News Digest — 10/2/20

PM Netanyahu And Sara Wish US President And Melania Speedy Recovery

US President Donald Trump stunned the world Friday (2nd), tweeting that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19 and were quarantining themselves.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19.  We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately.  We will get through this TOGETHER” the president tweeted around 1 a.m. Friday morning (2nd).

The news caught Israelis by surprise Friday morning (2nd) as the country prepared for the Sukkot holiday under a national lockdown imposed last week to try and check the uncontrolled spread of the pandemic in Israel.

“Like millions of Israelis, Sara and I are thinking of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump and wish our friends a full and speedy recovery,” tweeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who considers Trump a close friend and has described the president as “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House.”

Shortly after her husband’s tweet, Melania Trump also sent a message from her “First Lady of the United States” Twitter account saying she and her husband were feeling well.

“As too many Americans have done this year, @potus and I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19.  We are feeling good and have postponed upcoming engagements.  Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together,” Melania Trump tweeted.

Trump’s personal physician, Dr. Sean Conley, issued a statement confirming the diagnosis.

“The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” Conley wrote.  “The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions.”

“Rest assured, I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any further developments,” Conley added.



IDF Fires On Suspects At Gaza Border After Grenade Thrown

On Thursday (1st), IDF troops identified two suspects who crossed the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

The suspects hurled a grenade which did not explode.  IDF troops who arrived at the scene responded with fire and apprehended the suspects.

A knife cutter and an additional grenade were found in their possession, the IDF said.  The suspects were transferred to the security forces for further questioning.  No IDF injuries were reported.

The incident follows a similar one on September 3rd when IDF troops thwarted an attempted terror attack by catching a suspect and seizing an explosive device and a knife.

Also, last month, Israel bombed numerous terror targets in the Gaza Strip after weeks in which the Hamas terror organization launched rockets and explosive/arson balloons at Israeli civilians.  In addition a number of violent riots were instigated along the Gaza Strip security fence.

In response, the IDF retaliated with significant bombing to Hamas’ infrastructure.  

The IDF said it is always ready to operate as necessary in order to defend Israel’s citizens living in the Gaza envelope and in southern Israel.



‘Jerusalem Is Our City,’ Turkey’s Erdogan Declares

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday (1st) implied that Jerusalem belongs to Turkey, referring to the Ottoman Empire’s control over the city for much of the modern era.

“In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance.  So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,” he told Turkish lawmakers during a major policy speech in Ankara.  “Our first qibla [direction of prayer in Islam] is Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem – they are the symbolic mosques of our faith.  In addition, this city is home to the holy places of Christianity and Judaism.”

The Ottoman Empire ruled over Jerusalem from 1516 to 1917.  Modern Turkey, its successor state, has long stressed its enduring connection to the holy city, regularly condemning Israel’s alleged efforts to “Judaize” it and the US administration’s December 2017 recognition of it as Israel’s capital.

Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since the country’s founding, and the Jewish people have thousands of years of history in the city, backed up by extensive archeological finds.

During a lengthy speech at the opening of the Turkish parliament’s new legislative season, Erdogan spent several minutes lamenting the fate of Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ plight.

“Another crisis that our country and our nation carefully follow is the oppression of Israel against the Palestinians and the indifferent practices that disregard the privacy of Jerusalem,” he said toward the end of his address.

“The issue of Jerusalem is not an ordinary geopolitical problem for us.  First of all, the current physical appearance of the Old City, which is the heart of Jerusalem, was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, with its walls, bazaar and many buildings.  Our ancestors showed their respect for centuries by keeping this city in high esteem.”  

The Palestinian people have been living in Jerusalem “for thousands of years,” but they were occupied and had their rights violated, the Turkish leader went on.

He went on to vow to “pay close attention” to the Palestinian issue.

“We consider it an honor on behalf of our country and nation to express the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people on every platform, with whom we have lived for centuries,” he said.  “With this understanding, we will follow both the Palestinian cause, which is the bleeding wound of the global conscience, and the Jerusalem case to the end.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Erdogan’s speech.



In First, Military Drafted To Treat Civilian Coronavirus Patients

In the wake of the rapid rise in coronavirus cases, the Israeli Defense Forces will set up a special ward underground in the Rambam Medical Campus in Haifa to help treat patients.  

“This will be the first time that the IDF treats civilians in this crisis, we will use conscripted soldiers, as well as career officers from within the IDF,” IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said in a statement.  He added that the “worsening morbidity in both the military and the rest of society is very troubling and that is why we have made this a top mission for the near future.  The Homefront Command will be front and center, along with other bodies.”

More than 1,000 troops have been diagnosed with coronavirus, although all cases have been with mild symptoms.  Some 13,000 soldiers are under self-isolation due to the situation, which has resulted in the IDF announcing a moratorium on leaves.



Despite Pandemic, Israeli Tech Raises $7.6 Billion So Far This Year

Despite the global pandemic and a battered economy, Israel tech companies have raised $7.6 billion so far this year, Globes reported Thursday (1st).

After a record $8.3 billion of new investment was raised in 2019, and with three months still left in 2020, the country is on track to set a new record, showing high investor confidence in Israeli technology.

Even with COVID-19 on the rise over the summer, investors pumped $1.1 billion into Israeli startups in August alone, with the Start-Up Nation Central website reporting that the total might actually be higher due to some companies operating in “stealth mode” – maintaining secrecy as they develop new products that they do not want to reveal publicly yet.

While traditional industries, especially tourism, have been ravaged by the pandemic, the coronavirus has prompted more investment in companies that specialize in healthcare, hypersecurity and especially technology that enables companies, organizations and governments to better utilize remote working.

Another investment area opened this year came from the recent peace treaties Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  While the crowd funding investment firm OurCrowd established a $100 million pandemic technology fund earlier this year, it sees the peace process as boosting investment during the global crisis.

“If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is this: never have cooperation and peace been more urgently needed – and achievable,” tweeted OurCrowd CEO Jon Medved.