News Digest — 12/16/20

Israelis Trapped In Their Homes As Heavy Rains Flood The Country

Storms are causing flooding in Israel, forcing emergency services to rescue multiple people trapped overnight by rising waters, Israeli Police reported Wednesday morning (16th).

Specifically, emergency services searched three flooded basements in Holon.  Due to the heavy rains, additional teams were brought in to assist with the search, police said.

A man was rescued from his flooded home near Ramat Hasharon, and three people were rescued from their home in Herzliya.

Two, were rescued from their car near Hadera after being trapped by the flooded water, and one person was rescued from a vehicle in the center of Israel.

Rains filled rivers in the north of the country causing concerns that some will overflow and lead to flooding, police said.

Meanwhile, hiking trails were closed in southern Israel due to concerns of flooding and potential collapse of river banks, according to Israel’s National Parks Authority.  Rains filled the Tavor River and Harod Stream.

The water level of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) has gone up by 1.18 inches since Tuesday (15th) according to Israel’s Water Authority.



50 Doctors Arrive From Abroad To Help With COVID Crisis

Fifty doctors from European countries arrived in Israel this week in order to assist with the country’s management of the coronavirus crisis.

The doctors arrived within the framework of the Doctors’ Program within the Israel Experience, also coordinated  by Rambam Hospital in Haifa.  They will be working within both civilian and military settings.

The Doctors’ Program includes preparation for Israeli medical licensing tests and classes in the Hebrew language.  Participants of the program intend to make Aliyah at the end of the year.  To date, 700 graduates have been integrated into hospitals and various medical wards, including coronavirus wards, across the country.

One of the participants in the program, Dr. Alexander Sivka, aged 24, from Novosibirsk, Russia, said: “I salute Israel’s handling of the pandemic and feel at home here despite COVID-19.  I hope to contribute to the health system during these unsettling times.”

Commenting on the arrival of another fifty doctors, Avi Wiseman, Deputy Director of Rambam Hospital, said, “We see all those taking part in this program as a ray of hope, both for Israeli society and the medical system.  The odds of success in this program are historically high and this stems from two reasons.  First, the participants have been carefully selected and we found each and every one of them to be exceptional doctors.  Second, the program has had a lot of thought put into it.  That is what makes this program so successful.”

Amos Hermon, CEO of the Israel Experience, added that, “This project brings not only the brightest of Jews to Israel but also assists in solving the duress the medical system finds itself under, as it lacks the necessary and high-quality manpower.  At the end of the course, the doctors will be joining medical teams of medical treatment in the world.  Due to the high demand, we are working tirelessly to double the number of participants by the next expected class.”



Congress Votes To Maintain Security Assistance To Israel

The US Congress passed last week a $741 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2021 fiscal year, and it includes the continuation of American assistance to Israel for missile defense programs and other initiatives.

The Pentagon blueprint passed the US House of Representatives by a vote of 335-78, while the Senate passed it by a tally of 84-13.

The NDAA allocates $500 million towards missile-defense systems in Israel, such as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3.  Additionally, it extends authorization for the US War Reserve Stockpile in Israel through the 2025 fiscal year and authorizes an additional $200 million annually in stocks.

The NDAA also lifts current limitations on the transfer of precision-guided munitions to Israel in an emergency and authorizes the president to exceed the current limitation of $200 million on the transfer of PGMs in a non-emergency setting under certain conditions.  Moreover, it authorizes the secretary of defense to establish a directed energy program with Israel.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and Christians United for Israel applauded the passage of the NDAA as it pertains to US assistance to Israel.

In a statement, AIPAC commended Congress “for including significant pro-Israel provisions” that “will help Israel protect itself against continuing security threats.”

“It is refreshing to see Congress set aside its partisan differences to advance this vital legislation.  We strongly support this bill being signed into law,” Sandra Parker, chairwoman of CUFI Action Fund, said in a statement.



Iron Dome Intercepts Cruise Missiles For First Time

The Israel Missile Defense Organization has successfully completed a series of live-fire intercept tests of the Iron Dome and David’s Sling weapon systems against threat-representative cruise and ballistic missiles, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday (15th).  It is the first time the Iron Dome system intercepted a cruise missile.

