the German Jewish community,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

“I stand here as the foreign minister of the government of Israel and the former IDF chief of staff,” Ashkenazi said. “Jews will never again be sent to their death because they are Jewish. Never again.”

The foreign minister will visit Wannsee, the villa in a Berlin suburb where the architects of the Nazi “Final solution” met – under the direction of Reinhardt Heydrich – to iron out details for the attempted slaughter of Europe’s 11 million Jews.

The article was published on the i24


UAE-Israel agreement followed many years of discreet talks

In-depth: Agreement between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem comes as little surprise to those closely following the nuances of Mideast politics, with Trump almost single-mindedly pushing deal without resolution first to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Secret talks and quiet ties: That’s what paved the way for last week’s deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize relations.

Touted by President Donald Trump as a major Mideast breakthrough, the agreement was in fact the culmination of more than a decade of quiet links rooted in frenzied opposition to Iran that predated Trump and even Barack Obama, as well as Trump’s avowed goal to undo his predecessor’s Mideast legacy.
And the deal leaves behind what had been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region: resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The effort to achieve that goal picked up speed 17 months ago at a U.S.-led conference in Warsaw, according to officials involved.
That February 2019 meeting, originally conceived as an anti-Iran gathering, morphed into a broader Mideast security endeavor after European objections to its agenda. Many countries opted not to send their top diplomats, and Russia, China and the Palestinians skipped it entirely. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended, however, as did the foreign ministers of key Arab states.
At the summit, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain spoke of the threat Iran posed to their security and its use of Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. They stressed that confronting Iran had become the top priority — ahead of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — in comments appearing in leaked video, whose authenticity was confirmed by a U.S. official who attended the gathering.
Netanyahu followed, echoing similar concerns.“Iran was very high on the agenda because Iran’s foreign policy is the biggest driver of instability in today’s Middle East,” the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told The Associated Press.
Four months after the summit, a secret meeting between the UAE and Israel took place on June 17, 2019, in Washington.
The trilateral focused on regional, cyber and maritime security, as well as diplomatic coordination and disrupting terror finance, according to a U.S. official who participated but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
More meetings followed in the U.S., Israel and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, culminating in Thursday’s Trump announcement that his administration had brokered a deal between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations and exchange embassies. The UAE said Israel also agreed to halt its controversial plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank sought by the Palestinians.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told White House reporters that discussions for the deal took place over the past year and a half.
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s an inevitability, right?” Kushner said, adding later: “No Israeli has ever killed an Emirati, right? There’s not that hatred between the people.”
To be sure, Israel and the UAE have never fought each other in war and do not share borders. Still, the agreement was far more warmly welcomed in Israel than the UAE, where the public has long viewed Israel with suspicion. But criticism has been muted, in part because of government suppression of free speech.
The UAE, composed of seven emirates run by hereditary rulers led by Abu Dhabi, will be only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full ties with Israel. By doing so, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid a path for countries like Morocco, Bahrain, Oman or Sudan to potentially follow.
There are many, though, who shun any Arab embrace of Israel. To the Palestinians, who say they had no prior notice of the deal, the UAE turned its back on the longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel can only come after Israeli concessions in peace talks lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think the UAE is least beholden to these old formulas of solidarity … which gives them more strategic flexibility,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“There’s no question that among the broader Arab and Gulf public, this will be a very unpopular move,” she said, adding that the agreement also leaves the UAE vulnerable to whatever decisions Israel makes in the future.
For the UAE, however, the calculus to build relations with Israel carries a number of strategic advantages beyond countering Iran and suspending West Bank annexation.
Through Israel, the UAE can build stronger ties with both Republicans and Democrats — a crucial hedge considering the uncertainty of Trump’s reelection chances against former Vice President Joe Biden in November’s U.S. presidential elections.
Another impetus was the perception among Arab Gulf states that U.S. dependability had waned, from the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, to Trump’s unpredictability in foreign policy. Their views on the matter have been reflected in state-linked newspaper columns and in quiet grumbling at private gatherings.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also barred by Congress from purchasing billions of dollars in U.S. weapons due to the humanitarian toll of their war in Yemen, before Trump vetoed the measures.
“Their first preference is to have the United States heavily involved in the Middle East as their primary ally. If they can’t get that, which … under Trump they absolutely cannot, then they’re going for second best, and Israel is second best,” said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and now Mideast expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Saudis and Emiratis want to build up military strength and want the U.S. to give them more freedom of maneuver in places like Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. With a stronger Emirati-Israeli alliance, “they can count on the Israelis to also make that case in Washington,” Pollack said.
Hook argues it was the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear accord that helped seal the latest deal.
“Israel and UAE felt betrayed by Obama’s Iran strategy. With us, they knew we stood with our allies and partners, and that trust was a critical factor in getting this peace agreement done,” said Hook, who was involved in the trilateral talks.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has eroded vital oil and tourism revenue, the UAE will look to its ties with Israel to deepen trade links, security cooperation and technology sharing. Already, the UAE has deployed Israeli spyware against dissidents, according to a lawsuit brought against the company in Israel.
UAE efforts to seek better ties with Israel as a means of improving its standing in Washington dates back to 2006, according to Sigurd Neubauer, author of the book “The Gulf Region and Israel: Old Struggles, New Alliances.”
It began with a public-relations crisis over Dubai port operator DP World’s failed bid to manage major ports in the U.S. The longtime UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, held his first meeting with an Israeli official in 2008 and a diplomatic channel was established to focus on Iran, Neubauer said.
The relationship hit a snag in 2010 when the UAE accused Israeli Mossad operatives of assassinating Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
Nearly a decade later, then-Culture Minister Miri Regev stood in Abu Dhabi and sang her country’s national anthem at a judo competition, shook hands warmly with Emirati officials and toured the emirate’s grand mosque in a public spectacle of warming ties.
In January, when Trump unveiled his Mideast plan — it was rejected by the Palestinians — the ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman attended the White House ceremony, which featured Netanyahu.
Senior Emirati diplomat Anwar Gargash said the relationship with Israel grew “organically” over the last 15 years or so.
“Through engagement with the Trump administration, the idea … developed and percolated, and it was right to do it,” he said.
The article was published on Ynet

How Europe can become a player in the Middle East

From an Austrian Member of Parliament: The EU could play a supporting role – recognizing Israeli concerns, and encouraging Palestinian compromise

Regarding the Middle East, the EU has so far played the role of the two old men in the “Muppet Show”: observing the course of events from the box and bitching about it. The Europeans could do well as mediators though.

The United States presented the Trump Peace Plan a few months ago to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The new Israeli government under Prime Minister Netanyahu is preparing to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank based on this plan. In these developments, the European Union have so far only been grumpy bystanders. But Europe could become a player in the Middle East again. Here’s how.

First, a sober inventory should be taken: the Middle East is and remains an immediate neighborhood region of Europe. Events there can quickly have an impact on Europe — see the refugee crisis of 2015. Therefore we cannot be indifferent to what is happening there.

Second, the EU has not made a constructive contribution to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years. The engagement usually ends with a condemnation of Israel. Financial support for the Palestinians to maintain the — actually undesirable — status quo continues. What remains is the ritualized lip service to a (not defined) two-state solution.

Third, it should also be noted in the EU that the status of the West Bank under international law is not that clear. The last legal sovereign was Britain. When the United Kingdom ended the League of Nations’ mandate in 1948, Jordan occupied the West Bank, without any legal claim, and held it until the Six Day War in 1967 without establishing a Palestinian state there.

The pioneering UN Security Council Resolution 242 adopted after the 1967 arms movement, laid down two things: Every State (note: specifically Israel was meant) had the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats and acts of force. And furthermore, Israel had to withdraw from territories occupied in the recent conflict.

It is of critical importance here that the wording deliberately chosen was the indefinite designation “from territories” and not “from the territories.” This left open which parts of the West Bank Israel would have to withdraw from, especially with regard to the establishment of secure borders. And the pre-1967 armistice lines were certainly not such safe limits.

This is exactly what the narrative of Israel is based on, that in the case of the West Bank they are “disputed territories.” The US government recently joined this position.

Fourth, it is about an effective negotiation strategy. The Austrian courts could serve as an excellent example: Here, judges and mediators are more and more successful in bringing the parties to the dispute to a reasonable compromise. The recipe? They make it very clear to both parties that the issue is not black and white, that the outcome will ultimately always be an arrangement, but by then the two parties will have lost so much time, energy and money that it makes a lot more sense to find a compromise right now. It’s amazing to see how well this works.

What happens now in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The United States and, finally, some Arab countries are increasingly making it clear to the Palestinians that sticking to maximal demands (such as receiving the entire West Bank, dividing Jerusalem, retaining the right of return for refugees, including those who have not lived in Israel for generations, etc.) doesn’t bring the Palestinians a step closer to a solution. Rather, the Palestinians would have to return to the negotiating table with Israel which they left in 2010.

However, some EU countries such as France, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland etc. do exactly the opposite: metaphorically speaking, they threaten and sanction one party to the dispute (Israel) again and again, while constantly assuring the other party to the dispute (the Palestinians) that their claim is justified. And they also support the latter politically and financially so that they just don’t give up their narrative.

Fifth, the EU can therefore only play a role in the Middle East if it does not leave Israel policy in the hands of notorious critics of Israel such as the EU’s foreign minister Josep Borrell. Its predecessor, Federica Mogherini was not even received in Israel, and Borrell will probably be no different.

