News Digest — 5/27/20

Netanyahu To Israelis: “Have Fun, We’re Easing Coronavirus Restrictions”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Israelis “some happy news” on Tuesday (26th), announcing “the government approved the opening of restaurants, pubs, large parks and swimming pools.”

The government approved via phone voting on Tuesday (26th) the lifting of various restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.  Restaurants and other eateries will be able to serve seated patrons as of Wednesday (27th).  Additionally swimming pools and cable cars will also be allowed to re-open.

Netanyahu said “we want to help the economy,” but also to “ease our lives, to make it possible for you to get out, return to normalcy, get a cup of coffee, a beverage as well; but first of all, have fun.”

Netanyahu warned that the administration is keeping an eye on the coronavirus outbreak and that “we will act accordingly.  I hope we won’t have to change anything.”

Restrictions were lifted on social distancing, but masks must be worn.  Additionally, gloves will be used in accordance with the “purple badge” guidelines that mark businesses that are safe to enter during the outbreak.

For restaurants that can serve up to 100 people, a maximum of 85 patrons is allowed, and swimming pools must keep a ratio of one person per square meters of pool surface.

Fines of up to $1500 will be imposed on businesses that fail to comply with the Health Ministry’s regulations.



China Loses Bid To Run Israel’s Biggest Desalination Plant After U.S. Pressure

China lost its bid to run Israel’s biggest desalination plant after alleged pressure from the United States, Ynet learned on Tuesday (26th).  Local company IDE Technologies was chosen over the Hong Kong-based rival.

The news comes two weeks after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly voiced his concerns to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about China’s potential involvement in the Shorek 2 plant, located in Palmachim in central Israel.

Although the decision eases tension with the US, it could potentially lead to a confrontation with the Chinese government.

The plant, which appears to also be the biggest in the world of its kind, was set to be run by a Chinese-linked company called Hutchison Holdings.

The project is to be financed by a consortium of banks, including Bank Leumi, Germany’s KFW and the European Investment Bank.

The plant is expected to produce over 200 million cubic meters of water per day and is set to increase Israel’s desalination capacity by about 35%.

The State Department and Pompeo have in recent weeks launched a number of verbal attacks on the Chinese government, accusing it of covering up the severity of the corona disease, when it initially broke out in the city of Wuhan in December 2019, and trying to take over the world’s infrastructure.

Two weeks ago, during Pompeo’s visit to Israel, a US official hinted that Israel’s continued cooperation with China might be “dangerous” in light of the current coronavirus outbreak and could undermine relations with its “strategic partners.”



Iran’s President Orders Implementation Of Law Banning All Use Of Israeli Tech

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday (26th) issued an executive order requiring the implementation of a law passed last week that bars any cooperation with Israel, including the use of Israeli software and hardware.

The Iranian interior, intelligence, foreign and defense ministries, as well as the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the Judiciary are required to implement the law, approved last week by the parliament and the Guardian Council, the Fars News Agency reported.

The Guardian Council is an oversight body that supervises legislation to make sure it is compatible with the “criteria of Islam and the Constitution.”

Fars reported that the Guardian Council had studied the bill and did not find it against either the religion or the Constitution.

The legislation passed by parliament brands any cooperation with Israel as an “act against God.”

“Based on the first article of the bill, all Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures,” an Iranian parliamentary spokesman, Seyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, said last week.

From the Israeli perspective, according to Saul Singer, co-author of the book Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, “the law, if fully implemented, would set Iran back at least half a century, with computers, the Internet and smartphones off-limits, including Israeli exports and healthcare innovation – it would ravage the country.”

An Iran without “Israel inside,” Singer told The Times of Israel, last week “would make North Korea look advanced and cosmopolitan.  Essentially Iran would go back to the world of 50 years ago, maybe more.  It would look like a huge Amish colony in Muslim garb.”

“It’s endless, when considering the impact that the ban on all things Israel would have,” Singer added.  “If you count all the Fortune 500 companies that have critical development centers in Israel – including Siemens, an Iranian favorite, IBM, GE… – there’s not much left.  I guess they would have to go back to pen and paper, horses and home visits by doctors with stethoscopes, and World War II-era hospitals.”



Palestinians Say Eating With A Jew Is A Crime – Khaled Abu Toameh

Last week several Palestinians were invited by Jewish leaders in the West Bank to an Iftar meal, with which Muslims end their daily fast at sunset during Ramadan.  Scenes of Muslims and Jews eating together are heart-warming events that promote tolerance and lay the foundations for real peace.  But instead of welcoming the event, many Palestinians expressed outrage over the encounter and denounced the Palestinian participants as “traitors.”

Some of the Palestinians who attended requested in advance that their names and photos not be made public.  In other words, they were afraid for their lives because they committed the “crime” of eating with Israelis.  The critics were also angry because Israelis and Palestinians had the audacity to talk about “economic cooperation.”

Economic cooperation does not serve the agenda of the terrorists.  They want the Palestinians to continue living in poverty so that they can go on blaming Israel for Palestinian misery.  Unemployed Palestinians are much easier to target for recruitment as terrorists than Palestinians who are able to feed their families.

If a Palestinian cannot share a meal with an Israeli without being labeled a criminal, how would any Palestinian leader dare to sign a peace agreement with Israel?



Norway Rejects BDS Law To Label Products From Judea And Samaria

Norwegian lawmakers voted down a proposed new law that would have required separate labeling for imported Israeli products manufactured in Judea and Samaria, Israel Hayom reported Monday (25th).

The legislation was brought forth earlier this month by left-wing parties including the governing Norwegian Labor Party, but with those groups having a minority in the 169 seat Storting, Norway’s parliament, the bill aimed at boycotting products made in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War was voted down.

Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that EU countries must change the label on products made in Israeli settlements to specifically identify them as such.  Norway is not an EU member and is not obligated by decisions of the EU court.

Bowing to pro-Palestinian lobbyists, the EU has stated that it sees settlements as an obstacle to the two-state solution and voted the legislation that products made in Judea and Samaria should not be labeled “Made in Israel” but must have more specific designation.

Israel says that forcing the label-change on products made over the 1948 armistice lines is discriminatory and says the EU does not subject other countries involved in land disputes to the same rules.

During the debate on the bill in the Norwegian parliament, members who are friendly to Israel talked about the need for cooperation against economic boycotts while acknowledging Norway’s long-standing contribution to the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Legislators who voted against the proposal pointed out that Norway wants to help Palestinian workers, but boycotting Israeli companies in Judea and Samaria would hurt the Palestinians who make their living there.

Left-wing organizations in Norway together with the country’s largest union have continually been trying to get the country to boycott goods produced in Judea and Samaria.  The union is still working to convince other unions in Norway and across Europe to join them.

In the most well-known case to date, SodaStream moved its production factory from Mishor Adumim near Jerusalem to the Beersheba area.  Although the company said the decision was not connected to boycott pressure, some 800 Palestinian workers lost their jobs.