The tests demonstrated an interoperable capability of the different interception systems.

The IMDO is a division of the Defense Ministry.  The tests were conducted in cooperation with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

Rafael Advanced Systems led the tests via a testing site in central Israel, with the participation of the IAF and the Navy.

The successful series is a critical milestone in the augmentation of Israel’s operational capabilities in defending itself against current and future threats, the Defense Ministry said in a press release.

The series tested the capabilities of a new and advanced version of David’s Sling and included a number of scenarios simulating future threats.  The results of these tests will enable IMDO and industry engineers to evaluate and upgrade the system’s capabilities.

The IMDO and Rafael also successfully demonstrated the capabilities of the Iron Dome in intercepting a variety of threats, including UAVs and cruise missiles, the Defense Ministry said.  Moreover, it demonstrated the interoperability of the multi-layered air-defense mechanism (Arrow missile, David’s Sling and Iron Dome), helping ensure that these systems will be able to intercept different threats simultaneously during a conflict.

“For the first time, [the tests] assessed the combined interception capabilities of the multi-layered air-defense systems of the State of Israel,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.  “This is one of the most advanced air-defense mechanisms in the world, and it protects the state from threats near and far.”

“The systems in this multi-layered mechanism provide Israel with a top-tier strategic capability, enabling us to operate effectively in every scenario,” he said.

Representatives of the MDA and Israeli defense industries, as well as IAF soldiers participated in the tests.

“I would also like to thank our partners in the US Department of Defense, US Missile Defense Agency, the US government and the US Congress, which supports the State of Israel in the development of these systems and aids us in ensuring Israel’s security and operational superiority,” Gantz said.



Palestinians Pressuring Oman, Qatar Not To Recognize Israel

Palestinian leaders visited Qatar and Oman on Monday (14th) in a bid to “stop the train of normalization” with Israel, the Saudi Arabian news website Elaph reported.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas met with Qatar’s leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Doha, and senior PA official Jibril Rajoub traveled to Oman in a bid to get those two countries to not join other states that have normalized relations with Israel, a senior Palestinian official told Elaph.

In light of talk about Qatar’s and Oman’s intention to sign peace treaties with Israel, Abbas called on the leaders not to establish diplomatic relations with Israel unless there is progress on the Palestinian issue, the report said.

Palestinian sources indicated that there has been a change in Abbas’ approach to the normalization of ties between Arab and Gulf countries and Israel.  The Palestinians have moved from denouncing the ties and branding Arab countries as “betrayers” to holding direct talks with other Arab leaders in a bid to persuade them to abandon normalization in the final days of the Trump administration.

Qatar and Israel have had unofficial contacts for several years.  Qatar acts as mediator to keep the lid on pressures in the Gaza Strip by pumping in tens of millions of dollars in monthly transfers to support Gaza’s impoverished population and forestall a revolt against the Hamas terror group that runs the Strip.



Floridians Can Now ‘Stand With Israel’ On Their License Plates

Floridians can now stand with Israel even while stuck in traffic.

A graphic designer from Boca Raton has come up with the winning design in a contest to create a specialty license plate saying that “Florida Stands with Israel.”

Daniel Ackerman’s blue, white and orange design was chosen among more than100 submissions in a competition sponsored by the Israel-American Council, the group said in a news release.

The bipartisan slate of four lawmakers who initiated the law passed this year launching the competition, along with Gabe Groisman, the Mayor of Bal Harbour, served as the judges.

“The concept focuses on Florida’s state flower, the orange blossom,” Ackerman said in the release. “The beauty of the flower, contrasted against the Star of David in the form of a tropical leaf, represents the Florida-Israel relationship and the fruit this partnership bears, ultimately benefiting both states.  The symbol interacts with the two waves on top and bottom giving nod to the Israeli flag, Florida’s sandy tourist destinations and Israel’s deserts in bloom.”

The plate will go into production once 3,000 applicants have paid for presale vouchers.  Proceeds will go in part to Hatzalah of Miami-Dade, an organization of volunteer paramedics.