Some European countries such as the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia as well as Austria are breaking new ground. With a greater understanding of Israel’s difficult security situation and willingness to signal to the Palestinians that they too must be willing to compromise. With the clear message — as with the Austrian courts — that time is not on their side.

The Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said many years ago. It was exactly 100 years ago that the Sévres Treaty provided for an autonomous state for the Kurds. Today hardly anyone knows that, and the Kurds are now considered one of the largest peoples without their own nation-state.

If the Palestinians are not to suffer the same fate as the Kurds, then there could be another historical chance of obtaining one at the negotiating table. Of course, involving a cut in their previous expectations.

This is exactly where the Europeans could support the Palestinians and thus play a supporting role in the Middle East. This is certainly not possible with threats and sanctions against Israel, but rather by demanding the principle of reality, understanding the narratives of both sides, pushing for a willingness to compromise and last but not least: the promise to Israel and the emerging Palestinian state structure that they both can expect generous economic support from the EU and maximum integration into Europe.

This could form a viable bridge from Europe to the Middle East, which could become an alliance for peace, freedom and prosperity.

The Op-Ed was written by  Austrian MP, Martin Engelberg and was published in The Times of Israel


‘We Share Your Pain’: Israel Offers Aid to Lebanon After Beirut Port Blast

President Rivlin tweets in Arabic: ‘We sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time’

Israel has offered humanitarian assistance to Lebanon after a massive explosion rocked its capital Beirut on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

“Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,” a written statement from Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.

The international mediators Israel employed were the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, and France.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister asked National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to reach out to the UN envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, on this matter.

President Reuven Rivlin also offered his assistance, tweeting: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, August 4, 2020.
A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, August 4, 2020. Credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/Reuters

The Israeli army’s spokesman in Arabic, Avichay Adraee, tweeted in Arabic about the Israeli offer, adding: “This is the time to transcend conflict.”

Several Israeli lawmakers also posted messages of support on social media after Lebanese authorities reported thousands of casulaties in the blast.

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center, near Israel’s border with Lebanon, said in a Facebook message in Arabic: “We are ready to provide medical assistance as we did before with the people of south [Lebanon] and the people of Syria.”

An Israeli political source denied that the country had any connection to the incident, which came amid tensions with Hezbollah. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said they had used international mediators UNIFIL and France to offer humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon.

The blast flattened much of the city’s port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Hours later, ambulances were still carrying away the wounded and officials said Beirut’s hospitals were full. Army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the blast might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said the city was a “disaster area” and the scale of the damage was “enormous.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday would be a national day of mourning for the victims, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Other countries, including the U.S., U.K., Turkey, Jordan and Iran have all also offered their assistance to Lebanon in the aftermath of the blast.

The article was published on Haaretz


Israel says Hezbollah tried to breach its northern border; IDF warns against further provocations

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it exchanged fire with fighters from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier on Monday.

The Israeli army said troops foiled a Hezbollah attack by 3 or 4 men who infiltrated a few metres over the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon. It added there were no casualties among Israeli forces.

“Hezbollah should know it is playing with fire”, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Both Netanyahu and defence minister Benny Gantz warned the governments of Syria and Lebanon that they would be held responsible for any attacks against Israel coming from their territory.

Hezbollah carried out the operation against Israeli soldiers in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, media quoted a witness as saying. The area is occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The United Nations regards it as part of Syrian territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli forces have been on alert along the border in anticipation of Hezbollah retaliation for the killing of one of its members in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.

In a statement on Monday, Hezbollah denied its forces had tried to infiltrate the Lebanese-Israeli frontier or that it had engaged in clashes in the Shebaa Farms area. The group said that the incident was “one-sided” and that Israeli forces had “moved nervously on the ground” due to a heightened state of alert.

“If Israel decides to go to war with us, then we will confront them, and the 2006 War will be the model for our response”, Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qasim said in response.

The article was published on New Europe


PM hastily appoints new virus czar after Barbash walks away from post

Ichilov Hospital chief Prof. Roni Gamzu says he’s received the phone call about taking on the role late in the evening, shortly after Prof. Gabriel Barbash relinquished appointment over disagreements about authority

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastily appointed a new “coronavirus czar” late on Wednesday, shortly after Prof. Gabriel Barbash relinquished his appointment, only a day after officially taking on the role.
 
The appointment came after Prof. Barabash withdrew his name over his insistence to receive full authority over the Health Ministry’s decisions and increase the scope of his powers.
Roni Gamzu, the current CEO of the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv and former director general of the Health Ministry said he had received a phone call about taking on the role to lead the coronavirus fight in Israel in “the late hours of the evening.”
“The prime minister and the health minister reached out to me to help them with the coronavirus crisis, after the appointment of Prof. Barbash unfortunately fell through, I immediately gave an affirmative response,” he said.
Gamzu’s appointment was officially announced early Tthursday by the prime minister’s office and was apparently made before the parameters of his authority were decided upon. He said he agreed to take on the job without hesitation out of a sense of national responsibility.
“This is a medical, economic and social crisis,” he added. “I do not ask questions in such a situation, I just come to contribute everything and help my country and the health system in managing the crisis.”
In a statement released by Barbash he cited time as a critical element in combatting the virus and noted that since there was no agreement as to the scope of his authority in the role, he chose to clear the way for another candidate to be assigned.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced on June 6, that he would be appointing a coronavirus czar who would oversee the ministry’s actions.
The article was published on Ynet

130 schools now closed; 17,605 staff, students in quarantine for virus

More new diagnoses in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, despite more testing in capital; death toll rises as three more people succumb to COVID; 2,474 people currently infected with disease, including 111 new cases

The Education Ministry said on Sunday that 130 schools and kindergartens have been closed due to staff and students contracting the virus in the past 10 days – 24 of them since Saturday.
Additionally, 17,605 students and staff members are now in quarantine, an increase of 1,282 since Saturday.
So far, 352 students and staff members nationwide have been diagnosed with the virus in the current wave, including 22 over the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry also said that more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, with 46 new cases in the coastal city as opposed to 37 in the capital.
The ministry also reported that over the past five days, some 13,000 tests for the virus were conducted in Jerusalem, while at the same time, only about 3,600 were carried out in Tel Aviv.
According to the ministry’s data, 111 new COVID-19 patients have been diagnosed, with the total number of cases rising to 17,863.
Three more patients have died from virus-related complications, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease up to 298.
There has also been a climb in the number of people requiring respiratory assistance, with 23 patients currently using ventilators.
The number of daily recoveries has declined over the past few days, with only 26 registered on Sunday, while the number of active patients has risen by 283 to 2,474.
Health officials said Sunday that they fear a new outbreak is taking place in Jaffa, where 10 people have so far been diagnosed with the virus in recent days.
The article was published in Ynet

Pnina Tamano-Shata to become first Ethiopian-born minister

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz made history on Thursday, when he told MK Pnina Tamano-Shata that she will become the first Ethiopian-born minister in Israel’s history.

Tamano-Shata, who will be minister of immigrant absorption, came to Israel in Operation Moses when she was three years old. Gantz was one of the commanders of the operation.

The highest-ranking woman in Blue and White, MK Miki Haimovich, will not be a minister at the start of the government being formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Thursday night.

Gantz met with Haimovich on Thursday morning and offered her ministerial posts, but she told him she preferred to head the Knesset’s Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Haimovich, a former news anchor, has focused on environmental issues, but the Likud insisted on keeping the Environmental Protection portfolio because of the Likud’s opposition to Haimovich’s views.

Gantz appointed MK Alon Schuster as Agriculture Minister on Thursday morning. Schuster is a farmer from Kibbutz Mefalsim and former mayor of the Shaar Hanegev regional council.

MK Chili Tropper was appointed by Gantz as the minister of culture and sports in the upcoming government.

As expected, when Gantz met with MK Gabi Ashkenazi, he officially gave him the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and when meeting MK Avi Nisenkorn, he gave him the Justice Ministry.

Gantz gave the Science and Technology portfolio to MK Izhar Shai, a former hi-tech executive.

Gantz appointed MK Meirav Cohen as social equality minister. As part of her duties she will be in charge of protecting the rights of Holocaust survivors.
Cohen will replace the current minister in that office, Gila Gamliel.
The article was published in the JPost

EIB signs collaboration with Israel Innovation Authority and €50 million financing agreement with Pluristem to develop therapies for COVID-19 and other unmet medical needs

  • European Investment Bank (EIB) backs Pluristem with €50 million of financing, which will help the company to advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions
  • The deal is the first Israeli-European project guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, a joint initiative of the EIB and the European Commission
  • The signature was announced in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding, by which the EIB and the National Technological Innovation Authority of Israel have agreed to cooperate in the globally emerging field of bio-convergence

Today, the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority signed a cooperation agreement to jointly pursue investment opportunities in the domain of bio-convergence in health. The intersection of biopharma, information technology and engineering is an important building block in supporting global public health goals. The agreement, initiated by kENUP Foundation, aims at deepening the links between Israel and the EU, fostering innovation in the region, closing investment gaps and jointly assuming global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. Ultimately, it is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations.

