News Digest — 10/16/20

Settlement Of Pnei Kedem Welcomes Official Status 20 Years After Founding

Gush Etzion regional council chief Shlomo Ne’eman praised Israeli authorities Thursday (15th) after one of the communities in the area was granted official status.

“Congratulations to the community of Pnei Kedem, to Gush Etzion, and to all of Judea and Samaria.  We are partners in this historic step of strengthening our hold on the land of our ancestors,” he said according to a statement released by his spokesperson.

“The festive atmosphere continues today in Gush Etzion.  Following yesterday’s approval of 1,100 housing units in the  communities in Metzad, Kfar Eldad, and Har Gilo, today (Thursday), on the second day of the meeting of the Higher Planning Council, 120 units were approved to the community,” the statement continued.

Ne’eman also recited the “Shechiyanu” prayer, thanking God for allowing such a development to take place.

“We are partners in this historic step of strengthening our hold on the land of our ancestors,” he said.

Ne’eman added, “The official registration of communities and the construction of new homes is real news.  Beyond the current challenges that we are all preoccupied with, we must all be working on other crucial and long-lasting issues such as planting roots and perfecting the land.  We send our gratitude to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, for not letting these issues fall by the wayside.”



Israel Overwhelmingly Approves Peace Deal With Emirates, Bypassing Palestinian ‘Old Order’

Israel’s parliament voted Thursday (15th) to approve the historic peace accord under which Israel and the United Arab Emirates have established diplomatic relations and full normalization.

In an 80-13 vote, the Knesset ratified the UAE part of the Abraham Accords, which were signed last month at a ceremony hosted by US President Donald Trump at the White House, where the Gulf Arab country of Bahrain also committed to peace and normalization with Israel.

The 13 negative votes came from the Joint List of predominately Arab parties that follow the Palestinian narrative that no Arab country should make a separate peace with Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

“Since the beginning of the days of Zionism, one of our hands has grasped the weapon of defense, while the other hand has been extended in peace to everyone who desires peace,” Netanyahu told the Knesset as he opened the debate leading up to the vote.

After the vote, Netanyahu said the peace agreement bypassed Palestinian obstinacy.

“For too long, Palestinian refusal has halted rapprochement between Israel and Arab countries.  I adhere to another policy that reverses the old order,” the prime minister said.

“The new arrangement means not waiting until the Palestinians want to, but moving forward, and when the Palestinians change their views, promoting a peace agreement with them as well.”

Netanyahu added that the treaty showed that his concept of “peace for peace” had nullified the previous concept of “land for peace,” under which Israel was required to make territorial concessions in order for Arab countries to normalize ties.

“This is how we brought peace for peace,” tweeted Netanyahu after the vote.

“After unanimous approval in the cabinet, Israel-UAE peace is now approved by an overwhelming margin in the Knesset,” tweeted US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.  “We are so gratified by the warm reception that both nations have given to this diplomatic breakthrough.”

White House Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Avi Berkowitz, who was one of the negotiators in the American-brokered peace deal, paid tribute to the diplomats involved in the successful feat.

“One month ago the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House.  Today, Israel’s Knesset voted and approved it!  Congrats to Donald Trump, Jared Kushner and the whole team,” Berkowitz tweeted, citing Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law who traveled repeatedly to the Middle East mediating between Israel and Arab leaders.

“Many Arab and Muslim countries want to get close to us,” Netanyahu said.  “They see our military and intelligence, Technology and economic power.  They are changing their attitude toward us.”



Tourism Ministry: Coronavirus Cost Local Industry $3.5B

The economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown became clearer Wednesday (14th) as Israel’s Tourism Ministry released devastating figures.

The ministry estimated the industry had lost about $3.5 billion since the beginning of the year due to COVID-19 health regulations that have not only kept overseas visitors out of the country but have closed popular tourism sites for Israelis.

A UN estimate earlier in the year, suggested that the coronavirus pandemic had caused $320 billion worth of damage to the global tourist economy between January and May.

The news is especially hard for tour guides, hoteliers, national parks and others as 2019 was a record year for tourism – in which 4.5 million tourists visited the country – which in turn exceeded the previous high watermark of more than 4 million in 2018.

In September alone, the country witnessed a 96% year-on-year decrease in the number of inbound tourists entering the country – 15,000 versus 405,000.

Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Israel’s newly-appointed tourism minister remarked that “tourism isn’t just nice to have,” and that opening the industry quickly could be a part of the solution to Israel’s current economic challenges, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Farkash-Hacohen is reportedly working to implement two reforms: one that would enable certain cities, such as Eilat, to welcome domestic and international tourists.  The second would permit family-operated guest houses, which have a smaller client base in comparison with large hotels, to admit visitors again, maintained the Post.



Lebanese Journalists: Lebanon Must Advance Toward Peace With Israel

In two recent articles on Saudi media, Lebanese journalists urged their country to follow the example of the UAE and Bahrain and advance towards peace with Israel.  Shiite Lebanese journalist Nadim Koteich wrote a column titled “When Will There Be Peace Between Israel And Lebanon?” in Asharq Al-Awsat on September 15, saying that the only thing preventing peace between Lebanon and Israel is Hezbollah, whose survival depends on perpetuating the conflict with Israel.

Writing in Al-Arabiya, Lebanese journalist Makram Rabah focused on the economic losses that may be inflicted on Lebanon by Israel’s peace agreement with the UAE.  While the Gulf States previously hired Lebanese experts to provide various services, now they may turn to Israelis instead.  Stating that many Lebanese secretly long for peace with Israel, he concluded that “Beirut’s refusal to readjust its policy toward Israel is neither smart nor constructive, and that claiming neutrality while actually serving as a pawn in Iran’s regional strategy is a losing game.”



Israeli Drone Company Plans Aerial-Supply Networks – Yaakov Lappin

Israeli UAV producer Gadfin is the first company to receive an Israeli Civil Aviation Authority permit for urban airspace deliveries.  It will initially offer hospitals, laboratories and a range of organizations the ability to send and receive supplies via drone, skipping over congested roads and reducing risk to sensitive, refrigerated packages.

Gadfin’s “Spirit One” drone can take packages weighing up to 11 lbs. across 155 miles.  The aircraft are operated autonomously with almost no human intervention.  It takes off vertically like a UAV before unfolding its wings and flies like a plane, and can stand up to strong winds.

Gadfin CEO Eyal Regev, a former senior manager at Israel Aerospace Industries, foresees its use in providing essential services in remote Third World locations.  In Africa, the needs include the ability to quickly transport basic medical supplies such as blood donations.  “We are in touch with huge companies in southeast Asia, including Indonesia, which wants to connect its array of 13,000 islands,” said Regev.

In September, Gadfin announced an agreement with Italian energy giant ENEL to develop powerline inspection solutions and enable drone surveys of 559,234 miles of the company’s voltage lines, starting in Brazil.