News Digest — 2/22/21

Senior Egyptian Minister Visits Israel To Talk Energy Cooperation

Israel and Egypt have agreed to build a pipeline to connect Israel’s offshore Leviathan natural gas field to liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals in northern Egypt, according to Israeli Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz.

Egyptian Energy Minister Tarek el-Molla visited Israel on Sunday (21st) and met on the matter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and counterpart, Steinitz.

This represented the first official visit by an Egyptian minister to Israel since that of Foregin Minister Sameh Shoukry, to Jerusalem in July 2016.

Also participating in the meeting were National Security Council head Meir Ben Shabbat, Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company Chairman Magdy Galal,  Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Amira Oron and Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Khaled Azmi.

“There is a new era of peace and prosperity for the region with the Abraham Accords.  This began of course with the historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, but now it is becoming something that can better the lives of all the people in economic terms and we think that this is a great opportunity for regional cooperation – Egypt, Israel and the other countries,” Netanyahu said.

Israel’s Leviathan field, located 80 miles off Israel’s coast, already supplies the Israeli domestic market and exports gas to Jordan and Egypt.  Its shareholders include Chevron and Delek Drilling.

Leviathan’s partners have been exploring options to expand the project, including a floating LNG facility or a subsea pipeline to link up with LNG terminals in Egypt that have been idled or run at less than their potential capacity.

Netanyahu, Steinitz and el-Molla discussed the continuation and development of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), which was launched last year.

In September 2020, energy ministers from six countries – Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and Italy – participated in the launch of this new forum at a virtual event, which Cairo organized.

Steinitz said the two governments were moving ahead with the pipeline plan and were working on a formal agreement.

“The two ministers agreed on the construction of an offshore gas pipeline from the Leviathan gas field to the liquefaction facilities in Egypt, in order to increase the gas exports to Europe through the liquefaction facilities in Egypt,” Steinitz’s office said in a statement.

El-Molla also signed a memorandum of understanding for Egypt to help develop the Gaza Marine field with the project’s two partners, the Palestine Investment Fund, (the sovereign fund of the Palestinian Authority), and Consolidated Contractors Company.

Gaza Marine sits about 19 miles off the Palestinian enclave’s coast and is estimated to hold over 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.



Report: Health Ministry Demanding Purim Curfew

The Israeli Health Ministry is pushing for the government to impose tightened restrictions on public activity during the upcoming Purim holiday, according to a report by Channel 12 Sunday evening (21st).

Senior health officials, including Health Ministry Director-General Hezi Levy, met Sunday (21st) to deliberate on which moves to recommend the government adopt.

During the meeting, Ministry officials decided to have a curfew for the Purim holiday, aimed at preventing mass gatherings, including large festive meals and bringing in people from other households.

“You can have prayers under the ‘green tag’ system – you can have festive holiday meals within the family – but large meals and parties are completely forbidden and are dangerous to everyone’s health.  We call on everyone to avoid mass parties.  The results are known ahead of time, with more people infected, more sick people in serious condition, and a lengthy lockdown of the economy and education,” said the officials.

“If we have a wave of infections because of the holiday, we will need to close down the economy and education system once again, to the point of lockdown.” they warned.

Purim begins on Thursday evening (25th) and ends Friday evening (26th).



Equatorial Guinea Announces Embassy Move To Jerusalem

Equatorial Guinea will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its president announced Friday (19th) in a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Teodoro Mbasogo spoke by phone to Netanyahu, informing him of the move.

Netanyahu stressed Israel’s deepening cooperation with African nations and said that “Israel is returning to Africa and Africa is returning to Israel in a big way,” according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

A former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968.  With significant oil reserves, the smallest OPEC member is the richest country in Africa per capita.  But few of the 1.5 million citizens enjoy that wealth, and one in five children die before they reach the age of five.

Mbasogo, the world’s longest-serving president, has been in office for more than 40 years, taking power in a 1979 coup.  His human rights record has been assailed by international organizations, with Human Rights Watch decrying repression of civil and political rights in the country.

The US and Guatemala have opened embassies in Israel’s capital, and Kosovo is slated to become the third country to do so.

Other nations, like Honduras, have pledged to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well.

The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018.

Earlier this month, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to keep the US Embassy in Jerusalem, with only three senators voting against establishing funding to maintain the diplomatic mission.



95-Year-Old Nazi Hiding In Tennessee Shipped Back To Germany

A 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard was deported from the United States and arrived Saturday (20th) in his native Germany where he is being held by police for questioning, authorities said.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency said in a statement that Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, was sent back to Germany for serving as a guard of a Neuengamme concentration camp in 1945.  The case was investigated by the US Department of Justice.

German authorities confirmed Berger arrived Saturday at Frankfurt and was handed over to Hesse state investigators for questioning, the dpa news agency reported.

Berger was ordered expelled by a Memphis, Tennessee court in February 2020.

German prosecutors in the city of Celle investigated the possibility of bringing charges against him, but said in December that they had shelved the probe because they had been unable to refute his own account of his service at Neuengamme.

Berger admitted to US authorities that he served as a guard at a camp in northwestern Germany, which was part of the Neuengamme concentration camp, for a few weeks near the end of the war but said he did not observe any abuse or killings, Celle prosecutors said.

The (Celle) prosecutors asked for him to be questioned again upon his return to Germany to determine whether accessory to murder charges could be brought, police said.

In recent years, German prosecutors have successfully argued that by helping a death camp or concentration camp function, guards can be found guilty of accessory to murder even if there is no evidence of them participating in a specific killing.

According to an ICE statement, Berger served at the subcamp near Meppen, Germany, where prisoners – Russian, Polish, Dutch, Jewish and others – were held in “atrocious” conditions and were worked “to the point of exhaustion and death.”

Berger admitted that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping.  He also accompanied prisoners on the forced evacuation of the camp that resulted in the deaths of 70 prisoners.

Berger has been living in the US since 1959.



Israeli Startup’s ‘Invisible Headphones’ Beam Sound Straight To The Ear

Until now the only way for a person to listen to music, facetime, or play video games without disturbing people nearby was to use headphones, wired or wireless.  Now Israeli startup Noveto has made the need for earphones a thing of the past with its SoundBeamer 1.0, a desktop device that beams pockets of sound and music to the listener’s ears alone.

The SoundBeamer, unveiled Friday (19th), dynamically moves the source of the sound around the listener in 3D without disturbing people nearby – no speakers or headphones are needed.

The device can be connected to any computer, tablet, or smartphone and can be used for video conferencing, listening to podcasts, playing video games and work-outs.

SoundBeamer was developed with the backing of Noveto’s engineering partner, consumer electronics giant Foxconn.

Noveto also unveiled new hardware and software features, including a new AL-based built-in voice, facial and gesture recognition, and ambient sound-monitoring that enables what the company calls “natural and intuitive interaction.”

“It’s incredibly exciting to be releasing a new way to experience sound and deliver something truly groundbreaking to market,” Noveto CEO Christophe Ramstein said.