In the context of this Memorandum of Understanding, the EIB is supporting Pluristem through its German subsidiary Pluristem GmbH, with a venture debt loan of €50 million. Pluristem is a regenerative medicine company with a focus on novel biological products. The company uses cells derived from placentafor the development of product candidates for the treatment of severe medical conditions such as infections, inflammation, ischemia, muscle injury, haematological disorder or acute radiation syndrome. It has recently extended its activity in response to the coronavirus pandemic and treated several COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure under the “compassionate use” programme, a treatment option which allows the use of unauthorised medicine for severely ill patients.

The financing will support Pluristem’s research and development in the EU, notably its regenerative cell therapy platform. It will also allow the company to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing. Pluristem will receive the financing in three tranches, subject to the achievement of pre-agreed clinical regulatory and scaling up milestones. The first tranche will consist of € 20 million. The company is the first Israeli-European business to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial centre-piece of the Investment Plan for Europe, in which the EIB and the European Commission are working together to mobilise investment in the EU.Pluristem was previously funded by the Israel Innovation Authority.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Investment Plan for Europe has a strong track record of supporting ground-breaking research and development in the health sector. Pluristem is carrying out highly innovative and crucial work in the fight against coronavirus, now boosted by financial backing from the EU.”

“Today’s signatures show that we are successful when we stand together,” said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of innovation. “Israel is home to a thriving scene of innovative startups, which dominate the high-tech industry. Pluristem is an excellent example of Israeli-European cooperation and EIB support for them is particularly timely, as it will allow the company to develop a treatment for the most vulnerable COVID-19 patients. Working together often saves time and resources – in this case it has the potential to save lives.”

Dr Ami Appelbaum, Chairman, Israel Innovation Authority and Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, explained: “Israel views bio-convergence as its next economic growth engine. This innovative approach serves as an engine to find efficient, diverse and ingenious approaches to health problem solving. It integrates biology with engineering, AI, physics, computation, nanotechnology and material science in order to address unmet needs in numerous industries, including health, agriculture, energy and defence. The collaboration between the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority provides a unique opportunity to advance this area providing companies with various financing opportunities from early stage to growth. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, it is of vital importance to employ cutting edge technological innovation with global outreach to provide the much needed relief the world is looking for.”

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret said: “A coordinated global response is needed to fight COVID-19, and the EU is launching a worldwide pledging marathon precisely to ensure that the world works together to find safe, effective and affordable treatments, diagnostics and vaccines. Today’s important agreement with the EIB will help to develop promising treatment for coronavirus, and is yet another achievement of the EU and Israel, strengthening our cooperation in research and innovation. We thank Israeli researchers for their efforts, and look forward to continued joint work for the benefit of all.”

Pluristem CEO and President Yaky Yanay stated: “Pluristem would like to thank the EIB for its financial support and its commitment to finding an effective treatment for life-threatening medical conditions, among them complications associated with COVID-19. Our company’s mission of harnessing the power of regenerative medicine to improve the wellbeing of an aging population has become more urgent than ever, as we work tirelessly to develop a treatment for COVID-19 complications while advancing our portfolio of products in advanced stage trials to treat a number of indications that may positively impact on global healthcare systems. We are honoured to become the first Israeli-European company to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments.”

Background information

The European Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investments in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. The EIB also supports investments outside the EU.

About the Israel Innovation Authority

The Israel Innovation Authority, responsible for the country’s innovation policy, is an independent and impartial public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole. Its role is to nurture and develop Israeli innovation resources, while creating and strengthening the infrastructure and framework needed to support the entire knowledge industry. The Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of practical tools and funding platforms aimed at addressing the dynamic and changing needs of the local and international innovation ecosystems.

About the Investment Plan for Europe

The Investment Plan for Europe is one of the EU’s key actions to boost investment in Europe, thereby creating jobs and fostering growth. To this end, smarter use is made of new and existing financial resources. The EIB Group is playing a vital role in this investment plan. With guarantees from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the EIB and EIF are able to take on a higher share of project risk, encouraging private investors to participate in the projects. To date, the projects and agreements approved under EFSI are expected to mobilise around €478 billion of investments and to benefit over 1 million small and medium-sized companies throughout the EU.

About Pluristem

Pluristem is a leading regenerative medicine company developing novel placenta-based cell therapy product candidates. The company has reported robust clinical trial data in multiple indications for its patented PLX cell product candidates and is currently conducting late stage clinical trials in several indications. PLX cell product candidates are believed to release a range of therapeutic proteins in response to inflammation, ischemia, muscle trauma, hematological disorders and radiation damage. The cells are grown using the company’s proprietary technology and can be administered to patients off-the-shelf, without tissue matching. Pluristem has a strong intellectual property position; a Company-owned and operated GMP-certified manufacturing and research facility; strategic relationships with major research institutions; and a seasoned management team.

About the EIB-IIA MoU

The Memorandum of Understanding between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority recognises the shared commitment to deepening the links between Israel and the EU, to foster innovation in the region, to close investment gaps and to jointly assume global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. The Israel Innovation Authority is a reliable partner for the EIB in view of its broad technical and sector expertise and its well-established relationships with relevant industrial and public players. At the invitation of kENUP Foundation, the EIB and the Innovation Authority convened a series of meetings between October 2018 and January 2020 to discuss future common endeavours. In addition, the EIB has identified a number of innovative smaller companies supported by the Innovation Authority with investments in Israel and in Europe, which are promising counterparts for EIB equity-type operations.

Safe Harbour Statement

This press release contains express or implied forward-looking statements within the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other U.S. Federal securities laws. For example, Pluristem is using forward-looking statements when it discusses that the proceeds from the EIB financing will help it advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions, as well as support its research and development of its regenerative cell therapy platform in the EU,  and allow it to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing, that the cooperation agreement between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations and that the agreement with the EIB will help to develop a promising treatment for coronavirus. While the EIB and Pluristem have executed the loan agreement, there is no guarantee that Pluristem will achieve the milestones necessary to receive any or all of the three tranches. These forward-looking statements and their implications are based on the current expectations of the management of Pluristem only, and are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements: changes in technology and market requirements; Pluristem may encounter delays or obstacles in launching and/or successfully completing its clinical trials; Pluristem’s products may not be approved by regulatory agencies, Pluristem’s technology may not be validated as it progresses further and its methods may not be accepted by the scientific community; Pluristem may be unable to retain or attract key employees whose knowledge is essential to the development of its products; unforeseen scientific difficulties may develop with Pluristem’s process; Pluristem’s products may wind up being more expensive than it anticipates; results in the laboratory may not translate to equally good results in real clinical settings; results of preclinical studies may not correlate with the results of human clinical trials; Pluristem’s patents may not be sufficient; Pluristem’s products may harm recipients; changes in legislation may adversely impact Pluristem; inability to timely develop and introduce new technologies, products and applications; loss of market share and pressure on pricing resulting from competition, which could cause the actual results or performance of Pluristem to differ materially from those contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Except as otherwise required by law, Pluristem undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. For a more detailed description of the risks and uncertainties affecting Pluristem, reference is made to Pluristem’s reports filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The article was statement was published on the European commission website


Germany designates Hezbollah as terrorist group, conducts raids on suspects


EIPA welcomes Germany’s Hizbollah ban, urges other EU states to follow

Germany has banned Iran-backed Hezbollah activity on its soil and designated it a terrorist organisation, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday, arrests of suspected members then followed across the country early this morning.

“Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned the Shiite terrorist organisation Hezbollah in Germany,” tweeted a ministry spokesman. “Even in times of crisis, the rule of law is capable of acting,” he added.

The German move follows similar moves taken by the United States first, and then Britain in February. It marks the first significant move on continental European soil.

A spokesman for Europe Israel Public Affairs, a Brussels based Pro-Israel advocacy group, responded to the move this morning:

“We welcome the decisive move taken by the German government. The separation of Hizbollah into political and military wings was not only a fiction but also an absurdity, like trying to hold the arm less responsible for the actions of the hand.

Hizbollah are one and the same, an Iran backed terror organisation that not only threatens Israel, but the middle East as a whole. Conferring upon them a semblance of legitimacy by separating politics from ‘military’ actions has been a mistake that many countries are waking up to. In the weeks and months ahead we will be actively convincing other European States from our base here in Brussels, to follow Germany and end this distinction that Hizbollah have used everyone’s detriment.”

Read More>>>


Israel Comes to a Halt in Memory of Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism

Israeli soldiers stand next to graves of fallen soldiers during a ceremony at a military cemetery in Tel Aviv, April 27, 2020. Photo: Reuters/ Corinna Kern.

Israelis stood in silence — many on the balconies of their homes due to coronavirus restrictions — on Monday night as a one-minute siren sounded nationwide to mark the start of the annual Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism.

A total of 23,816 soldiers have died defending Israel, while 3,153 civilians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks throughout the country’s history.

Another siren — two minutes in length — will be heard in the morning on Tuesday morning.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, family members and friends of the fallen will not be able to visit their graves in military cemeteries across the country, as is the usual custom.

At the end of Monday night’s nationally-televised Memorial Day ceremony, many Israelis across the country went on to their balconies…

At an official state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday, which was held without an audience, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in remarks addressed to the bereaved, “This year, we can’t cry together. This year, we can’t look into your eyes.”

Nevertheless, he vowed, Israelis would remember the “unfathomable price” paid for the country’s ongoing existence.

At the same event, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said, “Bereaved families, even now, despite the distance, all of Israel is with you, through all kinds of screens. Every person in their home is stopping, sympathizing [and] dedicating time to the memory of your sons and daughters.”

