News Digest — 3/3/21

Coronavirus: Israeli Government Approves Reopening Of The Skies

The coronavirus cabinet approved an outline to partially reopen the skies on Tuesday (2nd), allowing Israelis to enter and leave the country – starting Sunday (7th) – without permission and allowing those who return to quarantine at home instead of in a hotel.

Starting from Sunday (7th), up to 3,000 citizens a day will be able to enter the country without requiring permission from the special governmental exemptions committee.  The number and destinations of flights allowed to operate from Ben-Gurion International Airport will be determined by the Transportation Ministry in cooperation with the Health Ministry. 

Those who return will need to undergo two corona tests, one before boarding the flight and one upon arrival, including those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.

As far as leaving the country is concerned, Israelis who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be able to travel abroad within the framework of the flights authorized, while those who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to apply for permission.

The police will be in charge of enforcing the mandatory quarantine.  An additional 660 officers will be assigned to the task.  At the same time, the government will advance the use of other technological means, such as electronic bracelets, to ensure that people isolate at home

Hotels will remain for those who cannot quarantine at home.

The Health, Transportation and Tourism ministries will continue to work on a framework to welcome vaccinated tourists to Israel.  In the meantime, non-citizens who wish to enter Israel will still need to apply for a special permit.

The plan was reportedly approved in spite of the opposition of Health Ministry officials.

Over 4.8 million Israelis have received at least the first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19, including 3.5 million who have received the second dose.



Pompeo’s Fight For Israel And Peace

At a Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) virtual summit Monday (1st), former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described how, as part of the Trump administration, he helped fight anti-Semitism, make peace in the Middle East, and turn conventional wisdom on its head.

CAM awarded Pompeo with its first-ever Global Leadership Award for “his exceptional and groundbreaking contributions to the fight against anti-Semitism and religious prejudice of all forms, his deep and steadfast friendship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and his role in crafting the “Abraham Accords.”

“Long before I entered government service, I knew the importance of Israel to the United States as a security partner, and I knew the history of the hatred of Jewish people,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo described himself as an Evangelical Christian and said that he has taken great interest in reading the history of the Hebrew Bible.

“I understood that we had to get this fight against anti-Semitism right.  We needed to put every piece of energy we had into that fight,” he said.

“It was something that was important for me personally as a man of faith, but also my duty to the United States and my moral obligation to people of all faiths around the world,” he said.

Pompeo described himself as “incredibly optimistic” about the future of the Abraham Accords.

“Why I’m optimistic is because I think now we’ve unleashed this.  I think this is really happening.  It took an American leadership team that was prepared to help facilitate it, but now I think it will stand the test of time,” he said.

Pompeo said that for decades and decades, foreign policy experts insisted that if you can’t resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, “no dice,” you can’t advance peace and stability in the region.

“The great news is that was just all wrong,” he said.  “It took President Trump and our team to acknowledge that no, you could build peace, you could build stability.”

Pompeo said that the Abraham Accords would not have been possible if the US had not changed its policy toward Iran “180 degrees from how the previous administration had addressed the issue.”

“We came in and just flipped the script,” he said.

When asked what stood out to him most about the State of Israel during his many visits, Pompeo said, “It’s always the people.”

He described Israelis as “good people of good will, trying to do the right thing for themselves, for their families, for their community, and for their nation.”

“And this is what I’ll remember about Israel.  These are remarkable people,” he said.



Netanyahu Welcomes First-Ever UAE Ambassador To Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the first-ever Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, Muhammad Mahmoud Al Khaja, on Tuesday (2nd), a day after his arrival for a four-day visit.

“We are changing the Middle East, we are changing the world,” Netanyahu told Al Khaja,  The two discussed potential joint regional and bilateral projects for Israel and the UAE in a wide range of areas, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The PMO characterized the meeting as “warm and friendly,” and said National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat participated as well.

Al Khaja also visited Yad Vashem on Tuesday (2nd).

