News Digest — 5/26/20

Ben Gurion Airport Won’t Resume Air Travel Until Mid-July

Health Ministry Officials who toured Ben Gurion Airport on Monday (25th) put a damper on hopes that Israelis could whisk themselves abroad on a June vacation, saying the complex arrangements to resume air travel might only be ready in mid-July.

Health Ministry Deputy Director Prof. ItamarGrotto and the head of public health services Prof. Sigal Sadetzky toured with the airport officials and airline representatives as well as the steering committee of the national coronavirus commission, Channel 12 reported.

The committee is expected to decide when the skies will officially reopen, but given the difficulties, estimates are pessimistic for the short-term.  Airport manager Shmuel Zakai said he expected flights to resume only in July, contrary to previous expectations and reports.

“This morning’s tour puts all the dilemmas and complexities of aviation renewal on the table,” Zakai said.  “After all, none of us wants morbidity to recur here in Israel and we all know that this virus came to Israel by air.”

Zakai said talks are going on with other countries that will be designated “green states” that have met standard for social distancing and safety of its hotels, public transport and other tourism facilities.  Travelers coming from those green countries will not be obligated to self-isolate or be examined upon entering Israel.

“If we continue to work at the rate we are going. We will see dozens of flights from Ben Gurion Airport starting in mid-July and not before,” Zakai said, calling on people to “be real and understand that the return of air travel is not a matter of days. 

“At the end of June, we will only see a single flight here and there,” he said, adding that the original plan had been to open the airport in early June and allow flights only to some countries with low virus morbidity levels.  The current destinations being considered for resumption of regular flights include Montenegro, Paphos, Berlin, The Greek Islands, Georgia and Slovenia.

The airport has already been marked with safe distancing stickers on the floors, showing waiting passengers where to stand.  Travelers will need to arrive at least 4 hours before their flight and will not be allowed in without a mask and having their temperatures checked.

A few airlines continue to provide regular service to Israel, including United Airlines with flights to the United States.



Incendiary Balloons Return, Balloon Units Threaten More Launches

At least three groups of incendiary and explosive balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip on Monday, (25th) announced the terror group Ahfad al-Nasser later in the day, warning that Israel had 72-hours to send medical supplies for the coronavirus outbreak into Gaza, or they would make the Gaza envelope “hell.”

The launches of incendiary balloons have become more sporadic in recent months.  The last time balloon launches were announced by the balloon units was in late April, and before that, in February.

Thousands of incendiary and explosive balloons have been launched by Gaza’s terrorists in recent years.  They sometimes have books or toys attached to lure children, and some have sparked large wildfires in the past.  Israel has threatened and has launched strikes against the Strip in response to continued use of the balloons.

A Palestinian teenager was killed when an explosive device he was working with exploded in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday (26th) according to reports.

Meanwhile the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry announced on Saturday (23rd), the first death of a Palestinian infected with coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.

Some 35 new cases were reported in the Strip on Thursday (21st), bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 55.

A special team from the Israeli Health Ministry has already facilitated the entry of medical equipment and the establishment of a field hospital for coronavirus patients in the Gaza Strip.



Terrorist Neutralized After Trying To Stab Israeli In Capital

An Israeli man in Jerusalem was unhurt during a stabbing attack on Sunday (24th).  The attacker, in his 40s, tried to stab a Border Police officer while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic) using a boxcutter.  He was then shot by other police officers and evacuated to the hospital in serious condition.

Two Palestinian terrorists were shot on Monday (25th) while trying to carry out a stabbing attack against a group of soldiers operating near a central Samarian settlement, the military said.

According to available details, a group of eight Palestinians approached soldiers who were on patrol near Amichai, a settlement near Ramallah.  Two Palestinians then stormed the troops, trying to stab them using what the IDF described as “sharp agricultural instruments.”

The soldiers engaged the men, opening fire and hitting them in the lower extremities.

No Israeli soldiers were wounded in the incident.  The terrorists were taken to a hospital in Ramallah according to the IDF.

An IDF military statement said, “Two terrorists attempted to stab IDF combat soldiers who were operating in the area.  The soldiers opened fire at the terrorists.  There are no injuries to our soldiers.”



PA Blocks Palestinian Patients From Receiving Treatment In Israel

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shyayyeh ordered a stop to Palestinians treatments in Israeli hospitals, the Makor Rishon newspaper reported on Sunday (24th).

The move comes only days after the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced it was ending security coordination with Israel, a response to Israel’s intention to annex some 30 percent of Judea and Samaria, territory the PA says it wants for a future state.

Although thousands of Palestinians get treatment annually in Israeli hospitals, Shtayyeh justified the decision by saying Israeli health care costs too much.  However, PA health care is sub-par.  As a result, patients who need transplants, cancer patients and others with serious illnesses find themselves without quality care.  In some cases it means a death sentence, the report said.

Shtayyeh and Palestinian Health Minister Mai Kaila said the alternative to treatment in Israel would be Palestinian hospitals, including those in eastern Jerusalem.  Palestinians could also travel to Jordan and Egypt for treatment even though costs would be likely higher, especially for families who are forced to leave their homes and live abroad for the duration of their care.

In practice, Jordan and Egypt accept few Palestinian patients for treatment and many of the Palestinian-run hospitals in eastern Jerusalem have accumulated debts that have hampered their level of care.

Shatayyeh’s decision last week to break off any “normalization” with Israel at first did not include hospitalization in Israel,  so the effect of the decision on health care was minimal.  Almost half of Palestinian patients in need of life-saving treatment in Israel do not receive it and Palestinian hospitals cannot provide those patients with adequate medical response aggravating their illnesses and sometimes leaving them to die.

Palestinian social media apparantly has many descriptions of patients, including children who were to receive dialysis treatments in Israel or undergo life-saving transplants but were hindered by the Palestinian Authority, and slowly died in Palestinian hospitals due to political decisions.

Last week, the Palestinian Authority refused to receive equipment donated by the UAE to help fight coronavirus because it came through Israel.  The Emirates Airlines’ plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport.  



Israel: The Settlements Are Not Illegal – Dr. Michael Calvo

→ The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007, by a 144-4 vote, recognized that indigenous people (also known as first people, aboriginal people or native people) have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. (Art. 26.1)

→ The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared that “there is an international customary law norm which affirms the rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands.”  The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights affirmed that land rights of indigenous people are protected and that these rights are “general principles of law.”

→ According to international law, the Jews are the indigenous people of the lands referred to as Judea, Samaria, Palestine, Israel and the Holy Land, and therefore fulfill the criteria required by international law.  The Jews are the ethnic group that was the original settler of Judea and Samaria 3,500 years ago.

→ The Treaty of Lausanne (1923), British Mandate for Palestine (1922), San Remo Resolution (1920), and Treaty of Sevres (1920) recognized and re-established the historical indigenous rights of the Jews to their land.  The Jewish people’s right to settle in their historic homeland and to establish their state there is thus a legal right anchored in international law.

→ Recent UN General Assembly resolutions stating that the settlements of Jews in Judea and Samaria is contrary to international law are no more than recommendations and have never led to amendments of existing binding treaties.  UN Security Council resolutions stating that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal are not binding, since only resolutions taken under Chapter VII of the UN Charter are binding.

→ Contending that Jewish communities in the West Bank are illegal and that declaring partial Israeli sovereignty is contrary to international law is a political, not a legal, position.  Despite UN resolutions to the contrary, the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not inconsistent with international law.

The writer, an expert in international law, was a member of the International Court of Arbitration representing Israel.