“These are complicated times, which bring worry and concern from the lingering danger,” he added. “A time of crisis is like a time of war. It pushes aside the trivial and minor and makes the important things, the ethical things and the sanctity of life stand out.”

The article was published on The Algemeiner


Netanyahu and Gantz sign deal for unity government

Agreement leaves Netanyahu in PM’s chair for next 18 months when he will be replaced by Gantz, who will serve as defense minister in interim; Blue & White gets 16 ministries in 32-member government, the largest in Israel’s history

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz said on Monday that they have forged a deal to form an “emergency” unity government.
The deal between Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party and Gantz’ Blue and White ends months of political paralysis and averts what would have been a fourth consecutive election since April 2019.
Under the agreement, the two party leaders will rotate the prime minister’s post for the three-year term of the government, with Netanyahu remaining in office for the first year and a half.
Former IDF chief Gantz will serve in the interim as defense minister and as locum prime minister should the need arise.
The government is expected to include 32 ministers and more than a dozen deputy ministers, making it the largest in Israel’s history.
Blue and White will receive 16 ministries, including defense, foreign affairs for half of the term; justice, immigration and absorption, culture and sports, economics and welfare (which have been earmarked for Labor’s Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli), communications, agriculture, strategic issues, tourism, social equality, and diaspora affairs.
Gantz’s political partner Gabi Ashkenazi will serve as foreign minister during the first 18 months.
Likud will receive the foreign affairs portfolio for half of the term, public security, transportation, housing, education, environmental protection, energy, Jerusalem affairs, and other less key posts.
The agreement also gives Netanyahu veto power over the appointment of the attorney general and state prosecutor – the two senior officials who oversaw the prime minister’s indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
During the period of an “emergency government,” which is set to last six months, there will be no appointments requiring government approval. This means that acting state prosecutor Dan Eldad, who was appointed by the justice minister and Netanyahu ally Amir Ohana, will remain in post.
The two sides also decided that if the High Court of Justice rules before the new government is sworn in that Netanyahu cannot form a coalition due to the indictments against him, the agreement becomes void and the Knesset will dissolve. Should that happen, Netanyahu would remain prime minister until new elections are held.
The committee for judicial nominations will include two MKs from Likud as well as Derekh Eretz MK Zvi Hauser as “the representative from the opposition.”
Gantz on the campaign trail promised not to sit in a government led by a prime minister facing criminal charges, but he recently backtracked, saying the enormity of the coronavirus crisis necessitated an emergency unity government.
“We have prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will fight coronavirus and care for all of Israel’s citizens,” Gantz said on Twitter after signing the deal.
Netanyahu tweeted a picture of Israel’s blue and white flag, followed by a statement that read: “I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel.”
The deal states that Likud will take over the leadership of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.
After the deal was signed, Netanyahu called Education Minister Rafi Peretz and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to inform them that an agreement had been reached. Netanyahu is expected to offer Bennett’s Yamina party two ministerial posts although it had been angling for three.
Yamina said in response that, “Netanyahu has shown us the door.”
The unity agreement includes a clause that states that Israel will assume sovereignty over the West Bank on July 1, a move that has drawn massive international criticism when it was announced as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for Middle East peace.
Blue & White said: “The Trump plan will be moved forward responsibly, with protection of the strategic assets of the State of Israel and of regional stability.”
‘Slap in the face of Israeli majority’ Joint List leader Ayman Odeh slammed the agreement, calling it a “slap in the face” for the majority of Israelis.
“Gantz and Netanyahu’s government of surrender is a slap in the face of the civilian majority who goes to the polls time and time again to oust Netanyahu,” said Odeh, who backed Gantz to form the government in the wake of the March 2 elections.
“Gantz was not courageous enough to triumph and chose to legitimize annexation, racism, and corruption,” Odeh said.
The announcement also drew fire from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who has long been a backer of a unity government to end the political stalemate.
He dismissed it as “another government of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his religious-messianic bloc.”
“I welcome the establishment of the government, although it is not a unity government,” Liberman said.
“This is another government of Netanyahu and the Haredi-messianic bloc with a fig leaf from two senior [IDF officers],” he said, referring to Gantz and Ashkenazi, both former army chiefs.
Liberman added that his party would be part of the “substantive opposition.”
The article was published in Ynet

Netanyahu, Gantz say near unity deal as Rivlin extends mandate

PM and Blue & white leader say they’ve made ‘significant progress’ following an overnight meeting, prompting the president to extend Gantz’s 28- days mandate to form coalition by 2 extra days

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz were nearing a deal on Tuesday to form a national emergency government to battle the coronavirus crisis and end the country’s unprecedented political deadlock.
 
Gantz’s 28-day mandate to put together a ruling coalition after last month’s inconclusive election was due to expire at midnight, but President Reuven Rivlin, who is overseeing the coalition talks, extended it for two days.
Rivlin did so, his office said, “on the understanding that they are very close to reaching an agreement.”
Gantz and Netanyahu met overnight in a last-ditch effort to settle their differences. Afterwards they issued a joint statement saying they had made “significant progress.” The two are set to meet again with their negotiating teams later in the morning.
The impasse, after national elections in April and September 2019 and again last month, raised the prospect of a fourth ballot, complicating any plans for economic recovery once the coronavirus outbreak eases.
Without a deal, it will be up to parliament to pick a candidate who would then have 14 days to form a government. Failure to do so would automatically trigger a snap election.
“Netanyahu, this is our moment of truth. It’s either a national emergency government or, God forbid, a fourth election which would be expensive and, in this crisis period, gratuitous,” Gantz said late on Monday in broadcast remarks.
Gantz said the enormity of the coronavirus emergency had caused him to break a campaign promise not to sit in a government with Netanyahu, who has been indicted on corruption charges.
Netanyahu, who has headed successive caretaker administrations during the political stalemate, denies the charges.
In his own televised statement, the veteran premier imposed a ban on inter-city travel for the final days of the Passover holiday this week to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Restrictions already in place have confined most Israelis to their homes for weeks, forcing many businesses to close and sending unemployment soaring to more than 25%.
Netanyahu said his cabinet could formulate an “exit strategy” as soon as this weekend, though he cautioned restrictions on the economy and education would be eased gradually and that there would be no full return to routine before a coronavirus vaccine is discovered.

Israel: Top Health Ministry official says measures against virus working

Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health Itamar Grotto stressed that the country remain vigilant

A top Health Ministry official said Tuesday that steps the Israeli government has taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus are succeeding, but cautioned against relaxing any measures until more testing is complete.

In a public statement, Deputy Director-General of the Health Ministry Prof. Itamar Grotto said that “the rate of increase in patients is relatively moderate and lower than we feared, meaning that the steps we have taken so far against the coronavirus have been successful.”

At the same time, Grotto added, “We mustn’t stop, we have the difficult period of Passover, and we must by the end of [Passover] follow the instructions.”

On Monday,incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that a nationwide lockdown would take effect Tuesday evening until the end of the weekend in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during Passover when families traditionally gather together to celebrate the holiday.

Netanyahu stressed that the upcoming week would determine whether the situation in the country deteriorates or takes a turn for the better, and added that the upcoming holiday will not be like Purim, which saw an uptick in transmissions.

“It is important for us to continue doing tests, which will also be carried out during the holiday, the labs will work as normal. It is essential to go out and be tested.”

Updated figures released by the Health Ministry Tuesday showed that the country has suffered 59 fatalities due to the coronavirus epidemic, with another 9,006 confirmed cases.

The article was published on I24 news


The Israeli Inventions That Lessen The Healthcare System’s Burden

Israeli innovation has been enlisted in the battle against Covid-19. Here are six technological inventions helping health personnel in their fight against the pandemic

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has shed an unflattering light on the faults of the global healthcare systems, from China to Italy, and posed a myriad of new challenges to both healthcare professionals and researchers. Governments, including that of Israel, have called on tech companies to enlist in the battle against the outbreak. In reality, many medtech and biotech companies have already started working to alter their technologies accordingly.

In Israel, both industry veterans and young startups have jumped into the fray, allocating resources and manpower in an effort to find new solutions that could ease the strain on the overburdened healthcare system. Calcalist has taken a closer look at some of the most prominent ones.

Discover the virus in seconds: the AI that identifies the virus with a simple CT scan


Israeli-American RADLogics Inc. is a software analytics company that specializes in visual analysis of medical scans using AI and has a research and development center in Tel Aviv. The company’s products were one of the first in its category to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its tools are used to detect early signs of medical issues such as lung cancer.Around two months ago, use of RADLogics’ products in China started revealing novel findings; something small and patch-like in the lungs of patients. Very quickly, medical professionals identified the patch as a phenomenon unique to coronavirus patients. More surprising was the fact that it was also found in asymptomatic carriers. The findings echoed a study published in China, which looked at around 1,000 patients and found that CT scans indicated the presence of the virus in 48% of people who were found negative in the regular test.

The information RADLogics’ system provided in China helped the company adjust its products for the specific identification of coronavirus, and now it offers a new identification avenue for the virus and claims it can provide results within seconds instead of hours. The company said the test can be done using existing CT machines quickly and noninvasively, and that the results can help doctors prioritize ventilators. The company’s coronavirus-specific systems are already used in China and Russia, and according to RADLogics will soon come into use in Europe. In the U.S., the system is currently undergoing advanced approval.