The ambassador is expected to look for a site for the embassy and his residence in the coming days.  He will plan to come back to Israel full-time at the end of the month.

On Monday (1st) Al Khaja presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

“We waited patiently for relations to grow step by step, and now we are privileged to see this wonderful day at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” he said.

Rivlin emphasized the importance of Emiratis meeting the people of Israel and getting to know them.

Khaja’s speech illustrated the common aspirations of the two countries that a new day of tolerance and cooperation is dawning in the Middle East – “today more than ever” – and he expressed certainty that the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE will enhance stability in the region.



Turkey Leans On Kosovo To Shelve Israeli Embassy Plans

Kosovo’s prime minister designate has found himself in a difficult diplomatic position ahead of taking the post following his country’s diplomatic ties with Israel.

Albin Kurti of the Self-Determination Movement Party, or Vetevendosje, is expected to be Kosovo’s next prime minister after his party won the February 14 parliamentary election.

On Monday, (1st) Kurti met with the Turkish ambassador in Pristina, and Kosovo’s decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem was among the topics of discussion.

“The place where the embassy will be located is to be considered following checking of the documentation of the outgoing government,” said a statement issued after the talks.

On February 1, Kosovo established diplomatic ties with Israel and decided to open an embassy in Jerusalem – becoming the first European country, and a Muslim-majority one, to make such plans.  It followed the US and Guatemala in doing so.

Kosovo’s decision was taken when outgoing Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti met with Serb President Aleksandar Vucic at the White House in September with then-President Donald Trump.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Kosovo that the move could damage future relations with his country.

“I believe that it would be beneficial to avoid such a move that would cause great damage to Kosovo,” Erdogan said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote that “I attach much importance to Kosovo’s decision to open its embassy in Jerusalem and I look forward to hosting you in Israel for its inauguration.”

Last week Kosovo sent its ambassador to Israel.

Kosovo’s parliament declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after a US-led 78-day NATO airstrike campaign against Serbia to stop a bloody crackdown against ethnic Albanians – most of them Muslim – in Kosovo.

Most Western nations have recognized Kosovo’s independence, but Serbia and its allies Russia and China have not.



Israel’s CropX Brings Smart Farming To Mexico

Israeli agro-tech startup CropX and Riego, (Grupo Rotoplas’ new company) dedicated to providing smart water services to farming operations in Mexico, have announced a new partnership to help Mexican agri-businesses reduce water consumption and improve crop yields.

Riego is a joint venture by Renewable Resources Group Mexico and Grupo Rotoplas that aims to provide smart water solutions and services and increase agricultural yields in a sustainable manner.

CropX sensors and technological solutions have been piloted by Riego in Mexico.  Upon successful conclusion of the testing, Riego decided to integrate CropX’s technologies as part of its commercial offering and become an official reseller of CropX in Mexico.

“Riego is enthusiastic and is looking forward to expanding its business by partnering with CropX, an AgAnalytics leader,” said Eduardo Carrillo, CEO of Riego.

“For more than three decades, at Rotoplas we have contributed to improving people’s quality of life by creating solutions that facilitate water access and water management.  Therefore partnering with CropX, which has demonstrated significant water savings across many regions and different crop types, it was an attractive choice for Rotoplas, as it allows us not only to deliver clean water across the Americas, but also helps our customers optimize their water consumption and boost crop yields so they can be more competitive and more environmentally sustainable,” Carrillo added.

CropX Director of Business Development, Matan Rahav said that agriculture in Mexico stretched back thousands of years, but currently was facing challenges with the need to farm sustainably.

“Water scarcity in Mexico is severe, and with an ever-increasing demand, combined with the fact that agriculture accounts for almost 78% of water use, certain cities in Mexico risk being void of water,” Rahav said.

“The Mexican irrigation infrastructure has additional opportunities to improve water-use inefficiency and improve soil health.  The key objective of this partnership, therefore, is to help the Mexican farming industry address these issues,” Rahav explained.