Blood tests in seclusion: a portable, AI-based device can perform a full blood count in minutes


Tel Aviv-based Sight Diagnostics Ltd. developed a device that enables quick blood tests and blood counts—a required part of the diagnosis protocol for every fever illness. While current technologies require the sample to be sent to a lab and processed by a technician, Sight’s device, which uses AI and machine processing tools, is portable and does not require prior knowledge to operate. It also provides results in minutes rather than hours or days.
These abilities make the device ideal for quarantined coronavirus patients. Last week, the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer announced it will use the device to treat patients in isolation. Sight expects more clients to join in the next few weeks.

To treat severe cases: developing antibodies from patients who have recovered


Veteran biopharmaceutical company Kamada Ltd. has in recent days turned its attention to developing coronavirus antibodies. The company is collecting blood and plasma from Israelis who have recovered from the virus, and using a purification process to achieve a specific concentration of antibodies for treating serious coronavirus cases. The company emphasizes that it is not a vaccine, but rather an expensive, one-off treatment for severe cases.
Like a vaccine, however, the development process is lengthy, meaning the product will not be available anytime soon. Kamada has successfully developed serums for the treatment of rabies and zika, and is currently working with health authorities to create an expedited avenue for coronavirus treatment.
Remote experts: a system that enables consultation with a remote control center

Predictive care startup Clew Medical Ltd. developed an algorithm that collects data from emergency care monitoring devices and alerts the medical team to any deterioration in a patient’s condition. As the healthcare system becomes more and more burdened, Clew’s technology could point out a patient in danger 6-12 hours before their condition starts to worsen, enabling caregivers to prepare in advance.
The system can also monitor patients in remote wards, transmitting information to a central control room staffed by experts who can then provide guidance to endpoint teams. In this way, small hospitals and makeshift care units can benefit from the support of experts.
Clew’s system is currently in investigative use in U.S. hospitals. The company told Calcalist its use in Israeli hospitals currently dealing with the virus is being considered.
Monitoring patients in home-quarantine: a contactless system that monitors breathing

Israel-based company EarlySense Ltd. has developed a non-invasive patient-monitoring system already in use in nursing homes and hospitals. The system has been approved in both the U.S. and Europe. The company’s contactless monitoring platform, which looks like a cutting board, is placed under the mattress and takes stock of a patient’s /vitals around the clock, 100 times a minute.
The system specializes in analyzing chest movements, dividing them into separate categories of breathing patterns that are then used to identify changes in a patient’s condition. The fact that the system is not attached to patients and can provide alerts remotely makes it ideal for preventing the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus, the company said, and it is already in use at Sheba. The company stated the system can also be used to track asymptomatic carriers in home-quarantine.Identify the most vulnerable: the study that looked into what makes some people more resistant to the virus

Tel Aviv-based Geneyx Genomex Ltd. developed a cloud-based genetic data bank that is used by universities and research institutes to identify genetic risk or resistance factors for various medical conditions. The company is now conducting a study that will compare severe and mild coronavirus cases to find out whether certain genetic mutations increase or decrease response to the virus.

Currently, hospitals in Israel, China, and Italy have signed on as participants in the study, and Geneyx intends to partner with other hospitals that are currently treating coronavirus cases, providing them with a collaborative data management system. After enough samples have been gathered, cases will be categorized—for example, according to the severity of symptoms—and the DNA sequencing process will start. The company also intends to create a database that will map sensitivity to the virus, to give caregivers a predictive advantage.
The article was published on Calcalis tech

In surreal scenes, Knesset sworn in 3 members at a time amid virus crisis

‘Give this people a government,’ pleads president in speech to near- empty chamber; Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi arrives to take oath despite exposure to suspected COVID-19 patient

In a surreal ceremony, the 23rd Knesset convened on Monday in the shadow of the COVID-19 outbreak, with its 120 lawmakers inducted in batches of three to avoid the spread of the virus and its leaders giving their usually festive opening remarks to an empty hall.

President Reuven Rivlin opened the parliament swearing-in with an address to the only three lawmakers present — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

In his speech, Rivlin implored the political parties to resolve their differences and form a coalition, putting an end to the deadlock that has left the country without a functioning government since December 2018.

Earlier in the day, Rivlin had given Gantz first shot at forming a government, after the Blue and White leader picked up recommendations from 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers. But it remained unclear whether Gantz could successfully do so without Netanyahu’s Likud.

After three consecutive elections, Rivlin said Israelis are “exhausted” by politics.

“We are looking forward to the day-to-day, the routine, when we will all return to what we have in common, our shared fate that is expressed so clearly in the current crisis,” he said, referring to the outbreak of the virus.

The president pleaded with the political leaders to compromise.

“Politics is far from perfect. But politics is meant to be the art of the possible. Often, politics needs to be the art of compromise… At the heart of democracy lies the understanding that what often creates the requirement for compromise, to make deep and painful concessions, is the will of the people itself,” he said.

Rivlin continued: “The current political crisis is very real, very deep and is breaking us in two. And we still have no other choice, because we have no other people and no other country. In democracy, we may be able to replace the leadership, but we cannot replace the people. Not some of it, not one half of it and not the other half of it. We were destined to live together.”

Edelstein, who on Sunday blocked an attempt by Blue and White to replace him as Knesset speaker, also told the president, Netanyahu, and Gantz that an emergency unity government must swiftly  be formed.

“The plenum is empty, but with us are the millions of citizens who badly need an emergency government,” said Edelstein.

After Edelstein, Netanyahu and Gantz took their oaths, the other lawmakers were brought in, three at a time and in alphabetical order, to be sworn in.

The Knesset guard administered fever checks for those entering parliament.

According to Channel 12, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi was asked not to attend after being exposed to the husband of a coronavirus patient, who is also suspected of having contracted the virus.

But Hanegbi entered parliament nonetheless. Hanegbi later said he stayed in his office after arriving at the Knesset and kept a distance from other people when he was sworn in. After taking his oath, he left the Knesset.

Along with Blue and White MKs Ram Ben-Barak and Alon Shuster, Hanegbi had been at an agricultural conference where a man whose wife is confirmed to have the virus was present. Neither Ben-Barak or Shuster was at the swearing-in ceremony.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Austrian parliament urges chancellor clamp down on Hezbollah

Call for EU to reassess how to deal with terrorist entity regarding security of Israel


With 99% of votes counted, right-wing bloc at 58 seats, 3 shy of majority

As double envelopes are tallied and updated, Likud climbs to 36 and Blue and White to 33, at expense of Joint List and Shas: results could fluctuate further

Officials count ballots from the elections at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Officials count ballots from the elections at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

As votes cast in so-called double envelopes in the Knesset elections were being tallied, the Central Election Committee updated the count Wednesday morning, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the centrist rival Blue and White led by Benny Gantz an extra seat apiece, leaving the premier’s bloc of right-wing supporters at 58 seats.

After 99% of the votes were tallied, Likud gained a seat for a total of 36, with the rival Blue and White party also increasing its power from 32 to 33.

The Joint List of predominantly Arab parties dropped from 16 seats to 15, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party dropped from 10 seats to 9.

The rest of the parties’ seat totals remained the same: seven for United Torah Judaism (UTJ), seven for Yisrael Beytenu, seven for Labor-Gesher-Meretz and six for Yamina.

Based on those seat totals, Likud and its allies would have 58 seats combined. The right-wing religious bloc supporting Netanyahu — consisting of Likud, Shas, UTJ and Yamina — though, falls short of the 61 seats needed to form a government.

NON-FINAL ELECTION RESULTS BASED ON COUNT OF 99% OF VOTES3636333315159977777766LikudBlue and WhiteJoint ListShasUnited Torah JudaismYisrael BeytenuLabor-Gesher-MeretzYamina010203040
Knesset blocs based on count of 99% of votes58584040151577Right-wing blocCenter-leftJoint ListYisrael Beytenu

The counting of the “double envelope” ballots of soldiers, police staff, diplomats, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners began overnight and was expected to conclude later in the day.

Final but unofficial results were likely to be published Wednesday night. The official results will only be published on March 10.

The Central Elections Committee announced late Tuesday that almost all of the votes cast in the elections had been tallied, with votes from 10,552 polling places across the country counted — 99% of the voting stations that were open during Monday’s elections, accounting for about 93% of the total vote.

Elections officials record ballots cast by Israelis under coronavirus quarantine, March 3, 2020. (Courtesy/Central Elections Committee)

Late Tuesday, hazmat-clad officials also unsealed and counted ballots cast by Israelis who could be carrying the coronavirus.

Some 4,076 Israelis under quarantine cast votes Monday in specially constructed isolation voting booths manned by medics in protective gear doubling as election officials.

Before the tally began, the Blue and White party claimed Netanyahu had ordered observers from his Likud party at the committee to interfere in the count. Gantz ordered his own party’s representatives to the committee to intensify their observation efforts as a result, according to the party.

“MK Avi Nissenkorn, the faction chairman, has now been called to oversee from up close the work of the Central Elections Committee to ensure the counting is carried out properly and without intentional disruptions,” Blue and White said in a statement.

Blue and White did not provide any evidence to back up its claim against Netanyahu.

A composite image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz at polling stations in Jerusalem and Rosh Haayin, respectively, during the Knesset elections on March 2, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL, AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Monday’s election was largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who will go on trial later this month for bribery, fraud and breach of trust but is thought to be seeking support for a legislative mechanism to grant him immunity.

Despite a jubilant victory party and proclamations of victory from supporters, exit polling and the non-final result numbers showed he would likely come up shy of a needed 61-seat majority.

Gantz admitted to supporters early Tuesday that the party’s showing was disappointing, but refused to concede. He later appeared to rule out joining a unity government led by Netanyahu, narrowing the premier’s options to form a coalition.

Netanyahu could attempt to bring in the secularist Yisrael Beytenu, which looks set to once again play kingmaker. He’ll be helped by the prospect of continued deadlock and a fourth election, seen as a doomsday scenario, but one that is increasingly realistic.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at the party headquarters in Modi’in, on elections night, March 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/ Flash90)

Party head Avigdor Liberman vowed Monday he would not join a Likud-led government that includes ultra-Orthodox parties, but he has also refused to join a coalition with the Arab-led Joint List.

“We won’t move a millimeter from what we promised our voters,” he said.

Likud lawmakers and Netanyahu’s spokesman said Tuesday they would be looking to bring in “deserters” from other parties to make up the shortfall.

Likud spokesman Yonatan Urich told Channel 13 of contacts with “four to six” MKs from “the other side” and predicted that Netanyahu would be able to form a majority coalition with the support of some of them “within a few days.”

MK Miki Zohar admitted that if Likud was left needing to bring more than two lawmakers from other parties, it would be far more difficult for Netanyahu to form a coalition; however, he said he remained confident of forming a government even in that scenario and preventing a fourth round of elections.

Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, both former aides to Netanyahu and members of the Telem faction within the party, have denied reports they were mulling joining Likud.

However Hendel told Channel 12 news that he thought the country needed a unity government to move forward. When asked if that included joining a prime minister on trial, he said no.

Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich also denied she could jump ship after a report said Likud threatened to publish embarrassing recordings of her if she doesn’t defect.

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who heads the Gesher faction in the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, has also been tipped as a possibility to switch sides in return for a cabinet portfolio.

The article was published on Times of Israel


Israelis head for elections, once again, with less feeling

So they vote. this time not happily, not with great enthusiasm, not eagerly, but they vote.
Armed with their signature cynicism and decidedly low expectations, the people of Israel flocked back to polls on Monday for the third time in 11 months.

They grumbled, they mumbled, and they complained. They voted before a family outing, and after shopping at the mall; after breakfast, and before dinner. Once again they shlepped in babies in carriages, and brought along small children on their way to an excursion.

They kvetched, but they voted. And they came out in numbers that put other countries – such as America, which hasn’t had more than 60% of the population vote in a presidential election since 1968 — to shame.

Why? Because the bottom line is that most people here do care – despite all the cynicism – who governs the land, even though they might loudly declare that they don’t really care, that all the politicians are the same, and that it doesn’t matter who forms the government.

And they voted because most people want their voice to be heard.

It’s a small country, Israel. Decisions made at the top are felt intimately by people below – for instance, whether to attack in the Gaza Strip and send ground troops there, whether to uproot an illegal outpost in Samaria, whether to extract gas from the ocean floor and process it near the Haifa coast. People want to have some kind of minimal impact on how those decisions will be made, as those decisions may impact them in a very personal and immediate way.

So they vote. This time not happily, not with great enthusiasm, not eagerly, but they vote.

Although much has been written about how these back-to-back-to-back elections are chipping away at the belief of Israelis in the system, the fact that well over 66% of the people continue to vote here election after election shows that – deep down – they still believe in the process. Otherwise they would not participate. People vote if they care. And most people in this country do care.

Which doesn’t mean that things didn’t feel a bit different this time in the country’s polling places. They did. The conversation and jokes among those waiting in lines were different than in the past.

First there were the jokes and conversations about the coronavirus. “The special places for people quarantined to vote won’t help, since all the voting slips are contaminated,” one man quipped at a polling place outside of Jerusalem. Another noted that the son of someone in quarantine was waiting in line, and said to take cover if he sneezes.

But most of the chatter had to do with the seemingly endless election loop.

“Here we go again,” one woman said to a neighbor standing in line. “Yes,” the neighbor replied, adding sardonically – in reference to the possibility of a fourth round of voting in a few months time – “See you back here in September.”

The article was published on the JPost

Trump’s peace plan: 2 states with settlement recognition

Trump’s 80- page peace p;an calls for Palestinian state with parts of East Jerusalem as capital; major Jewish settlements in West Bank to remain under Israeli control; demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza

President Donald Trump called for the creation of a State of Palestine, ending speculation as to whether his administration, in preparing the Middle East peace plan without input from Palestinian leaders, would abandon a “two-state resolution” to the conflict. The potential future state will include parts East Jerusalem as its capital but only if the Palestinians take steps to become self-governing.

Senior administration officials, briefing the media on the plan the president announced at the White House on Tuesday, said that under Trump’s proposal the United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the West Bank. In exchange, Israel would agree to accept a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.

הבית הלבן

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
(Photo: AP)
However, it was not immediately clear if the freeze could be extended if a final deal is not concluded in the four-year time period allocated for its implementation.
Trump held a special press conference together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he unveiled the details of the long-delayed proposal, dubbed “the deal of the century.” The president said the prime minister told him the Trump administration’s proposed plan would be a basis for direct negotiations.
“Today, Israel has taken a giant step toward peace,” Trump said at a White House event. “Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that he is willing to endorse the vision as the basis for direct negotiations – and, I will say, (opposition leader Benny Gantz) also endorsed and very strongly – with the Palestinians a historic breakthrough.”
Trump has also endorsed a proposed map outlining the two states, which he posted on his Twitter account. The Palestinian state would be double the size of land that Palestinians currently control and would be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels.
The proposed state would be entirely demilitarized, including the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas terrorist organization, with a large presence of Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad.
“The state of Israel suffers from extraordinary geostrategic challenges,” said the peace plan’s official document. “Simply put the State of Israel has no margin for error. As dangerous as Gaza, run by Hamas, is to the State of Israel’s safety, a similar regime controlling the West Bank would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.”
In addition, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be connected by a tunnel passing through Israeli territory.

Conceptual map of Israel-Palestine as proposed in Trump peace plan

Conceptual map of Israel-Palestine as proposed in Trump peace plan
(Photo: Twitter)
The plan does call for a four-year freeze in new Israeli settlement construction, during which time details of a comprehensive agreement would be negotiated, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump’s announcement. However, it was not immediately clear if the freeze could be extended if a final deal is not concluded in the four years.
Trump went on to say he sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, where the U.S. president promised if the Palestinian leadership chooses to accept the plan, the Americans as well as the other countries “will be there every step of the way to help.”
“It’s going to work,” Trump said. “If they do this, it will work. Your response to this historic opportunity will show the world to what extent you are ready to lead the Palestinian people to statehood.”

הבית הלבן

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
(Photo: AP)
“This is a historic day,” Netanyahu said, comparing Trump’s peace plan to former President Harry Truman’s 1948 recognition of the state of Israel. “On this day, you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage,” he added, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.
He said he is ready to enter the negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the peace proposal, calling it “a realistic path to a durable peace.” He added that Trump’s plan “strikes a balance.”
“And on this day, you too have charted a brilliant future, a brilliant future for Israelis, Palestinians and the region,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister added that Trump recognizes that Israel must have sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and other places “where it can defend itself, by itself.”
Netanyahu added that Palestinian refugees won’t have a right of return under the plan. Palestinian right of return is a political position that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees and their descendants, have a right to return to what now is the State of Israel.
“I know that there’ll be opposition,” Netanyahu said. “There’s always opposition. I know there will be many obstacles along the way, much criticism. But we have an old Jewish saying: ‘If not now, when? And if not us, who?'”
Both leaders then thanked the Gulf Arab states of Oman, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for sending their ambassadors to the attend the conference for the unveiling of the peace plan.

הבית הלבן

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
(Photo: AFP)
Once the press conference was over, Netanyahu clarified to the reporters that the proposed Palestinian capital would be located in Abu Dis, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He said the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, “by which I mean, within its fences,” an apparent reference to municipal boundaries.
The 50-page political outline goes further in concessions to the Palestinians than many analysts had believed was likely. However, it would require them to accept conditions they have been previously unwilling to consider, such as accepting West Bank settlements. It builds on a 30-page economic plan for the West Bank and Gaza that was unveiled last June and which the Palestinians have also rejected.
The officials said that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political challenger in March elections, Benny Gantz, had signed off on the plan. Netanyahu will be beside Trump as he unveils the plan at the White House.
The event comes as Trump’s impeachment trial continues in the Senate and Israel’s parliament had planned a hearing to discuss Netanyahu’s request for immunity from criminal corruption charges. Netanyahu withdrew that request hours before the proceedings were to begin, but Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is still expected to meet. The body had been likely to vote against immunity, dealing Netanyahu a blow.
In the run-up to the March 2 election, Netanyahu has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and imposing Israeli sovereignty on all its settlements there.

פלסטינים שורפים תמונה של טראמפ ונתניהו ברמאללה

Images of Trump and Netanyahu being burned in Ramallah during unveiling of peace plan
Security responsibility for the West Bank would remain in Israel’s hands for the foreseeable future but could be scaled back as the nascent Palestinian state builds its capacity, under the terms of the plan, which says that statehood will be contingent on the Palestinians meeting international governance criteria.
The Palestinians see the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and east Jerusalem as their capital. Most of the international community supports their position, but Trump has reversed decades of U.S. foreign policy by siding more blatantly with Israel. The centerpiece of his strategy was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American Embassy there. He’s also closed Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington and cut funding to Palestinian aid programs.
Those policies have proven popular among Trump’s evangelical and pro-Israel supporters and could give him a much-needed boost from his base as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
But the Palestinians refuse to even speak to Trump and they are calling on support from Arab leaders. The Palestinian leadership also has encouraged protests in the West Bank, raising fears that the announcement in Washington could spark a new round of violence.

Winter Bootcamp for Pro-Israel Activists

On 1-2 December the Europe Israel Public Affairs and our partners- European Jewish Association (EJA) hosted our second Bootcamp for pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel advocates from all over Europe (literally! From Iceland to Spain, France to Romania and everywhere in between).

With practical training at its heart, this latest bootcamp gave participants proper hands-on experience in Lobbying techniques, media relations, opposition watch and network building.

Day one was focused on facts and lobbying. Ben Dror Yemini, the prominent Israeli journalist and author (his book “the industry of lies” is on the shelf of any self-respecting Israel advocate) gave the team all the facts (“I’m not a pr man”, he proudly exclaimed, I just give people the facts) necessary to counter opposition arguments.

We then spent the rest of the day dealing with the practicals of Lobbying. Our Head of Eu Institutional Relations, Ruth Isaac and our Director of Public Affairs ran through the do-and don’t’s, and were delighted to be supported by former Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca who gave his experience of being on the receiving end of lobbyists, and lastly by new Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who gave his enlightening perspectives from “the other side of the desk” including invaluable advice and tips on effective lobbying.

At a Gala dinner in the evening, Hans Knopp was our special guest. Hans is a hugely respected dutch journalist whose most famous bit of reporting was exposing a dutch war criminal who helped the Nazis rob and murder Dutch Jews. His work was commemorated in a film “the body collector”, and he talked about his experience. His moving testimony brought the house down and he received a prolonged standing ovation.

The next morning, participants learned the basics of press release writing, followed by a role play and live interview practice with Brussels based broadcast journalist and regular on Euronews Brian Maguire who put the bootcampers through their paces.

After lunch prominent Swedish Zionist and activist Saskia Pantell , CIDI’s dutch opposition watch hero Hidde Van Koningsveld and our very onw campaigns officer Dafna Friedman shared their knowledge and expertise on opposition watching.

We then finished with an open session with Ben Dror again on the challenges in messaging before a closing panel with Ruth and our head of Strategy Tal Rabina on Network building.

Tired but fired up our advocates (many are soon to be members of the EJA’s inaugural Diplomatic Corps), left for home. Our next bootcamp is already being planned. If you want to be part of it, let us know.   


Likud leadership primaries kick off

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his key rival within Likud party ranks, former Education and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, are set to face off in Likud primaries on Thursday.

Some 116,048 members of Likud will vote at 106 polling stations across the country from 9 am local time to set the stage for a showdown that makes for the most serious challenge to Netanyahu’s Likud leadership in years.
The polling stations will remain open until 11 pm amid fears that wind and rain could keep voter turnout down, with the preliminary results expected sometime past midnight.
A former aide and senior Cabinet minister under Netanyahu, Sa’ar has long been considered a rising star in Likud and a potential future heir, but while others are patiently waiting for Netanyahu to step down on his own, Sa’ar has been the only one who has dared to take the incumbent head-on.
Netanyahu is expected to brush off Sa’ar’s challenge for the Likud leadership, with Israeli media estimating Sa’ar’s chances to unseat Netanyahu are slim.
Sa’ar’s allies will consider a result of over 30% support of Likud members as a win, positioning their candidate to lead the party when Netanyahu steps down.
However, after failing to build up a coalition in two consecutive votes, Netanyahu’s capacity to form a government in the wake of the third vote cannot be taken for granted.
Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases in which he is accused of trading legislative or regulatory favors in exchange for lavish gifts or favorable media coverage.
He denies any wrongdoing and has waged an angry campaign against the media and law enforcement officials that he said are bent on ousting him from office.
Outwardly, Likud members have strongly supported their leader and joined in denouncing the alleged “coup” of the liberal elites against him.
Even amid the political disarray, Sa’ar’s challenge is a risky maneuver in a party that fiercely values loyalty and has had only four leaders in its 70-plus-year history. Netanyahu himself has denounced Sa’ar as “subversive.”
Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he “certainly” plans to annex the Jordan Valley in the near future, despite recent reports suggesting plans have entered a “deep freeze” over concerns that the move could potentially intensify confrontation with the International Criminal Court.
The ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced on Friday she is ready to investigate whether Israel was committing war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.
Netanyahu in a rare interview conducted with Israel’s Army Radio said, “I intend to lead for American recognition of our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and in all the settlements in the West Bank, as I have led the recognition of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.”
The premier added that there’s a legal hurdle for annexation during an interim government, “but G-d willing, I will do it when I get elected” – referring to the next general vote in March.
Israel’s longest-serving premier also talked about his relationship with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. According to Netanyahu, Putin told him that “if it wasn’t for you and our relationship, we could have been already at war, in confrontation.”
Netanyahu disclosed that Israel Air Force jets were close to colliding with Russian aircraft on four separate occasions, most likely over Syrian territory, but thanks to close coordination between the armies, these incidents did not occur.
Regarding reports of Netanyahu’s intention to request immunity from the Israeli parliament, he remained tight-lipped, with the deadline for such a request to be submitted expiring next week.
Netanyahu also appeared Wednesday at an election event in the southern city of Ashkelon as rocket fire was launched from the Gaza Strip.
The sirens warning of the incoming rocket fire blared at around 9 pm in Ashkelon and other communities bordering the Hamas-controlled enclave.
IDF said that the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a projectile fired at southern Israel. No damage or casualties were reported.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were campaigning in Ashkelon ahead of Thursday’s leadership primaries.
The prime minister was immediately rushed to safety by his security team, a scene reminiscent of a September incident in the city of Ashdod.
“Hamas and Jihad do not want me to win,” Netanyahu said after being allowed back on stage. “The one who tried to make an impression the last time, is no longer with us, and the one who tried to make an impression now should start packing the bags,” he said, referring to the Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, who was assassinated by the Israeli military last month.
Three months ago, Netanyahu was evacuated during a rocket siren that blared mid-speech as the prime minister was rallying support a week before the September 17 national ballot.
At the time, Netanyahu’s quick departure off stage was widely criticized by his political opponents.
During the September incident, attendees of the event remained in the auditorium and did not run for shelter.
The winner of Thursday’s vote will lead Likud into Israel’s third general election in less than a year, slated for March 2, where he will face the chief of the Blue & White alliance Benny Gantz.
The article was published on Ynet

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


Netanyahu, Benny Gantz to meet for coalition talks as third election looms

Leaders to meet at 5:30 P.M. as Liberman openly talks about joining narrow right-wing government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz will meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.

Earlier Tuesday, Blue and White officials said their negotiating team would not meet again with Likud until they were ready for Gantz to go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s office.

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Likud responded that while Netanyahu has conceded in agreeing to serve for only five months, Blue and White had not conceded on anything.

Gantz has said that instead of Netanyahu going first as prime minister, he could be vice prime minister and laws could be passed enabling him to deal with his legal situation.

Next Wednesday is the last day for an MK to draft the support of 61 MKs and avoid a third election in under a year.

Yisrael Beytenu leader and possible coalition kingmaker Avigdor Liberman appeared to reconsider the formation of a right-wing government on Tuesday.

“I don’t know what is worse- a narrow government or election,” Liberman said.

Yisrael Beytenu MKs Oded Forer and Hamed Amar approached Liberman earlier Tuesday and told him they favored a right-wing government. Forer was apparently angry at Blue and White for conceding to United Torah Judaism MKs at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee

The article was published on The JPost


Netherlands cuts aid to Palestinian Authority over terrorist salaries

Dutch government, which gives several millions of dollars a year to PA, says talks to end wages to those who carried out attacks on Israelis ‘did not lead to the desired outcome”

The Dutch government has cut funding for the Palestinian Authority over its salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli jails.

The aid ministry announced the move Wednesday during annual budget talks.

In 2017, the Palestinian Authority paid about $198 million to a fund for the families of terrorists killed during their attacks and about $160 million to Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, according to Israeli Defense Ministry figures.

The Netherlands spends several million dollars each year on aid to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian populations elsewhere in the Middle East but most of that money is given to agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

The country had given about $1.6 million directly to the Palestinian Authority annually to pay the salaries of justice ministry employees.

The aid ministry said that talks with the Palestinian body “did not lead to the desired outcome.”

Israel has long complained that the salaries encourage terror attacks.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


IDF kills Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza; rockets fired at central Israel

Bahaa Abu al-Atta killed in first targeted killing by Israel since 2014; Netanyahu says terror leader poised to launch attacks against country with support from Iran; schools cancelled across south, center

The Iranian-backed Palestinian group confirmed Tuesday morning that Abu al-Atta, its northern Gaza Strip commander had been killed and vowed to avenge his death.

The Gaza home in which Abu al-Atta was killed in an IDF strike

The Gaza home in which Abu al-Atta was killed in an IDF strike

The response was quick to come as dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza at southern and central Israel.

By 9am, the IDF said, 50 rockets had been fired from Gaza, of which the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted approximately 20.

All educational institutions were to remain closed Tuesday in the south and center of Israel, and people in non-essential jobs were told to remain at home.

This is the first incident of targeted killing by Israel since the end of the 2014 Gaza conflict, Operation Protective Edge.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Islamic Jihad commander was poised to launch imminent attacks against Israel.

Israelis crouch by the side of the road as sirens sound in Rishon Lezion (Photo: Hasifa)

Israelis crouch by the side of the road as sirens sound in Rishon Lezion (Photo: Hasifa)
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Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said in a tweet Tuesday morning that he supported the decision to target Abu al-Atta and that Israel’s security transcended politics.

“The battle against terrorism requires difficult decisions,” the former IDF chief said. “Blue and White places every proper action taken for the safety of Israel above politics. Every terrorist who endangers our security knows he is marked for death.”

Iron Dome intercepts Gaza rockets over Ashkelon (Photo: Reuters)

Iron Dome intercepts Gaza rockets over Ashkelon (Photo: Reuters)

The IDF released a statement confirming the attack was a coordinated effort by the military and the Shin Bet security service.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a man and a woman were killed in the blast and two other people were wounded.

Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Atta

Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Atta

The airstrike damaged the half of the second and most of the third floors of a house in the Shejaeya neighborhood east of the city.

Israel media reported lately that Abu el-Atta was responsible for recent rocket attacks against southern Israel communities, instructed by Tehran.

The article was published on Ynet


Rina Shnerb’s Alleged Murderer Linked to European-Funded BDS Affiliates

Samer Arbid, a Palestinian from Ramallah arrested for allegedly leading a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist cell responsible for the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb had worked in a European-funded NGO linked to BDS, NGO Monitor reported on Wednesday.

44-year-old Arbid, who is one of PFLP’s officials in Ramallah, was previously arrested for involvement in terror activity during the Second Intifada under the direct command of the PFLP leadership, preparing explosive devices.

IDF and Border Police forces arrested Arbid on Sunday for allegedly setting up and detonating the improvised explosive device that killed Shnerb, wounding her father Eitan and her brother Dvir near the settlement of Dolev.

On Monday, Haaretz reported that the Justice Ministry opened an investigation into “potential wrongdoing” by officers of the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) after Arbid was in critical condition in at Hadassah-University Medical Center following his interrogation. It was later reported that the Shin Bet officers received legal permission to conduct a ‘violent interrogation,’ but went “too far.”
Israeli media sources reported on Tuesday that the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) sent a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and numerous Knesset Members, demanding a criminal investigation be opened regarding Arbid’s Shin Bet interrogation. Joint List MKs have expressed their concerns over Shin Bet’s interrogation techniques, requesting the A-G look into torture claims following Arbid’s hospitalization.
According to the NGO Monitor, Arbid was listed as an accountant for Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO that provides legal representation to Palestinians detained in Israel.
Among Addameer’s goals are “ending torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners,” and  “guaranteeing fair, impartial and public trials.” The organization was listed as a PFLP-‘affiliated institution’ on Fatah’s website in September 2015.
According to NGO Monitor, Addameer has received funding from numerous EU members and European government institutions, including the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Irish Aid, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Basque Government and the Municipality of Barcelona, among others.
Arbid has also worked for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which was also identified by Fatah as a PFLP affiliate.  It was also identified by USAID as the Popular Front’s “agricultural arm,” and described by academic scholar Glenn E. Robinson as an organization established by “agronomics loosely affiliated with the PFLP.”
The UAWC also receives funding from European states and institutions, including Grassroots International, the UN OCHA, and the Dutch and Norwegian governments, according to NGO Monitor. Since 2016, the UAWC has received nearly NOK 39 million ($4.3M) from Norwegian People’s Aid and more than €8 million ($8.7M) from the Netherlands.
In 2017-2021, the Netherlands’ Representative Office in Ramallah is granting the organization $11.3 million to “implement the second phase of the Land and Water Resource Management program.”
“For years, we have been warning about the phenomenon of European governmental support for Palestinian civil-society organizations linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an internationally-designated terror-group,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder and President of NGO Monitor. “This week’s announcement makes clear that the PFLP remains active and deadly.”
“Years of NGO Monitor research shows that Addameer, which advocates itself on behalf of PFLP terrorists, plays an integral role in the PFLP-NGO network,” Steinberg said. “Our reports on the group, which previously identified Arbid by name, leave no doubt that European governments and UN agencies should immediately cease funding Addameer and launch a thorough investigation of how taxpayers’ funds were disbursed to a group with a clear, terror-linked record.”
Since the early 2000s, both Addameer and UAWC have shown deep ties to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, having signed a petition to “isolate Apartheid Israel…forging effective solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination and sovereignty.”
In 2014, Addameer and UAWC, alongside other Palestinian civil movements and NGOs, signed a joint call to action against the “apartheid wall,” stating “it is time for a ‘legal intifada,’ an intensified struggle and more boycotts, divestment and sanctions.” The organizations have endorsed the BDS movement, calling upon the public to “expand and deepen the global BDS movement for justice.”
The article was published on the JPost

Delegitimization of Israel: The Acceptable Face of Anti-Semitism

Yesterday afternoon, and speaking to a standing room only Committee room in the European Parliament courtesy of our Co-sponsors Anna Michelle Asimakapolou MEP, Anna Fotyga MEP and Traian Basescu MEP. The Minister, joined by the EU’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting anti-semitism Katharina Von Schnurbein, and again by Secretary Carr and Rabbi Margolin outlined their concern at the rise of antisemitism and at rooting out the boycott movement as fundamentally anti-semitic. There followed a q&a with a distinguished audience of parliamentarians, diplomats and Jewish leaders and orgnasiations from across the continent.


Party leaders across spectrum have common message as they cast ballots: Go vote!

Party leaders turned out early Tuesday to cast their votes in Israel’s second national election of the year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived at their Jerusalem polling station to cast their vote in the Israeli elections Tuesday.

בנימין נתניהו מצביע בקלפי בירושלים

Vying for a fifth term the prime minister said this is a very close election and called on citizens to come out and vote.

This is the second election held in Israel in less than six months after Netanyahu, who is hoping for an unprecedented fifth term in office, failed to form a coalition government after the April ballot.

His Likud party then pushed through a law to dissolve the Knesset, thereby avoiding a situation in which President Reuven Rivlin could task another party leader with coalition building.

The head of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz voted close to his home in Rosh Haayin, near Tel Aviv.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz casts his vote (Photo: Tal Shahar)

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz casts his vote (Photo: Tal Shahar)
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The former army chief wished Israelis good luck in the elections as he arrived at the polling station flanked by supporters.

Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the right-wing, secular Yisrael Beytenu party – who could emerge as the kingmaker of the elections – voted with his wife at his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

Liberman urges all Israelis to vote, calling it “a civic duty.”

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and wife Ella (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and wife Ella (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Shaked also called on citizens to vote and claimed there are up to 30% voters still undecided.

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Shuel Davidpur)

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Shuel Davidpur)

In the city of Sderot, near the Gaza border, Labor-Gesher chief Amir Peretz told supporters as he arrived to cast his ballot, that every vote counts and everyone should vote.

Labor leader Amir Peretz ( Photo: Avi Roccah)

Labor leader Amir Peretz ( Photo: Avi Roccah)

Voter turnout may be the deciding factor in these elections though it is expected to be low.

The article was published on Ynet


Poll: Israel’s foreign relations are a success

Most Israelis think that Israel has succeeded in its diplomatic activities in the US, Europe and the Arab countries.

A public opinion poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute ahead of the elections to the 22nd Knesset examined how the public sees the outgoing government’s performance on major foreign policy issues.

77% of respondents thought that the State of Israel was successful in its relations with the US, while only 12% thought it failed. 47% of respondents said that relations with Europe are also successful and 33% thought that the policy vis-à-vis the EU has failed.

On the issue of relations between Israel and Arab states, 46% of respondents say that government policy was successful and only 35% think it failed.

When asked about Israeli-Palestinian Arab relations, only 17% think government policy was successful and 65% thought it was unsuccessful.

The poll also found that 12% of those surveyed preferred to see Yair Lapid as Foreign Minister. He is followed by Binyamin Netanyahu with 9% and far behind them is Naftali Bennett with 4%, Gideon Sa’ar with 4%, Avigdor Liberman with 3.5%, and Yisrael Katz with 3%. However, 40% of the respondents replied that they did not have a clear opinion as to who should serve in that role.

Another question that arose in the survey was about the decline in the status of the Foreign Ministry and whether it was detrimental to Israel’s national security. 26% answered that there was no decline in the status of the ministry, and 9% claimed that there was a decline, but this did not compromise national security. A similar number stated that even if there was a decline in the status of the ministry, it has done very little damage to national security. Another 30% opined that alongside the decline in status, there has also been a great deal of devaluation of national security.

The article was published on Arutz 7


Uranium traces found at Iran ‘atomic warehouse’: diplomats – Gulf tensions

The International Atomic Energy Agency is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats.

Sunday, September 8

Traces of uranium found at secret warehouse

Samples taken by the UN nuclear watchdog at what Israel’s prime minister called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain, two diplomats who follow the agency’s inspections work closely say.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran t